Tuesday, 14 September 2010


The one good thing about the house move and not being able to do much writing is that I've had time to think and to do a little random reading. And one of the articles I read was by Will Self carried in The Sunday Times of 28th August entitled 'Cut! That's all, folks'. Basically Will was bemoaning the death of Hollywood and that films are so poorly made these days that they're barely worth watching. Now Will Self is an interesting bloke and a quite provocative writer and as I regard myself something of a film fan I found much in the article that I agreed with.

As it happened his article came a day after the Rees family had made an effort to see the film adaptation of ‘The Girl Who Played with Fire’. We made this effort because we had voted ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ a hit (an average 8/10) so there was genuine enthusiasm to see the sequel, especially as the reviews had been pretty positive. We were disappointed and I think the reasons for this disappointment encapsulates Will Self’s proposition that film-makers are losing the plot...literally.

In my humble opinion as films are – generally – fantastical hence it is incumbent on the scriptwriter and the director to make them such that the viewer is able to suspend disbelief and to accept – for the length of the film at least - the fantastic as rational. But to do this the script - and the plot underpinning it - has to be both coherent and persuasive and sadly the script to this particular movie was neither. There were gaping plot holes and huge inconsistencies (I won't bore you with them) which the director tried to distract the audience from noticing by the inclusion of a wholly gratuitous sex scene and another stellar performance by Noomi Rapace (the girl's back must be nigh on broken by having to carry the film by herself).

I think 'The Girl Who Played with Fire' encapsulates all that is amiss in Hollywood. I suspect that Hollywood is undergoing a crisis of confidence akin to the impact of TV in the ‘50’s and much of this is due to them having missed the video games boat. As Will Smith observes in his article the sales of videogames have now surpassed movie earnings and I think this has scared movie makers: they thought they were in the movie business when they are actually in the entertainment business. This myopia is the reason why Hollywood missed the pornography gravyboat (too arrogent and too scared of middle-America to grab a huge business opportunity) and ignored videogames (too beneath them).

Now film makers are scrambling to ape videogames: hence the accent on action over plot, the febrile cutting and the paper-thin characters. The upshot is that films are poorer – the scripts are less rigorous and hence it becomes impossible to suspend disbelief. Rather than seeing how the film and the videogame experiences could be made synergistic and more satisfying film makers have simply surrendered. Films are now a second-class citizen.

This sorry situation has been aided and abetted by film critics who simply haven't the balls to be critical any more.

For evidence of this I had to look no further than the same edition of The Sunday Times where there was a review of 'The Girl...' by Cosmo Landesman. His comments included:
  • ‘Too often, the film has the look and feel of a quality British television drama series.’
  • ‘The pace is uneven’ 
  • ‘...there’s still too much narrative fat and exposition’ 
  • ‘...a gratuitous sex scene’
But despite this his final assessment stated: ‘...what we have here are well-crafted and enjoyable thrillers...’

??????? The words 'cop' and 'out' spring to mind.

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