At a recent gala in Tinseltown, some Hollywood moguls were bemoaning the decline of people showing up at the theater to watch movies on the big screen. One of them posed the question, what would it take to get you up off your sofa and back into the theater? When I initially saw that story the answer seemed fairly simple to my poor layman’s brain: stop making such crappy movies.
But not every movie that comes out is panned by the public. The superhero, action/adventure and fantasy genres (including Star Wars, of course) have been producing one blockbuster after another and they actually sell a lot of tickets. In some cases, it’s the only line of products keeping studios in business. That’s prompted some of the more desperate folks in the industry to suggest that maybe the Oscars should add a new category just for the big, blockbuster films. Gene Del Vecchio, an adjunct professor of marketing at USC, explains in this op-ed. (USA Today)
The debate between art and commerce won’t be settled anytime soon, but there is something that can be done now to better recognize the movies that spark such passionate interest and fill studio coffers. It’s time for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to create an Oscar for best blockbuster, thus giving great filmmakers the respect they have greatly earned.
That’s not the interesting part of the conversation for me, however. Personally, I don’t care if they add a new category just for superhero movies or not. I still won’t watch the Oscars as long as they are de facto liberal political campaign events. What’s of far more interest is the reason Del Vecchio cites for the opposition to this genre of films inside the industry. You see, the “artists” in that highly pampered community look down their noses at not only the studios who make such films, but even more so at the great unwashed masses who line up to see them. One of the best (or worst) examples of this phenomenon comes to us from Jodie Foster. Check out this quote attributed to her. (Emphasis added)
Oscar winner Jodie Foster recently said of blockbuster superhero films that “studios making bad content in order to appeal to the masses and shareholders is like fracking — you get the best return right now but you wreck the earth. … It’s ruining the viewing habits of the American population and then ultimately the rest of the world.”
Other prominent filmmakers have expressed similar sentiments in the past, erroneously believing that commercially successful blockbusters are ruinous and that the “masses” (that’s you and me) are not worthy of attention due to a lack of artistic taste.
It’s nice to see Del Vecchio dismissing such haughty comments as “rubbish” (his word), but he’s clearly the exception in the industry. Foster’s critique really pulls back the mask and lets us see why so many of the big screen projects which get the green light wind up being such absolute crap. They know better than you. Even more to the point, they have zero respect for you. You are simply too ignorant to know good art when you see it and they’re on a mission to correct that. So they’ll keep pumping out “arthouse” films which tick all the boxes from their art school final exams, ignoring the fact that nobody wants to go watch most of it.
The “sellouts” in Hollywood who produce the blockbusters are left sitting alone, sadly counting their mountains of cash while they are almost always ignored at the major award ceremonies. The despair must be overwhelming.
What we’re examining here typifies most of the stereotypes you hear about Hollywood whether we’re discussing films or politics. It’s a wealthy, entitled community of people who are completely out of touch. They’ve lost sight of the fact that their business does not exist to “enlighten” and “save” the hoi polloi across the world. They’re supposed to be entertaining us and offering a product we’re willing to spend our money on in our leisure hours. Making more “meaningful” films that nobody watches accomplishes nothing but assuaging the egos of the leaders in that industry. And that’s why we keep getting so many terrible films.