Just How Far Can Hollywood Fall?
Once Hollywood had something no other creative technology had; it could marry intellectual ideas with their visual realisation. As a result, it was hailed as the major art-form of the 20th century. It reached something of a peak in the 1960s and 1970s, tackling everything from cosmic significance (‘2001’) and revisionist history (‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’) to dystopian politics (‘The Parallax View’) and sexuality (‘Carnal Knowledge’).
Then Twentieth Century Fox offered George Lucas $500,000 to direct ‘Star Wars’. Instead Lucas accepted $150,000 plus merchandising rights, today worth $10.7 billion. After Lucas, Spielberg et al reduced the playing field to merchandised nostalgia we’re left watching 50 year-old live action comic books, toy franchises and this, a wanking children’s toy.
By the time even not-very-good light comedies like ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ got tagged as arthouse fare, it was possible to see how far Hollywood had fallen. Which reminded me that in 1970, John G Avildson, director of ‘Rocky’, made ‘Joe’, an astoundingly angry satire about Joe, (Peter Boyle) a far-right pro-war racist hater who becomes a hippie killer. It marked Susan Sarandon’s screen debut and was nominated for an Oscar. The film was not regarded as arthouse but had a major national release and a proposed (but unmade) sequel. To see such films now you either have to hunt them down online or head for a student town.
It’s amazing that what once passed for general entertainment would now be branded extreme arthouse. Hollywood has become its own definition of Doublethink, being simultaneously tasteless and extremely conservative. By comparison to ‘Ted’ and the likes, John Hughes suddenly seems like Noel Coward. Meanwhile, Empire magazine plays its best trick; getting mugs to stump up for a monthly stack of recycled studio PR. In theory everything’s cyclical – but where are the young talents who’ll kick over the dying embers of Hollywood, sparking original new life? Best overlooked original movies, anyone?
Oh, and if you’re wondering what’s so unusual about Latin cinema, I just saw a Spanish drama about a marsh-dwelling cop who suffers from hallucinations about tropical birds while tracking a serial killer and another about an epileptic taxidermist planning a casino robbery. They were both terrific.