It’s already happening. Long before the pundits weigh in, the voters cast their ballots, and the red carpets are unfurled for Golden Globe/ SAG/ PGA/ DGA/Oscar honors, the race to name the awards season favorites has begun. Indeed, with more than three month left before every potential candidate has had its chance to shine (or shame itself), and without many mainstream journalists having their chance to cast a critical nod, the festival circuit has crowned its proposed winners, setting the conversation for the upcoming trophy race before a true consensus can be achieved. Granted, at the end of the day, it is members of various professional organizations who determine the top prizes, but when you’ve got the kind of free publicity and hype that the press keeps pumping out every day, it seems easier to go with the flow than buck the prominent PR trends.
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In the last few weeks, I’ve come across a disconcerting situation. It’s one that plagues the rest of the movie-going public on a frequent basis but is usually scarce in the supposedly sacred “press screening” setting. Ever since Pacific Rim, where a “fellow critic” (and I use both terms very, very loosely) decided to keep time on his reporter’s pad with every rock song Guillermo Del Toro added to the epic’s soundtrack, I have noticed a pattern: A pattern of disrespect; A pattern of inconsiderate behavior; A pattern of reacting both entitled and yet completely clueless within the situation you find yourself. Granted, audiences all across this great land of ours have been prime examples of the great unwashed, at least when it comes to public etiquette. Yes, it’s a boring old argument, but since I am privy to more elite cinematic experience, I find it hard to believe it is happening here as well.
Domestically, it’s doing better than The Lone Ranger. It’s topped R.I.P.D. and is besting Pacific Rim. It’s done better than Turbo, White House Down, The Internship, and After Earth here at home. While studios have often argued that horror films have little traction in the Summer (“people want to have fun, not be frightened”) James Wan’s old fashioned fright fest, the modern horror classic The Conjuring, has raked in nearly $90 million at the box office, proving once again that screenwriter William Goldman’s prophetic statement about Hollywood remains as true today as it was when he coined it back in 1983—“Nobody knows anything.”
Was anyone really clamoring to revisit this knotty, nostalgia laden hero? Is the demographic who remembers the character from radio, or his lengthy run on ‘50s TV really anxious to see his masked persona and his faithful Indian companion ride high in the saddle again? Is the clarion call of “Hi Ho Silver!” still viable in 2013? After all, an attempted early ‘80s reboot failed miserably (perhaps best known for casting unknown model Klinton Spilsbury as the titular champion, only to have his dialogue eventually overdubbed by James Keach) and a 2003 TV movie didn’t deliver, ratings wise (thus the planned spin-off series was cancelled). In fact, the Western genre still walks on the wobbliest of cinematic legs, no longer enjoying the commercial cultural impact of the ‘30s through ‘60s.
There are certain taboo subjects that polite social society hates to address. Politics is one, especially in light of our modern desire to divide completely along ideological and electoral lines. Enter a party spouting the latest liberal nonsense or equally offensive Tea Party talking points and you’re bound to face a fierce rebuff. Religion is another hesitant topic, though the reasons are slightly less unilateral. Everyone assumes a belief in God (or a one way trip ‘down below’ for those that don’t), it’s just how they choose to believe, and what they do in said Higher Power’s name, that causes commotion. For some, all Muslims are violent fundamentalists. For others, Christians have just as many insane skeletons in their closed confessionals.
// Notes from the Road
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