Every summer movie season has plenty of offerings to appease the general public’s entertainment appetite. The quality and resulting satisfaction may differ, but there are always numerous options presented across most movie genres.
Avengers: Infinity War recently broke box office records with its opening weekend and will likely break more. I saw this film and enjoyed it, but the overall effect it will have on the movie business and audiences’ demands cannot be ignored.
As a child, I was amazed that for usually $5 or so I can see these entertaining works that usually cost millions of dollars to make. I can experience this escapism, which had a prominent impact on my personal development.
As I grew up, I still enjoyed movies, but matured in my choices after some seemingly horrifying disappointments (e.g. Boiling Point, which I and my brothers thought was so boring and misrepresented as non-stop action Wesley Snipes vehicle, and other duds) that left a bitter taste in my mouth. I thought I reached the movie experience pinnacle during the 1992 holiday season. I saw every major release I wanted to ranging from Forever Young to Scent of a Woman to Toys, which I somehow convinced a big family group into watching instead of Aladdin by delvling into my considerable entertainment knowledge then providing a convincing summary about the film.
I wanted to be entertained. I played Backdraft at my Aunt’s house in front of all the kids because I heard it was good and didn’t pay attention to the R-content. Same with The Grifters viewing at home as others I cared for horrifically reacted to the sequence involving physical abuse via a cigarette lighter that I was foolishy unaware of.
I was conforming to a system that is flawed like any other. I wasn’t protecting myself from these flaws and I exposed others to the flaw instead of protecting them from them. Yes, there were stolen moments like my brothers and friends watching half of Coming to America at a big mall even though we knew we’d have to leave halfway through it and watching Eddie Murphy’s stand-up movie Raw then quickly ejecting the VHS tape and stashing it when my brothers and I saw my parents coming home, but I knew my movie experiences had to morph into something I controlled and needed to if I was going to participate/engage in these experiences.
Later in college, I began to struggle to understand movie audiences with points-of-view different from mine until I spent a lot of time communicating with them in a positive discourse while respectfully disagreeing with them. I knew why I didn’t make certain film choices or evaluated movies, but their perspectives provided valuable insight and direction of which I’m always grateful.
After even more beneficial and exciting real-life experiences (my own filmmaking, being a movie extra with my family, my high profile interview features with filmmakers, etc. etc.), I picked my movies carefully. It’s basically culminated in a refining process that protects me and others. It can be overwhelming to sift through everything the world has to offer, but the rising Internet made that easier. I’m thankful for sources like Common Sense Media and Kids-in-mind.com that take the time to objectively outline movie content.
Now, I’m not so much a reviewer, but a navigational guide through film. The demand for guidance is still high; I just have to be in the right area so I can maximize my shared knowledge. If you go this way, then expect this, that and those…If you go this way, prepare for these and some of this.
Movie reviewer backlash is not about audiences who don’t have access to reviews, don’t like to read, or protect themselves from spoilers – it’s about not liking what you’re being told to do. This timeless reality has even bitten the hand that feeds when offerings like The Emoji Movie and “money grabs” like the now-defunct Ascendant sequel, which was to be the fourth installment in Divergent film series.
I rarely see thrillers or horror anymore due to the potential emotional and mental turmoil, but it’s the same practical logic I use in other areas of my life like not playing role-playing games because I simply do not have the time or desire.
In my current discourse about film, I often surprise people who think I haven’t seen the films we’re discussing. How else could I discuss it otherwise? I do my best with well-informed choices and thorough research along with my intuition, instinct, inferences and personal experience. Today I have my personal film choices as well as ones that I feel will reach the widest audiences, high concepts or unique subjects.
More people participate in the movie industry than the voting process…even paying taxes to the federal government. To most people, it’s fun, not boring, doesn’t require much reading and doesn’t ask us to sacrifice much other than maybe an occasional donation while watching solicitations to donate to St. Jude’s hospital before the previews.
Any business has to cater to their customers to some extent. In the entertainment industry, it’s hard to cater to audiences with incredibly varied demands. This audience has a fickle, yet robust and seasoned public appetite…that’s a nice way of saying wishy-washy, demanding, and elitist.
I remember my film class teacher furiously berated the audio-video expert when a clip wouldn’t play right due to technical difficulties. She went ballistic in front of everyone. I’d never seen anything like it and it took on a deeper level for me for three main reasons: my friend was the AV expert, at that point I probably had the personal know-how to fix the issue and I knew it was a struggle (often a futile) one to rage against tech. At times there is nothing you can do. I had to watch my friend suffer through her unrealistic demands and indignate insults.
Veteran audiences at the forefront of the current trends and more civilized demands have no problem sharing their opinions using various avenues (mostly media). The creators of Avengers: Infinity War catered to this audience big time.
The movie business is creating a model where movies like Black Panther do extraordinary business and will be out on home video a little over three months from its theatrical release in February!
Entertainment products delivered to homes seems like an inevitability. Handheld projectors, virtual realty media to the point where sensor simulates a handshake with a Hollywood star, personal assistant devices that provide notices using the voice of your favorite celebrity, etc.
The movie industry is not taking time to sit back and be creative instead of letting technology drive the experience. Digital distribution discounts several creative possibilities. Physical media has created some profound movie experiences in my life. Laserdisc viewing parties where we could finally skip to our favorites parts of the movie. This updated experience ended my VHS tapes of assorted movie clips to help us decide what to watch, etc. etc. But like anything, it only takes someone to break the rules to ruin the party for everyone else. In this case, illegal “piracy” triggered the movement away from physical media. I’m sure different experiences in new media will have their impact, but we cannot discount past experiences as outdated or wrong. They help us move forward and can keep current movie trends and technology from losing their audiences.
I don’t have all the answers. I’m just sharing some of my thoughts and hopefully create a large discourse about the movie business.
Infinity War may be the pinnacle of the current stage in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it’s not the pinnacle of life. But aren’t movies about escapism? Yes, and they’ve oversatured our culture, so some of the movie business will wither or grow. Any prominent cultural element like this one has to be addressed yet I don’t have to personally accept it or what people say about it either. Besides, why would I want to spend so much time escaping a valued, purposeful life?
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler