By Myrna Velasco – Cougar News Contributor
As I stand in line at the Edwards Cinema in Valencia, I contemplate what film I want to watch. I have the choice of watching a movie about an elevator possessed by the devil, a nanny that doesn’t put up with “shenanigans”, or zombies in 3D. This is where it hits me, thoughtful and provocative films do not exist anymore and the moving picture’s only use in this day and age is to entertain the masses with simple stories but complex explosions.
In 2009 the top grossing films of the year were Avatar and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. And while these films were both box office successes, to say that their plot lines were anything but genius is putting it nicely.
Though James Cameron, the director of Avatar, is known for directing and producing ground breaking films, his latest film was most notable for “how awesome the 3D effects were” not how provoking his story was. In fact, many film goers equated his film to a mixture of Ferngully, a 1990’s animated film about fairies saving the rainforest, and Pocahontas, another animated film by Disney where a Native American woman falls in love with an outsider British colonial. But at least Cameron’s creation had a story line that could be followed, while Michael Bay’s cash cow, Transformers was not only virtually impossible to follow, but when audience members were asked what happened in the film their only answer was, “A lot of explosions!”
While these two movies are raking in the dough with their poor plot lines and over budgeted special effects, really interesting films are being featured and produced less simply because the public is just not interested. The Academy Award winning and Critically Acclaimed film Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire was ranked sixty-fifth in the box office count. This raises the question that if this film was so good, what is it doing so why is it gaining so little money? The answer is the simple fact that audience members today have no desire to see films that examine the darker part of humanity, or rather any part of humanity if we base what audience want to see off of Transformers.
Audiences are put off by thought provoking subjects because of the consumer culture that has been embedded in American society. While Americans are looking for the newest gadget, or prettiest outfit, we’re also looking for the cheapest and fastest way to stay happy; i.e. entertainment from movies. In a country where the unemployment rate is reported at 9.6% to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in August of 2010, and a depression rate at approximately 5.7 million adults, its really no wonder at all why people would rather dumb down and watch the explosions or a talking cat make friends with a talking dog instead of looking deep within their souls to answer the inner most questions more intellectual films have to offer. However, mounting economic and social problems we must deal with on a day to day basis make it excusable to turn off our brains and allow the art film become bastardized into just a cheap thrill?
The simple answer is no, as Americans, if we expect to be progressive and thoughtful, we must expect that from our entertainment as well. We must treat out entertainment like a puzzle: be present, follow the process, work hard at gaining answers, so that in the end there is more gratification with the outcome. If all films were viewed and taught to be viewed with such meticulousness instead of just lazily turning off our brains and watching the flashing lights, then it would be very easy to weed out all the trash that is being fed to us. We would also be so vividly stimulated that we could actually pull ourselves out of the figurative and literal depression we are in.
Now maybe to say movies can save our country is a little far fetched, but lets compare the movies that had made you feel something different about the world you lived in. Between Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan, or The Twilight Saga: New Moon directed by Chris Weitz, which actually made you wonder what possibilities you were capable of accomplishing? Now what did Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List make you feel about humanity as apposed to Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian? Films is such a powerful medium by the simple fact that it is visual that we should expect it to inspire change and beauty instead of letting it shut us up and turn us off.
With over 5,000 movie theaters in America alone we have the ability to feature a variety of films for every kind of moviegoer. So lets not let the same dumb movies dominate our screens. What we tend to forget as a consumer society is that we have the power to decide what is made and what is given to us, so if we demand that big Hollywood studios make films that will challenge and inspire us then they have no other choice but to comply. What’s even more empowering to know is that you can make these demands in the simplest of ways: don’t go to the movie theaters to watch something dumb.