Thursday, February 02, 2006

The State of Movies

A longtime friend of mine, asked me to write to her college student daughter, who's preparing a long treatise on the American film industry, my thoughts on the influences, on the industry, by The Graduate and The Godfather ... and I thought you might find the answer interesting ... also perhaps irritating:

You guys are raising some interesting questions, re film, film-culture ... and our culture, as influenced by Hollywood.

I have a feeling that this reply to your e-mail, ain't exactly what you were expecting ... and that Susan hasn't told you that I'm not a mainstream person and that I got out of the film critic business because I could no longer stomach the 90% garbage that came - and is still - grinding through the California cameras.

Nevertheless, your questions interest me - and I'm flattered by your asking for my views.

Of course, The Graduate and The Godfather ... were fascinating films which ultimately had powerful effects on my generation (far beyond their "entertainment" values). They influenced our socio/political attitudes ... our dress codes ... our social and sexual behavior ... our choice of - or rejection of - leaders ... our glamorization of criminals (of which Hollywood has always been guilty) ..... etc.

Even though those were two great, highly entertaining films ... neither was as powerful as Orson Welles' Citizen Kane ... which, at the time, was a financial/box office failure ... and not just because an angry Hearst wouldn't carry their ads.

Right now - look at that leading Oscar contender: homosexuality has suddenly become big box office. Am I the only person who's scared to death by this new cultural phenomenon ? (I was raised by an MD-father who, with my mom, in their younger days, were real swingers ... wild parties, wife-swapping, etc. ... but who also was medically and culturally convinced that homosexuality was an illness ... and the mechanics of male coupling quite dangerous ... and that medical attitude was formed by dad long before AIDS).

(And there are others who have noted the dangers of "anal sex", even among self-identified gays, bisexuals, and even straight men, who have relations with other men, but exclude dangerous activity from their personal practices.)

I also believe that the film industry fatally damaged itself with its labor practices ... just look at the ever-growing credit lists at the end of current films ... No one can convince me that modern technology (and film emulsions) make that huge army of makeup people and lighting technicians ... generators ... huge lights ... etc. .... still necessary. Film dramas could easily be shot nowadays, for a one-tenth of their current cost.

Finally - with apologies - this inescapable fact: I firmly believe that the theatrical film industry is in its death throes .... that within the next five years, maybe even less (with the sudden upsurge of large-screen TV sales), you're going to see a massive shuttering of movie theaters.

With the hope that I haven't disappointed (or angered) you too much with this oblique reply to your request for my observations on matters filmic ...

All the best,
gary s franklin

P.S. If you want to soak in films with cultural artisty, then for this month just tune into Turner Classic Movies on cable. Each night this month, on TCM, they are showing hour after hour of Oscar winning films. If you are a young person and are not aware of the classic films, now is the time to gain some culture and watch these films. Besides being classics, they are also funny, insightful, and above all entertaining. Enjoy.

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