Friday, March 2, 2012

It's Show Time

I have always enjoyed watching good films. Movies were designed to entertain the viewer and expand his/her outlook. What a marvelous concept.

Last weekend's Oscars telecast brought to an unofficial end this year's string of awards programs. For the big night, the most glamorous celebrities in Hollywood gathered to congratulate each other, along with the wannabees and some never-weres. But the real stars of the evening were the films. Like many facets of life today, newer and splashier doesn't always mean better, although exceptions usually occur. I just haven't seen any of them yet.

Having lived in a small town when TV was still a novelty, my family often went to the movies. Not only were the movies imaginative, they were fun and affordable. We watched romances and adventures with adult themes (by the standards of the 1950s, at least) along with cartoons and movies designed for kids. The world was far tamer then and little content was included about which parents should have been concerned. Our Midwestern world was expanded to include outer space, historical epics, even the old west.

By the mid-1950s, TV began to bring movies right in our living room. What an exciting development! These were not so-called "new releases" but who cared? In our family -- like many others -- theatre-going began to dwindle. People were busy during post-war years, raising their families and attending to careers. Being able to kick off your shoes after dinner and watch a movie at home was great. Occasionally, newly released blockbuster movies created a lot of interest and could still pack the theatres. But TV definitely took a toll.

That was long before the advent of VHS tapes, DVDs and cable. Today the competition to sell tickets to newly released films is enormous. A film must have ready viewers quickly or it soon fades away in a matter of days or weeks. Missed seeing a movie you planned to catch? Not to worry. It will be available for rent, purchase or on demand in a couple of months.

Unfortunately, it must be that 30-something executives are deciding which movies make it to production. That is the only way to explain the quantity of drivel that debuts in the theatres. It's pathetic that movie producers and directors have such little faith in the audience. Instead, they are aiming for the lowest common denominator.

The key to a "classic" film is whether it will endure despite the passage of time. Movies like "Citizen Kane," "The Godfather," and "The Wizard of Oz" are all set in the past, making their style and cinematic design somewhat outdated. But in each instance, there is something compelling about the characters, the direction or subject that makes the films hold up. How many of the current films will become classic? Likely few and certainly no buddy movies laced with jokes about bodily functions.

Next time you are struck by a film trailer and think perhaps a movie might be worth watching, ask yourself how badly you really want to pay the price in time and money involved. After all, the same movie will probably be released for home viewing by the time you can find a place to park the car.

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