Is Going on with Movies!?
Or: Watering down “great” for “good” and “good” for “that was fucking awful”
There is little that gets my juices going more than a great film. Music is up there. With a good song or a great album I can lose myself in the beats and lyrics. I can also nerd out over an engrossing and well designed video game. With the right game I can be transported to a world I get wrapped up in where time seems to fly at triple speed, giving whole days of my waking hours. Films are something else though. Next to video games, they are the most all-consuming form of media. You can keep your reality TV and sitcoms, because nothing beats a great film. All that said, I can count on just two hands the great films I have seen that have been released in the last five years; maybe it’s just one hand. I fear that this is not from my persnickety tastes in films, but from an overwhelming movement in the film community to turn a fast buck. As budget balloon to epic levels with advertising through expensive market saturation, I fear that the level of great filmmaking has fallen off in recent years from the great production houses of yesteryear, and are being replaced with watered-down and often times tired stories set to please a wider range of audience instead of holding true to great filmmaking and classic tales.
Nowhere is this more apparent than with PG-13 films that are being released today. I’d first like to point out what used to be considered PG-13. Nowadays politicians, conservatives, and on-air personalities on FOX News and other networks, like to point out that as a country the “lame-stream” media and the liberal bias is tearing asunder the moral fabric of this country. They like to croon over the fact that Hollywood is run by Godless liberals that are cutting to pieces the moral pillars that this once-great nation held as right and true. Really? Do you realize that the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) has not gotten less conservative but MORE conservative over the years. Case in point is the classic film Airplane which had frontal nudity and racial undertones along with drug use and vulgar language which garnered them a PG-13 rating back in 1980. By today’s standards this film would have gotten an “R” rating without question. So for those of you out there championing the idea that Hollywood and the Jew-liberals are ruining American values…go fuck yourselves, because the seventies and eighties were a time of much looser standards.
The other issue I have with the PG-13 rating is what it does to potentially great films. Let’s be honest, the budgets for blockbuster movies is only going to get bigger. Production houses are investing millions in making a film and then investing even more millions in advertising the piss out of the movie. By the time we get to the week a film is to be released I just want it to come out because I don’t want to see one more fucking trailer or I’m gonna just go ahead and kill Michael Bay. So with all that money invested is it any wonder they want a PG-13 for what should in all honesty be an “R” rated film. Battle: Los Angeles, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Wallstreet: Money Never Sleeps; all of these are potentially good films, but because of a desire to turn a buck they cut and edit it to death to slide in under getting rated-R so that it is family friendly and with enough whining, kids can talk their parents in to seeing these movies. It is not that they are PG-13 films, but they were watered down to PG-13 to get more asses in the seats. Don’t think that Paramount doesn’t have a say in final cut. As a company they don’t give a shit as to the quality and realness a film has; Battle: Los Angeles could have been a great film with an “R” rating, but they wanted PG-13 for a positive return on investment, story be damned.
This is happening more and more with movies and as an avid movie watcher I am running out of shit to stick in my Netflix Queuethat wasn’t made before I was born. I see Wallstreet of 1987, rated-R, and then you see a “sequel” to the film that is starring Shia Labeouf and it’s rated PG-13. Is this right? Does this do justice to the original film and the storied tones this movie touches on? Absolutely not. This brings me to the next point in my rant on films today: stop making shit sequels and remakes. Miami Vice is the most painful example of an idea gone horribly wrong. Big names, big budget, nostalgic series and characters, and then an epic bomb of a film that stinks to high heaven. You could pick and choose different films over the years where they have totally fucked up a good idea with shit production and execution, but when the budget is nine-figures, can you blame Universal or Paramount for releasing something that sucks just to make their money back?
Movies are near and dear to my heart. I am a photographer, so I am visually stimulated. I love movies. I love epic tales and grand stories told well. Do you need to sacrifice the story and the grand scale of a story for a buck? No, you don’t. See: No Country for Old Men or There Will Be Blood; movies that are unapologetically rated-R. But what if large companies had gotten their hands on movies like these or if Hustle & Flow had been toyed with to please a larger audience based on a big budget and large advertising debts? What if Precious had been canned because it wouldn’t make enough money? Travesty. This is how I look back on films like Pulp Fiction or even films like Predator and Domino. Can you imagine Domino as a PG-13 film for the purpose of getting more eyes on the screen? It would not be the same film.
I am not saying that PG-13 doesn’t have it’s place in the American film industry. I see the purpose for PG-13, PG, and G-rated movies. I see that there is a market for that genre of film. Hell, I love Toy Story and Shrek. These are good films. It is when the strings of the large budgeteers begin to get pulled and a film loses it’s teeth for the sake of recouping funds is when my ire gets up. How dare you cut the legs out from under a film because you didn’t want to lose a buck. You should not have green lit it in the first place then. What does an exec at Universal know about making movies? Shit, that’s what he knows. Leave movie making to the professionals. I want the studios to be a bit more weary about investing sums of money that equal the GDP of Myanmar. Maybe instead of sticking all the money in for CGI’d EVERYTHING and 3D gimmicks and ploys, maybe we can make a good movie the right way, what do ya say? Too much to ask? I am thinking this might be the case.
CGI, 3D? Oh yeah, just so you know, I fucking hate that. Gimmick, gimmick, gimmick, gimmick, gimmick. I know CGI has it’s place. I get that in certain films, this makes sense. I have seen CGI’d blood in movies that could have been done with squibs. I have seen explosions that should have been done with, I don’t know…explosives. I have seen the advent of 3D and just seen it as another gimmick that has seen it’s day and people are falling in love with it all over again. It saw the light of day on two separate occasions in the past, and now it is back with a vengeance in our TV programming and even now in video games. I don’t want it. You can keep it. I think that these advents in technology are nothing but cheap tricks and detract from the immersive and all-consuming possibilities of these media formats. Don’t give me fake explosions, I want real ones. Don’t give me fake blood, I was blood that is actually wet. If I want 3D, you know what I’ll do? I’ll open my eyes. I have two of them, and that gives me 3D vision 24-hours a day…I don’t need my movies to sacrifice good cinematography for a gimmicky shot of an axe flying at me; that is what Disneyland rides are for.
So, what of this PG-13 rating we spoke of earlier? Well, along with all of these other issues of “innovation” and large budget films it will continue to shit in the cornflakes of realistic depiction of stories and scenes. Salt might have been a good film had I seen her actually kill someone. I am sorry, but if any film has a bullet fired in it, I want that depicted realistically, not a cut-away shot of a guy in body armor falling down. If someone breaks a guy’s neck, I want to see that realized with sound effects and a straight-on shot, not another cutaway. I look at an upcoming film like Columbiana, starring the sexy and demure Zoe Saldana. You might know her from Crash. I look at this film and I see Luc Besson, the man who brought me The Professional, and I get excited. I see in the trailers a taste of Le Femme Nakita and his aforemenotioned film, but I cringe at the PG-13 rating. Why PG-13? Why!? This could be an epic film, if it were rated-R, but it is watered down just as Salt was, for the sake of the cheap seats. This is a travesty to film, seeing as what Luc Besson means to me in his past works with french film legend Jean Reno.
So what does this say for the American film industry, with it’s gimmicks and cheap dates at PG-13 ratings? We’re fucking pansies. We are the film elite and we pander to watered down films meant for adults but catering to the young generation. I am not one to censor films, but if there is a gun fight then I want to see blood, and maybe it shouldn’t be for children. Here we are, always horrified by a mass shooting at a high school or a college, and then we wonder what we’re doing to prevent it. Maybe we should show the realism of guns, and that blood and guts are a result of using them instead of cutaways making it look like guns are just what makes people fall down when they are in your way, or the “bad guy.” If we’re fighting aliens in the world you constructed for me in this film, maybe a Private at some point will drop an F-bomb because he’s shooting at FUCKING ALIENS! Or maybe it is the quick buck and not the legend of cinema we need to pander to. Cut your budgets, let the filmmakers work. Maybe we just need to realize that life on a daily basis sometimes happens with an R-rating, and maybe our movies should reflect that. I know if I were firing a gun at aliens, I’d cuss. “Holy fucking fuck! I’m firing a gun at an alien!” Now that is a world I’ll pay ten bucks to get in to.