Hollywood - Evil Or Not?
Hollywood and cinema are impossible to separate. It is not just an area, not just a way of making films, but a key element in the culture of billions of people for over nearly a hundred years. Yet so much of cinema is devoted to creating a product that rejects the narrative and morals of the blockbuster system. Why is it that we are supposed to hate Hollywood cinema so much? There is no doubt that Hollywood makes a lot of bad movies. Films like Karate Dog, Son of the Mask and Super Baby Geniuses are doomed from the very title. It is not even the hilarious lows of trashy exploitation, but a cynical product designed to make profit based on certain quotas. Many are just extended toy commercials; the extra characters in Alvin and the Chimpmunks: the Squeakal seem to be there to give McDonalds extra toys to release rather than enhance the narrative. Even quality, well-loved films are riddled with issues. Die Hard is one of my favourites, but it is totally unrealistic, to the extent that the “German” terrorists speak a gibberish instead of their mother tongue. The end of any Hollywood film can usually be seen coming a long way off, and not often will it be an unhappy one (Seven, maybe, an exception). It can seem as if all Hollywood is able to create are cookie cutter plots, whereas the indie (and by indie, read “world art house”) is constantly coming out with interesting ideas, even if they don’t always work. Yet there is much to be admired about the Hollywood filmmaker. All films from the major studios will have decent lighting, high quality sound and so on. They will almost definitely shoot on film, or at the very least the absolute top line of digital. Whatever you think of the produce of Hollywood, they are made extremely well. I am all for supporting independent films, but there is a danger we can reject decent cinematography and good filmmaking just to make a film on a shoestring budget. This of course does not improve poor storytelling, but provides a guaranteed feast for the eyes. This could lead into another reason why much of world cinema rejects Hollywood filmmaking; they simply cannot do it. This is not due to any kind of creative issue, but purely monetary. Britain couldn't make a film like The Dark Knight or Terminator 2, because there simply isn’t the budget available. It isn’t even close. What this leads to is a bunch of European thrillers, made for a couple of hundred thousand pounds that simply achieve nothing except making you wish you were watching Die Hard. Of course there are notable exceptions, with the French TAXI series being hilarious, exciting and spectacular, and a very large chunk of the Asian cinema market. Yet for all of these there is the career of Uwe Boll. Enough said. We must also remember, at least in terms of the Western world, that most people’s favourite films are from Hollywood, and that vast majority of best selling pictures are Hollywood films. This is not an instant certification of quality, but must be looked at in a little more depth. It is easy to lay the blame on Hollywood cornering the market in terms of advertising and distribution, and this is true. Yet what it can provide is escapism, regardless of your motives for needing it. This is the crux of Hollywood filmmaking; you can go to cinema, not enjoy the movie, and still have a good time. You can get off with your girlfriend, watch your kids be entertained, or less cynically, feel like a child again. It seems unlikely that many people have gone to see The Bodyguard for its artistic merit. But then nobody eats Walkers Sensations to stay healthy. In defence of these films, their success provides more money for the more challenging and artistically viable films created by the studios. Also, so many of them are a success. People do like them, and it becomes increasingly hard to challenge a successful, well loved product. Hollywood produced some diabolical films, and I’m not just talking about End of Days. Many are nothing more than glorified ninety minute commercials. But to reject it totally outright seems foolish. Interviews with leading Hollywood filmmakers shows these are some of the most passionate filmmakers around. This is not forgetting the thousands of others who work ridiculous hours to get a film completed. It also must not be forgotten just how arty directors like Martin Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola can be, and how someone like Stephen Spielberg has inspired millions to get involved with cinema. Those who don’t like Hollywood filmmaking can come up with some very good reasons to support their argument. Yet to have a blanket hatred on them will almost guarantee you will miss out on something that you will love, for no reason other than irrational dogma.
Read Dylan's other 'Film Talk' articles: here, here and hereand here
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