@JazzalohaBut suppose viewers had exposure to a greater variety of films—i.e., independent, foreign language, experiemental, etc. How many more people would choose these films over the typical Hollywood film? Do you expect it to be a significantly high number? This is speculation, but I don’t expect it to be that much higher.
If they were exposed to a variety of films with equal amount of advertising then yes viewing habits would change, but it would take a generation or two before we see any significant change.
The argument that “people just want junk” is ignoring the fact that demand can be created. You have to be aware that a lot of people spend tremendous amounts of time and money trying to figure out the best way to make people want to buy whatever it is they’re selling. It’s the whole idea behind marketing.
“Parks, it sounds like you’re agreeing with me”
Kinda, yeah. It’s classic overdetermination. There are two distinct causes existing at the same time, either of which might be sufficient to account for the effect.
You have to be aware that a lot of people spend tremendous amounts of time and money trying to figure out the best way to make people want to buy whatever it is they’re selling. It’s the whole idea behind marketing.
Marketing is powerful, but it’s influence is not unlimited. As a simple example think about narrative and non-narrative films. I think narratives will always have a wider audience than non-narrative films—regardless the marketing used. If the narratives involve violence and sex with Manichean characters this will be even more appealing. The marketing, exposure and education of other movies can help, but there are limits.
I’d say there are more than two causes as well.
Polaris, when it comes to manipulating children via advertising, your distinction between morally bankruot and immoral is petty and ultimately meaningless.
As for cause vs effect, it is a problem that is easily solved. the issue liez with intention. the goal of mcdonalds is to make money, not make people sick, but the food isnt good for us, so obviousky they dont care about peoples health, which is why they continue to use such artery clogging agents like trans fats. for a long time this info was withheld from the general public, surely that is a conspiracy? yet people still.continue to eat their food.
Im all for believing in effects without malignant causes but that also doesnt mean there arent individual agents or companies that manipulate people cynically for their own selfish ends. and they ought to be called out when they do so without making excuses.
Also, most proponents of the ‘culture industry’ arguments dont believe in conspiracy theories of dumbing people down. that is a strawman. they are simply claiming that a dumb culture benefits those in power and stupid people are easier to manipulate it. all these forces are generalised lime they go hand in hand but they dont all stem from the same motivation or source.
I actually agree and find it a very important point, that individual people or groups should be called out for some of the things they do, especially with full knowledge of who it hurts. But when you take a look at ‘blockbusters’ as a totality they are not made specifically to be dumb, they’re made specifically to attract anybody including the dumb. So you have to isolate those cases when a movie is ‘dumbed down.’ That’s a much more difficult procedure than it sounds, especially when you look at all of the people involved and sad depersonalized facts like whether or not the dumbing down successfully made the movie money (and argue whether or not it would have made more if it weren’t dumbed down).
Yeah, we have to be careful here and not oversimplify the issues and take care to account for some of the complexities—dumbed down criticism of dumbed down films still leaves us dumbed down.
‘Victims’ is an interesting word in fact because a lot of the discussion we’ve been having is hour our choices ‘enable’ Hollywood studios to continue the blockbuster process. So while we have the issue of isolating specific cynical selfish productions (which I totally call out Michael Bay and Zack Snyder for, they clearly has no respect for their audiences and just see them as money farming implements), the reason blockbusters continue to be profitable is because regardless if we hate the structure, even we the Mubites go to see movies like Avengers and Dark Knight Rises to varying degrees of expectation that it will or will not be ‘good’. And, in fact, I personally consider both movies to be good.
The problem is, if I go to see either (which I did), then I’m continuing to ‘enable’ Hollywood (think of it as a dollar vote thing). But if I don’t go to see, refuse to watch anything but independent and non-Hollywood features as a dollar vote thing, I don’t get to see movies that I actually want to, and I have to expend a surprisingly awful amount of energy NOT doing something. It’s easier, for me, to just go see movies I want to wherever they may be, and disregard structure entirely.
And then there’s the people who think, "Fine, I’ll just watch the movies, but I won’t pay for it, I’ll just download it. " That’s a total bullshit philosophy because to really devalue a product, you must go without. That’s like the people who call for the no-gas or electricity days. “Let’s show those energy companies whose boss by not using gas or electricity for a single day!” Yeah, so then you’ll just buy the gas the day before in preparation for that day, or hold off the purchase ‘til the next day. If you want to make any real changes, you have to outright give up your car. Flat out, even the conscientious concerned citizens aren’t willing to do that. I’m aware that oil companies have access to five times the amount of carbon that, when burned, will push over the threshold of sustainable atmospheric carbon rendering the earth unlivable to human beings. And yet I still drive a vehicle. I can’t afford not to.
So again, oil companies aren’t trying to destroy the Earth. That’s quite unprofitable. But until their customers make it more profitable to keep the oil in the ground rather than burn it, we’re all just gonna die.
Mainstream cinema is not ‘for the people’ it’s for the studios. A giant industry’s greatest concern is self-preservation/profit, because the more money they have, the more they spend, and the more they spend, the more they need.
And if it wasn’t, the same kinds of movies would still make the most money, they’d just be cheaper and a little less advertised. Don’t kid yourself that if it weren’t for this EVIL CORPORATE JUGGERNAUT people would be all going out to watch Breathless and Andrei Rublev.
There are more distractions than ever, and it’s because they’re trying to fill every moment with a product. The percentage of American college students who were in school in order to develop a life philosophy has dropped from 80+% in the ’70s to 40% in the ’90s. Probably about 10% now. 1 in 14 Americans admitted that they would murder someone for 3 million dollars. Everything in the culture points to money and popularity being the most important things.
Which makes it exactly the same as the 70s except more honest. ;) 1 in 14 Americans say they would hypothetically murder someone for 3 million dollars, and yet the world violence rate is at historical lows.
Life philosophy is something you develop through experience, not something you go to school for. You go to school to expand your knowledge base and gain the skills necessary to be an independent citizen, and if you actually talk to people without the antiseptic completely hypothetical stimulus-response of a poll, you’d see a whole lot of good people who are just as smart as you do and just don’t care about art.
Going to Polaris’ train of thought, there is no:
“What movies are out there? It’s in the theater and it’s been marketed to me so it must be good.”
“My friends are all seeing this movie. I will have another thing in common with them if I go see it too.”
I don’t see this as a problem. And if greedy people are making a lot of money, so freaking what? It doesn’t stop Jean Luc Godard from making more impenetrable leftist films or Lars Von Trier from torturing women, or you from going out with a hand camera with some actor buddies and making a low budget short funded by kickstarter. Again, why does the fact that other people watch a lot of bad movies bother you so much?
There is no correlation between intelligence and love of art, and some of the smartest people I know love comic book movies. And they are all very nice people who would never call somebody an idiot for liking something different.
Gawd these forums pissing and moaning about mainstream films are getting old. Same old argument. Same lack of perspective. Just read Tom Gunning’s “Cinema of Attractions” and get over it.
@JazzalohaMarketing is powerful, but it’s influence is not unlimited. As a simple example think about narrative and non-narrative films. I think narratives will always have a wider audience than non-narrative films—regardless the marketing used.
That’s because we live in a society where linear story telling and the three-act narrative structure is the norm, but the distinction between narrative and non-narrative film is not a qualitative distinction to me. There’s nothing inherently superior in one or the other, it’s just a matter of artistic preference. This topic is about mindless commercial film vs art house film, both of which can be presented in a conventional narrative format.
Taste isn’t something you are born with, if you want ‘good taste’ you have to work at it, you have to hone it and craft it, like anything else in life. You want to be a really good chef? You can read recipe’s and talk in theory all you want, but at some point you’re going to have to actually cook and practice cooking if you want to do that well.
So I think it’s less an issue of “Dumb / Smart” and more one that most people don’t want/can’t invest the time to craft their taste. But instead of releasing even moderately “interesting” films meant to level up someone with the most base of taste (The Matrix), most hollywood garbage just hits at the same nonsense transformers level, and so no taste gets leveled up in the slightest, which is a shame.
Now economically this strategy makes sense, if all the studios start ‘ramping it up’ suddenly their audience is going to develop expectations, which means they have to spend more resources meeting those. If they keep audiences taste down as low as possible then that chances are no matter what they pump out people will accept it.
You know, the whole “if we bring a rock, they expect a knife” style escalation starts to occur, which they want to keep as much ‘at bay’ as possible, in design this is known as “conserving design space” and if you are playing a long term strategy conserving space and combating ‘power creep’ are how you maximize the lifespan of your system.
So the question then is it possible to, without ripping through all the design space and power creeping themselves into self destruction, release a product even slightly challenging that can entertain as well as ‘craft taste’ (or even ‘net-zero’ taste at this point would be a substantial improvement). I think the difference here is they are so afraid of power creep that they aren’t creeping at all, and that’s just nonsense… creep it forward slowly if you are oh so afraid, stagnant just means treading water, or baby food every single day.
“The studio’s mentality is that Americans are stupid. They try to lower the standard as much as they can to reach what they think is this great dumb audience. And I have always resisted that and wanted to believe in the audience’s intelligence. But if you keep feeding people baby food for long enough they begin to like it.”
- Terry Gilliam
That’s because we live in a society where linear story telling and the three-act narrative structure is the norm, but the distinction between narrative and non-narrative film is not a qualitative distinction to me.
Are you saying the preference is purely a matter of nurture? I tend to think we’re hard-wired for linear story telling, and it seems to be a critical way we make sense of the world. I do think our experiences shape our tastes, but a couple of things: 1) there are limits to this influence; 2) Hollywood is only one part of shaping our tastes. (Parents, if they exercise their power, can be much more influential, I would imagine.)
Personally, I don’t think you will ever create large numbers of people who prefer or even like abstract, non-narrative based films—just as you won’t create large numbers of people who prefer or like atonal, a-rhtymic music. More people will prefer beautiful, catchy melodic music with a good beat. Exposure to these more challenging forms of music and education about them can help expand the numbers of people who can appreciate and enjoy this music, but I think these numbers will never be very big. That’s just my feeling.
I tend to think we’re hard-wired for linear story telling, and it seems to be a critical way we make sense of the world.
I would tend to agree, though Laura Mulvey would probably call that a masculine conceit.
Edit: I think parents are not as effective as they could or would even like to be. Even before the internet I remember some parents complaining that having a the time to monitor just a kids TV intake was a “middle class conceit”.
More people will prefer beautiful, catchy melodic music with a good beat.
Right. But tell the artist that the work (song, movie, painting) is “pretty”.
Even if we are hard-wired this way, linear story telling doesn’t equal generic hollywood blockbuster. It’s possible to make a great film with a conventional narrative structure.
Absolutely. But Hollywood films are mostly narrative-based—which is not the case with non-Hollywood pictures.
I think parents are not as effective as they could or would even like to be. Even before the internet I remember some parents complaining that having a the time to monitor just a kids TV intake was a “middle class conceit.
Well, I sympathize with that view. If you going to actively be involved in your child’s cultural upbringing, that’s going to take time and energy, and that can seem like an impossible task. If you’re trying to make ends meet, the cultural aspects might have to go to the way side. On the other hand, it’s a matter of values and priorities: how important is the cultural education—which relates to them developing as a human being, imo—to the parents? But this is a huge committment and it’s easy to be glib about being committed—it’s much harder to put it into practice, though.
“Pretty” has perjorative connotations, whereas “beautiful” not as much—which is why I intentionally chose the latter over the former.
Jirin is right that the relationship between intelligence and taste is not direct and obvious but the notion of taste needs to be interrogated further. i think a lot of people that are into ‘art’ films appreciate the ideas as much as the aesthetics—and the two cant really be separated that easily—so i guess the interest comes from an engagement with ideas and a way of seeing the world. it is a combination of taste, intelligence and personality.
I associate mainstream taste in things with a lack of adventure. a less proactive stance. and that is usually the case of even the intelligent people i have known. so if it isnt lack of intelligence thata the problem. it is the conformity that bothers me.
Sorry for all the.mistakes. not used to sending messages on phone yet! hehe
Sadly my notification button was unchecked and I missed the flurry of my post here. I’ll see if I can play catch up though in all practicality, once a post reaches this many responses it is a rarity that anyone goes back to the source, much less the initial responses.
That being said, the full article I wrote is available and I encourage you all to check it out.
From what I’ve skimmd through here it seems that most people are lumping all viewers together as part of one generic group. Different viewers, however, go into a movie theater with different expectations. A segment of the population simply wants to shut their brain off and be distracted by the shiny objects on the screen. Another segment of the population only wants something to talk about around the watercooler the next day. Another segment views a film as way to go out with somebody without needing to engage in meaningful conversation with them. Another segment uses films as babysitters. Another segment views films as an entertaining way to spend an afternoon and another segment views them as art. Education and exposure would only “work” on these last two (though the classification is not absolute, there is often overlap) because they are the only segments that experience films for their own sake and not as a means to an end. The rest could care less what they are watching as long as something is happening before their eyes. Films just happen to be the medium particular to the era.
Another segment (Fred Willard) uses it for something entirely different.
If Hollywood is the giant metal shark of our generation, of the now generation then one of us needs to pick up the badge, put on the hat and pick up a pair of those stylish 70s shades and become the Chief Martin Brody of today and put the bomb in the shark’s mouth.
I like blockbusters. I like indie, foreign, and art films. I like movies.
I couldn’t care less where the movies come from, so long as I enjoy what they have to offer. I found the Total Recall remake to be harmless fun (which is enough for me to like a film), I was thrown into fits of helpless, hysterical laughter by Ted, I’m a firm believer in indie cinema and the VOD distribution method, and I love all the films I’ve seen by Bergman, Pasolini, and Truffaut. Do I wish the studios weren’t such corporate whores? Sure. I think everyone here does. Nevertheless, I like many of the films they release. I don’t feel victimized by the Resident Evil franchise, for instance, or Judd Apatow productions. I feel compelled to give those films my money, because I generally like them.
Meh. There’ve been enough great movies made in the past to keep me going for the rest of my life. As for blockbusters the old adage “empty vessels make the most noise” springs to mind. And empty vessels bore me. I also used to be really critical of blockbusters because they weren’t realistic enough and so I gravitated towards dramas and kitchen sink dramas. But then it dawned on me that seeking realism in movies was kind of ridiculous. If I want realism I can spend less time watching movies and TV and more time talking to real people. But if you want to read a book from a film critic who’s had a gutful of blockbusters UK film critic Mark Kermode wrote a book titled The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex.
Thanks for the reference Chris, I’m looking for that book by Kermode right now.
The realism you’re talking about is out there, at least I feel that it is, in particular in films that portray genuine emotional responses to believable conflict and resolutions between characters you know or knew, people places and sentiments you feel can relate to, that are honest. Realism does exist in cinema, it is where all films came from and attempt, in various ways, to portray, pretend, imagine and examine in finite and indeterminate ways – it is less about tangible realism, that which you possess, and more about that which is nurtured in spirit, ushered in like breath, let go again, felt within.
I’m immediately reminded of films like The Hours, Doubt and the The Iron Lady with respect to Ms. Streep, and The Ides of March, Charlie Wilson’s War, and Magnolia looking briefly at Mr. Hoffman’s colorful, eclectic career, and of course a hundred others like Denzel Washington (Training Day, The Hurricane and his upcoming Flight looks very promising), Rosie Perez has it, lost it, rediscovered it and then there is television (Do The Right Thing, Fearless), and Joan Chen (Mao’s Last Dancer, Lust Caution, Heaven & Earth).
The idea that we are victims of blockbusters was meant to convey one who is tricked or duped into believing we have no control over the films that are being made. Our scattered voices can speak as one: stop accepting mediocrity as good enough.
“The idea that we are victims of blockbusters was meant to convey one who is tricked or duped into believing we have no control over the films that are being made. Our scattered voices can speak as one: stop accepting mediocrity as good enough.”
Works for me, I pick and choose my entertainment as opposed to assuming I need to see it just because it’s there.
On the note of Kermode..“Along the same lines, “Why Blockbusters Should Be Better” makes the point that Hollywood has evolved to an almost flop-proof business model with its mega-budget product. This being the case, the idiocy of blockbusters confounds Kermode, who wonders what the harm would be in making them smarter.” – Tim Robey, in assessing Kermode’s book “The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: What’s Wrong with Modern Movies” for The Telegraph at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/8750110/The-Good-the-Bad-and-the-Multiplex-Whats-Wrong-with-Modern-Movies-by-Mark-Kermode-review.html