Americans love movies. From Charlie Chaplin to XXX the film industry has evolved into a half trillion dollar business and still growing. The recent Lord of the Rings trilogy has garnered nearly $3 Billion worldwide! We follow the exploits of actors and their relationships in print. We become fans and collect the video portrayals of our favorite actors and actresses in any variety of roles.
Several daily shows are dedicated to ‘inside Hollywood’. Once regarded as pariahs, actors have now become role models for generations of fans. They start trends and introduce fashions. They sell us everything and anything in the marketplace. They are the voices of cartoon creatures and some even aspire to political office where they encounter real power.
What is it about movies? Why are moviemakers always able to ‘get us’? Why do the same scenarios of love lost and love found continue to move us? Why are we suckers for scenes of reconciliation and retribution? They thrill us, they please us, and they terrorize; they humor us with the same plots over and over again! Are we so emotionally starved?
Years ago (and of course way before mass media) the story was one method of conveying such collective experience as was accumulated. There was no standard method of notation and every culture contrived its' own. Listeners were able to relive the tale of an ancestor and hopefully to learn from ‘their’ experience. It was of course entertaining but it also had the true task of delivering essential information.
The village storyteller was in many ways a teacher and renowned for the wisdom they had assimilated by understanding the past. They were healers and counselors and / or judges. Perhaps they were the 'history majors' of that day. Remembering history keeps the stories alive for the next generation. No doubt these tails delivered a goodly amount of misinformation as well! As you are aware stories grow in the telling hence the mythology of Greece and Rome.
Stories had to keep pace with the growing sophistication of listeners. With the advent of media tools, the story has taken on a great dimension. Drama has evolved into an educated pursuit. Orchestral music and song have combined with special effects to make the impossible seem acceptable. Indeed if you were to ask any author today they would tell you that the two most engaging responsibilities of a writer is to make the normal and average seem exotic and new, while the fantastic and the implausible must become common place and everyday!
The biggest difference these days is that so many stories are truly pointless. Seldom do contemporary stories convey the same quality of information as past generations. Many films are designed solely as vehicles to show off a personable star presence. Filmmakers have abandoned or even ‘run out’ of worthy literature and have begun to rely upon contrived plots often revolving around a nugget of special effect technology.
Even Steven Spielberg has remarked that 'filmmakers would do well to rekindle their romance with the written word'. Nearly all of the great literary works have been committed to film (perhaps more than once) and we already know that a best seller is likely to become a movie as well. Our love of stories is truly insatiable!
Americans love movies! In Japan it has been said that America is only good for music and movies. Films can often fashion our deepest fears and our greatest hopes into some kind of ethereal reality. They provide us with options both subtle and gross. So powerful in fact is this medium that the music video has elevated truly terrible music into pop stardom. Go figure!
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