Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Moral Price of Movie Tickets

Looking for a good movie? A New York Times review reveals, in “The Dark Knight Rises,” the Batman auteur has taken “an existential drama and expanded that concept to encompass questions about power, the state and whether change is best effected from inside the system or outside it.”

The British Guardian/Observer, after recounting its sleazy history, declares the film has “intelligence, epic thrust and visual grandeur.”

Sorting through Aurora’s emotional carnage and looking for reasons and/or scapegoats, consider those deep thinkers who elevate hyperkinetic junk into art—-the nation’s “serious” movie critics who tell today’s generations that lowbrow comic books of half a century ago have morphed into graphic novels of intellectually high caliber and guilty-pleasure movies of back then are must-see cultural events.

We are a long way from the 1950s when a pop psychiatrist “attacked Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson's menage as a covert celebration of homosexuality. Ten years later, however, when Susan Sontag's seminal essay Notes on Camp promoted kitsch and the idea of ‘it's good because it's bad,’” Batman was on its way to today’s respectability.

In the post-9/11 world, dominated by nameless dread and a desperate need to be in-the-know, there is certainly a market for amped-up vicarious experiences of power and superiority by anxiety-ridden audiences. Yet at what moral price?

For the latest mass murderer, dressing up in costume to kill innocent people at a midnight showing must have seemed like a logical extension of the Batman values being projected on the big screen.

Hollywood has a long tradition of scoffing message movies, which attempt to elevate audiences’ thinking and end up boring them to death.

Shock for its own sake has always been the last refuge of the untalented in art and commerce. Assaulting the senses to grab attention is easy. Rewarding the mind is not. 

Will movie makers and critics who slavishly take their output on its own terms give some serious thought to what they are unthinkingly selling? The hype has higher costs than the price of tickets and popcorn.

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