27 April 2009

Contemporary Adult Cinema

If you look at the box office charts every weekend, which I do, there is one trend that is immediately obvious week in and week out. The bread and butter of Hollywood is the teenager with a part time job/parents with money who have nothing better to do that go the theater every weekend, sometimes more than once. Now also consider that when you hear a quick recap of the weekend box office on CNN or Fox News or where ever, you only hear about the top three, sometimes only the top film. The emphasis is on breaking records. If something breaks a record, it's reported on in a tone of bewilderment and amazement.

Enthusiastic female voice-For the third week in a row, The Dark Knight holds onto the number one spot at the box office as it heads into the history books as the top grossing film of 2008, possibly of all time.

Then there are some numbers thrown out about Titanic and Gone with the Wind (if they take the time to adjust the numbers for inflation) and how much more The Dark Knight will have to make to beat these records. There is a larger debate here about the need to report these number rather than report about the ACTUAL FILMS THEMSELVES, but I will save that for an episode of The World of Cinema, because I think rants work best when you can hear the person getting worked up and angry.

The point of this piece is that, looking down this well publicized list, there are other trends besides the teen crowd making financial success out of lowest common denominator films. You just have to look past the top films that automatically get the headline story.

Tops Films at Box Office in 2009 (Past 6 weeks)
17 Again (PG-13)
Hanna Montana The Movie
Fast & Furious (PG-13)
Monsters Vs. Alien (PG)
Race to Witch Mountain

The point of this is also not an argument for the quality of any film. Just an under reported trend that I have been enjoying for the past few years, but without noticing it until just recently.

Contemporary Adult Cinema

I had a strong urge to see the film State of Play, because I'm a sucker for any film that takes place in a newspaper setting. Yes, even The Paper, even though I know I'm not supposed to mention any of his films (See the 2008 Yearbook episode for more information). Newspaper reporting is a job I was always interested in, attempted briefly in college, but didn't really have the skill set for. So I enjoy a film about it from time to time. Sometimes they are good, but mostly they are just average and forgettable.

Shattered Glass intrigued me enough that I went to see it opening day and watched it one more time that Sunday night. This meant that knowing its writer/director
, Billy Ray, was also a screenwriter on State of Play was enough to get my ass to the theater. I knew of Mr. Ray's involvement and that it was directed by the guy who made The Last King of Scotland and that he came from a documentary background, but I could not even remember his name before the film.

Once the credits came up and I learned not only who was in the film, but who helped put the film together. My brain started to make a fractal map, connecting together all the films of Billy Ray, Tony Gilroy and Kevin Mcacdonald together with State of Play in the middle. It began to expand on my way home to include other films in recent memory.

State of Play is like the Greatest Hits compilation of the world of Contemporary Adult Cinema. It's like the Adult Contemporary Music charts - full of crappy, unoffensive, pseudo ballads dripping with cliched, greeting card sentimentality. Films that fall into this category usually; are directed by men, based on a book or play, contain some strong central female character, contain a buddy relationship for levity, involve an "everyman" kind of character (the main male star), have the main character inadvertently caught up in a mystery beyond his control that he ultimately triumphs over by the end (although his death is not out of the question-usually in martyr kind of way).

I personally like a lot of the films I'm about to list because the last main element these films present is an elaborate conspiracy. Be it a corporate or government conspiracy, I don't much care, as long as rich white men are portrayed as evil people and trying to control us all, I'm on board (See the Zeitgeist and the Internet Documentary episode for more information).

As you read through the list keep the following in mind:
-Ignore the box office for these films, just look at content.
-Ignore the success of failure of the films source material, if it is an adapted screenplay.
-Most are PG-13 (in order to not loose any potential teen money)
-The R rating is almost always used as a form of street cred
-All of these films are aimed at working adults/parents (21 and up)

State of Play (PG-13)
The Last King of Scotland (R)
Flightplan (PG-13)
Shattered Glass (PG-13)
Duplicity (PG-13)
Michael Clayton (R)
The Bourne Trilogy
Proof of Life (R)
Lions for Lambs (R)
The Kingdom (R)
Blindness (R)
The Constant Gardener (R)
The Interpreter (PG-13)
Angels & Demons (PG-13)
Frost/Nixon (R)
The DaVinci Code (PG-13)
Charlie Wilson's War (R)
The Sentinal
Revolutionary Road (R)
Vantage Point
Body of Lies (R)
Milk (R)
Nothing But the Truth (R)
The Contender (R)

I encourage anyone to go to a matinee after the first weekend of any future films like this (Endgame is my recommendation), preferable at a huge multiplex in a mall. See who you are watching the film with. Middle aged women in small groups and lot and lots of seniors.

And me.

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