– The Movies – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow –

Violence, in one form or another, has always been a part of movies. Love scenes and lovers have graced the silver screen, celluloid , video tapes and CD’s since man first learned how to film them. We have had dramas, fantasies, westerns, war flicks, romance, horror and sci-fi movies since the beginning but, have we learned anything from them? I mean, have we made them better or have we just learned how to exploit them and their actors more efficiently?

In looking back over the last hundred years or so, we have taken a remarkable form of entertainment and information to a whole new level. Once again technology has propelled the movie industry to great new heights. The writers such as Orson Welles with his Mars invasion shocked the world on radio. H. G. Welles was the king of Sci-fi before we even knew what that was. Gene Roddenberry, the father of Star Trek and all of it’s spin-offs, gave us Warp speed (an Einstein theory), communicators (before flip phones), the impressive Tri-corder that Spock carried (what we now call the Blackberry). The movies and the imagination of man urged science to try and keep up. Buck Roger of the 1930’s with his ray gun (the modern day laser) and so much more. These were the positive influences and results and all, or most, in the name of technology.

When we look at the behavior of the movies and, by that, I mean the need for rating systems and the general need for so much reality in films, I think we have failed miserably. When we look back at the great gangster films of the past with James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and the like, there was violence, there was gunfire and people died but we didn’t need to see their guts splattered all over the place to know they were dead.

In love scenes, the imagination often was more powerful than the camera. We, as adults and even as children, knew when the lights dimmed what the man and the woman were about to do. Showing the intimate details of their embrace wasn’t necessary or even needed to complete the picture. Fade to black and pick it up the next morning.

One of the great pictures of 1934 was “It Happened One Night” starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. She was a debutant running away from an arranged marriage and Gable was the reporter who was tracking her down. It’s a love story about the two of them and their exploits over the next couple of days. How they end up in a road side motel with bungalows instead of rooms. How they rig up a blanket between the two beds for privacy calling it the wall of Jerico.

As in all good love stories, they end up falling in love and going to that same little motel and that same little bungalow on their honeymoon. The writers didn’t show them writhing in bed together in marital spender. They showed them closing the door behind them leaving you, the viewer, standing outside in the parking lot. Then, as you watch the lights in the bungalow go out, you hear a trumpet blow within as the wall of Jerico comes tumbling down. Can you figure out what happened next without actually seeing it? God I would hope so.

We rely way too much on the visual and not nearly enough on the imagination. Stark violence can be depicted without actually being shown. Love, in its many forms can be hinted at without the nudity and visual effects used today.

I am not a prude and I enjoy relationships as much as the next guy or girl so why is it necessary to plaster it across the big screen? Even the very youngest knows about the birds and the bees before they see their first movie of any kind. Sorry parents but it’s true.

Violence can be implied without showing the end result with such reality. The gunfire and impacts, okay, that I understand but why the mutilated and bloodied bodies laying on the ground. Choose a different angle that shows the bodies without the gore. We get it. We can see it without being shown.

So many of the old gangster movies would pan from the intended victim to the guy with the gun. He would be gritting his teeth showing how mean and determined he was. The camera would then pan down to the gun as it went off. Often, you wouldn’t even see the victim again, just the sound of him or her hitting the floor. Can you figure out what happened without seeing it?

Technology is a wondrous thing but we have to know when enough is enough. We have to be responsible enough to say, “You know, this just isn’t necessary.” When violence and sex become gratuitous that’s when you have to pull the plug, stand back and reevaluate. The old movies did it and, to this day, they are still great. They are often referred to as Classics. How many of the blood and guts, sexually explicit movies of today will be able to say the same thing fifty, sixty or seventy years from now? Or, do their producers and directors even care anymore?

Are the studios just interested in the all mighty buck? Is that the only driving force today and to Hell with the rest? Is integrity a word of the past? Has creativity gotten lost in technology? Is special effects replacing the creativity that was necessary in the early films? They, the producers and directors of those early films were required to do more with less back then because that was all they had and they did it damn well. They told a story without producing a shock flick. There weren’t X-rated or R-rated movies that kids couldn’t go and see because of the level of violence, sexual content or language used. Everyone and anyone could see them anytime.

Maybe it was a simpler time back then or maybe it was something else. Something else entirely. I guess the producers and directors of today are going to have to figure that one out for themselves. Then, they will have to decide how they want their movies to be remembered, if at all.

Steven Spielberg has it figured out. Ron Howard has it figured out. Clint Eastwood has it figured out. And, they are not alone but there are many who haven’t figured it out. I wonder if they know who they are or even care.

If the movies of today are any example, and I am not including all movies of today in this category of course, but if they are any example of the movies to come and the use or misuse of the new technologies of the future, we have much more work to do as a civilized people.

Try to imagine an alien spaceship, after traveling millions of light years to reach our beautiful blue planet and hoping to contact a peaceful people, tuning into one of our many movie channels. Far fetched I know but bare with me. Suppose they tuned into Mad Max or Thunder Dome. Maybe they were lucky enough to tune into one of the Men in Black movies or Independence Day where we are blowing alien ships out of the sky. How about The Texas Chainsaw Murders or Friday The Thirteenth, etal.? They would see nothing but violence. “What sort of people are these?” they would think.

I’m sure that you too are thinking of movies of similar plots that would be equally as shocking to visitors from another planet, if there are such entities. I don’t think any of those films would bode well for us, do you? Given the circumstances, that is.

Now, if you feel as I, that the use of extreme violence and sexual content is not necessary to produce a good if not great film, please let me know. If I’m completely out in left field on this one and in an empty ballpark, I’d like to know that as well.

But for now……………….

That’s my opinion and you’re welcome to it!

Have a nice day.

~ by wordwon on August 23, 2009.

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