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.


9 comments on “Just How Far Can Hollywood Fall?”

  1. snowy says:

    The blog/comment format is too sterile, [no way to convey nuance etc.], for me to enter into a long debate about ‘Hollywood’ and if ther was ever truly a ‘golden age’. Something better thrashed out over a drink several drinks, [and nibbles] in a Beer Garden by the river.

    But while on the subject of ‘film’, I have kicking about my ‘desk’ a [slightly moody] copy of ‘Le Magasin Des S…….’ with English subs. Free to a good home!

  2. Mike Cane says:

    I had similar thoughts this week, pondering that today it’d be impossible to make something like “Midnight Cowboy.” It’s like the entire history of Hollywood has been erased or bulldozed under by “tofu construction” movies. Not even TV — with its over one-thousand channels — offers the kind of movies it did when it was just over-the-air broadcast here with fewer than ten channels.

  3. Steve Nagel says:

    Just finished watching the second season of Ray Donovan. It’s a dramatic triumph. Along with the likes of Deadwood and True Detectives, RD allows writers and actors to develop more plot scope and emotional magnitude than Hollywood efforts ever could in two hours.

  4. admin says:

    And there’s the saving grace – original TV.

  5. Gaz says:

    Once upon a time, TV was the medium that you proved your mettle in and then moved to Film. These days TV is being looked on as the intellectually superior sibling of Cinema. It certainly feels more mature. Cinema has become about instant gratification, whereas TV can afford to make you wait, being prepared to build up an audience rather than hand everything to you on a plate.
    As a kid I saw a cinema double-bill of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. My grown up self really loves the second film more than the first, but as a child it was the other way round. OHMSS had dull, grown up stuff about relationships and didn’t have midget helicopters and a rocket inside a volcano. YOLT feels rather like a lot of modern films, in that it’s designed to bypass any higher brain functions. Unfortunately the money men only see that YOLT made more money more quickly than OHMSS.

  6. Peter Dixon says:

    And what about movie themes and soundtracks?
    I can’t think of any movie for the past 10 years as memorable as the likes of Bullit, Midnight Cowboy, The Ipcress File, and the great Get Carter. You Only Live Twice had one of the best Bond soundtracks ever. All usually written by Jazz musicians not pop groups.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    And sung by Shirley Bassey.

  8. Mark says:

    “In theory everything’s cyclical – but where are the young talents who’ll kick over the dying embers of Hollywood, sparking original new life?”

    All in the gaming industry.

    Films are an outdated medium (so is music) and the young talents preferring to work in areas we consider less reputable is exactly as it should be.

  9. Ken Shinn says:

    I partly agree with Gaz – I have room for both OHMSS and YOLT in my philosophy. The thing is, the latter may be less “adult”, but it’s still big, colourful and imaginative – the sorts of things that a blockbuster film should try to be at the very least. It’s something that can fire young minds.

    Ted 2, on the other hand, is something that seems committee-designed to further stultify already puny and closed adult minds. Which is again a great pity – the idea of a childhood toy coming to life is something that can produce marvellous results from Bagpuss to Toy Story, but if all that it’s doing is cracking crude jokes, making “deliciously un-PC” comments which show up its creator in reality as a rather boorish turd, and shoving in nostalgia/pop culture references…no thanks.

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