Do we see the end of the American experiment? Or just the conclusion of these films?
If you find these questions just alarming or really alarming, they can seem strange to rise in the exact same breath. For several people, however, they have been strangely entwined sources of stress since earlier this season, when the COVID-19 pandemic sent the country into a social, political and economic freefall – and took a particularly brutal blow to a company that, like the idea of democracy, according to an adventure of togetherness between people.
As the pandemic plunges film production and the company’s usual distribution and display mechanisms into chaos, the film industry faces a crisis of financial, logistical and existential proportions. The joys of going to the movies carefree may return one day, but for some of us it now seems as remote a possibility as, well, dual unity or even a commitment to a peaceful transfer of energy from the Trump government.
However, when our democracy can brave the trauma of a sick, demoralized electorate as well as a president bent on delegitimizing an adverse outcome, there is every reason to trust that the joys that sustain us, especially the works of art we worship even will persist in the long term. Our nationwide recovery can take years, and it will involve a major rethink of how people behave and the way companies do business. But when I envision the future of a healthy, optimistic, fully vaccinated voter (a taxpayer might dream), I can’t help but imagine a movie theater – full of people who, coming together, take a straightforward yet powerful performance of social solidarity.
It is often said that the movies are the most democratic art form, the entertainment pastime that, above all others, is a means of bringing us together. There are reasons to be suspicious of the characterization, which in the greatest and sham populism at worst can sound like naivete, and which often ignores the sexist, racist, and homophobic norms that have held Hollywood throughout most of its existence. Have dominated. curb what stories can be told and who exactly could inform them. But if the democratic soul of cinema attendance is more fantasy than reality, then it is a fantasy to which I still cling, possibly even more so at a time when democracy has rarely been more in danger.
Films are democratic for many reasons, including the huge selection of artistic effects they have: they are “the bastard art”, as Pauline Kael described them, able to merge literature, play, photography, music and other art forms into a moderate unmatched in its psychological immediacy and popular charm. And then there’s the deep collaborative process that creates them – a procedure defined by myriad contributions from cast and crew, large and small, which are then (ideally) pulled together with a manager’s unifying vision, even if that vision would. may be subject to endorsement, revision and even rejection by producers and studio executives.
The egalitarian nature of films has something to do with all the big public gatherings in which they are ideally – but of course not completely – absorbed. We can debate the joys of movie theaters and watch with suspicion those who tend to become poetic (guilty as accused) to a joyous tropical experience that often means putting up with tacky floors, sub-par projection along with the hell that other are men and women. (Democracy can be a messy, ugly organization.) And we could still mourn this year’s COVID-mandated closure of theaters nationally as we cherish our fond memories of sitting together all those months back in the dark. , unmasked and carefree.
For better or worse, theaters have reopened in certain parts of the country, and certain photos, notably Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’, have helped keep them going. The resurgence of drive-in places across the country is one of the more intriguing and encouraging secondary stories of the catastrophe. However, the future of theatrical cinema attendance still seems bleak. 1 2020 Hollywood launch after another, from the James Bond movie ‘No Time to Die’ to ‘Wonder Woman 1984’, has fled to the sunnier places of 2021. Others, like Disney’s upcoming ‘Soul’, have given up on theatrical plans in favor of a video-on-demand release. Major entertainment conglomerates such as Disney and WarnerMedia have levied sweeping advances and announced plans to earn streaming content their main focus, voicing a vote of no confidence in theaters.
Filming in 2020 has become a mostly self-contained job: the state of on-demand platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, HBO Max and Disney +, alongside virtual festivals and internet screenings by independent theaters. And also to push the movie political metaphor a little further with this particular recent election night: in the event that cinema attendance is a very frequent form of democratic expression of its own, streaming platforms can be likened to some sort of routine post-in-vote, a way of to appreciate the satisfaction of theater easily and safely, minus the threat – but also minus the social solidarity, the tropical enjoyment – of standing in line to interact with other individuals.
The electoral ramifications of cinema attendance are not limited to 2020. If we vote with our wallets, every new film entering the industry offers an offer for some part of our service and possibly even our love. We don’t choose movies as president, but we anoint box office winners and Oscar winners, symbols of excellence (or profitability) who serve their specific utilities, some more limited than many others, as Hollywood image carriers and cultural ambassadors. It’s an imperfect analogy: “Avengers: Endgame” could have won the year-long popular vote by a landslide, but does that mean “Parasite” prevailed in the electoral college? (For what it’s worth, electoral college should be abolished; film academy can survive for most of the difficulties)
As has been evident for years, the annual Oscar derby serves less or more as an election period for all members of this market, using its own built-in system of primaries and caucuses: film festivals, gala premieres, sector questions and other purposes designed to also -rans, encourage profiles and protect votes. The stories are shaped by media commentary, expert predictions and extraordinarily unscientific studies, supported by expensive campaigns and sometimes complex by studio tactics. Along the way, some of the highly intriguing, fascinating candidates are believed to be in the marketplace to provide widespread aid, forcing the general electorate to select the lesser of two (or 3) evils. All roads eventually lead to consensus, which can mean disappointment and compromise.
Those rituals are being overthrown this season, and a few have even suggested they be completely shelved in the aftermath of the pandemic – as the Oscars, which have already been postponed until April, are being canceled. However, there seems to be a more powerful drive to keep the time going, even though significant adjustments are needed. The thought of getting stock of a calendar year largely devoid of theatrical releases and prestigious Hollywood photos makes most of the market seem somewhat queasy, and perhaps a bit scary. For those people who have seen no shortage of stunning images of American independent filmmakers and filmmakers abroad, a year that forces voters to look past the typical suspects – and weigh their candidates with more thought and discernment than usual – can be a travesty than usual. a chance.
It can even lead viewers to guess with tall tales told by women, people of color, and many others who have been as historically ignored, belittled and spotted in society as in Hollywood. And they might find that some of these stories exist on a surprising, resonant continuum along with the politics of the present moment. One of them is ‘The Assistant’, Kitty Green’s poignant and empathetic portrayal of the hell of functioning for a violent press tycoon modeled after Harvey Weinstein. Before his public collapse, conviction, and arrest, Weinstein was, of course, not only a serial killer, but also a master of manipulating Hollywood’s election year, aggressively forcing his candidates, wiping out competitions, and abusing his power.
He’s gone today, but the independent theater he promised to defend continues to thrive in his absence, along with revived aesthetic boldness and political despair. In a year of election season controversy over the fate of the Supreme Court, it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate moment to watch ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’, Eliza Hittman’s blistering drama about a young girl’s right. to be sure of her future. And within a year that has sparked a new consideration of America’s ailing heritage, its centuries of history of class inequality, capitalist greed, and racist subjugation of Native Americans and immigrants, the most dramatic force and wonderful humanity of Kelly Reichardt’s ‘First Cow’ can hardly be overstated.
Many images, of course, look perfectly timed to take advantage of the country’s political turmoil, little more deliberate than that of Aaron Sorkin ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7 ″ A sweeping historical portrait of the turbulent events leading up to and after the fateful election of 1968, it’s about the guts and determination it takes to speak the truth to power, to protest in the streets and in the courts, often alongside individuals, you could ardently disagree within a larger cause. Plus, it’s an audience image through and through, the kind that you and your fellow cinema-goers should watch from elbow to elbow, requiring someone to lean forward not to forget a bit of conversation in the snort, chuckle, and expressions of sexual assent around you. away.
“The whole world is watching!” That’s what the protesters shout in that film. But in a universe largely devoid of movie theaters and the sense of belonging they provide, that belief can be difficult to embrace or love. I thought about this when I saw Sacha Baron Cohen, great since activist Abbie Hoffman in “The Annals of the Chicago 7” pulled a different kind of cinematic demonstration in the mock-documentary humor “Borat Following Movie Film.” It launched a scabious attack on sexism, anti-Semitism and math denial in Trump’s America, it is a sequel to the initial ‘Borat’, a movie I watched in a busy theater fourteen decades ago and still feel like I haven’t quit with laughter.
This one is much more muted in its comedic effect, in part because reality has mostly combined Baron Cohen’s satire, the outrage over outrage, and in part because what kills on the big screen often comes across just a few fleeting blows on a larger one. Right at the same time, since it is on the subject of this coronavirus itself, “Borat After Movie Film” was clearly made explicit for a minute without cinemas. Like “ Totally Under Control, ” Alex Gibney’s smooth but obnoxious documentary about the Trump administration’s mishandled pandemic response, it was quickly marketed in the midst of an escalating crisis, along with the unambiguous goal of bringing the public to stimulate and arm their anger for the election.
While these acts of political and cinematic rebellion may seem businesslike as normal to liberal Hollywood, it is worth recalling that the film industry has not been as innovative or ideologically homogeneous as some would like to believe. That’s one of the more fascinating insights from ‘Mank,’ David Fincher’s upcoming drama about Oscar-winning screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, which takes us back to the 1930s and 1940s, when the all-powerful Hollywood studio program defended the interests of the Republican Party. , using industry-wide stress and unethical propaganda. Mankiewicz’s acerbic resistance to the pressure is portrayed as a quietly heroic – and, in retrospect, deeply democratic – act of immunity, and an important part of the history and insight he brought to ‘Citizen Kane’, one of the best popular works of art. that the sector has ever created.
“Limp” really isn’t the only recent movie to give Hollywood a much-needed slap on the wrist. That is why “Da 5 Bloods” in its own way fiercely rebukes the cinematic and historical account of black military service during the Vietnam War. It is also one of 2 Spike Lee joints this season, another is his joyous concert film “David Byrne’s American Utopia,” which reminds us that art can be a demonstration and demonstration can be a work of art. In a better world, we moviegoers may have seen these images together in a darkened theater. Maybe in the future.