Hollywood now and then
To speak of Hollywood as if it is an authority on movie making is somewhat unfair and tars other film industries, who do not have Hollywood’s flaws, with the same argument. There are many movie industries churning out relatively successful films, memorable works of art and enjoyable cinema.
However, Hollywood is an authority on movie making, with opportunities up for grabs for directors and actors/actresses if you know how to grab it. Once upon a time the majority of the movies they made were great or maybe they weren’t as great as I remember them and I’m being a nostalgic critic.
Hollywood now seems to be living off well-known names (actors and actresses) and reputation rather than its actual talent. It is something of a surprise every time a true acting gem is discovered. Cough-Jennifer Lawrence-cough.
On the off chance a gem of an actor/actress is put into a movie there is also an added danger-the script. If the story is poor, the actor/actress truly suffers for it. Superman Returns-Brandon Routh, Green Lantern-Ryan Reynolds - I could go on.
Then of course, there is the other danger-the bog standard. This is a scenario where a mediocre script is put together and paired with an actor with a big name. Fill this space with any movie you think deserves the honour [ ].
It is unfair of me to put it like this, because some actors know how to improve the script simply through their performance. Furthermore, I am certain great actors/actresses have lowered the heft of a good script through a poor performance, but too many times; the result has been a run of the mill cliché many have seen before. True, nothing is original but the audience will always recognise when effort is minimal.
The sole aim of such endeavours is to make money and profit or at least that is what it comes across as. I am not delusional though, I will admit being a paid artist is hard, so making all the money you get is the main aim, I reject that notion when it sacrifices the quality it should maintain shafting the very audiences, they are meant to be entertained with quality. So you’ve read about the current state of affairs, now let’s go into a time machine and remember how things were…
Video Cassette: age of blockbuster
Nothing really screams video cassette player more loudly than a movie rental giant blockbuster. They were the dinosaurs that once roamed the earth. Just as birds are said to be the evolved remnant of the dinosaurs, so too blockbuster is still around, just not in the prominent way you remember them.
Blockbuster were the trailblazers for home based entertainment and earned sacks of money connecting us to the entertainment we all loved allowing us to enjoy the cinema experience in our living rooms. They may not have been on sophisticated televisions or with systems that could give us high quality but we still got to make the movies our own. It was a brave step in the right direction for home entertainment, a sector that would grow and evolve into something brilliant.
The blockbuster era was a time where you could borrow anything- for a price of course. A visually entertaining version of the library, but with steeper fines and less mercy. I once convinced my librarian to let me off a £12 fine for a book. I kept the darn book so long my fines were worth more than the book’s original purchase price. This scenario happened countless times during the age of blockbuster. Fines were more costly than or just as costly as watching the film in the cinema or buying the movie brand new. That was not blockbuster’s fault, of course, but it did inspire their demise and eventually spelt out their eventual doom when the age of streaming dawned. The home entertainment eco-system was growing and demanding a more versatile paradigm to support its growth.
Technological industrial revolution
The technological boom at the turn of the century is a contributing factor to the change in paradigm. Televisions were being churned out just as quickly as a new types of phones. A new era of technology was phasing out the old and with it the DVD came in followed swiftly by the blue ray player. Game consoles were (and still are) gaining the lead over each other in what became tantamount to an arms race. We the consumers benefited with better devices and appliances we could use to watch TV and movies in more versatile and unique ways and the most powerful of all paradigms at the centre of this change. The internet.
A new platform had arrived and producers were finding new and interesting ways to entertain. Home entertainment was changed forever and would never be the same again.
The Hunger Games
Flash-forward to present day entertainment - audiences hunger for quality over quantity, as they (we) suddenly have a vast amount of content to compare. Competition is happening on multiple platforms and quality is the hallmark.
While Hollywood’s day is not necessarily done, the glory days where it was the only source of entertainment, besides the theatre, are over. That goes for every other film industry.
The need to make the best movie possible has never been higher as we all hold them to a higher standard now than we ever before. Television shows have great writers, the funding and fan base in most cases.
A better quality movie needs to dawn and perhaps we have started to see that the last 10 years. Yes, for every good movie there has probably been three bad ones however, movie makers are taking notice more than they ever have before.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe
The marvel cinematic universe has risen in popularity because, the movies have threads that intertwine stories and characters do not only entertain, but also allow characters to mature and bring the audience along. While not at all perfect in format with its own set of problems where continuity and ‘watchability’ become a problem for new-comers, the format works and the companies involved in Marvel’s rise is feeling the benefit.
The danger of course is that others will follow suite and copy the format but not get it half as right as the Marvel universe did. Some have tried and failed, others have taken less risky takes on the paradigm like the classic ‘trilogy’ formula and succeeded. What it does show however is that the movie industries across the world are taking notice, even if it did have to hit them in the pocket first to realise.
Audiences grow with characters in TV shows, a movie has less time to do this. Making sequels does not build familiarity with characters, good development and smart plotting does. A differentiation that has been pointed out by movie critics.
More than big explosions and set pieces, audiences want to feel emotion for characters and get to know them in ways they do in books. This can somewhat be achieved in the TV medium even if the books are not necessarily followed as an exact blueprint.
Amazon’s Lovefilm’ Outlander is an example, Netflix’s Daredevil is another. There are many others. The films that set themselves apart are ones that can balance the challenge of making great movies whilst having a thread of relatability that audiences can follow and genuinely enjoy relate to or understand.
In the modern era where choice and variety is common and the quality of content is in supply, cinema will benefit from high quality movie production. That is something worth investing in.