If people can’t relate, movies won’t fill seats

first_imgAt a recent Writers Guild party to fete the spring and summer releases, the wine and chitchat were flowing merrily as writers and press kibitzed. But now and then, I caught a fleeting, vile “s”-word: slump. As Hollywood does its impression of the Titanic in a chilly box office season, the entire population of Tinseltown is waiting for that magic potion of irresistible pictures and rabid audiences to buoy the summer to a happy ending. At the same time, conservative critics of Hollywood are seizing on the slump to support a long-standing argument: that the industry doesn’t produce enough right-friendly flicks or family fare, and red states are rebelling by withholding their ticket cash. There is no question that many conservatives are angry at Hollywood. I hear it all the time, from all corners of the map. People are frustrated at the entertainment choices out there and are loath to spend their movie dollars on an A-list star last seen bashing Bush on cable news. The mere mention of Oliver Stone is enough to induce red-state nausea. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 Yet films that have been championed by conservatives recently pro-family “Cinderella Man,” anti-cloning “The Island” and World War II heroism flick “The Great Raid” have disappointed at the box office. As many reasons for these poor performances have been offered as have been for the box office slump itself: bad marketing, lack of star power, stars throwing telephones at concierges. Are there films that appeal to Republicans and films that appeal to Democrats? Removing the few overtly political films such as “Fahrenheit 9/11” from the equation, movie-lovers’ tastes aren’t easily categorized by political affiliation. Ask a roomful of Republicans about their favorite filmmakers, and the answers range from Steven Spielberg to Paul Thomas Anderson. The “official” movie of my campus Republican club back in college was Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs.” But alter the argument to that of social conservatives and one could say that the values portrayed in films alienate viewers. Just look at the proliferation of companies that are editing the naughty stuff out of films and redistributing them on DVD without the filmmakers’ permission or involvement, touching off a firestorm over intellectual property rights. Some recent Hollywood bits that have raised conservative ire include hailing Alfred Kinsey, Nicole Kidman sharing her bathtub with a boy in “Birth,” euthanasia glorified in “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Sea Inside.” Regardless of politics, many agree that the ick factor drives away moviegoers who are looking for something familiar and inspirational on screen. Yet there’s a counterpoint to the values-alienation argument: PG-13 “Titanic,” with a steamy Model T sex scene and naked art, tops the all-time domestic gross list. The highest G-rated movie on that chart comes in at No. 13, Pixar’s “Finding Nemo.” It’s about entertainment. It’s seeing an inspirational, upright hero in the vein of last summer’s megahit “Spider-Man 2”; it’s seeing people triumph over adversity and fall in love. Are people going to see “March of the Penguins” because they want to make a political statement for G-rated fare, or because it has cute, fuzzy, universally appealing animals? Nearly three-quarters of Americans would rather chill on the couch with a DVD than shell out for this summer’s theatrical fare, according to a recent AP-AOL Ipsos poll. Nearly one-half of respondents opined that movies are getting worse; one-third said films are getting better. So what’s the answer to getting filmgoers to cough up the cash? Finding that spark again. Making movies to which people can relate. And that’s not so much about red state or blue state, but simply good taste or bad taste. Bridget Johnson writes for the Daily News. E-mail her at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more