I have loved Hollywood’s products my entire life. I sat in the dark of the Carolina Theater in Lumberton, N.C., as a boy and became enthralled by the figures that danced across that screen.
Yes, I heard the preacher say I shouldn’t go there. He told me I would be in a fix if I were in a movie theater when Jesus returned. I considered that, but Hollywood, not the Second Coming, had me hooked.
I’ve seen some great movies, and I’ve seen some bad ones. I used to take it all in stride, hoping and believing better movies were still to come. Lately, that hope has been taking some hits.
The profit motive has intensified to the point of shredding good stories. We might get a great opening act, but then a terrible ending.
Almost no one seems concerned with telling good stories, making larger points or speaking about the human condition. Where’s the art?
Then there is this business of allowing people to make more – and more – movies because they made one good, profitable movie. I’m thinking specifically of M. Night Shyamalan. And Zack Snyder.
Snyder directed the newly released “Sucker Punch.” He made the successful “300,” but those that followed haven’t been as good. Yes, “Watchmen” was an impossible story to film, but this latest movie is an example of Hollywood’s problem.
“Sucker Punch” panders to directorial hubris as well as mocks and debases women. And of course, it’s sending these bad messages to the all-important young-male demographic.
I’m no longer in that precious demographic, but I was the one that bought tickets and repeatedly watched those great movies back in the late ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s.
Where is this generation’s “The Godfather”? What about “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”? “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”? Hollywood used to take real chances, and some important films resulted. Now it’s dollar first, story second.
Parts of “Hollywood” are taking chances. But people that live in places like Halifax, Va., get cut out of the equation. The independent film movement is now doing what Hollywood used to do, but the indies rarely make it to cinemas beyond large urban areas.
Add to this the push to get movies into the home market sooner and sooner, and you have a circumstance where movies are only around for a few weeks. That’s no way to build an audience.
And another thing: Hollywood needs to stop roaming the comic-book aisles for ideas. Superhero stories are good, but as I mentioned about “Watchmen,” some are impossible to make. Multiplexes are littered with dozens of “Catwomans” for every “Dark Knight.”
Hollywood needs to get back to making movies with heart and soul, believing that its films are more art than product. We need “Winter’s Bone.” And “Get Low.” And “The King’s Speech.” These recent movies show the town is still capable of greatness.
I really don’t need or want Hollywood to live up to those childhood sermons I heard. The industry needs to aspire to inspire. Then the movies will be good again. And I’ll be glad to go. I’ll be entranced in the dark. Like when I was a child.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
Click here to read Parnell’s movie reviews.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.