Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Heath Holland On...The Changing Face of Film Fandom

The Epic Conclusion to the Two-Part "Changing Face Of" Series!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column on The Changing Face of Hollywood. I went into detail and much handwringing angst about the fact that the people that I had grown up watching in movies had passed the torch to the next, younger generation of actors. I was struggling to come to terms with the fact that Hollywood had gone directly against Billy Joel’s advice to don’t go changing and had done JUST THAT. I’ve felt disenfranchised, sad, and more than a little cynical about the change, seeing some of my favorite actors (Kurt Russell, Michael Keaton) largely disappear and actors I just don’t care that much about (Kristen Stewart, Insert_Name_Here Hemsworth) rise up and take the box office by storm. STORM, I say!

But I’ve spent a lot of time thinking since that column two weeks ago. I searched within. I took many mushrooms. I was led on a peyote-fueled spirit journey by Lou Diamond Phillips (he made me call him Chavez). It led me to the conclusion that…yes…Hollywood has certainly changed, but I’ve changed, too. I am not the same filmgoer that I was even five years ago. I’ve got a family, a full time job that’s changed my schedule and my disposable income (and therefore my viewing habits), and responsibility that seems to grow all the time. It gets harder and harder to get to the theater. What used to be a twice or thrice weekly event is now semi-annual, like a Sears White Sale.

If Hollywood has changed, I’ve changed just as much, if not MORE. It’s not fair of me to blame the distance I feel from modern Hollywood solely on the current state of motion pictures. It does not help that we’re in a glut of comic book films and movies based on board games and any TV show that was ever successful, but there’s always been less-than-stellar movies at the cinema, and there have always been good alternatives to those blockbusters playing in the same theater, just down the hall, in the back, on the smaller screen.

The problem is ME. The problem is that I’m getting older and I’m not sure how to deal with aging and having evolving tastes and, dare I say it, OUTGROWING certain things that used to feel so important. There have been several events and discussions that have led to this follow-up column. Patrick and Adam talking about Oz The Great and Powerful a few weeks ago (essentially confirming a few of my points) got the wheels turning in my head. Patrick spoke about feeling older than many of the stars he was seeing. The next week brought us Patrick and Doug talking about Run Lola Runlooking back on a movie that came out thirteen years ago in a time that many of us recall fondly.

I gather from the comments and from what I see and hear among the F This Movie! community that we’re all roughly in the same age bracket. We’re mostly in our thirties and we all seem to come from the same movie/pop culture geek background. We came into our own as movie fans in the '90s, when everything was changing. We were in the shadow of Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith and the rise of independent cinema. We all seem to have hoarded VHS tapes, laser discs and then, later, DVDs as if the entire preservation of film as we know it depended solely on our collections. We bought everything, even (ESPECIALLY) things we’d never seen, ready to follow the films wherever they took us with open hearts and open minds.

In the early days of the internet, how many of us left our computers up all night to download a pixilated trailer of a forthcoming summer tentpole film? I have a specific memory of that on multiple occasions. Godzilla and The Phantom Menace come to mind immediately. I guess those did NOT work out as well as I’d hoped from the trailers. Before you could hop on Google and search for whatever information was under the sun, I spent countless hours in the book store looking for scripts of movies I loved and books on the craft of filmmaking. Things seemed so much more magical then, and it was without a doubt a very special time to be a part of film fandom.

But listening to Patrick and Doug talk about Run Lola Run with a fondness for that time also helped to bring me a little clarity. That was a great time to grow up on film. That age, when you’re in college, finding yourself, hungry for knowledge, when EVERYONE was a critic and a film student and screenwriter all at the same time, was a long time ago. But there was no bitterness in Patrick or Doug as they spoke about the movie that had meant an awful lot to most of us in 1999. There was no pining for the glory days, no dismissal of the stars and films of today. It was inspiring. That movie was a big deal. It was important to us all. But no one on that podcast was pining for the old days. They’ve retained what they wanted from it and moved on.

Our generation of film fans is no longer the young, hip generation. There’s now at least one generation under us, and they have their own ideas about what’s cool and who the cutting edge filmmakers are. They are the kids that the media wants to market to and capture. That’s the changing face of film fandom. Once, we were the cool ones -- the audience that Hollywood catered to. The Matrix was for US. But we’re not anymore, and I guess all film fans have to face this at some point. It’s part of growing up and getting older.

I want to age gracefully as a film fan. I don’t want to be bitter, closed off, and cynical about today’s Hollywood. I’m not the same person I was back then. I doubt any of us really are. We age, we grow, we develop new interests and lose interests too. But I always want to have the hunger and the passion for movies that I had in 1999. Yes, Hollywood is different. Time has marched on. Franchises and properties rule the box office at the moment, and they may for years to come. And those movies have their place, as do the younger stars that populate them.

I don’t want to be an aging film hipster, wearing suspenders made from Charlie Chaplin film cells and talking about how there were no good movies after 1999, or really 1939, or come to think of it, 1929 (it’d all been done by then!). I don’t want to hold on to the stars of the past so tightly that I close myself off to the future stars of tomorrow (or today). I want to love movies just as passionately as I did in 1999, when every movie coming out had the potential to be my new favorite. Very few of them ended up achieving that honor, but the point is that I was hungry and wide open to enjoy everything I saw.

My challenge now is to find a middle ground where I can realize that as an older filmgoer, some things just aren’t going to be for me. It’s also to keep an open mind and be ready to embrace the new. Rather than tilting at windmills and going off into the bitter sunset, I want to retain the love of movies that brought me to film fandom in the first place. I want to be like JB, learned sage and guru of F This Movie!, who has not lost his passion for movies and still regularly goes to see new movies with an open mind. His film world does not end with the classics that he teaches or the Universal Monsters that launched his passion in the first place. They seem to serve as a home base for him, but he is not afraid to venture away from that base to try new things. JB, as always, I’m taking notes.

I think for a lot of our generation, the transition was seamless. They might not even have noticed it. I was asleep and didn’t get the memo until recently, and it freaked me out. But I’ve decided that in the end, it’s up to me. There’s a whole wide world of movies that have already been made that I haven’t seen, and another world of movies that have YET TO BE made. I want to give them all a fair shot with open arms.

Two weeks ago I asked if Hollywood is forever. I can now answer that it is, and so is my love for it. It may change, it may wear different faces, but it’s always going to be there.

And so am I.


  1. Lovely post. It makes me think of a particular Billy Joel line:

    "The good old days weren't always good,
    And tomorrow's not as bad as it seems."

    Words of wisdom, indeed. I'm old enough to remember the end of what might be called Hollywood's "Silver Age," the late 60s to mid 70s, when the director was king and newcomers like Coppola, Scorsese, and De Palma were setting movie screens on fire. Quite a few thought Jaws and Star Wars marked the end of life as we knew it, because Hollywood became the Land of the Blockbuster and talented directors began having a terrible time getting their "personal" films financed (read about the struggles Scorsese had in getting The Last Temptation of Christ made).

    And yet, somehow classic films were still getting made. A young turk by the name of Robert Zemeckis made one of the best comedies ever with Back to the Future. Steven Soderberg came out of nowhere to make Sex, Lies, and Videotape. Then there was the independent film boom of the mid-90s, and on and on and on.

    Somehow, in every age talented people manage to navigate whatever challenges there are to bring us new stories they are passionate about. Could you ever believe that awkward girl in The Godfather Part III could go on to make Lost in Translation? Or that baby-faced Ben Affleck could transcend the days of Bennifer to become a talented director in his own right.

    I know this is a rambling post, but the bottom line for me is that the future is something to anticipate with excitement. I could moan and groan (and believe me, I have) about how "things just aren't the same anymore." But then I have to ask, would I really want them to be?

  2. Nice column Heath, a lot of your thoughts seem to mirror my own as sometimes I will see a movie (particularly mainstream comedies) and come out waving my cane saying "they don't make em like they used to, there weren't nobody screaming "The new phone book's here!, The new phone book's here" But at the same time while I hate movies like the squeakquel or Smurfs 2: A Good day to Smurf Smurf I will always remember the fact that I loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze when I was a kid.

    In fact I wanted to see that movie so bad when it originally came out that when the first 2 showings of the day sold out, I forced my parents to get a ticket to the midnight screening that day or ELSE! Needless to say the film DOES NOT hold up in my older years. I think that might be a good idea for a column, "Did my movie grow up with me?" to see if movies I saw as a kid are still enjoyable as an adult.

    The biggest thing that has changed for me personally as a moviegoer has just been when I go to a movie and I see an onslaught of CGI characters and backgrounds that I just can't connect with on any emotional level (TRON Legacy is the lone exception to this for me) That's one thing that has definitely weakened movies for me. I just want the movie to feel real and you know what if you can't make the CGI seamless make sure your characters are well thought out and I will forgive it. (District 9 did a great job of this)

  3. Thanks for the nice shout-out, Heath. Your prize? A DVD copy of, what else, Miracle of Marcelino!

  4. As always Heath, you are the voice in my head. I too subscribe to the church of JB: Talk about what you love. Leave what you hate on the cutting room floor.

    1. Maybe you are forgetting the year he spent writing "Shitting on the Classics?"

    2. my take-away from JB is always enthusiasm delivered with love of movies. Because of his "love" he can be critical not reducing it to criticizing. The difference being, analyzing the merits of a "classic" verses just simply reducing it to its faults. Minor I know. But still...IMO (views expressed are those of Patrick Bromley, nor F This Movie BUT especially not those of JB and do not necessarily represent the views of myself as I'm usually just shooting from the hip--I could just listen to JB all day, plain & simple).