Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bread and Circuses, Pt II

Continuing our discussion from last Tuesday . . . .

With trained actors no longer being necessary, screenwriters obsolete and directors being phased out (I watched The Burbs and Gremlins 2 this weekend and found myself thinking "Whatever happened to Joe Dante?") Cinema is rapidly becoming a fast-food atmosphere. Hollywood wants you to hand over money for a sub-standard product because they know their audience will watch, literally, anything. How many times have you heard a friend say, "I saw it because it was something to do." Now, how many times have you said that? How many times have you forked over $10, more than an hour's worth of the minimum wage the guy at the concession stand is making, to waste two hours of your life seeing a movie you had no real burning desire to see in the first place?

This is known as "Bread and Circuses"--as in, "give people basic entertainment, and they won't notice us over here taking their money, their land and their lives" We're so distracted by the shiny lights and the 64 oz collectable drink cup that we don't notice that gas is over $4 a gallon, gas-drilling companies are threatening to destroy Upstate New York the same way they destroyed Pennsylvania, we're still in Iraq and that so much of the food we eat is pure poison. We've been made too fat and sick on genetically-engineered popcorn topped with chemicals and High Fructose Corn Syrup and Big Macs to protest, too blinded by an endless succession of rapid-fire commercials and piles of toys to notice that we're wasting what little time we have on this earth putting cocaine directly up Michael Bay's left nostril. 

And we're complaing in the whole time.  We bitch that our stomachs hurt, that we're tired, that we're broke, that there's nothing good on TV and they don't make movies like they used to.  Then we eat another Whopper, down another 64oz of Mountain Dew, watch another rerun of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and go down to the multiplex to watch a bunch of cardboard cutouts perform a story we know by heart from the last six times we've seen it.

(Side note: I had a "Last Night Before the Rapture" party this Friday, and I instructed people to bring junk food because what did it matter?  The world was ending . . . but after a weekend of eating junk food, I feel completely gunked up--I don't know how other people go through life feeling this way because they consume nothing but microwave dinners, Doritos and cheap, nasty beer.  I feel like I'm going to die.)

Summer Blockbuster Season is descending upon us, not unlike the fire, brimstone and earthquakes that were supposed to start at 6PM this past Saturday, only more painful.  We've got a record number of sequels, reboots, remakes and other useless garbage coming out this summer, and the best way to show Hollywood that you're not going to take their crap anymore is to stop giving them your money.  If we don't see bad movies, in theory, they'll stop making bad movies.  Think about it.  Do you think there would be a Transformers 2 and 3 if no one went to see Transformers?  No, there wouldn't be--you are part of the problem.  Try being part of the solution. 

So here's a nice list of things you can do other than wasting money, time and your health in the cinema this summer:

1) Make your own damn movie, either as a group effort or as a contest.  Divvy up your friends, set a minimal budget ($15?) and either a) Remake a blockbuster a la Be Kind Rewind (I can guarentee that even the most cardboard box imagining of Transformers 3 will be loads better than the one playing in theaters) or b) challenge everyone to make an original short film.  Give them a time limit, like 24 hours.  Host a red carpet event and screen all the films.

2) Volunteer.  Work at a soup kitchen for an evening.  Pet kittens and walk dogs at a shelter. 

3) Go for a walk--not a walk to the convenience store to buy some Fritos, but a walk in a nature preserve or a mountain or down streets in your neighborhood you never explored.

4) Go to a religious service (maybe try a faith that you don't belong to) and think about how you can be a better person.

5) Host an Iron Chef potluck--pick a theme ingredient and have everyone make something to share

6) Pick a current movie you want to see, then go through Netflix and find either the original or one similar.  Japan has more giant robot movies that you can even begin to imagine.

7) Write letters to all your far-off friends--not an email, not a facebook post, but a real physical letter.  Include newsclippings, recipies and other fun things.

8) Have a craft party.  Make paper, sock puppets, tee-shirts (I love Generation Tee) voodoo dolls, chapbooks.

9) Have a slumber party and watch movies you used to watch as kids.  Try Flight of the Navigator or The Explorers.  Have everyone bring cute pajamas, a lovey to snuggle with and a cereal their mother wouldn't let them have for breakfast the next morning.

10) Run around outside like you're eight years old again.  Play Frisbee, Calvinball, Tag, Fizzball.  Toss a football or a baseball around.  Bonus points for wearing tuxedos!

11) Go through all the crap you've aquired in life and divvy it up into piles--keep, sell, toss, donate.  Be brutal, because really, do you need that stuffed Pikachu?  Are you ever going to wear that long black lace Lip Service dress again?  Wouldn't it be better in the hands of a kid who's going to love it, or a teenage girl who can actually fit into it?  Hold a yardsale and make some extra cash.  Put the good stuff up on ebay and let people duke it out.  Donate stuff for a tax write-off.

12) Learn to do something that will save you money--grow a plant you can eat.  Take a hunting course.  Learn to fix your toilet or your windowframes or do your taxes so you don't have to hire someone to do it for you. 

13) Take an adult ed course.  Learn to ballroom dance or write or paint landscapes or play piano.

14) Audition for a play.  If you don't get in, offer to help paint sets, make costumes or hunt for props

15) Clean your entire house.  Scrub grout with a toothbrush.  This isn't fun, but you might be amazed with the results.

16) Make an episode of a reality show about your life.

17) Set aside the admission price every time you decide not to go to the movies.  At the end of the summer, go to eat at someplace you normally wouldn't be able to afford.  Remember to dress nicely. 

18) . . . or if you're really nice, donate all that money to charity. 

19) Read all your old diaries and the bad poems you wrote in high school.  Use them to start a fire in the grill and have a BBQ.

20) Play mini golf or paintball.  Divvy up into opposing teams named after TV shows or movies, such as Farmington PD vs Oswald State Pen. 

And if you must go to the movies, why not check out a second run theater?  They're cheaper ($2-$5 instead of $8-$12) and half the time, empty.  Or an independently owned art theater where you can pretend to be a film snob?  Or better still, a drive-in.  You pack a picnic and not be chained to bad popcorn and neon nachos.  Bring some chairs and sit out on the lawn, under the stars, enjoying even the crappiest of movies . . . or if the weather is less than ideal, inside your car, making MST3K-style commentary.  Dwight and I once went to the 3-screen drive-in in Warwick, NY and halfway through War of the Worlds, switched the signal over to Herbie, Fully Loaded.  The results were hysterical.  And if the movie really, really sucks, enjoy the age-old tradition of making out in the backseat.

It comes down to this--in the words of the great, two-time Pulitzer Prize Winning Film Critic Dr. Jay Sherman, PhD, "If the movie stnks, just don't go."

No comments:

Post a Comment