State of Cinema Essay (2005)

Hollywood continues to be one main source of good cinema according to the following quote from Kirsten Thompson-“In recent years, more than ever, we need good cinema wherever we can find it, and Hollywood continues to be one of its main sources (Thompson 1999).”

First, Hollywood continues classical narrative film tradition to create “an engaging experience (Thompson 1999)”.  Past classic elements and the newer formulaic side of Hollywood have a parallel quest for originality” to satisfy audiences who are increasingly becoming familiar with filmmaking techniques and narrative elements (Thompson 1999). Many of today’s Hollywood films “create an atmosphere” and “explore idiosyncratic characters rather than further the story (Thompson 1999).” Can Hollywood make good cinema as long as they’re making money with their movies and winning Academy Awards® or will the foreign films, relentless marketing and “independent” studios, eventually overtake the market?

“Movies are fantasies and are meant to be entertaining, but filmmakers must not forget that movies leave a lasting impression in the minds of many people in our society today, even though Hollywood seems more of a business with an audience with perceived short attention spans instead of creative storytelling. Film has shamelessly and consciously exploited every conventions of the action adventure serial, milking every situation for its dramatic potential in order to offer as many into thrills as possible (Turner 1999).” As Thompson states, Hollywood often feels the “need to a fill a drab addiction”, which requires producers to have their “pulse on world public” to make financially successful films. Narratives can be severely influenced by 1) planning set of niche audience in a systemic way, 2 ) a mode of production that is the key buttress of the narrative form and 3) considerable evidence suggests that recent popular cinema appeals to homogeneous audiences (Thompson 1999).

“Within Stuart Hall’s framework, [the homogeneous audience] shares the text’s code and accepts and reproduces the preferred reading (a reading which may not have been the result of any conscious intention on the part of the [filmmaker(s)] – in such a stance that the textual code seems ‘natural’ and ‘transparent’) (Chandler 2002).” In Hollywood blockbusters, the weak narrative line is often simply the thread that ties together a series of car chases, firefights, or encounters with monsters. If the medium really disappeared, as is the apparent goal of the logic of transparency, the viewer would not be amazed because he/she would not know of the medium’s presences. (Bolter, Grusin 1999).”

Hollywood fails to produce good cinema when narrative methods become stereotypical and redundant (e.g. XXX: State of the Union, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Dangerous), which create audience backlash, then filmmakers have to reinvent the genre again by incorporating classical Hollywood narrative techniques in new, creative ways. Popular films are good cinema in a business sense because they make money and bankroll future films. Studios often combine their productions deals among sure-fire blockbusters/sequels with riskier ventures they define “good cinema”, but not always good box office.

Thankfully good cinema does still exist. “Hollywood’s traditional representation of immediacy through transparency has certainly not been abandoned. Most films still offer us the carefully controlled point of view that still constitutes the real for film audiences (Bolter, Grusin 1999).”  For example, the highest grossing box office champion of all time, Titanic, uses narrative techniques that creates an emotional window through the two main characters, so the audience can focus on the experience through their eyes instead of being overwhelmed by thousands of people dying in tragedy (Thompson 1999). Due to its enormous budget, Titanic might not have existed in the first place if it wasn’t for the big business revenues that only Hollywood creates.

When producing good cinema, Hollywood has to be more careful when assimilating foreign films then passing them off as their own brand of good cinema. Many times these films are often altered by Hollywood distributors to satisfy the United States audience just because they paid for the rights, which often angers foreign filmmakers. The relentless marketing of good cinema also shows how important and influential the audiences and Hollywood can be. Films are siphoned off and remediated into different components of media (books, toys, video games, etc.) and especially film reviews (Web, television, print), which can enhance this good cinema so it reaches a wider audience that normally might not hear about the films. When comparing independent studios with Hollywood, the big question is “what does independent mean?” (Thompson 1999). It’s often an “alternative confined to the festival circuit” until everyone else copies or popularizes it. Then it becomes assimilated into Hollywood cinema. Independent studios are often the “farm teams” where big Hollywood studios can find the latest talents.

Hollywood still produces good cinema in various ways while retaining the classical Hollywood narrative form. Foreign films, marketing and independent studios are closely related to Hollywood production and help promote good cinema through quality, innovative narrative forms. Good cinema will always come from Hollywood, sometimes it’s just hard to find.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

Works Citied

Bolter, J., Grusin, R. (1999). Remediation. London : Cambridge, MIT Press.

Chandler, D. (2002). Semiotics: The Basics. London, Routledge.

Thompson, K. (1999). Storytelling in the New Hollywood : Understanding classical narrative technique. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.

Turner, G. (1999). Film as social practice. London ; New York, Routledge.

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