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Bryan: Movies

Press reports these days document a steady decline in the movie going public as well as the industry’s proposed remedies – all of which confirm my suspicions that it doesn’t have a clue.

Here are some other solutions movie-makers might consider.

The first is marginal; but it does reveal something important about the mentality of today’s cinema executives.

Cut out the advertisements before the show starts. My wife and I go to the movies to escape – to enjoy a temporary sanctuary from capitalism. We’re happily waiting for the previews to begin. We like them. The tickets cost enough; to say nothing about the triple digit mark up on the soda and popcorn. Yet at one recent show at a local theater we had to sit through eleven commercials first. Ads, by the way, that we’ve seen many times before, in the very same theater since we often go to the movies. We can get the same incessant repetition at home on the television. Enough already!

Second, knock off the mix of cartoon-like fakery (no matter how advanced) and idiotic story lines. And please for the love of god – no more car chases and other forms of techno trash. Let the movie industry grow up and cut the garbage – whether it be gratuitous sex or mindless violence.

It takes a bit more thought and effort but why not replace all this with good acting?

Give us Alan Ladd facing down Jack Palance in Shane, Paul Newman as Cool Hand Luke or Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara. Give us Omar Sharif watching Julie Christie’s sleigh disappear over the snow covered horizon of the Russian steppes in Doctor Zhivago. Give us Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. Give us Morgan Freeman or Robert Duvall in anything. Give us Meryl Streep with any man anywhere.

The third solution is even more fundamental.

Tell us a good story. Hollywood can do it. It’s done it before.

Like sports? Make another Raging Bull, The Natural, Field of Dreams or Hoosiers.

Like romance? What about An Affair to Remember, The Bridges of Madison County or The English Patient?

As for me I like the same old story.

One about love and glory. One cast against an imperfect world as time goes by.

A story about good and evil in a crazy world; a story about the remarkable capacity of people to act selflessly. And let this story end with just enough hope to make our hearts sigh – something like “a beautiful friendship.”

Then let someone open a new kind of movie theater in every town and city in America. Let them all be named Rick’s – as in Rick’s of Hanover or Rick’s of Burlington. It will make the movie industry a lot of money and make Americans happy.

Because, after all: sooner or later, everybody comes to Rick’s.

And that’s where, sooner or later, somebody says, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Frank Bryan is a writer and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Vermont.
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