Brian Gu reanimates the corpses of Siskel & Ebert for one final piece
Modern film, music, gaming culture – it’s just not all that fun anymore.
Yes, this is in essence a rant, and I make no apologies for that. But you all know that we here in the arts section are like senior citizens on an over-60s cruise – packed full of nostalgia, and waiting for coronavirus to hit us.
While Craccum should be notedfor hosting a cultured mix of theatre, performing arts and indie film/music reviews, the truth is that out there in the wild entertainment world, most shit scrapes the bottom of the barrel. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking in terms of quality here – I’m talking in terms of imagination.
The entertainment industry has been plagued by a lack of imagination. I’m sorry for not wanting a formulaic Marvel movie pushed in my face every four months without a break. I’m sorry for thinking the scaffolding around bFM has more personality than No. 6 Collaborations Project. I’m most definitely not sorry though for picking up my copy of the FF7 remake, because that game deserves my pocket ten times over.
Jumping intellectual hurdles and pushing creative boundaries just isn’t what the industry is about anymore, because that’s not where the money lies. It’s just not entertainment value anymore. All that is lost in the face of name value, nostalgia and cultural significance. No matter how much a director chooses to bring their skill to the table, it’s out of their hands when a moviegoer chooses Marvel over a Marriage Story, or Fast and Furious 68 or rather.
Perhaps it’s just me growing old, and having my sense of enjoyment warped by the harsh reality of adult life. However, I can at least find some solace in knowing that I’m hardly the only one holding these opinions. In an interview with Associated Press four years ago, screen legend Martin Scorsese put it frankly that “cinema is gone. The cinema I grew up with, and that I’m making. It’s gone.”
Another way to craft the narrative is that the entertainment industry is approaching its saturation. Very rarely do we encounter a production that is conceptually ‘new’ or ‘groundbreaking’ – it’s all been done before. The art of sitcom was perfected by The Office, and then Parks and Rec long before B99 came onto the scene. FIFA drains every last inch of the Playstation udder by releasing a new edition of the same game every goddamn year.
Yet these remain draws, because people choose to buy into what are functioning formulas choosing to transgress the execution of their art, and directly satisfy audience demands. So let me tie up this argument by saying that the entertainment industry can only drain the cash cow of nostalgia for so long before fans start wanting fresh ideas. We need to build from scratch the entertainment culture of today to preserve for the future.
But the big shocker of this article is that I’m arguing for what Hollywood already recognizes, and is trying to correct. But it’s not to the credit of those tycoons behind the screen. No, it’s those select few privileged in front.
Entertainment critics are the ones who spearhead the efforts of cultural preservation for their industry. I mean, just thinking about it over the last year, the few good things I’ve encountered are because they had publicized critical acclaim. I wouldn’t have seen Parasite if it weren’t for the movie’s popularity at the Oscars. I wouldn’t have heard Social Cues if it weren’t nominated for Best Album at the Grammys. I wouldn’t have touched The Last of Us if it weren’t for the Game of the Year banner on its cover.
Word of mouth only travels so far nowadays in a saturated market, so we need to have a longstanding institution of critics to protect the integrity of the arts. When a director crafts a masterpiece like Parasite, no matter how perfect it may be, there is no trickling through to the international market without the platform of film festivals, and the passion of critics.
Yet every so often, Hollywood chooses to take up the position of victim to harsh criticism, and undermine the work that critics produce. It’s a problem covered in an article from The Guardian  – ‘Who needs film critics? Actually, we all do.’ “The success of superhero blockbusters, which hauls in viewers by carefully catering to audience demands, may have obviated some need for the reviewer and led to a distrust of the critical class,” writes critic Caspar Salmon.
“We need a full understanding of criticism,” Salmon admits. “One that grants more credit than a tweet or a user review. Film critics are film lovers who have chosen this path because we believe in cinema as an art form.” It’s because of a need to use critical opinion like a shopping list, or search for a definite good or bad label, that critical opinion is so often disregarded or undermined. “The best film criticism is an art that can help to unfold beauty,” as Salmon succinctly puts it.
And because of that, artists should care about what their critics think. They should strive for that Oscar-winning performance, Grammy-winning album or award-winning game. Because what happens otherwise is that stars will go where the money is – which from the frenzied world of football, we know, is China. Imagine Matt Damon flying over to pick up another ponytail Great Wall movie. Horrifying.
It’s why we should celebrate the Oscars, the Grammys and maybe the Game Awards (it was always a stretch bundling it in with the former two). Hell, it’s why we should celebrate the reviews in the Arts section of Craccum. Together, the world of entertainment critics make a collective effort to stop Matt Damon’s hair from ever needing to be tied up again.
So unlike European backpackers after a single day of isolation, we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to keep telling you what’s hot – and what’s not – and feel good about ourselves when we score Black Widow a 6.
We’ll take our thank you off the air.