[Marxism] Hollywood, the unknown factor (Granma)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Thu Mar 9 17:06:24 MST 2006

March 8, 2006
Hollywood, the unknown factor
nacionales at granma.cip.cu 

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

Despite so many celebrities parading along the red carpet in custom-made
creations from the most famous names in couture, and regardless of Oscar
night’s laughter and tears, Hollywood is now facing one big question mark
vis-à-vis production. Unlike previous years, and notwithstanding talent and
creativity, nominees and winners alike have lacked support from a key source
this industry appreciates more than anything else: the box-office.  

CRASH, best motion picture of the year 2005, according to Hollywood.

Bear in mind that some good films delivered in recent times by the so-called
independent cinema (and others not quite “independent”) had arrived at the
awards ceremony by individual means. But never before had quality been
crowned so en masse over the traditional “spectacular films” (à la Titanic)
or "touching” ones like Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood’s gushy,
structurally-cheating flick which got the best-motion-picture prize last

Although the Academy’s conservative wing got last-minute shakes and decided
on not awarding the prize to Brokeback Mountain, a drama about homosexual
love between two cowboys and a great favorite, one thing is certain: except
for Spielberg’s Munich, made by a topnotch production company, the other
four are rather low-budget stories with a clear ideological-sociopolitical
slant like the prize-winning Crash, a racial drama based on today’s L.A.;
Good Night, and Good Luck, about the first journalist who dared stand up to
Senator McCarthy’s witch-hunt (films dealing with contemporary topics, even
if their directors smile as they dodge any questions about them) and Capote,
an approach to that American novelist’s social milieu while he was writing
his landmark On Cold Blood.

Some spare no ink today to dwell on the gay-and-lesbian issue as it has been
so far approached by cinema, and remark that even though “the scholars”
allowed Ang Lee’s sensitive movie to go all the way to the finish line, in
the end, they denied it the main prize (and gave it an Oscar for best
direction instead) because cowboys are a symbol of both manhood and
soundly-established, revolver-based, survival-of-the-fittest manners too
blended with the system for them to reward in style what may also seem
disrespectful to its emblem.

The main unknown factor, however, is that the “stylistic” preferences
mainstream Hollywood has long tried to drill into its audiences were pinched
this year by a number of films alien to what box-office-fattening moviegoers
are used to seeing. Consequently, the five films that made it to the finals
in the most significant categories rank among the least seen in that country
in a long time, an unprecedented fact.

A tentative explanation fo this paradox comes from the 2004’s Academy Awards
ceremony, where almost all contending films fell prey to Hollywood’s classic
commercial wrappings. Many voices were raised then to warn that it was about
time for the great industry to start awarding the real stuff and not
recycled gimmicks.

Nevertheless, those products which now look promising seem to be, from an
intellectual viewpoint, way above an audience whose minds have been trained
for years to receive (and only receive) the colorless, flimsy pictures
concocted according to the great industry’s old formulas.

Such is the big unknown factor that box-office-buster Hollywood is now


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