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Why Films Should Stick to Entertainment

The fall/winter season is here so that must mean all of the important dramas (otherwise known as Oscar bait) are at or coming to the multiplex’s. The only thing wrong with that is that the audience is not there with them.

This year’s crop of “serious” films is heavy with political sermonizing. Sermons that might have generated some boxoffice two to four years ago. Now we’re counting down the time until we can kick out the current bunch of yahoos from the white house (and replace them with yet another batch). So, it’s small wonder that people are not lining up to see something that reminds them of the position we’re in, or to place the blame on them, or the media. The collective “we” has finally figured it out in a way that all, but the most obstinate, agree that changes must be made to our national leadership.

Hollywood is baffled by this. This is what intelligent, mature audiences have been craving, right? Well, yes, but as mentioned, we craved it earlier. These sort of political sermon themed movies are now the perfectly situated within the realm of television. The pipeline is short enough on television that they can address recent politics and play the audience on either side for what it’s worth while still being entertained. Boston Legal or 24? As long as you’re getting something out of them, why not both? (Even ex-President Clinton admits to being a regular viewer of 24. A ticking bomb thriller played over a television season makes fans of many, although far fewer would admit to subscribing to Jack Bauer’s methods or politics.)

Films on the other hand crawl through development hell before getting green lit and going through months of pre-production, production, post-production, while picking a release date to give it maximum exposure while allowing marketing to create a favorable atmosphere to entice audiences. Yes, that can translate into years. Probably not what the writer had in mind when he/she sat down inspired to create a “call to arms” for public opinion.

While television is often called on its spineless reputation when encountering pressure groups, whether they be religous or political. (Or political using religous, as is more common anymore.) And every channel’s news organization can probably use a swift boot up the posterior. The fact is that television is a writer’s medium and messages/ sermons can and do get out within the context of entertainment.

Films are predominantly star and/or event driven and slow to come to market. Wouldn’t it be easier for films to integrate politics/ governmental leanings into the plot the way they have from at least the 40’s on. Allegory works better in film and ages far better than straight away sermons. (I doubt that television programs can say the same. 24 is essentially a thriller, so you may ignore some of the politics involved, but when Boston Legal has James Spader’s Alan Shore deliver one of his patented closings;I dare say that in 10 year’s time it will take you right out of the scene when you watch it at home on DVD.)

Films stand the test of time when political themes are placed there subtly or integrated into the story, as in the 50’s or 70’s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (communism and loss of individuality), The Conversation (loss of privacy), Twilight’s Last Gleaming, Go Tell the Spartans, Black Sunday (war/terrorism), The Parallax View, Rollerball, Chinatown, Winter Games (socio-political effects of government and business), and more from the 60’s and 70’s than you’d care to see listed.

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