I love and respect Ann Hornaday. I’m pretty sure I’ve literally read every word she’s ever written for the Post. And, I usually agree with her, including this latest piece in defense of cinema as art rather than spectacle, as form over content.
I think it’s sad that she had to write this at all. But she’s 100% right. In most cases, even the best idea, the best story, the best script is eclipsed by marketing muscle that is pegged to the lead, the special effects, the controversy. Admittedly, it too, like filmmaking, is an art, albeit a sad one and one that dilutes everything about films that makes them powerful…not necessarily good or enjoyable, but powerful.
I’m not talking about the message here, but the medium (channeling McLuhan – who would have thought?).
Over time, the marketing push around films has completely altered our relationship with them. I don’t think of going to the movies or watching a movie as an event or a privilege. It’s just something you do because you’re craving buttered popcorn and soda in a cup so large that you’d have to be Shaq to get your hands around it. Remember: people up through the 50s and 60s used to get dressed up to go ‘see a picture.’ It was an extravagant night out; a true experience that only the wealthy could afford. Theatres were intricate, ornate and luxurious. They had ushers that would take you to your seat for chrissakes! Today, I’m lucky if I can unstick my shoes from the theatre floor. And you won’t find me dressed in anything more than jeans – and not even my ‘dressy’ dark jeans!
Hornaday is right – we don’t know how to watch movies. More specifically, we don’t know how to appreciate them as art for art’s sake. Instead, we are attracted to them them because we like the star, it’s got a lot of buzz (See: The Interview) or a critic told us to (or not to) – story, script, acting, dialogue, editing, lighting, sound be dammed! What’s surprising to me about this article and Hornaday herself is that SHE’S surprised that this would be any different – that we would have a different relationship to films when they’re so obviously more about the box office gross and less about craft.
Oh, that we could get back there, though. I would love to experience movies – filmmaking – as a craft, not a publicity stunt. Ann Hornaday, I’d be an excellent foot soldier if you wanted to lead the revolution.