". it could have spewed from the Power Book of the laziest Hollywood hack."
- Sideshow Bob, "The Simpsons"
Thomas Hobbes, English philosopher (read: poor) and dead guy, wrote of a Leviathan government necessary to ensnare mankind to control the uncontrollable - namely, us.
A leviathan today is needed to control the uncontrollable. No, not al Qaeda (cluster bombs suffice quite nicely) or punk teenagers (though they need to keep off my lawn). Today, the modern American film industry threatens to smother us by thrusting its collective gut upon the nation.
(The connection between Hobbes and the modern film industry a little too much to swallow? Too tenuous? Lesson one of columnisting: make use of all your knowledge, regardless of how inane or irrelevant.)
I do not speak of the fine films up for awards during this Sunday's Oscar telecast. The actors, actresses, directors, writers and creators who've earned the acclimation of nomination and the honor of an award represent the best cinema has to offer.
My barbs are directed at the majority of Hollywood's Satan-inspired fare: films which not only make the audience question the intelligence and sanity of those involved in the movie's creation, but the very existence of God Himself.
Since great and good films are rarer on the whole because otherwise they wouldn't be so great and good, the vast preponderance of film industry profits come from the Hollywood latrine. "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" only account for roughly $600 million of the $8.3 billion taken in by the industry in 2001. Where else did the money come from? Films like "Pearl Harbor," "Driven," "Final Fantasy," "Tomb Raider," "Freddy Got Fingered" and hundreds of others of course.
How do criminally stupid films make lots of money ("Harbor"), some money ("Raider") or little to none ("Driven")?
Trailers, of course.
Trailers: two-and-a-half minute chaotic cacophonies of light, sound, special effects and Fred Durst-inspired songs that make chicken sh- ("The Fast and the Furious") look like chicken salad ("Bullet"). Studios spend $31 million to promote each film, $600,000 on the trailers alone.
Trailers are masterworks of carefully crafted trickery, though subliminal advertising in film is nothing new. During the 1950s theater owners spliced hidden messages into the period's classics like "Earth vs. The Spider" and "The Mole People." These quicker-than-the-eye frames were outlawed after theater patrons suddenly developed cravings for popcorn, soda and anti-communist demagogues.
Today we face similar encroachments upon our God-given, constitutional right to choose which films to watch without undue outside influence by large corporations. It's time for the federal government to act.
Accordingly, I ask, nay, I demand, that Congress pass the Film Honesty Act of 2002. Sponsored by Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., the legislation forces movie studios to place closed-captioning-like labels on the scenes as they appear during the trailer. Think VH1's "Pop Up Video" informing the audience of the film's foibles and failings to protect you from a poor film experience.
Allow me to provide the following demonstration. This trailer is for a buddy action/comedy vehicle starring Nicholas Cage and The Rock, a film nowhere on the horizon (at the moment). The comments added under the Film Honesty Act will appear in italics:
Narrator: "San Francisco Detective Harlan Quinn (Cage) is the best cop on the force." (Cage undercover, dressed as a woman throwing roundhouse punches at drug dealers.)
Scene included because script writer "wanted to see what Nic Cage looked like in a dress."
Studio executives mandated the officers in these scenes were to be all white so as not to "unduly offend various racial and ethnic groups."
Police Chief: "You're like the plague Quinn!" (Cage shrugs sheepishly at the chief.)
It took Cage two hours to prep for this scene, and another three to hit his marks.
Quinn: "I guess I'm as unlucky as the Taliban."
Focus group tested dialogue to ensure the film's topical relevance to the audience.
Narrator: "Now Quinn must deal with the greatest challenge of his career - Vincent Mack (The Rock), the toughest cop in New York City." (He walks into the station house, suave and cool, followed by scenes of him throwing suspects through windows.)
The Rock demanded the director focus on his "huge package."
Mack: "I'm too cool for school, baby."
The Rock's $15 million salary means he earned $75,000 for that line. Money well spent, huh?
Police Chief: "He's your new partner, Quinn. Get used to it."
Narrator: "Now, in addition to stopping crime boss Kwai Takanawa -"
Played by Jet Li, of course.
Narrator: "Quinn and Mack must compete against their toughest opponents yet: each other."
(Jennifer Lopez enters the room, in slow motion, with wind machines tussling her hair, boobs aplenty.)
Producers wanted her to wear an "I want sex" outfit.
Quinn and Mack (to the other): "She's mine!"
Added to punch up the on-screen chemistry.
(Randomly cut scenes of action, suspense and nudity set to P.O.D.'s "Alive.")
Remember folks, these scenes are specifically designed to fool you into thinking this film contains a coherent storyline, intelligent dialogue and quality directing. Do not be fooled.
(Quinn and Mack grasping the outside of a San Francisco street car careening down a hill, out of control.)
You could see this a mile away.
Quinn and Mack (to each other): "This is all your fault!"
Here it comes .
(The street car collides with a truck, sending a huge fireball into the air, throwing Quinn and Mack through the air.)
Notice how the fireball should, by all logic, kill them?
Narrator: "Nicholas Cage, The Rock, Jennifer Lopez. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. Directed by Michael Bay. 'Rush to Judgment.' A San Francisco treat for Summer 2003."
There you have it, a simple, worthwhile system to defend our rights as consumers. Hopefully Congress will see the light and pass this into law.
Otherwise, we might need to start reading books for our entertainment.