CHARLOTTE, N.C., April 4, 2017 – Things have been relatively quiet in Southern California since the Trump Oscar Protests have come and gone. Meryl Streep has slipped back into her cozy Fantasyland world, where she only speaks out when a microphone is nearby to broadcast a political statement nobody cares about.
Of the endless list of tedious entertainment awards programs, the Oscars has always been the best among them. Year in and year out, the Tonys do not have enough competition, the Obies only appeal to a limited audience and there are so many music awards shows it feels like the “Everybody Gets a Trophy” section of the red-carpet industry.
Only the Emmys come anywhere close to competing with Oscar. But the politically charged atmosphere of 2017 may have changed that for a considerable time to come.
Movies today are mired in two genres: animation and super heroes. Both are primarily designed to allow the creative hacks in Hollywood to play video games all day long. Result: computer driven make-believe that supposedly substitutes for entertainment.
At the moment, arguably the best productions in the world of motion pictures are being put out by cable and streaming video companies like Netflix, HBO, Showtime and others. Hollywood, on the other hand, is too wrapped up in its narcissistic self and its politics to attract anything other than kids and millennials.
Apparently, what the film industry and other elements in the entertainment industry do not grasp is that nobody actually cares what celebrities think on any given day about any given topic. Entertainers and superstar athletes dwell in rarified environments to which only they can relate. As such, far removed from the teeming masses, their opinions matter little to the poor folks who are out there just trying to pay their bills.
If the entertainment business wants to win its audience back, here’s some advice: Stop turning out products that rely so heavily on CGI special effects that all they achieve is a showcase of the latest and greatest entertainment technologies. Actual content is lost in the process.
Another option for movie stars is to make a decent film, go home and just plain old shut up. Movie fans can relate to that. Film buffs love an actor or an actress that can be a bit self-deprecating or even demonstrate some humility now and then.
Football fans and movie lovers also have reacted negatively to figures as diverse as Colin Kaepernick and Meryl Steep, not because of their beliefs but because of the venues in which they chose to express them. If both of them are so dedicated to the causes they espouse, then why don’t they set up press conferences and town hall meetings and travel the country to advocate for their positions? Instead, they are simply picking up the first available microphone to demonstrate that their opinions are actually far shallower than those of the average person.
National Public Radio (NPR) has an extremely humorous Saturday morning quiz program called “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me,” which pokes fun at the week’s news headlines and quirky stories. It used to be fun to listen to while driving around doing errands on a Saturday morning. But since Donald Trump won the 2016 election, and even before, the fangs have come out, transforming this once light and enjoyable program into something to be avoided.
For months now, the first question at the beginning of every program is about Donald Trump. This is followed by at least five minutes of criticism badly disguised as satire. That wouldn’t be a problem if there were some balance in this segment, but there never is. Democrats rarely are made fun of on this program. Even on those rare occasions when they are, such segments eventually evolve into a catalyst enabling the show to zap Republicans yet again.
True, politicians, entertainers, celebrities and other well-known people are fair game, just as long as the game is fair, and provided the humor is done in a spirit of laughing “with” someone instead of “at” them. No sign of that here.
Whatever happened to the Hollywood we knew from the late 1930s through the 1940s? We actually told stories back then because we didn’t have all the gadgets and gizmos that allow us to build elaborate science fiction or super villain sets and blow up the universe on cue like we have today.
Movie lovers back in the day could genuinely relate to John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, Doris Day, Ingrid Bergman or any one of dozens of actors who made us feel that they were neighbors and part of Americana.
Where did these giant figures go? What happened to the can-do American spirit of that era? What changed?
Among the 10 highest grossing movies of 2016, not a single one of them received even an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress or Best Supporting roles. Not a single nominee! Yet actors (and athletes) still feel empowered enough to imagine they should dictate to “everyman” how he or she should think and vote.
In the late 1940s, when you bought a toy marked “Made in Japan,” it was a huge joke because the quality was so poor. Hollywood accounted for 75 percent of all motion picture personnel in 1980. Today, as many as 80 percent of all movie projects begin somewhere other than Hollywood.
If American cinema wants to re-embrace its audience, it needs to return to telling good stories with believable characters and values that represent those shared by the majority of the national audience.
If they don’t, then Oscar ratings will continue to plummet, people will stop buying $8 popcorn, and instead turn to watching well-produced historical programs and highly creative dramas on television or view reruns of venerable shows from previous decades that used to make us feel good about ourselves.
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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