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Jewish World Review August 20, 2001 / 1 Elul, 5761

John Ziegler

John Ziegler
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Consumer Reports

"Hollywood in Crisis" --- Please no Sequel!


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- RECENTLY, I dreamed that I was in a theater watching a preview for a blockbuster horror film due out early next year. It began (as almost all movie trailers seem to these days) like this:

"In a world where a movie can make 100 million dollars without making any sense at all, and actors can become stars without any apparent talent, a nation is in crisis and the American public fears getting exactly what they deserve. The films of the year 2001!! Will anyone survive?"

While it might not be "Oscar material" (even as low as THAT standard has sunk in recent years), this figment of my imagination seems to possess more promise than almost anything else that has hit the theaters this year. Quite simply, with just four months to go, this may very well end up, from top to bottom, as one of the worst years in movie-making history.

As of this writing, a different "film" (and I use the term loosely) has been the highest grossing movie each of the last eleven weekends. Amazingly, only four movies have been able to repeat in the top spot all year long, with the unremarkable but well-timed "Spy Kids," the only effort to hold the coveted crown three consecutive times.

According to at least one major film reviewer (filmland.com), only one of last weekend's top ten rates a review grade above a C+. The only recent picture to receive even a B- is Nicole Kidman's "The Others," which I can tell you from personal experience is much more "sleeper" rather than "thriller" (so much so that I felt the urge to make sure everyone was awake enough to leave the theater after the "surprise" ending that no one seemed to actually care about). Apparently things have gotten so bad this year that reviewers are now forced to grade on the type of curve that you wished your Algebra teacher had used.

The movie of the first half of the year was supposed to be "Pearl Harbor," but that was so castrated by those notorious focus groups that the title became a misnomer and the only relation that "Day of Infamy" is that it was a disaster that cost Americans millions of dollars. (My "favorite" moment of that movie was when one of the obviously historically prescient particulars called for help by declaring that "World War II" had just broken out, even though World War I hadn't even been named yet). The most recent blockbuster bust was "Planet of the Apes," whose slapped together (again, focus grouped) ending was just plain embarrassingly stupid.

Stupid seems to be the adjective that best describes the vast majority of what comes out of Hollywood these days. What amazes me is that movies like "Planet of the Apes" can exhibit such incredible technical expertise (which we are so spoiled by that we hardly even notice anymore) and yet seemingly show the plot development of a story written by and for prepubescents. I can't believe that this nation is completely incapable of making a movie whose story holds up under the most basic scrutiny. Sadly, instead I have concluded that moviemakers have simply discovered just how extraordinarily apathetic, gullible, and, yes, stupid we as a ticket-buying public are.

Why should Hollywood even bother worrying about making movies that even attempt to fill the obvious gaps in their faulty plotlines when Adam Sandler's brain dead "The Waterboy" is still one of the profitable "films" of all time, and even "Dr. Dolittle 2" (one of seven sequels or remakes currently among the year's top eleven moneymakers) can gross over 100 million dollars?

Much like women who complain that all men are jerks and then find themselves strangely attracted to the true jerks among us, movie goers only have themselves to blame to pathetic state of American cinema. If so many of us didn't still spend the $7.50 (even in a slumping economy) to see product that is such crud, Hollywood would eventually stop creating crud. While the numbers indicate a slight drop in theater attendance this year, obviously a more concerted effort to refrain is necessary if Hollywood is to get the "picture." Of course it would help if the media, in an effort to ingratiate themselves to celebrities, didn't make even the worst movie seem like it COULD be decent and so many of us weren't lulled, hopefully, back to the theaters only to find ourselves duped once again.

What we have been left with so far this year is the funny and strikingly animated "Shrek," and the pleasantly humorous and largely harmless "Legally Blonde." Not so long ago films like these would have been considered little more than appetizers or desert on the menu of movie selections. This year, they may end up providing the main course, which will leave most of rather hungry for entertainment and with our brains malnourished. Let's hope that next year the feast won't be quite so sparse. For some reason, knowing the nature of the American public and Hollywood, I am not optimistic.



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© 2001, John Ziegler