News of The Day: 6/11/2012
When was the last time, you heard about a movie in the news? Not just the film blogs and reviews sites we visit regularly, but I mean the general CNN news type media outlets that hold such high acclaim. How often does a movie make major headlines. You maybe see a story here and there. Probably a couple of short segments usually concerning a quick review by the film journalist on staff, or a financial report given concerning box office receipts, which is usually about it. That is unless money gets involved. You see, when you have a big tent-pole film opening with a large projected gross, which happens a lot in the summer, you tend to get a lot of news about it, and this news is not only confined to the old film site haunts the internet has to offer, but rather is made the front page headlines all over the web domains of news giants such as CNBC and CNN.
In theory this is great. I love it when a particular film has such an impact on society, that it crosses all demographics and spheres of influence and becomes a national sensation. It doesn’t seem to happen that often, (the last concrete examples I can think of being “Do The Right Thing” and “The Passion of the Christ”, although I’m sure there are others) but when it does happen its fascinating and empowering. You get to see what, as a film person, you always believed to be the true, coming to pass. Which is, the power of film as an art-form to impact life, getting people to think and reconsider great issues, while causing friction and creating a firestorm. This is what every patron of the cinema craves to see.
Nowadays though, when you see a film making major headlines in the global news, it is never because of its message, or its stance. It doesn’t have anything to do with breaking boundaries or enthralling the masses. It almost always has to do with money. Specifically, how much money is the movie poised to make at the box office. Think about “The Avengers” for instance. This was a very recent movie that made headlines on most major news shows and outlets. Why? Was it because it the film was challenging to some doctrine or establishment? Did the movie excite riots over its content, or attract people with its superior artistry and craft as a genre defining piece of art. Well it could of, but as far as the newsboys in the media were concerned, this was all besides the point. It made bank and that was all that mattered.
See the pattern. It even has a reverse effect too. Remember John Carter? The film that sank Disney and brought about the apocalypse. The film that had such a low box office return that, regardless of the pedigree of the film, it was deemed only worthy of our contempt and scorn.
Isn’t that kind of backwards though? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about the impact of a film on the culture instead of whether or not it can beat Harry Potter’s record at the box office? I don’t mean to be naive about all this. I know money is an essential part of the movie industry. It opens doors getting films both made and distributed. Used wisely, money can be a great tool, ensuring that great art has the opportunity to be exposed to the masses. I feel however, that the concern about money, in regards to film, has become too big of an issue. It has become a foreground issue, pushing all other things concerning a movie (such as whether it is good or not) to the back ground. It is because of this, that a movie rated sub-par by critical consensus can still be deemed a massive success in the eyes of the general populace. Its all because the message they are receiving from the news is that lots of money = a good movie while no money = a bad movie. “The Avengers” was by no means the best reviewed film of all time. Critics for the most part found it enjoyable, a nicely crafted piece of entertainment at most, but not in any way groundbreaking, seeming to succeed mostly because it picked an easy target to aim for and met that target with flying colors. Some critics however, didn’t give “The Avengers” effort for being just “good enough” and gave the film less than favorable reviews (A.O. Scott, Armond White, and a lukewarm Roger Ebert). Nonetheless their enjoyment, or lack thereof, was inconsequential. The main thing is, as far as the major news media is concerned is that “The Avengers” beat Harry Potter’s weekend grosses and shattered many box office records. This automatically makes it worthy your time and a good movie, regardless of its merits as a film or piece of art.
The reason I bring all this up is that I see the pattern beginning again. In case you hadn’t noticed yet, today is June 11th, 2012. If you had thought today was just another ordinary Monday like any other, you were wrong. You see today is when advance tickets for “The Dark Knight Rises” go on sale. Check out some of the many, many stories covering this “momentous” event.
Once again I will say that I don’t mean to harsh on excitement. Its good to be excited for a film that you really want to see and are looking forward to. The excitement to see a new piece of art is a good thing. This is not however, the kind of excitement that is getting the news today. The excitement in the news media presently is because there is a new film on the horizon that is poised to make all kinds of money, breaking every box office record there is, and becoming a worldwide money making machine. Trust me, none of the news outlets care about the narrative story of “The Dark Knight Rises”, not to mention its characters, themes and allegory’s. All they care about is the money side of things, and to them, the success or failure of this new film will not be bases on pedigree, but how much it gains at the box office, which I would venture to say, it not a particularly sound or illuminating way of evaluating art.
Taking all this in mind then, I would have to say my point is this; ignore the box office. See the movie and decide if it is good or bad based or whether or not it succeeds as a film, and not based on how much money it makes. Trust me, its tricky enough trying to evaluate just what exactly makes a film work without adding money to the mix. Trust me when I say that it is entirely worth it to do so. Its worth it to give a piece of art its own fighting chance, judging it based not on monetary gain, but on the mastery of the form presented, the conviction of the actors performances, the eloquence of the writing, and ultimately its ability to touch and move you. Regardless of whether or not a film makes a trillion dollars or a buck, if it is able to move you in some way or anyway at all, then it is worth more than its weight in gold.