Cinemacon 2017 kicked off last night with footage of some noteworthy directors (including 13th helmer Ava Duvernay, Logan‘s James Mangold and Wonder Woman‘s Patti Jenkins) talking about how transporting the cinematic experience can be when the right film is showing. (When Jenkins said that the ending of Moulin Rouge always melts her down, I said to myself “Really? I’d forgotten that but okay, whatever.”)
Cinemacon director Mitch Neuhauser then took the stage and reiterated the same — i.e., the excitement, wonder and spiritual current of seeing a brilliant, touching film with an engaged audience is why we all love the theatrical experience. Me too — all my life.
But it’s all about movies and not the venue, and the films that Neuhauser, Mangold, Duvernay and Jenkins spoke of were real-deal, deep-current, finely crafted soul films. We’ve all been to certain plays on Broadway that truly connect and lift people out of their seats, and every year a few movies do this also. All hail the theatrical experience, but with the exception of the Blade Runner reel, which really got me going, last night’s Sony presentation was mostly composed of “product” — movies for families, teens and garden-variety primitives. CG oompah, razzle-dazzle, Barnum & Bailey, etc.
Which made it all the more clear that the spiritual current and real-life intrigue — the finely sculpted material that channels the way life actually feels and behaves along with those undercurrents that really hit home — is the kind of thing that SONY product isn’t even thinking about trying to capture, with the possible exception of Blade Runner 2049.
Generally speaking it’s been quite clear for 25 years if not longer that not just Sony/Columbia but all the biggies — all of the five families — aren’t into weaving spells as much as bringing out the elephants and the lion tamers. They’re in the business that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas unleashed in the mid ’70s, the amusement-park business, the huge worldwide box-office business, the fat paycheck business. From which the spirit of true creative ferment and discovery has largely escaped, or is certainly free to abandon when the occasion warrants.
The real creative juice has migrated over to Netflix, Amazon, cable, streaming. I understand that revenues from CG jizz-whizz movies made by the five families keep us all solvent, but watching them is often a chore if not a drag.
“Netflix, my ass,” Rothman said last night, but Netflix and Amazon and the indie-minded, smaller-budgeted community are at least trying to spin real gold — the inwardly reflecting, human experience stuff that really gets us where you live, that at least tries to capture what its really like out there. Remember Zero Dark Thirty? That was a movie, and a Sony one at that. Those were the days.