Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Did Indy dumb down Movies?

I recently read an essay about the Indiana Jones movies being responsible for the dumb box-office thrill ride films that preceded it. Carrie Rickey in Sundays Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that she wasn’t a fan of the films and hated what happened to films after the Indy films were released. I had to think for a moment and really wonder if this was true. Rickey says that “she cannot muster enthusiasm for a franchise that has done so much to dumb down movie scripts, ramp up movie tempos, perpetuate colonialist stereotypes, and marginalize women”. Does she have a point I wondered and so I went off and did a bit of research to see if she was right.

Raiders was released in 1981, and I was still in high school. When it came out I thought it was one of the best films I had seen in a while. Of course I was 17 at the time, and my tastes for the cinema were that of action adventures and horror films. There were several other films in 1981 that fascinated me and entertained me such as Arthur, & Time Bandits. I even enjoyed “On Golden Pond”, so you can say that my taste in the cinema was ever expanding.

Ms Rickey does have a point about the dumbing down of scripts since the first Indy film was released. In 1982 & 1983 there was “War Games”, “Tootsie”, “Sudden Impact”, “Staying Alive” & “Flashdance” to name but a few. Several of these films I actual did enjoy, but you can argue that these films were simple on plot & frantic in pace or tempo.

But what about such films as “An Officer & a Gentleman, “The Verdict”, “Risky Business", "Trading Places", "ET: The Extra-Terrestrial ", and "Absence of Malice"? Weren’t these good films, and weren’t these films not all big budgeted blockbusters? I can remember “Flashdance” stunning the critics and going on to make a fortune. “Flashdance” was simply a movie about a girl meets boy. It doesn't get any simpler then that plot wise. I understand that since the release of Flashdance & Raiders movie companies have pined their hopes on one BIG budgeted film that would make them a ton of money, but I think a lot of films that became big money makers were actually made for cheap, and not considered BIG releases. In 1987 who would have though “Dirty Dancing” would become such a hit.

I don’t agree that Spielberg was the person to blame for accelerating movie action beyond the speed of comprehension. I’ve always liked Spielberg’s films for their shots, and the way he uses them to draw us into the action. In Ms Rickey’s essay she states that film scholar David Bordwell does note that “Raiders is a model for the Gen ADHD flick where a movie is paced 25 percent faster then Spielberg’s other films.” I really can’t subscribe to that theory. Yes the cuts are quicker, but the story deems it necessary. After all Raiders was a throw back to those 1940’s & 50’s serials that were churned out on almost a weekly bases back then. I myself remember growing up during the 80’s, and the biggest factor that was happening then was two things and they were video games, and MTV. I think both these factors have more to do with why films today are so fast in tempo. I even find it harder today to watch films now then back in the 80’s. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I do remember the 7 second rule of panning a camera that was taught to me back in school. Now it’s more like just whip the camera around and forget about the audience’s comfort & understanding.

I also don’t won’t to say that the 80’s were filled with films that were garbage. There are some good films that were produced. Such films like “Witness”, Rain Man, Platoon, The Untouchables, Dirty Dancing, Back to the Future and yes even Raiders of the Lost Ark, were and still are good films that stand the test of time.

As to lay the blame for perpetuate colonialist stereotypes, and marginalizing women I don’t think you can blame one film for doing that. These films are simplistic in their plot & are for pure entertainment. I don’t see how the general population would actually believe that these films portrayed any reality in them. As for marginalizing women I have to say that I’ve seen worse, and don’t let me get started about the Bond franchise.

It’s all about the dollars & cents for the studios. I’ve seen it more now then ever. Have you looked recently at you’re local Target and seen the movie tie ins? My two little boys seem inundated by toy manufacturers pushing their toys on them by greedy studios. That’s where Hollywood is going down hill. Star Wars opened the flood gates to the marketing frenzy that is happening now, and were getting films that are inferior in content then they once were. As long as bean counters control the purse strings and not the artists we’ll always get dumb downed movies that just plain suck.. Where’s a Frank Capra or John Ford when you need one?

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