During the Great Depression of the 1930s, despite the economic hardships ravaging the country, millions of Americans still went to the movies. They watched Fred Astaire dance gloriously with Ginger Rodgers, and for a few hours movie-goers forgot all about the darkness beyond the screen.
This resilience of American cinema proves what we all know: movies are a means of escape.
In the wake of the tragic events in New York and Washington, studios are rethinking their promotions and the types of films that they will be making. This week film executives are operating under the assumption that people pouring into cineplexes are trying to find a respite from the constant barrage of terribly sad news footage. Because of this, any and all movie posters, displays or trailers featuring even a split-second glimpse of the twin towers have been swiftly recalled.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s terrorist-themed action film, “Collateral Damage,” has been postponed indefinitely from its original Oct. 5th release date because of its terrorist theme. However, some studio executives feel that the film will eventually provide a positive outlet for the public.
Schwarzenegger’s publicist Jill Eisenstadt offered, “Arnold’s character witnesses the murder of his wife and children and then does what every American wants to do right now. At the right time, I could almost see audiences standing up and
This past weekend such films as Denzel Washington’s “Training Day,” Tim Allen’s “Big Trouble” and Ed Burn’s “Sidewalks of New York” should have premiered. But they have all been held back, as each of them hint at the tragedy and remind viewers of current events. Furthermore, all upcoming comedies that feature the towers are being pushed back and re-shot. This includes the Ben Stiller-as-supermodel farce “Zoolander,” because the lighthearted, carefree attitude of a comedy cannot work effectively if the reminders of real-world tragedy mar it.
In essence, when the towers fell on the morning of Sept. 11th, they ceased to exist forever. In the days that followed the attacks, the twin towers were cut from film strips like Dreamworks’ new feature, “Time Machine,” deleted from posters like “Sidewalks of New York,” edited out of dialogue and yanked from theater lobbies. Soon, the only way to see them captured on film again will be in the historical archives of videos and DVDs.
As our country braces for what seems like an unavoidable war, how will the entertainment industry respond? Right now the approach seems to be toward feel-good movies that offer a
comforting ignorance to current events. Rob Schneider’s “The Animal” and Julia Roberts’ “America’s Sweethearts” were re-released this past weekend, and Keanu Reeves’ baseball drama “Hardball” topped the box office.
Although the sentiment of holding off releases is respectful, this is precisely the time when America needs the safe escape of film the most. Re-releasing a slew of mediocre films to an already weak box-office lineup is exactly what we don’t need. I hardly doubt that Rob Schneider’s cringe-worthy “The Animal” is going to deliver anyone from grief.
Following the Depression era, when American entered into World War II, films started to take on super-patriotic war themes with some regularity. There are a number of pictures of this nature currently in the pipeline, including Mel Gibson in the Vietnam epic “We Were Soldiers.” You can expect these films to be promoted heavily in coming weeks.
In recent history, Hollywood has released many films designed to shock and affect the audience. Movies like “Saving Private Ryan” were designed to take you so close to the war that you felt as though you had stepped into history. But it was a grim and painful history that you had wandered into, and it sharply juxtaposed the calmness of everyday life. However, over the past few weeks we have all been living that grim and painful history.
The movies are a way to depart from thoughts of recent painful events for a while, and feel the security of a star-studded, beautifully shot, well-scripted world.