As loads of governments collapse and fail in this current depression, there are little signs that go along with the economic collapse. It is cultural collapse. It is when a populace no longer believes in their former government or their shared cultural morals.
Our cultural collapse is on display within films and TV shows. We are getting a plethora of "LIMBO" themes (Life on Mars, Lost), psychic phenomena, demonic possession, and nostalgia. All of these themes are signs of collapse. In which the general culture either harks back to what they believe was a better time or they are disturbed by things that are out of control. We can't stop the banksters and corrupted officials from stealing our tax monies unless we accept bodily harm and go on the march. While it takes time to percolate, popular culture massages those fears of helplessness with horror shows. Another very important and more dangerous sign is the nostalgia theme. Now nostalgia is okay from time to time. But when a public favors the old over new continually to the point of nothing new, that is dangerous. We are getting loads of recycled crap in our culture because it is easy to steal from the past. Being innovative is hard. And the equally corrupted entertainment businesses don't want to gamble on new they want the status quo, they want stolen ideas from the past.
It isn't only themes that are poorly created or mind achingly redundant, it is also the very act of artistry which has died. In the recent review/parody of "Revenge of the Sith" from RedLetterMedia, they made an important point that I don't believe they fully grasped. The infernal Plinkett made a deadpan comment that the Star Wars prequels were filled with numerous scenes of people continuously sitting in a room and just talking. Or they are walking/standing in a room talking. The only time the camera moves was when there was some completely unreal, computer animated "action" sequence being thrust upon we viewers. I laughed at the time but something clicked with me.
Then I noticed it in many recent films. Especially action films, the films that are the entertainment business' money makers. Everything from the recent James Bond remakes, Avatar, Tron 2, Inception featured that horrible people sitting and talking setup. Or they are trying to sit down in the midst of talking. As Plinkett pointed out in the review, that set up is basically filmmaking 101. Not that there is anything wrong with it, Soap Operas use it because they are pressed for time and budget. But in the higher culture of films, that static setup is just sloppy, careless and unprofessional. It is also anti-audience and anti-artistic. The RedLetterMedia contrasted this with scenes from "Citizen Kane". In which lighting, camera movement and people actually moving with a purpose (acting 101) tells the story. Not chase scenes.
The only films that do still pay homage to that artistry we used to have in past films are the films now derided as "chick flicks". As much as I'm annoyed with the ubiquity of Keira Knightley in the many serious, period films...everything she has been in recently was made with an eye to the craft. "Pride and Prejudice" had many wonderful shots that told the story through camera movement and the natural movement of actors allowed to be themselves. It was the same in "The Duchess" as well.
Again, it is a sign of cultural collapse. It is a loss of faith in the intelligence of the audience, the belief that money matters more than storytelling, and that any old slop will do if it is cheaper on the wallet. Our heyday in the world of films and acting is over. And at this point, there is nothing to replace it. Unless you consider security video feeds of girls falling into fountains while typing into cell phones high art.
Labels: acting, art, commentary, culture, filmmaking