Why Are the Movies Dying?

By | October 27, 2011 | 26 Comments

The other evening my wife and I went to the movies. We intended to see “Margin Call,” a film about the financial crisis starring Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, and Jeremy Irons. The cast is outstanding and the subject timely. But the film was playing in only one small theater in all of the West Side of Los Angeles.

The theater held only about 150 seats, and all but the first two rows were taken. So instead we went to another theater playing “The Three Musketeers.” This is yet another remake of the classic, but hyped up with swordsmen flying through the air, and a warship sailing aloft on a balloon. The special effects were childish, and there were barely 20 people in the 1500-seat theater.

Here in Los Angeles, the movie capital, many theaters have closed. In Westwood, the area around UCLA, theaters with 10 screens have closed in the last few years. A few films still make many millions of dollars, but the movie business is in trouble. Why?

Juvenile movies.

Adult films like “The Driver” play to good audiences, but are distributed to few theaters, so they appear to have mediocre success. The same fate may befall “Margin Call.” The unpopularity of adult-themed films may be a self-fulfilling prophesy. And by “adult” I mean adult, not raunchy.
Most moviegoers are young. Understandably, movie moguls aim films at this audience. But if they make films for young people, mainly young people will see them. Successful businesses strive to attract new customers.

When I was young, a frequent expression was “Grow up!” But today, we see middle-aged “boys” walking through the mall wearing shorts, baseball caps, and T-shirts with juvenile lettering. And we see middle-aged “girls” with see-through tops, tattoos, and navel rings. Only weeds grow spontaneously. Boys and girls must be taught to become men and women.

● The teaching used to be done by parents, who knew their job was to be parents, not pals to their kids. But now, middle-aged parents try to dress and act as young as their kids. Mothers run around in revealing clothes and tattoos. Fathers shave their legs in an attempt to look prepubescent. How can they be role models of adulthood?

● The teaching used to be done by teachers, who dressed and acted as adults. But now, many teachers dress sloppily and try to act “cool,” instead of modeling adult behavior.

● The teaching used to be done by Scoutmasters and ROTC instructors. But now, the Scouts and ROTC have been kicked out of schools. Now, schools teach “nonviolence.” Defense of self, family, and nation are no longer considered noble − or even acceptable. Boys no longer have master sergeants with combat ribbons as role models. They are left with “gangsta” rappers or real gang members to emulate.

● The teaching used to be done by movies. I watched Gary Cooper in “High Noon,” and saw a lawman face criminals alone while cowards hid. I watched Ward Bond in “Fort Apache,” and saw a sergeant who had received the Medal of Honor but didn’t wear it. He had the respect of his men because he earned it, not because he demanded it. I learned what it meant to be a man.

These men were middle aged, as were John Wayne and Clint Eastwood for much of their careers. And actresses like Maureen O’Hara and Katherine Hepburn remained stars well into their middle age. The worst effects of the media’s obsession with youth are not incessant ads for wrinkle removers. The worst effect is the removal of older role models for young people.

Instead of “High Noon” and “Fort Apache,” we have “The Hangover.” Instead of men acting like men, we have men acting like teenaged fools. Instead of adults being role models for the young, the process is reversed. Watching films like “The Hangover” and playing video games into one’s thirties is no way to become men and women − or responsible citizens.

Many moviemakers make films to please themselves – their own leftist, atheist, foul-mouthed, rootless, juvenile selves. Otherwise, they would be aiming at a larger audience, not a smaller one. They would be making films that depict our war on terrorists, and which show our Judeo-Christian values in a favorable light. But they don’t make such films. They prefer their narrow agenda to a wider audience.

Anti-American movies.

I used to keep a list of films that depict America as militaristic, imperialistic, greedy, racist, and generally despicable. I used to be able to recall the films that depict our leaders as corrupt or homicidal. I used to be able to name the films that show our military as crazed, murderous fascists, and our veterans as alcoholic, drug-addicted, divorced, unemployed, mentally unstable losers.

But there have been so many of these films that I lost track. For example, take the “Bourne” series. The hero is so disgusted with being an assassin for the CIA that he develops amnesia. He is so busy beating up and killing Americans that he has no time to fight America’s enemies. It’s not only Jason Bourne who forgets his own identity – it’s also the moviemakers who forget theirs.

I grew up watching “Sergeant York” and saw a pacifist learn that violent evildoers must be opposed by force, then go on to earn the Medal of Honor. I watched “The Fighting Sixty-Ninth” and saw the chaplain, “Fighting” Father Duffy, praying with wounded soldiers.

Instead, we now watch “Training Day” and see police as drug dealers who kill their own partners. We watch “Syriana” and see Americans as murderous money-grubbers, while the only sympathetic character is a Muslim suicide bomber. We watch “In the Valley of Elah” and see our troops murder their own buddy, then go out for a chicken dinner. We watch “The Da Vinci Code” and see Christian clergy as homicidal fanatics.

Now films teach that America is loathsome, our military and police are treacherous, and Christianity is detestable. Why should Americans patronize films that insult their values? Why should Americans patronize films that insult their family members in the military?

People all over the world see these films. Why should we support an industry that presents us in such an unfavorable light? Who knows how much anti-American feeling, or even terrorism, may have been provoked by such films?

Hollywood Lemmings.

During World War II, Hollywood gave us films that built morale. Even during the less popular wars in Korea and Vietnam, Hollywood gave us films like “The Bridges at Koto-Ri” and “The Green Berets.” What films has Hollywood given us since 9/11?

We have “United 93,” a docudrama about the brave passengers who fought the hijackers on 9/11 and prevented the plane from crashing into the Capitol or the White House. But omitted was the heroic Todd Beamer reciting the Lord’s Prayer with the phone supervisor, then shouting, “God help me. Jesus help me. Are you ready? Let’s roll!” All this is documented − why omit anything of religious significance?

And we have “World Trade Center,” which depicts police buried in the rubble. Americans are often shown as villains, sometimes as victims − but rarely as heroes. “The Hurt Locker” is conspicuous by its rarity. But it’s not a matter of money. The film cost $15 million and made over $49 million. In this economy, how many other investments made a 227% profit? No, it’s a matter of ideology.

There are films about heroes. But they are cartoon heroes like Spiderman and the X-Men, who fight cartoon villains. They don’t inspire; they merely entertain. I could try to emulate Gary Cooper in “High Noon,” but today’s kids can’t emulate Spiderman. They can only sit passively and watch.
Support us in our time of danger? No, that’s too “controversial.” If someone did make a pro-American film, he might not be invited to any more Hollywood cocktail parties, and that would be a fate too horrible to contemplate. Lemmings aren’t known for their individuality. They just go along with their group − even if it’s over a cliff. But we’re not following.

H. L. Mencken remarked that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. But even he wasn’t cynical enough. Hollywood is in the process of proving him wrong.

 Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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