Page 7 - untitled
P. 7

- IN REEL TROUBLE                                                             by Ronald Conway

           A generation ago legendary American columnist Walter Winchell described Hollywood as "a place where they
           shoot too many pictures and  not enough  actors." The comment  is  apt for today's  manic film  industry, as it
           uneasily celebrates its centenary.

           During the Great Depression and the years of World War II, almost everybody had a love affair with movies. In
           cinema seats more decently upholstered than today's cheap bum-busters.  one could buy into palaces and
           prison plots. family frolics and magnificent cartoons. We could look into the lives of cowboys, shop-girls and
           soldiers who won out by the last reel or died in some true faith.

            It was also a time when middle-class wholesomeness was not a target of ridicule, and patriotism was not a dirty
           word.   There was wit and  did  not  rely upon  lechery and  lavatories. The  much-maligned  Hollywood studio
           system was run by conservative Jewish immigrants, who adopted a discipline which may have cramped many
           a great talent but kept directorial egomaniacs such as today's Oliver Stone and Michael  Cimino on  a tight
           leash. The vulgar spendthrifts and sociopaths were expected to bankroll their own costly delusions.

           In 1939, Hollywood produced more than 400 feature films, half of them better forgotten, but including immor-
           tals such as Gone with the Wind, Goodbye Mr Chips, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach and The Wizard of Oz.
           Television partly spelled the end of a coherently organised film industry, while soaring costs of studio settings
           forced filmmakers to do unsupervised location work all over the world. Mayer, Zanuck, the brothers Warner,
           Goldwyn - all the old despots who loved and understood their products - are long gone. Today nobody seems
           in charge.

           The movie business staggers on from year to year and from triumph to catastrophe under the listless control of
           business conglomerates which market movies like ultra-expensive toilet paper or soap. The actor, once the
           talented employee of the system has become its artistic dictator. As photography becomes more vivid, sound-
           tracks more ear-shattering, special effects more engulfing, the need for having a good story, crisply composed
           and briskly cut, is thought unimportant.

           Can anybody really detail the plot of a Steven Spielberg film before Schindler's List and does it matter anyway?
           As for the social  messages and  ethical  standards of most Hollywood movies,  conservative critics such  as
           Michael Medved and Richard Grenier could be right when they say the industry seems to have declared war on
           main-stream suburban life. Despite a few civilised, sensitive offerings at this year's Academy Awards such as
           The Age of Innocence, Shadowlands and The Remains of the Day, movie themes pander ceaselessly to fringe
           obsessions such as racial discrimination, government corruption and sexual conflict.

           Traditional families are  presented as crawling  with vicious repressions, terrorists are  portrayed as freedom
           fighters, military commanders as fascists. Comedy is often foul of mouth and cruel. Dramas are saturated with
           alienated, diseased and morbid characters and peppered with enough sophisticated weaponry for Armaged-

           Every film must use the tiresome sexual cliche of bums and boobs dutifully heaving in bed There is also much
           social hypocrisy among filmmakers - a virtual reversal of old standards.  Errol  Flynn lived a dirty life but his
           movies had to be clean.

           Our latest icon, Mel Gibson, rages in interviews about the sins of abortion and homosexuality while he treats
           the amoral psychopath he played in the Lethal Weapon films as unfit to be viewed by his children. As old-time
           movie queen  Bette Davis put it: "We  used  to rage at the ludicrous, trivial censorship of the old Production
           Code, but there's so much ugliness and filth in movies these days we would be ashamed to be seen in them.''
                                                               (Psychologist Ronald Conway is a former film critic.)

            NEXT EDITION                Articles are required for the forthcoming editions. One cinema write-up from
                                        each of our members will keep this magazine in articles for years .
             ; I CINEMARECORD I ;                        Deadline for the August Issue is the 20th of July

                                                                     (earlier if possible)

   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12