Blockbuster season has no ideas, Oscar season just wants your money – when did cinema lose its balls?
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to question many things in life. Why does the England manager appear to be an owl? Should I measure my liver’s life expectancy in days, hours or minutes? What’s the big deal with Arcade Fire? And if the only reason we need spiders is to kill flies, can’t we just not have any flies and be done with both of them?
At this time of year, the financial whoremongering of Hollywood is at its most unashamed
But it wasn’t until I was sat on the toilet, doing my best impression of The Thinker that I stumbled upon a question that both disheartened me and significantly sped up the voiding of my bowls. The question I speak of is not really a question at all, more of a resentful musing, an angry shake of the fist and a muttered expletive to no-one in particular. It’s a question more vacuous and enigmatic than ‘Doctor Who?’: What is the point of films?
I don’t ask this in a mad flurry of snapping discs and hysterical shouting outside my local cinema, but more in a beaten-down manner whilst wistfully dreaming of the time when no-one knew who Stan Lee was and Al Pacino didn’t resemble my ball sack. Of course, this depressing line of thought is probably just caused by cinema seasonal affective disorder, a time of year where the cynicism and financial whoremongering of Hollywood is at its most unashamed.
It’s been an especially dire summer of films this year as well, with Iron Man 3 the only slither of light through the pile of shit elsewhere. Man of Steel made me realise that it was indeed impossible to kill yourself by holding your breath and the only positive thing about watching The Wolverine was it forced me to join a gym. The summer is a time where giants roam the earth, crushing all signs of life beneath their heavy boots. The blockbusters suffocate everything around them, squeezing out creativity and destroying integrity.
I can’t remember what happened in most films this year – they just blur together into a mass of fake explosions and beautiful people
Since May, I haven’t seen one film I would give a second watch. I can’t even remember what happened in most of them – they just blur together into a seething mass of fake explosions and beautiful people. And like most of the actors in the films, scratch the surface and all you’ll find is a vacuum of imagination and originality. Just a checklist with ‘ways to make money’ scribbled at the top. Because as much as the actors and directors like to deny, these films have no purpose other than to make money, simple as that.
Sure, they may offer a few laughs and exciting set pieces, but the very fact that I can’t distinguish a single one from any of the others only highlights their superficial nature. The memory of the film fades as soon as the final credit rolls off the screen. What makes it worse is the waste of money. Hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on pure crap. People complain at the money spent in football, but when Michael Bay is wiping his arse with a mountain of hundred dollar bills, it makes the £35 million spent on Andy Carroll look like a bargain (it isn’t though).
Because there are good films out there, films that have shaken the system’s shackles off and that resonate on a deeper level than “that looks cool.” But they’re becoming few and far between. I’ve even started to become cynical about the awards season juggernaut that rolls into action at this time of year. You see, winning the Best Picture Oscar really isn’t that hard anymore, as long as you know what the Academy likes. Disability? Win! Patriotic? Win! Weinsteins? Win! Or in the case of Slumdog Millionaire and The Hurt Locker, all you need is that underdog spirit against the bullying David Finchers or James Camerons of the world.
Winning Best Picture isn’t hard anymore. Disability? Win! Patriotic? Win! Weinsteins? Win!
That’s the problem. There is a system locked in place in the film calendar that prevents originality and any semblance of importance. It’s why I’m so excited to see Gravity this year. By all rights this film should not have been made. It had a budget of $80 million, unusual for films nowadays, and centres around two people adrift in space – hardly a money magnet. And yet somehow it’s made it through the hard shell of Hollywood frugality, and guess what? According to critics, it’s fucking amazing. Who knew that if you gave a talented director money he’ d make a good film? Crazy.
But don’t bet on this changing the way the film industry thinks. Gravity is unlikely to make a huge profit and that’s why there are so few films like it about. It’s why Hollywood will keep relentlessly ploughing money into brain-dead franchises like Transformers and into Oscar bait, no matter the quality of film produced. Because, inevitably and inexorably, these films will continue to gorge themselves on money whilst starving the rest and condemning them to an increasingly smaller role in the film calendar.
Featured image: Warner Bros. Pictures
Inset images: 20th Century Fox; Warner Bros. Pictures