Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hollywood hates me!

Way back when I was a mere pup, I prepared a position paper for a law course on the inevitable ascension of video tape recording machines into the hands of the private consumer. My basic contrarian argument was that this new technology phenomena, would be an inherent benefit to Hollywood’s bottom line so they should embrace it. I even solicited Jack Valenti’s take on the topic as he was the President of the Motion Picture Association of America at the time. Amazingly he respectfully answered my query but HATED my opinion, as did apparently my professor (both Ivy grads by the way), and I received the lowly grade of a C for my considerable effort and thoughtful examination on a controversial topic.

Though history was far kinder to me on that argument, since video and recordable media basically SAVED Hollywood from going bankrupt in the 80’s, I have often run into the same hard-line thinkers when it comes to post-production editing vs. directorial intent today. Most artists fight any alteration to their medium EVEN if it means wider distribution (more sales and money) for them. This has always amazed me? I argued against the late great Gene Siskel of movie review fame regarding colorization of old black and white movies. He hated the idea and I once again loved the technology that made colorization possible. Siskel felt strongly that the movie was somehow inherently violated and different from the original directorial intent, if an after-market artist applied ‘color’ frame by frame. I just wanted to see a prettier movie that’s all?

Most recently I have noticed that more and more popular music contains objectionable and profane lyrics. This particularly bothers me because some of the music is rather catchy and perfectly acceptable for mass audiences of all ages without the mature innuendo. But I assume some artistic director or marketing guru believes there is a need to inject some manufactured ‘edginess’ or suggestive profanity to appeal to rebellious music buyers? Though the fundamental difference here is that the music industry understands that broadcast radio is GOOD for business, so they WILL allow edited ‘radio safe’ versions, to play and thereby guarantee a much wider audience for their art.

I never have understood why Hollywood does not embrace this concept more to improve its access to additional markets? I actually prefer edited movies on broadcast television since most of the time, the artistic intent of the movie is unaltered, but without two hours of repetitive cussing. I know that war brings out the dark sides of its participants, but I do not need to hear or see every explicit detail re-created when our family chooses to take in a movie together. I have never advocated censorship. If the producers want to make something and think they can sell it, then more power to them. I simply am advocating more choices for additional audiences and venues. I would love to be able to rent a ‘obscenity edited’ movie. I can’t tell you how many genuinely fun and clever movies, will inexplicably slip in a single profane word where a hundred other family friendly words would have worked just as well.

So despite my rant, I am not being prudish or subjecting ‘art’ to some arbitrary value judgment, I am just being practical. Young people make up a large portion of the movie-going public. Hollywood might be surprised that profit would not likely suffer to make ‘edited’ movies available for this demographic. Parents would ‘feel’ better and maybe our kids would learn that ‘cussing’ IS NOT part of everyday speech and isn’t as cool as they have been led to believe. Over time, like with the positive changes that VCR’s brought to the industry, profits would actually go up with more choices for the movie going public? Oh well, what do I know about controversial arguments - I’m just a nobody who got a #!%#&*!! ‘C’ on a stupid college law paper. Hollywood HATES me!

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