Wednesday, October 24, 2012

21st Century Hollywood - Recycling Culture

Have you watched any new film in cinema or on television recently? Maybe you think you did, so let me rephrase the question - Have you watched any movie, that wasn't a remake, reboot, spin-off, sequel, prequel or even an adaptation?

Sometimes it is not that easy to notice, since many current movies fresh off the conveyor belt are based on something decades old, but it still doesn't make them in any way original. Some may argue that everything has already been done or that every work of art draws inspiration from previous works. Lets analyze that for a bit.

To the first point - what a depressing and small-minded point of view, especially in the light of the sheer amount and scope of new technologies and phenomena, that are emerging every day. It is not that hard to, say, choose a completely new topic, like social networking.

Some things may never really change at all, for example basic story structures, which thankfully allows for timelesness of classical works, but the history hasn't simply stopped dead in its tracks after the invention of CGI. Society keeps evolving, making new ways of thinking and behaving both possible and permissible.

And even if you do not subscribe to the positive evolution mindset, there are new dangers becoming more prominent all the time, as well as a generous amount of decay in many areas (both geographically and in principle). For instance, how could nuclear apocalypse be done to death in movies before it is realistically possible?

It doesn't take much time to come up with a concept for a movie that is at least in a single respect new - more daring or unapologetic in style, more grand or subtle in vision, more surreal in take, about an issue previously overlooked or forbidden, revolving around new piece of technology or an entirely groundbreaking science, or , to throw a crazy idea out there, drawing from the unique personal experience of its creator.

It is of course completely normal to draw inspiration from earlier works or to allude to them, pay homage to them or deprecate them. But without any value added to those references (and often with plenty of value subtracted instead), why even make a film?

Unfortunately, there is an answer to that, that is found reasonable by many producers - to make more money. Which also makes sense to all the artists who simply need a way to make their living. Both is sadly understandable, but it may be wise to look at the implications of this hollow approach to art.

Throughout history, it wasn't uncommon to have pragmatic reasons for comissioning art - the churches and monarchs and wealthy merchants often saw the production of art as means to foster their social standing, power or influence, to educate or inspire the masses, or at least to be appreciated and remembered.

There is a healthy measure to everything, and then there is the complete ruination of all ballance between the objective gains from and the subjective value of the entirety of art. Nowadays, the art has been debased to a mere product to be sold and all its purpose has been reduced to mere "entertainment".

What exactly does "to entertain" mean, anyway? How does one build a culture on a notion that flimsy? Similarly, how does the spending/profiteering really benefit the culture? The churches had a message about the meaning of life, monarchs had a message about the purpose of their nation and even the wealthy merchants treated something like success, progress or family as meaningful.

The "meaning" of the culture of recycling is this message, if any - the meaning of life is to simply pass time, waiting for death (= nothing), while being amused for no reason at all (not to say purpose), except that boredom and discomfort suck (and all that actually matters in life is boring or otherwise lowering the comfort and therefore sucks, so why not just procrastinate aimlessly).

One might argue that at least the business side of this culture is "productive" - creating jobs and generating economic growth. But without a meaningful purpose in the principal sense, this whole industry is an artificial one, producing nothing of value - all those jobs equate procrastination in merit and all that money is ill-spent (instead of going to improve man's condition, solve actual problems or in the very least maintain the fundamental infrastructure and processes necessary for the life as we know it to go on).

But don't think that I have something against the film as a medium or an artform - it can do all the meaningful things. It can inform, inspire, heal or challenge the human mind, through the use of every emotion expressible. However, without a single original thing in it, not even a fresh energy from the movie makers or the cast, a movie can only replace boredom for a short while. That is still a waste of time.

So surprise, surprise, the culture gets literally wasted while the major film studios make record profits, reinforcing their idea that brand-recognition achieved through complete lack of originality is the best way to go. Ignoring that, shockingly, people would also watch actually good movies, regardless of how familiar their concept or name would be. But I guess it is easier to be lazy and complacent.

Hopefully, the recycled crap movies will get so bad, that the audiences will realize that genuine culture was stolen from them and turn elsewhere. Or maybe the internet and other new technologies will allow large film studios to be completely circumvented by content-producing independent artists, maybe even audiences themselves participating at their own culture. Like in the, in this regard more advanced, dark ages. Or prehistory.

So please, stop wasting our time already.


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