November 28, 2005

Passage of the Day: Mark Steyn on Hollywood’s Financial Funk

As usual, he nails it:

Say what you like about those Hollywood writers of the ’30s and ’40s, but they were serious lefties. Their successors are mostly poseurs loudly trumpeting their courageous ”dissent” while paralyzed into inanity. This year’s Sean Penn thriller, ”The Interpreter,” was originally about Muslim terrorists blowing up a bus in New York. So, naturally, Hollywood called rewrite. And instead the bus got blown up by African terrorists from the little-known republic of Matobo. ”We didn’t want to encumber the film in politics in any way,” said Kevin Misher, the producer.

But being so perversely ”non-political” is itself a political act. If there were a dozen movies in which Tom Cruise kicked al-Qaida butt across the Hindu Kush, it would be reasonable to say, ”Hey, we’d rather deal with Matoban terrorism for a change.” But, when every movie goes out of its way to avoid being ”encumbered,” it starts to look like a pathology. And by the time Hollywood released this summer’s ”Stealth,” some studio exec must have panicked that, what with all this Bono/Live8 debt-relief business, it might look a bit Afrophobic to have any more Matoban terrorists. So ”Stealth” was a high-tech action thriller about USAF pilots zapping about the skies in which the bad guy is the plane.

That’s right: An unmanned computer-flown plane goes rogue and starts attacking things. The money shot is — stop me if this rings a vague bell — a big downtown skyscraper with a jet heading toward it. Only there are no terrorists aboard the jet. The jet itself is the terrorist.

This is the pitiful state Hollywood’s been reduced to. Safer not to have any bad guys. Let’s make the plane the bad guy. No wonder it’s 20th century Britlit — ”Harry Potter,” ”Lord of the Rings,” ”Narnia” — keeping those Monday morning numbers up. It’s Hollywood’s yarn-spinning that’s really out of focus, and in the end even home entertainment revenue won’t save a storytelling business that no longer knows how to tell any.

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