Mar 5, 2012

[Entertainment] The Movie Industry Is Killing Creativity

I didn't watch the Academy Awards this year. In fact, I haven't been watching the awards show very much in recent years, period (and this is despite my love for movies). If anything, at least I make the time to watch the Tony Awards - their performance numbers are a lot more entertaining after all.

A movie so silent, most haven't heard about it
This year the big dramatic winner (more or less) was probably The Artist, that silent French movie that most of the folks who tuned into the Oscars probably haven't seen for themselves. Heck, I haven't seen it and the only way for me to have possibly seen it before the awards night would have been to source a pirated copy of the movie on the internet. But I do my best to respect potentially good movies, and that means waiting for their local cinema release, which can certainly take a while.

The year before that Best Picture had gone to The King's Speech, yet another movie that I have yet to see. The year prior saw The Hurt Locker winning, which thankfully Tobie and I had managed to catch on some limited run that just so happened to involve some of the theaters in Cubao.

In recent years, it seems that the movies that we actually get to see in theaters don't often become the big movies under consideration for all the big awards when the time comes. In fact, we're lucky to even catch these movies at theaters when you'll have maybe one cinema showing the movie in question while four more feature the latest Michael Bay style explosion-filled, CGI bonanza flick.

This is why we are getting a Transformers 4
We all know very well that the movies that get the most love of the distributors around the world aren't the ones who get acclaims from critics. Instead we get the ones that stand the biggest chances of drawing in larger crowds due to a familiar concept being present such as with movie adaptations of popular books, because the promise big stars or huge special effects budgets or simply because a number has been added to the title to indicate it's a sequel. Hollywood and all the other studios, after all, are still business who will put their money behind the movies that promise the most potential profit.

And thus that's where all the budgets go in terms of marketing, press events and red carpet debuts. Hollywood decides what movies offer the least about of risk for the greatest amount of profit and throw all their cards there. And I know I use the term "Hollywood" rather loosely - I might as well be saying the movie industry as a whole, quite frankly.

This leaves the independent filmmakers to do their best to make the rounds of the film festivals in the hopes of generating interest for their pet projects since the big studios will rarely risk time and money on such endeavors. This is the movie industry that believes we're idiots who only want to see big, noisy movies that require 3D glasses because they're cool (and they can charge higher ticket prices). The truly creative ones coast through largely unnoticed until the end of the year when the awards season begins and then finally they Oscars will help the Best Picture winner and few others.

Does the problem have more to do with the movie makers or those who patronize theaters? It's hard to say at this point - sort of a chicken and egg scenarios. When we go to the theaters, the selection of movies available reflect the opinions of the distributors and the studios. And given those choices, we look for the one we're most likely the like - often the ones we know the most about. These are the sequels and remakes or the ones that got a lot of media coverage. The other movies aren't ones we don't necessarily like - people just don't know enough about them to make a truly informed decision about them. And these are often the critically acclaimed ones that just don't get the marketing support - like when Crash showed in local theaters for a week in the middle of the year and yet went on to win Best Picture come the next Oscar season. Then suddenly every single theater had Crash playing as if it was the first time for them to do so.

I don't have a clear solution for this problem. I want us to vote with our wallets and only pay to see the movies that are truly good. But in a world where theaters force you into deciding between the lesser of two evils, what movies do we watch instead? If we don't watch movies in theaters, revenues drop further and the studios start slashing budgets even further, thus further adding to the number of sequels and remakes since they're less risky investments. If we do watch the movies that are there, we reward the studios for their market research and encourage them to make even more of the crap movies that they've been making. It's a vicious cycle.

We need to take a stand for better movies. Perhaps crowd-funding services like Kickstarter will become the new avenue for supporting independent filmmakers and ensure they continue to be funded to make the kind of movies that we actually want (and deserve) to see. Perhaps it's time to cut out the studios and the distributors entirely and try to engage filmmakers more directly through the power of the social internet.

Or maybe I'm just ranting form the comfort of my desk without any clue of what I'm talking about. That's life for you.
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