Hollywood On The Ropes

Problems On The Horizon

I stumbled upon this interesting article that talks about how Hollywood is narrowing and therefore shrinking in significance.

A generation of directors who thought they owned the business as kids in the 1970s had to decide whether to stay part of it or be artists. Steven Spielberg is the only one who may still be able to convince us he’s both: we will see with “War Horse” and “The Adventures of Tintin”. Francis Ford Coppola has gone back to being an artist, while moonlighting in wine and eco-villas. George Lucas exists in the gloom of his own big business. And Martin Scorsese is something of a wreck, trying to have it both ways, making music documentaries (George Harrison next) and television (“Boardwalk Empire”), and still directing movies without firing on so many cylinders (“Shutter Island”). Mostly born in the 1940s, they are of an age still to be our great directors, but they have yielded to a generation of new kids who do what the money demands. You see, we don’t have great directors any more. The computer makes our movies. Its efficient anonymity is the new style: look at the anonymous figures and the metallic sheen of “Black Ops”. That style, a kind of subtle fascism, haunts our films, from “Black Hawk Down” to “Battle: Los Angeles”.

The picture business likes to tell us, and itself, that it is doing very well. In the first decade of this century, America’s annual domestic box office pushed over $10 billion ($10.89 billion for 2010). But $10 billion, you realise now, is not so great. And in the small print you find that in 2010 1.37 billion tickets were sold, whereas in 2002 it was 1.58 billion—so in eight years, 13% of the audience has melted away. In the 1940s, as war ended and families were reunited in the dark, the figure was 4 billion tickets a year. And the population of America was half what it is now. That’s what “mainstream” once meant.

In that light, our venerable Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, now in its 80s, looks a little shaky. It has two physical incarnations: the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre on Wilshire Boulevard for tributes and events, and an exceptional research library, named after Margaret Herrick, the first librarian at the Academy, and an invaluable source for film historians. There are wistful hopes for a proper movie museum—something LA has never had. Mainly, it puts on the big show, the Oscars telecast. The bulk of the Academy’s revenue (about $70m a year) comes from that one show, and its audience has been wilting.

If anything, the demographic support for cinema may actually be collapsing in the traditionally strong demographic. There are many reasons for this, but I think the main culprit is that there’s just too much competition for that same disposable dollar, while piracy offers a valve for the need for cinema to be met with much less cost. After a good 20years of mining the 18-35 demographic, it is finding it hard to get the next generation of the 18-35 demographic to be as hooked into cinema as the previous generation, Gen-X. Gen-Y just isn’t into cinema like that, and it’s showing up in stalled growth and diminishing audiences.

The repetitive adaptation of comic book content an the retreat of mature, general content from films has made Hollywood cinema itself a little disjointed from its marketplace. It’s not developing its own content, it’s buying it pre-packaged so we’re not even getting proper story development on the screen like we used to. Worse still, the impact of world events have been such that cinema no longer seems as inviting as it once was. ‘Armageddon’ is harder to watch after 9/11. Movies about war are hard to watch after Iraq. All the while cinema itself is cocooning itself into a world of violent fantasies more than offering insight or understanding. It has to be a bad step.

Which brings me to the next bit. Here’s an interesting article sent in from Pleiades.

War, violence and death have become the organizing principle of governance and culture in the United States as we move into the second decade of the 21st century. Lacking a language for the social good, the very concept of the social as a space in which justice, equality, social protections and a responsibility to the other mediate everyday life is being refigured through a spectacle of violence and cruelty. Under such circumstances, ethical considerations and social costs are removed from market-driven policies and values just as images of human suffering are increasingly abstracted from not only their social and political contexts, but also the conditions that make such suffering possible. Moreover, as public issues collapse into privatized considerations, matters of agency, responsibility and ethics are now framed within the discourse of extreme individualism. Unexpected violence, aggression and the “‘masculine’ virtues of toughness, strength, decisiveness and determination … are accentuated,” along with the claims of vengeance, militarization and violence.(1) The collapse of the social and the formative culture that make human bonds possible is now outmatched by the rise of a Darwinian ethic of greed and self-interest in which violence, aggressiveness and sadism have become the primary metric for living and dying. As the social contract is replaced by social collapse, a culture of depravity has emerged in American society. The spectacle of violence permeates every aspect of the machinery of cultural production and screen culture – extending from television news and reality TV to the latest Hollywood fare. Of course, this is not new. What is new is that more and more people desire spectacles of high-intensity violence and images of death, mutilation and suffering and their desires should no longer be attributed to an individual aberration, but instead suggest an increasingly widespread social pathology.

It’s worth reading on. It’s an article that highlights my own misgivings about where cinema is going wrong.

They’re Still Talking About This?

Ugh. *facepalm*.

Certainly, positive momentum came to a shuddering halt in March, when four Australian films came and went quickly in cinemas. The Reef, Griff the Invisible, Wasted on the Young and A Heartbeat Away cost millions to make but only returned a fraction of that in cinemas. A report, to be released this month by Adelaide firm Convergen, confirms that in inflation-adjusted terms, Australian film has failed to tap into the boom in overall box office returns during the past 30 years. So, while overall demand has increased at the box office, Australian films haven’t expanded their share.

An industry debate about how to improve the overall performance of the local film business is in full swing, with a push to give distributors greater influence in the movie-making process. The argument is that the current model relies too heavily on the funding and development relationship between Screen Australia and producers, which does not provide audiences with enough of what they want.

Just what that is, however, remains the $100 million (annual box office) question.

I don’t know. It’s almost not worth talking about here any more. It keeps going in circles, nothing gets better, and then Julia Leigh makes a movie that tanks. The rest of cinema are going through major ructions, and there’s Screen Australia continuing with the tried and true formulae for failure. I can only shrug.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cinema, Film, Movies

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s