Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Generation Gasp: March 9, 2013

Screenshot of Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman, Cl...
Screenshot of Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart from the trailer for the film Casablanca. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where Have All the Blockbusters Gone?

By Claire and Jim Castagnera
            Are blockbusters a thing of the past?  I don’t mean the movie rental stores.  I’m talking about the Big Movies.  You know the ones: the movies that everyone – and I mean everyone – was talking about, not only in the month of their release, but for months before and afterwards.  I’m talking about “Psycho,” “Jaws,” “Star Wars.”  I’m talking about movies that were not only enormously entertaining, but movies that were also game changers.  Movies that changed the way we thought about movies.
            It’s been a startlingly long time since I’ve truly been blown away by a movie theater-going experience.  Maybe it’s because so many of the movies I go to see are horror movies – and we all know what a state the horror genre is in these days – but I so rarely come away fully satisfied.  Cliché plot devices, throwaway endings, muddled middles – every movie I see lately seems to have something that makes me wonder if I might not have been better off saving my money and waiting for the rental.
            Even this year’s Oscar Best Picture winner, “Argo,” left me somewhat cold.  I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, but I expected a thrilling political caper and got… well, let’s just say I was surprised it took the biggest award of the night.
            In a culture of remakes and “Jaws 2, 3, 4 and 5,” is it simply that there’s really nothing new under the sun?  Have we broken all the ground there is to break?  I certainly hope not, but there’s sadly little to suggest otherwise.  Nonetheless, I’ll be holding out hope for this summer’s crop of movies – you never know, “The Hangover III” could be the next “Forrest Gump.”  Right?
        Claire is correct.  And the solution lies in computer-generated movies.  The technology is well along.  The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is a great example of the landscapes, armies and monsters that can be created via computer animation.  A few years ago, Anthony Hopkins revealed that “Beowulf” was done entirely on a sound stage and that he didn’t even have to grow a beard.  The computer added his facial hair after the filming was finished. 
        Last season’s “Life of Pi” is a movie about a tiger at sea.  Ang Lee used no tiger and no sea.  The computer did it all.
       Inevitably, Hollywood --- which, as Claire points out, loves sequels of money makers --- will figure out that the industry no longer needs real live stars.  Why pay tens of millions of dollars to flesh-and-blood cinema idols, when legends of the silver screen can live again?
       For example, I’ve always wondered whether, when Rick and Captain Louis Renault walked arm and arm into the fog, was it really the beginning of a beautiful friendship?  Now Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains can rise from their graves and give us the answer in a rip-roaring sequel that might include tank battles with Rommel’s Panzer Corps across North Africa… Claire’s coveted blockbuster.   The ending, of course, would have to find Ilsa in Rick’s arms… unless, of course, “Casablanca 3” was on the drawing boards.
      Pick your own perfect sequel.  Did Shane ever come back?  Now he can.  Was tomorrow really another day for Scarlet and Rhett?  Gosh, I sure hope so.  This is our chance to find out. 
        I read recently that James Lipton of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” will turn 87 in September.  How long can the old boy keep it up?  He won’t have to… his CG persona can go on interviewing actors forever.  In fact --- I’m sure you are way ahead of me --- the CG Lipton can interview CG stars of the glorious past: Betty Davis, Charlie Chaplin, you name her/him.
       And, when we die, our CG selves can go right on watching CG movies, if only our “Second Life” avatars are allowed to go on without us.  At the speed that computers operate, every Nano-second can spawn another blockbuster, Claire.

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