The Agony and Ecstacy of Hollywood Today…and Tonight.

March 2, 2014

Tonight, we celebrate the best of Hollywood. And the magical art of filmmaking.

Yesterday, however, I encountered one of the saddest aspects of our industry.

My wife and I saw a few trailers for upcoming movies. Mostly teen action films, silly comedies, etc.

Fine. Not my cup of tea, but, hey, to each his and her own….and I am, after all, 67 years old and therefore not even close to being a marketing target for most studio films. Again. Fine. I understand and respect that.

But then, we saw a trailer for an upcoming summer movie from Universal called “The Purge: Anarchy.”

The “plot”? Ready?

….In a not too distant future, the government has sanctioned an annual 12-hour period in which any and all criminal activity including murder becomes legal. Anyone can torture and murder anyone else. No questions asked. No reprisals.

Besides the obvious moral questions about the utter irresponsibility of making and promoting a film like that, why, I asked myself, would anyone think a movie like that would or should do any business at all?

Researching the film on imdb.com, I found my answer….and that’s what made me feel so sad.

“The Purge: Anarchy” is actually a sequel to the original “Purge” (which I had never heard of) that had the same basic plot. Made at a cost of $3 million, the original did a depressingly huge $90 million in box office.

And that’s the answer to why the sequel has been made. There’s money to be made. End of story?

Well, no, not for me.

I am a strong believer in capitalism.

I also believe in the 1st Amendment and am absolutely opposed to government censorship of the arts.

I also know that filmmaking is indeed both an art and a business……and businesses have to turn a profit or they cease to exist.

In addition, the film industry has a ratings  system to warn people about films and, even though that system seems to turn a blind eye to violence and gore much of the time, the system is indeed there to warn consumers about the content of films.

I am not in any way, therefore, saying films like “The Purge” should be banned. Not at all. People absolutely have the freedom to finance and produce films like “The Purge” and audiences have a perfect right to pay their money to go see these films if they so choose.

But just because you have the freedom and ability to do something doesn’t mean that you should.

Power and freedom bestow upon us  the ability to act…..and, conversely, not to.

...and that’s why I personally feel so sad that some filmmakers and distributors choose to put so much money, time, and effort into making and marketing nihilistic, sadistic films like “The Purge” just because–and exclusively because– they can turn a profit by exploiting the darkest aspects of who we can be as human beings when we are at our very worst..

My father was a filmmaker. So was my stepfather. I was born into and have loved the film industry ever since I can remember–and have worked in it for almost 40 years.

Today, I feel more proud than ever to have been able to vote for the Academy Awards that will be presented tonight and which showcase the crowning achievements of the artists and artistry of our industry.

I  hope that filmmakers everywhere will be inspired tonight to utilize their talents to illuminate who we can be as human beings when we are at our very best.

And speaking of human beings who personify exactly that quality……take it away, Ellen….it’s great to have you back.

 

 

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

George Huang March 4, 2014 at 12:57 am

Stephen,

First a disclaimer: I disavow any and all claims of even remotely understanding the politics, egos, and financial battles of the movie industry.

I simply enjoy the magic of movies, especially the “mystical messages in movies,” to steal from the title of the tele-seminar series you created years ago.

I agree with what you’ve written, that “People absolutely have the freedom to finance and produce films like “The Purge” and audiences have a perfect right to pay their money to go see these films if they so choose.”

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed “The Last Brickmaker in America,” starring Sidney Poitier, that was included in the Spiritual Cinema Circle a few years ago. We were surprised that a film of such depth never became more popularly known, though it appears it was made for television, not the “big screen.”

The commercial popularity of films such as “The Purge,” starkly contrasted with the limited distribution of quality productions such as “The Last Bricklayer in America,” remind me that we’ve entered a transition period of consciousness, a transition in which of the collective awareness of humankind is headed to higher levels.

It may not seem readily apparent, if we look around and see all the destruction, death, and negativity that pervades our media outlets.

However, for those of us who “get it,” it’s our individual and collective responsibility to help elevate the emerging higher awareness of mankind.

We’re seeing evidence of that, in the levels of awareness that younger generations, those born in the past 25 or so years, are exhibiting, from the moment of birth.

As David Hawkin mentioned in “Power vs. Force,” the higher awareness of a few, can counterbalance the ignorance of many.

I’m inspired to support your efforts, along with your team at Spiritual Cinema Circle, to help raise the collective consciousness of people from all walks of life, from all parts of the world, through the powerful medium of visual storytelling.

Reply

Stephen Simon March 5, 2014 at 8:19 am

Thanks so much for your comments, George…as you are one of the very first people to support the vision of Spiritual Cinema way back in 2002, it’s always so great to hear from you!!

Reply

Ilonka Michelle April 14, 2014 at 9:47 am

I love your sentiment that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. I look forward to the day when a boy asks a girl if she wants to see something like The Purge and she looks at him as if he’s insane. Because he is.

Reply

Stephen Simon April 14, 2014 at 10:06 am

Hi Ilonka…..ah, how wonderful would that be!

Insane indeed.

Thanks so much for your comment!

Reply

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