Volume 92, Issue 56

Thursday, January, 1999

in the books


Williams' doc dies

TQ drives while Timbaland's effort crashes

The script is in the mail

The script is in the mail

The Hollywood studio system has certain inherent qualities which are troubling – the largest being the paradoxical relationship between art and business. The problem is the two cannot seem to exist within the same frame as long as the system remains set up the way it is.

What makes a film good in Hollywood is financial success. But what makes a financial success is not necessarily a good film. Armageddon and Deep Impact did well at the box office yet neither film was particularly good – or were they? The only indicators of a movie's quality are box office receipts and critical reviews. Each week the top money makers of the week are ranked from best to worst and a label is attached to them. The best ones are good and successful while the worst ones are "flops."

So obviously we must look to the critics to tell us which movies are good. But there are so many and most are bandwagon cash cows. So where are the good films in Hollywood?

Last week Steven Spielberg suggested Hollywood should not judge the quality of films by receipts – a statement which was easy to make since he has been involved in the eight highest grossing films of all-time. Spielberg's comments come off as pretentious and are in no small part fuelled by a particular summer flop. As the director of Jurassic Park he had a front row seat for Godzilla's big budget face plant.

The Godzilla situation is just the latest indicator of the Hollywood syndrome which necessitates that only big budget blockbusters receive North American distribution – even if they're crap. Whereas festival/art/independent films, whatever you want to call them, are rich in theme and plot and yet so few receive attention outside of esoteric circles.

For a festival film to break through into North American distribution it has to be in the top one percentile of cinematic brilliance, like Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful. Whereas the crappiest Hollywood hack can get his two cents distributed as long as he has a producer.

It is unfortunate money is the sole measure of accomplishment in Hollywood, but hopefully small budget films like Life is Beautiful or The Full Monty will help the industry realize even monster budgets need a brain.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999