WHERE ARE YOU WHEN WE NEED YOU, CARY GRANT?
I love the movies. Actually, that’s not really true. I used to love them. But not much any more.
I’m sure it’s because 99% of today’s films are formulated to appeal to the younger generation — or, rather, to their grandchildren. From my perspective, you see, the “younger generation” is between forty and sixty, and the demographic audience targeted by today’s movie makers are the ten to twenty-year olds.
Why? Because the concession stand, not the ticket revenue, supports the theater; and the kids are the ones who think nothing of shelling out large portions of their allowances or salaries from their part-time jobs for industrial buckets of popcorn swimming in fake melted butter, obscenely oversized candy bars, and half-gallon soft drinks.
We older folks, whose wallets, tummies and bladders can’t withstand such fare, either do without nibbles at the movies or we sneak in a bag of microwaved popcorn or some super market chocolate Halloween goblins or Valentine hearts discounted after the holidays. At least, that’s what I hear. Not me, of course. I never break the rule of no outside food. (If my local theater manager is reading this, please be assured that the large purse I’m lugging contains only my knitting and a cough drop or two.)
It’s not surprising, then, that since the teens and pre-teens are the big spenders, they’re the ones calling the movie camera shots. Consequently, though many multi-plexes feature over thirty different films, it’s often impossible to find even one that appeals, unless you’re into blood and gore; high-speed car chases; ear-splitting, eye-straining, nausea-inducing special effects; grotesquely muscle-bound super heroes and impossibly bosomy heroines; or crude, vulgar slapstick.
Whatever happened to the tender love stories, intriguing mysteries, toe-tapping musicals, and sophisticated comedies of yore? Where are you when we need you, Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Jack Lemmon, Katherine Hepburn, Judy Garland, Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelley, Clark Gable … and all the other glittering stars of the golden age of cinema?
We really appreciated the movies back then because they offered a glamorous escape from our relatively humdrum lives (oh, those gorgeous clothes … the magnificent mansions … the witty repartee!). We treasured every moment of each film because we knew we would get to see it only once, unless we could afford the 15-cent price to see it again in the next few days — a highly unlikely extravagance in that post-depression era.
Each town usually had just one theater (a single-screener) that showed one double-feature per week — a major attraction with two stars of the day in the leading roles and a “B” picture with lesser luminaries, preceded by a newsreel plus a serial, such as The Perils of Pauline, which always ended with the heroine in a precarious situation (such as tied to the railroad tracks with a train fast approaching) to insure we’d go back next week to see if she escaped. Such lures were not necessary, however. We would have returned regardless of our concern for Pauline. We eagerly anticipated each new picture; and when it arrived at the local ornate movie palace, we often stood in line for an hour or more to get in. After a few days, it would be gone forever. No TVs, no video tapes and no DVDs. We could revisit our favorite movies only in our memories, and many of them we never forgot.
Not so today’s movies, too many of which are eminently forgettable, despite what the critics say. If you believe the reviews and the promotional hype, you’ll have a very hard time choosing which film to see on any given day. In yesterday’s newspaper, for example, the following blurbs appeared in ads for eight different movies:
THE BEST FAMILY FILM SO FAR THIS YEAR
THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR
ONE OF THE FUNNIEST AND MOST EXHILARATING
MOVIES OF THE YEAR
THE MOST REMARKABLE MOVIE YOU’LL SEE THIS YEAR
THE FILM AMERICA’S CRITICS ARE CALLING ONE OF
THE YEAR’S BEST
THE MOST ORIGINAL FILM THIS YEAR
ONE OF THE DEEPEST, MOST RIGOROUS, AND MOST
REWARDING FILMS OF THE YEAR
THE BEST THRILLER OF THE YEAR
In addition to the above, all of which, as you can see, proclaim superlatives for the year, many other ads made other extravagant claims not related to any time frame.
So how does one choose from such a lineup?
It’s not really that difficult. I, personally, have found a formula that usually works for me: if the critics love it, I will probably hate it. For example, I saw a movie last week that was 4-star rated. I, too, might give it four stars — on a rating scale of 1 to 100 — but definitely not on the 1-to-4 scale the reviewer used.
There can be only one explanation for such a disparity of opinion: One of us has no taste whatsoever, and the other is a brilliant, discerning connoisseur of the arts.
What I don’t understand is how come I’m not the one raking in a six-figure salary with my own TV show?
Rose's new book, If These Are Laugh Lines I'm Having Way Too Much Fun, will be published by Pelican Publishing Company in the spring of 2006.
Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.