Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Eleemosynary Option

Let's be charitable, shall we?

Everyone else has piled-on about Hollywood's dismal Summer, and the dismal year they reckon will be when receipts are tallied on Jan. 1, 2006. So let's give an overview that tries to find the silver threads in the movie industry's latest load of drab garments: let's look to the bright moments, and forget the bland, banal, insincere and blatantly greedy.

Well, OK, to make a film in 2005 is to accept greed and banality on some level, if for no other reason than it is such a banal aspiration to want to make a film. Especially now, when films are so banal. And greedy. Films and film making have moved irreversibly into that context. And the audience embraces this. Some of the most exciting aspects of film-going and being a film fan now revolve around the commercial prospects any film faces; much energy goes into speculating about the box-office chances of any new "property" (it's just like property, really: a "For Sale" sign goes up, and neighbors begin tracking foot traffic, open house showings, and the sales possibilities). There's an unnatural engagement with the elaborate marketing campaigns that get designed for the most anticipated "properties." People watch the ad campaigns with attention and real affection.

No, scratch that. I think there was a period when real affection existed for the marketing of movies, but that seems to have passed, doesn't it? People are still very attentive to the way a given movie sells itself, but a lot of the joy's gone out of it: we've been this way so many times before, none but the most naive can get worked up by the hype machine now.

Well, I say this, but I remember sitting in an empty theater this year with only Dear Wife, Pal Brad, and, sittting a few rows behind us, a very non-descript looking middle-aged man and his female companion. We were waiting to see "Elektra" (gad), and the preview for "Fantastic Four" came on (remember all the hype for that?), and shockingly, I hear this guy behind us exclaim emphatically, "I am so all over that!"

Declarations like that, the way they're said--they come out sounding like an invitation to a brawl. The tone, too, is so fully saturated by an identifiction with the subject-matter at hand (the property at hand), that I am going to call it unhealthy.

Is it just enthusiam searching hard for an outlet? Does the modern movie interest thrive best in that space between hype (the sales pitch, the trailers, the anticipation, the sketching in of details--"Oh, that's how they're going to do The Thing"), and the reality ("I thought The Thing was kinda weak")?