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.