Monday, January 19, 2009

"Stupid is as stupid does. . ."

George Carlin made this observation: "Just think how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of them are even stupider!" If you have ever worked in any industry where you come in contact with the general public, you know what he means.

I tried twice before to write this entry and found myself first on one side of the argument, then the other. I think I've finally cleared up my opinion, so here goes.

I was watching the Golden Globes the other night and saw (my childhood hero)Steven Spielberg accept the C.B. DeMille lifetime achievment award. In his speech, he mentioned how the studios were thinking about making films for a broader audience (meaning the stupid people of the world), but he warned them to keep making films for "individuals", and to remember "inspiration". By indivisuals he meant "filmakers, actors, and artists", basically the enlightened few.

The kinds of films he is talking about are the ones that always win all the awards, causing most people to throw popcorn at their TVs while exclaiming "I've never even heard of that one"! You know, the films where the protagonist is a mentally challenged Jew who finds himself working side by side with a sympathetic Nazi in an effort to free the black slaves in the swamps of Louisiana.

So here is where I usually either talk about how elitist artists are, comparing them to the Senate of Rome (versus the plebeians), or contrarily, how artists really are a bit more enlightened than the general public. Instead, all I want to say is this: Imagine you bake cookies. A lot of people may love your cookies, others may not prefer them. What would mean more to you, if your cookies received a compliment from the mailman, or from world renown cookie exper, Mr. OREO? Either compliment would feel nice, but really the one from the guy who knows cookies would feel better. That's the one that would make you want to brag a bit. That's how it is with the movie awards. The Oscar goes to the film that the film experts like the most and so it means a lot to the winners.

You probably don't agree with the winner, but even though you are surely less stupid than the average person, you are probably less enlightened than the average artist pretends to be. Which leads me to this question: Which movie is more successful? The one that wins no awards, but makes $400 million at the box office, or the one that wins tons of awards , but only makes $50 million?

This whole subjet could be debated forever. What makes art art? What makes good art? Who cares? Does art actually have any effect on society or is it just an indicator? Is it arrogant of artists to want to exclude those who don't understand it? Are artists actually more enlightened? Is it mean to point out that most of the people of the world are idiots even if it's true? Does humility require that you be oblivious to the stupidity around you?

The whole point of all this unfocused rambling is a message to (my childhood hero)Steven Spielberg. Mr. (my childhood hero)Steven Spielberg, you of all people know about both types of film making. You, who brought us some of the best films targeted at the masses, like Jaws, the Indiana Jonses, ET,Poltergeist, and Jurassic Park, should know that "inspiration" can come across in films with mass appeal. It is true, that the "inspiration" in your films was never recognized by your peers until you started making films for them instead of us, like Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, Amistad and Munich. Why not encourage your peers to try to make films for mass audiences that also have some "inspiration"? Why not make the kinds of movies that everyone will remember and re-watch 30 years later - you've done it before, so make them understand that the value of a film lies in it's longevity - not in it's depressing obscurity - you'd win a lot more awards for sure!


Andy Porter said... one of the stupid ones I have to say that I enjoy a movie that is entertaining as well as inspiring.

Kathy said...

Wow Ben, I could really feel your "plebian artist"s" soul splitting right down the middle trying to decide exactly how you feel. You are torn,totally schizophrenic, yet you forced your mind to a conclusion I TOTALLY AGREE WITH! In hard times art and entertainment have always thrived, because people need to be taken out of their pitiful lives and given adventure and love and joy, and they are willing to sacrifice all kinds of other stuff for the occasional pleasure of a movie. Now would be a good time for another all time favorite Spielberg movie. Or something fun and uplifting from Pixar!
Love ya

Abby Marie said...

I was kind of expecting Steven Speilberg to comment on your blog.