Today, this article appeared on my timeline: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-ca-film-novelty-20120715,0,4176050.story
The crux of the article was that the younger generation no longer regard movies as art, but rather as disposable fashion items. They never watch the old movies anymore. Black and white is anathema to them. Any movie older than about five years has no place in their lives.
I have two friends that work in Hollywood on my timeline and they both reacted in similar ways. I agree with them. It is rather sad. The conclusion one of my friends reached was that with this attitude toward cinematic art and with stealing music from the Internet, rather than paying for it, the younger generation has very little respect for art and artists.
The observation might be true and it might, indeed, be lamentable, but I can’t help feeling that it is unsurprising. For the longest time (in fact, for the entire lifetimes of many of the younger people), a lot of movies and music have been characterised by sheer cynicism. Producers have demonstrated unabashed contempt for their audience, producing endless series of thoughtlessly-made remakes and sequels with the flimsiest of story lines. There are veritable production lines manufacturing boy bands that cannot even play their instruments. Many of the works, patently, transparently, nakedly, were designed solely to part young people from their money. They’ve served up tripe, without blinking an eyelid. They dumbed it down to rake more money into their amassed pile.
Everybody knows a story about a ripped off rock star. The exploited actor is a cliché. Promotion is everything and talent appears to count for nothing. Perhaps the movie business and the record industry have both been churning out forgettable, unworthy, disposable garbage for too long, secure in their near monopoly positions and expecting their paying customers to suck up whatever bilge they serve up. Is it so surprising that a rebellion against this kind of corporate nonsense might have emerged?
I remember vast archives of priceless, irreplaceable silent films being sold for the minuscule value of the silver recoverable chemically from the nitrates on the film stock. Two thirds of the films ever made in Hollywood no longer exist. Not a single print. If the industry, itself, regards its product as ephemeral, temporary, worthless and not as real art, is it any wonder that consumers do too? When bands are ill treated on the grounds that another will be along any second, or actors “disappear” from our screens like South American dissidents living under a totalitarian dictatorship, why should the audience regard their performances as high art? What example does the industry set, about the value of its products and artists?
This article also appeared in my timeline: http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2012/07/for-the-first-time-records-of-the-past-are-outselling-new-ones.html
The gist of this article was that old records are outselling new releases for the first time ever. This, of course, is the diametric opposite of the situation with film. Here, the old records are regarded as the high art. Or are they? The effect can also be explained by the fact that the older records, while perhaps made more carefully, less cynically and with more authenticity, making them arguably higher quality works of art, are nevertheless also much cheaper than new releases. You get more music for your money on a greatest hits re-release than with a brand new record from an emerging artist. Which is the surer bet, for a music consumer? Maybe this preference for old records, too, is just another artefact of the commoditisation and devaluation of music as an art form.
Everybody knows that in the past several decades, record companies have become more sales orientated than music orientated. They talk about shipping “units” of “product”, not of producing unique, superb quality art. The music and movie businesses, it is universally acknowledged, are run more by accountants than passionate devotees of the art.
What’s an artist to do? In my view, the answer is obvious: make art worthy of the name “art”. Musicians and film makers should respond by upping their game and producing works of undeniable quality, irrespective of what the accountants and salesmen think they should do. It’s time for these artists to reconnect with their souls. They need to make records that you can’t say are not good, even if they don’t appeal to your taste or aesthetic. They need to make movies with a story to tell, that moves and engages their audience. They need to add the intelligence and wit back into the mix, ignoring the lowest common denominator, opting out of the race to the bottom and instead set their sights on edification, shooting for the stars.
This, ultimately, might be a pyrrhic victory. It might already be too late to sway the younger audience members. They might have formed and frozen their contempt for these art forms, in their minds, for good. On the other hand, if musicians and film makers respond by producing the very best work they can, heedless of the risks and the “safe” formulas for success, at least they will have done their bit, with integrity, to make their art valuable once again.
When the cinemas are full of films like “Ice Age 4”, you know that the industry is greedily cashing in by producing something of limited risk and diversity. When reality TV foists yet another instant, ready-made, off-the-peg, committee-styled, session-musician-supported, one-hit-wonder onto the charts, is it any wonder people feel an aversion to parting with good money for it, especially in times of austerity?
When people regard your output as a mere replaceable, homogenous commodity and no longer as worthy art, the artists and the industry need to look to themselves to see what messages they have been giving about their own artists and art, all along. And then they need to hunker down, and produce the greatest art anybody has ever seen or heard. It’s the only way.