Memos to Hollywood (NYT, 5-3-2009) :
Manohla Dargis : "Foreign-film distribution in the United States is in a state of acute crisis: New Yorker Films, which released masterworks from the likes of Jean-Luc Godard and Ousmane Sembene, was recently forced out of business, and other companies are on the brink. If you don’t support off-Hollywood cinema now, it will disappear from theaters and sooner than you think."
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AO Scott : "Did you notice the last election? People paid a lot of attention, took sides, argued back and forth. As they had, come to think of it, for much of the previous eight years. And yet so many of your “serious” movies tiptoe around areas of real public concern, trying to be vaguely topical while strenuously working to avoid offending anybody. As a result, nobody bothers to go see them. So why not risk troubling the waters a little bit? A lot of the audience likes to argue about movies and also about politics. Why not feed that appetite instead of suppressing it?"
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Manohla Dargis : "The tripod is your friend. Few filmmakers can pull off florid handheld camerawork because most aren’t saying all that much through their visuals, handheld or not. (Also: Shaking the camera does not create realism.) Though it’s a cliché of contemporary cinema, fiction and nonfiction both, handheld camerawork that calls aggressive attention to itself tends to make empty images seem even emptier."
Well, I can't be totally happy, of course, because I'm a whiner.
I notice a pattern. The bulk of their complaints is scenario, scenario, scenario and cinematography. Apparently that's what critics find wrong with Hollywood. That's what they think cinema is.
They want polished genre, certain characters and not others, less violence, more censorship tolerance, less homophobia, more women, less of that actress, more of that actor, less plot twist, more of... of je ne sais quoi. Are they at the supermarket, or at the fast food of "make-your-own-movie-by-the-menu"? They relay the typical complaints that the average audience has been making for years. But is that really the concern of actual film critics???
Reading this, we'd think that all there is in a good film is a recipe approved by the audience, with the right ingredients in the mix...
Are there people out there who still care about the art in this commercial industry? Who talks about cinema with care for inspiration, intentions, message, worldview, understanding of humanity, aesthetics, mastery of the medium, production of an original visual language regardless for textbooks and conventions?
Well Hollywood wouldn't read these memos otherwise, and the NYT would cut the movie pages if it didn't promote weekly distribution...