Get Bent: an address to Hollywood in the 21st century

Those of you who have followed this blog for more than a month or two have probably figured out by now that my posting frequency is, by and large, a function of my ire. Things have been pretty quiet recently, what with the economy bouncing back, the stock market at record highs, and now with gas below two dollars a gallon, it’s a pretty good time to be a while male in America. I mean, there’s still the whole “France Thing,” and our fair capitol’s not entirely consistent stance vis-a-vis the relative location of money and mouths, which is, of course, not to mention those knuckleheads in Nigeria. Fortunately cool heads tend to prevail, and the tears in my eyes every morning while I read the daily news really are probably just a sinus thing.

I’ll be sure to redouble my echinacea supplements right away.

Yep, chronic head cold aside there’s a lot to be thankful for in this coddled first world life I lead, but here in the Center of the Universe we do have the burden of remembering that First World Problems are still, technically, problems. And these are the sorts of problems that were really chapping my ass when I walked out of the most recent installment of the Hunger Games earlier this week.

Ok so before I get started, full disclosure: I never read the books, and so I’m both unable and unwilling to go down that rabbit hole of discussing how well a film interpreted the work of the novelist.

I did have some thoughts about the story and the film as it stands alone. I like to think that I followed right along with the not-at-all subtle critique of Western foreign policy in the 21st century, and I chuckled a little that the story was crafted for consumption by a community that is most closely analogous to the antagonistic themes throughout.

Stanley Tucci acted circles around James Franco as they each sculpted a caricature of Ryan Seacrest.

In fact, the acting in the Hunger Games trilogy is, by and large, excellent. I do have a soft spot for Jennifer Lawrence, Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP), Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland, and whoever cast these films pretty much pulled together my fantasy acting team for making fun of the government. There are a lot of really great things to be said about these movies, but my overarching takeaway here can be summed up pretty concisely:

Fuck you.

That’s right. Fuck you, Francis Lawrence. And fuck you too, David Yates. And especially fuck you Mr. Peter Jackson. There’s been a troubling trend recently of adapting popular books to film and dragging them out as long as humanly possible, over as many films as the dues paying public will shell out. What the fuck is that? The Hobbit over three movies? Are you kidding me? That was the shortest book, dick.

There must be a lot of pressure to extend these high-dollar film dynasties over as many iterations as the people will tolerate. And for good reason, I guess, because people keep paying to see them. But they come at the cost of telling a story. For instance, I could endorse spreading The Hobbit across a mini-series affair if the indefatigable Mr. Jackson had managed to use his many hundreds of minutes to develop characters and plot, rather than descending for hours at a time into a self-indulgent circle jerk of CGI fight scenes and pithy one liners. Those of us who have it scratch our cartoon violence itch over Hannah-Barbera cartoons and Fruit Loops on Saturday mornings, thank you very much.

By treating a movie like a syndicated television drama and curtailing the story arc with a cliffhanger, candidly teasing the viewer to come back next week, filmmakers are degrading the movie watching tradition. The theater should be a place where viewers can allow themselves to succumb wholly for a few hours to the discretion and folly of the director. Where artists can craft the arc of a story and unfurl a human drama or slapstick comedy or whimsical fantasy. Episodes of film cheapen the experience.

And don’t get me wrong, some stories need more than two or three hours to be told. Lonesome Dove was a triumph, and to fit Michael Corleone’s plight into a single go would have cheated Puzio’s legacy into a glossed over cartoon. But Simon Wincer rightly chose an appropriate venue, and Coppola found a balance of long and intermediate scale story arcs and created one of the greatest achievements of the medium.

When a feature film ceases to hide its role as anything other than a 120 minute trailer for the next edition the artists have given up the trade to the marketing department. I find myself forced to draw a line in the sand. So here are my terms:

I will pirate every major blockbuster film that I feel unnecessarily prolongs its existence over multiple iterations. I will encourage others to do so. I will also log onto both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes and leave it shitty reviews, regardless of how I feel about it.

I’m not so naive as to think that this will make any difference at all. But we’re in a place and time where I think it’s worthwhile to protect our right to say “fuck you” when it feels right.

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