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Recession-Themed Films? Not At The Cinema

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L A Times Link

..Yet as far as Hollywood is concerned, the economic downturn is not multiplex material. More than two years into the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression, filmmakers have essentially ignored the stories of average Americans who have been downsized or lost their homes in the collapse of the housing bubble. Instead, when the crisis is addressed, the focus has been on the masters of the fiscal universe, those venal yet somehow glamorous folks who caused the crisis — like the subjects of Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" or the recent documentary "Inside Job."

Other films, mainly such nonfiction features as "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer" and Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story," have dealt with the conditions that created the meltdown but barely mention its effects on average people. And even though last year's Oscar-nominated "Up in the Air" featured George Clooney as a man who helps to downsize companies, the film was about him and his lifestyle, barely touching on the people whose jobs he eliminates...

..Hollywood's output during the Depression in the 1930s was significantly different. Although the era is known for glossy entertainments that aimed to keep filmgoers' minds off their economic troubles, it also produced a number of films directly addressing the Depression and its consequences.

Within four years of the country's economic collapse, for example, the studios had released such pictures as "I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang," with its imagery of out out-of-work veterans forced to steal for a living; "Wild Boys of the Road," in which a group of teens become hobos; "American Madness," an early Frank Capra movie featuring a run on a bank; and "Gold Diggers of 1933" and its unforgettable "Remember My Forgotten Man" number, which includes a scene of former American doughboys standing in a breadline.

"This was the period when there was no Social Security, no unemployment insurance, and when you don't have them, you're aware of what might happen to you," says Philip Hanson, author of "This Side of Despair: How the Movies and American Life Intersected During the Great Depression." "The movies were relatively new" at that time, Hanson adds, "and if you're selling a product and the people you are selling to are rabid to find out what's happening to them, you can sell movies drenched in working-class suffering, because the people who will show up for your film are in these films."

"Hollywood always tries to anticipate what people want to see," adds Craig Forgrave, author of "Movies We Love in Times of Depression." "Back in the '30s, they were trying to be authentic to what they saw in society. I don't think today's Hollywood thinks you can take real people and talk about what their struggles are and attract people to the theaters."

There are several reasons for this disconnect between the 1930s and today. Possibly the most important is that unlike the 1930s, today there are many more forms of entertainment...

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The film making industry is just like any other modern industry, it consists of a handful of powerful corporations geared to maximising profits whilst maintaining the status quo. Hollywood doesn't produce movies that reflect reality, rather they are expensive propoganda tools to explain and brainwash the population into believing that the way things are, are they way they should stay. They serve the current Plutocracy.

You could try and make a movie that reflects the real world, but you would be unlikely to get any support from finance, the government, or the film distributors.

A few "left leaning" movies such as Avatar seem to be against the status quo, but they are very mild in any criticism, and that criticism is usually so subtle that most people simply don't pick up on it. The message was very much that the American military will eventually do the "right thing" for the benefit of people everywhere, despite "rogue" elements.

I don't think Mike Leigh films will ever get anything other than a limited release in cinemas.

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not sure this is true, regressionary periods are generally proliferated by fantasy films, escapism, from my perspective the decline in real terms really started after the tech boom ended, two of the most successful films since then have been H potter and Lord of the Rings (in the 80s and 90s fantasy films really did dive financially). I think that Sex in the City abomination will in retrospect cinematically highlight a peak in filmmaking and societal decadence

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Yet as far as Hollywood is concerned, the economic downturn is not multiplex material.

Get Judd Apatow to write and direct, have Seth Rogen and Megan Fox as the leads, stick in a fart joke or two and voilà! The superbad anchorman who knocked up a 40 year old virgin gets fired from the Sarah Marshall show.

With titties!

Now that's multiplex material.

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Feature films can be anything from 2-10 years from concept/treatment/first draft script to screen. The 'recession' films will come eventually, but not for a while.

TV is much faster. They should be commissioning scripts on these issues.

Edited by juvenal
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Reality is always way more interesting and absurd than fantasy, although sometimes using such tools is the only way to get a message across.

Although I do like Bertolt Brecht's quote, "Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it."

What is coming down the line is going to be much more exciting and traumatic than anything a film maker can imagine. Modern film making will always try to reduce the world to simple issue of black and white, although the world is very much grey in colour.

Personally I believe "The Godfather" to be the best allegory ever produced reference the economic system we refer to as capitalism. It's also a damn fine movie and simply would not be made now.

As for Star Wars, whilst most Americans would identify with the rebels, in reality they work for the Empire.

Modern films are mostly rubbish, much like modern houses, and modern food, not because people want such things, but simply because that is all that is on offer, like the Soviet Empire your choices are limited to what our centrally planned economy produces.

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...people are after fantasy when they go to the movies ...something which makes them happy...this is the way during recessions ....it's only in the 'good' times books / films like the Grapes of Wrath become iconic ....not when you are living it...... :rolleyes:

Hollywood's The Grapes of Wrath had a cleaned-up, upbeat and sanitized ending which the novel definitely did not. Steinbeck's intention was to show the workers ultimately forced into a kind of cannibalism (breastfeeding the starving old man) to survive in a terrible situation. Hollywood wouldn't touch this.

So even in the good times 'tough tales' got the sugar treatment.

Edited by juvenal
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