Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why Hate Hollywood

By David Luhrssen
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Why Hate Hollywood? For starters, the town is run nowadays by people who donít know much about movies and donít especially like them. The town? Hollywood isnít so much a place anymore, though a lot of its infrastructure remains in Los Angeles, but a state of mind favoring sequels over substance, the repetition of poor ideas over the innovation of good ones. Anyone remember Mr Ed: The Movie? Somebody actually pushed that dead horse through the production process, laying odds in favor of a hit. The assumption was that a silly TV show popular 25 years earlier was a good bet at the box officeópeople might actually gamble the price of a ticket on a talking horse picture because Mr. Ed, whether anybody liked or actually saw the show in the Ď60s, had name recognition.

Hollywood thinks the public is dumb. Once in a while we prove them right. With Mr Ed, the joke was on them. Sure, Hollywood was founded to make money, but the people who founded it loved the entertainment industry. They enjoyed movies and wanted huge audiences to enjoy them, too. They appreciated the craft of the cinema and often respected cinemaís potential as artóas long as it didnít lose its ability to entertain. They ran Orson Welles out of Hollywood but not until he made a couple of great films.

Nowadays, Hollywood studios are prestige branches of soulless corporations preoccupied with quarterly profit reports. A good movie in the minds of todayís studio hacks is one that sells lots of tickets on opening weekend, boosting the companyís profits. (The percentage of ticket sales going to the studios drops the longer the films are in the theaters, which explains why the marketing mavens move on to new projects week after week.)

I hate Hollywood because I miss seeing good Hollywood movies, films like The French Connection, TheGodfather and The Shining, movies that merge the enormous technical resources at the studioís command with intelligent writing and superb acting. More and more, people with digital cameras and low budgets are making interesting indie films, but sometimes too much of that can taste like a strict diet of tofu. The sizzle and the pleasure are missing.

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