Something is rotten in the state of the film industry

    So it’s the middle of awards season. Normally, this would indicate that the film studios are pulling out all the stops and releasing those movies they’ve waited all year to release — the good films that will hopefully gain the studios an Oscar nomination and make them lots of mula. That would normally mean that this is also the time of year when all everyone flocks to see are the movies that are getting “”Oscar buzz.”” But if this is so, then how come this past weekend, the three top-grossing movies (according to Exhibitor Relations, Co.) were “”Kangaroo Jack”” ($17,675,000), “”National Security”” ( $15,700,000) and “”Just Married”” ($12,450,000)?

    OK, I don’t want to sound like a complete film snob, which I am sometimes — though I respect a person’s need to occasionally see a silly movie that requires no brain cells — but this is just a load of bull! If the top-grossing movies of the weekend were: two guys chasing a kangaroo that hopped off with $100,000, a Martin Lawrence movie, and a romantic comedy about a frustrated and socially mismatched couple on their disastrous European honeymoon, then there must definitely be something very wrong with either the American movie-going public or with the movie industry — or both.

    The first explanation must of course be that there’s nothing good out, or why would anyone ever shell out $8 to see a movie that got an average viewer review of 2.7 stars out of 10 (http://ww.imdb.com)? That would make the most sense, and would not make moviegoers seem nearly as stupid as advertisers think they are. But with bushels of gripping and touching films like “”25th Hour,”” “”The Hours,”” “”Adaptation”” or “”About Schmidt,”” why are people seeing second-rate comedies that leave you wanting to send death threats to the filmmakers?

    The big budget movies get all the press. Right? That’s why no one’s seeing the smaller films, ’cause no one’s never heard of them. But that isn’t entirely true either. The only thing on the tongues of a self-respecting critic or a respectable publication is how superb Nicholas Cage was in “”Adaptation”” or how breathtaking the choreography was in “”Chicago.”” With all this press, though, why are so few people seeing these brilliant films?

    One major problem is that many of these films are independent or art films that can’t afford wide distribution or marketing. Because of this, many play in a minute number of theaters. For instance, as of this weekend, “”Chicago”” was playing in 557 theaters, while “”Kangaroo Jack”” was playing in 2,818 (for shame!). This is a travesty. But if one looks at the gross profits for the weekend, “”Chicago”” came in sixth, making about $8 million. “”Chicago”” played in one-fifth the theaters “”Kangaroo Jack”” did, but making a little more than half that definitely ain’t bad.

    So not everyone out there is an impressionable, brainless twit who watches whichever movie has the coolest trailers — which most often means the ones with the big explosions and girls wearing really small articles of clothing. And I mustn’t leave out the formulaic romantic comedies that are churned out on a monthly basis. Some people will actually take the effort to see films that have some degree of value and aren’t just brain-numbing trash. Now, I admit that sometimes I like nothing better than to plop down on my plaid couch and watch “”Never Been Kissed”” or “”The Fast and the Furious.”” Every working college student understands that there are massive amounts of stress in our daily lives, and it’s nice to just veg out in front of a flashing screen with pretty people so that we don’t have to think. It’s nice to have a break every once in a while.

    But my entire entertainment diet does not consist of movies that make up for plot and character development with tight asses and big fires. No sir. That would be like a person who survived entirely off of chocolate or bonbons. It’s much more healthy to shake it up a bit with some documentaries, some dramas (good ones, mind you), some musicals and, of course, some classics. Such a movie diet would leave me a much more well-rounded and, hopefully, interesting person.

    It’s much more impressive (trust me, I know) when you tell someone that you just saw the new Spike Jonze (“”Adaptation””) or Paul Thomas Anderson (“”Punch Drunk Love””) movie. You can say that with pride rather than sheepishly saying, “”I saw ‘A Guy Thing’ this weekend … Don’t see it.”” Because anyone could have told you beforehand that that was a wait-till-it-comes-out-on-HBO-so-you-won’t-have-to-pay-to-see-it movie.

    But let’s forget about ourselves for a minute, since I know you are all truly benevolent and giving individuals. The true victims of the movie industry are children. Children today have so little available in terms of fine entertainment. When we were kids, we had great films like “”The Neverending Story”” and “”E.T,”” but these poor souls have “”Spy Kids”” and “”The Wild Thornberries.”” If kids grow up with films like these, they may grow up thinking that these are good films and will not aquire the ability to appreciate films that actually have merit. It is an absolute crime that studios will make these two-bit pictures and parents will take their kids to see them. Maybe that’s why laughable (in the bad sense of the word) movies like “”Kangaroo Jack”” do so well; there’s no other option for parents. Kids get amazed with special effects and beautiful people, and imagination and story are lost, which is a horrible sham.

    Thus, the movie industry has an evil plot to make us brainless dolls who will throw our hard-earned money at them to see their products, but we won’t let it happen. I won’t let it happen. I’ll make my mission to enlighten moviegoers, one Guardian reader at a time.

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