Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather (based on a book by the same name) climaxes with protagonist Michael Corleone orchestrating the murder of all his enemies thereafter consolidating his power as the new “Godfather” of New York’s criminal underworld.
Oh, spoiler alert. If you take offence at the above paragraph, the film was released in 1972. More importantly, why haven’t you watched Coppola’s gangster masterpiece yet? Then again, anyone who has watched The Godfather already knows that it’s unspoilable. In fact, many are of the opinion that their enjoyment of the film heightens with each repeat viewing. There are few films in today’s typical blockbuster crop which can inspire the same emotion.
Do you recall repeat watching Avengers’ series? For that matter, any of the superhero films with familiar tropes, similar twists and turns, predictable endings. Did you buy a second ticket to watch The Incredible Hulk in a cinema hall? It makes sense for a child who gets easily distracted and likes bright colours to enjoy films on repetition.
Perhaps a decently fair way (albeit subjective) of categorizing great films is that they provide value and enjoyment with each repeat viewing. They don’t diminish into a hazy memory of lots of action, witticisms and noise.
But then an argument could be made that they are conceived, produced and made with the notion of popular entertainment as junk food for the soul. One common feature in all such films is treating the audience as dimwitted and naïve leading to long expositions, explanations, limited scope in terms of themes explored, a neat tying up of narratives. It’s quite bizarre in itself, the vast chasm between cinema that is renowned for difficult, yet rewarding storytelling and cinema as a product made with conventional formulae or at least by so much market data as to be practically machine-spawned- it might as well be directed by algorithms that predict your behaviour. A film whose value is so wholly dependent on a bunch of twists that an entire culture of #spoileralert has propped up save the experience for the uninitiated should make us question our media diet.
If you deep dive into the black hole of Youtube with the help of autoplay next video, particular videos use copyright-unrestricted lullabies and computer graphics designed to hold the attention of infants. “Johnny Johnny Yes Papa,” for example, now has countless variations online, some of which have received over a billion hits, some of which appear to be parodies, and some of which appear to have been produced without any human input, properly speaking, at all. Any Spiderman movie looks essentially the same, designed with splashes of colour, actions, and noise. There is an inherent vacuity in the centre of these films marked by the consistent lack of any philosophical, emotional depth that is easily recognizable once you come out of the film and talk about it retrospectively; there isn’t any singular moment with hefty emotional impact, just a series of fast sequences consisting of adrenaline rushing moments. That adults are rushing in hoards which sustains the popularity of such cultural production speaks to the degradation of taste and sensibility.
This leads to an interesting question which must be posed for the sanity of those artists daring to make something inventive and original: Does a film like Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey contribute anything substantial to our culture? Or is that too serious a question to be tackled by the playfulness of such a film? We have to ask ourselves how does a piece of work contribute to our expanding of our horizons since everything we consume influences our psyche. There is often an argument that supposes that people watch television, or Netflix at the end of the day to just chill and get their mind off work so they watch easy light stuff. Now contemplate the enormity of that sentence. It assumes that fun, entertaining media cannot be intelligent and smart. This false dichotomy of that media is either fun or smart can be quickly tested by the plethora of incredible films. Secondly, to assume that audience is dumb, checked out, numb is not only condescending but also patronizing.
All kinds of contents find its audience eventually but the mainstream cultural swathe is in urgent need of transformation in terms of storytelling. After all, we are as good as the media we consume. And certainly, we deserve better content.
19. I like books, punk rock, philosophy and panicking over the crushing weight of existence. Student of Journalism, teller of stories.