More on Movie Pablum

Earlier today I mentioned A.O. Scott’s article in the New York Times about the prevalence of pablum on movie screens this summer. Scott blames the movie industry for retreating to guaranteed formulas to get butts in seats. Thus the sudden abundance of movies based on kids toys and stories.

The article pairs quite nicely with Roger Ebert’s latest blog post, “The Gathering Dark Age.” Ebert posits the lack of compelling cinema is also the result of an ignorant audience:

If I mention the cliché “the dumbing-down of America,” it’s only because there’s no way around it. And this dumbing-down seems more pronounced among younger Americans. It has nothing to do with higher educational or income levels. It proceeds from a lack of curiosity and, in many cases, a criminally useless system of primary and secondary education. Until a few decades ago, almost all high school graduates could read a daily newspaper. The issue today is not whether they read a daily paper, but whether they can.

This trend coincides with the growing effectiveness of advertising and marketing campaigns to impose box office success on heavily-promoted GCI blockbusters, which are themselves often promotions for video games. No checks and balances prevail. The mass media is the bitch of marketing. Almost every single second of television coverage of the movies is devoted to thinly-veiled promotion. Movie stars who appear as guests on talk shows and cable news are almost always there because they have a new movie coming out. Smart-ass satirical commentary, in long-traditional in places like Mad magazine and SNL, is drowned out by celebrity hype.

What do you think of the selection of movies available these days? If you find it lacking, who do you blame? What, if anything, can be done to change the quality and selection of movies in major theater houses across America?

I’m all ears (and eyes).

  • Bob

    I’ve seen some of the pablum this summer and avoided others. Maybe I’m just getting old, but a lot of the movies that hit it big at the box office lately seem more like amusement park rides than movies. Lots of action, lots of mayhem, camera shots that make you check your equilibrium, but no plot or character development to speak of.

    When I climb on board a roller coaster, I don’t expect plot or thought-provoking dialogue. Maybe that’s how we need to approach the new movies presented to us: this is a ride, not an opportunity for storytelling.

    There will probably always be room for movies driven by plot and characters. In the future, I’m not sure them will be the biggest money-earning pictures.

  • Darin

    Here is one thing MPR could do. Get a movie critic. Your “Movie Maven”, Stephanie Curtis appears to be unable or unwilling to offer an opinion more substantial than “great story” or “not so good.”