Call it the rant of a one-time futurist-turned-budding Luddite.
With disgruntled and overcharged theater audiences gradually disappearing, piracy rampant and the new technologies promising a democratized movie business that puts the consumer in control, it's easy for old fogies to engage in hand-wringing over the future of the traditional motion picture ? i.e., the New Dodo.
But some think the situation couldn't be finer. Just listen to the web-gushing of Fast Company journalist Alan Deutschman, on Yahoo Business: "A small cadre of corporate chiefs could control the cinemas, the airwaves and the shelf space in the DVD aisles at Blockbuster and Wal-Mart, but no one can control the Internet. Transmitting video files to consumers over digital broadband connections ? whether via cable, phone, satellite or wireless Wi-Max ? changes the whole equation."
Sure it does. And very conveniently in some respects. But to what end? To make a nation of couch potatoes ever more prisoners of our media-room sofas? To have the dubious pleasure of watching a movie on one's computer or videophone?
It doesn't matter if your home entertainment center is state-of-the-art, with the biggest flat-screen TV on the market. Nice, but it's just not the same as being in a theater. Do you really prefer to see the sweeping vistas of movies such as "Brokeback Mountain," "The Constant Gardener," "March of the Penguins" or "Pride and Prejudice" on a TV screen (or smaller)?
Admittedly, it is no longer a case of "going to the movies" (which suggests a multisensual experience in an opulent emporium with a knowledgeable staff), as much as it is a matter of "going to see a movie," a very different thing. There are hassles involved in standing in line (once for tickets, once for snacks), dealing with loutish behavior and deafening sound systems, not to mention the occasional parking headaches.
Granted, at home, you can stop the movie to get something to eat or go to the restroom. But that's a double-edged sword. Seeing a movie straight through has its virtues, as does enjoying it without the distractions of ringing phones, doorbells, family tumult or nagging guilt over all that paperwork that needs attending in the next room.
It's great to have choices. But not every technical innovation is an advance. Often, it's just another product someone is trying to sell you. Be careful what you wish for. In the end, you may get less than you think.
Now on the global film festival circuit, having been launched at the International Festival for Audiovisual Programs, in Biarritz, France, "The Waiting" is a documentary that should be of considerable interest to area dance aficionados.
The brainchild of Charleston-based film production company South17 Entertainment, established by Matthew H. Morris, this inaugural film was co-produced by Morris and Tornasol Films of Madrid and shot in the spring, summer and fall of 2003.
"The Waiting" focuses on the Atlantic Southeast Ballet and Orchestra company, a short-lived North Charleston troupe of dancers that folded its tent after its first (and only) performance. The story is told through the eyes of five of the 100 dancers who altered their lives to share a dream that quickly became a nightmare when the founders of the troupe simply vanished.
"The Waiting" was an official selection in the Performing Arts Documentary Category at Biarritz, and Morris says the film was well received.
Each time we think it's the last roundup for 63-year-old Harrison Ford as an action-movie star, he's back battering the bad guys, with energy to spare. Next up for the all-time, box-office champ (grosses of more than $3 billion) is an adaptation of James L. Swanson's "Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer" (Morrow, Feb. 7).
An account of the days following the assassination at Ford's Theater, "Manhunt" follows the Union cavalry and detectives as they uncover the mystery behind John Wilkes Booth's motivation and the plots designed to overturn the outcome of the war. Authentic letters, testimonials, eyewitness accounts, obscure trial transcripts and entries from Booth's own date book are said to lend the book considerable immediacy, not unlike Jack Finney's wonderful "Time and Again."
Swanson introduces the alleged conspirators and details their plans to assassinate not only the president, but his vice president and secretary of state, as well.
Meanwhile, Ford's in high gear again for the Feb. 10 opening of "Firewall," yet another thriller. This old dog isn't interested in new tricks, not with $20-$25 million paydays a lock for what he does best.
Bits and pieces
We're fans of the director, but in our view "Breakfast on Pluto," Neil Jordan's film about a transvestite waif growing up in 1960s and '70s Ireland (based on a novel by Patrick McCabe) is just too choppy and pointless to be involving, despite a good performance from Cillian Murphy (the villain of "Batman Begins" and "Red Eye"). ... Robert Altman, who directed "MASH," "Nashville," "The Player" and other films, will receive an honorary Oscar at the Academy Awards ceremony March 5. Altman, 80, has been nominated for an Oscar five times but has never won.
In case you didn't know, "Desperate Housewives" and Best Actress Oscar nominee Felicity Huffman ("TransAmerica"), is married to leading character actor William H. Macy ("Fargo," "Seabiscuit," et al.). The couple has two daughters. ... The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival celebrates its third year of showcasing the best in documentary film from around the world. It will be held in Missoula, Mont., on Feb. 16-22, presenting 96 films and videos from 28 countries, including 14 world premieres and 10 U.S. and North American premieres.
"Superman Returns" director BRYAN SINGER, on new Man of Steel Brandon Routh: "I never intended to cast a well-known actor. A known actor comes with baggage, and Superman as a character is much larger than any actor. I wanted him to come just with the baggage of the superhero. That's enough history to contend with."
Windy publicist JOSH BARAN, on the upcoming "Da Vinci Code" movie: "You want to make waves and allow the waves. You don't run away from this storm. This is a movie where worlds collide, where the secular bumps into the spiritual, where people are talking about dogma and blasphemy and heresy. It's in that collision that huge audiences are born."