Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Star Wars Franchise: a Study of Modern American Politics

A recent reviewing of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith re-opened my eyes to the commentary that is Pop Culture. The film is soaked in the political jargon of a made-up society, leaving the audience to wonder, was all of that really necessary?

Looking back on the rest of the series, it becomes clear that the entire mythology was released at a time where our country experienced some sort of political turning point. Our heros represent us in our struggle to defy the odds. The rebel forces of the original Star Wars film can easily be viewed as the young protesters of the Vietnam War. The war is won at the end of the film, with the evil Darth Vader being thrown off into the outermost reaches of space.

In Return of the Jedi, there is a new Death Star in the works. It is up to the rebels, once again, to defeat this potent force. The Death Star, as we know from Episode Four, is a superstation capable of destroying a planet with a single shot. The power of this behemoth has been clearly drawn on inspiration from the arms race of the Cold War.

The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, the disasters that they were, draw little political merit, at least in my book. But the final film in the series, Revenge of the Sith, holds the most blatant of political metaphors. The senate has given near complete power to the Chancellor. He, in turn, decides to fight a war which will clearly return him a large profit (according to Michael Moore's film Farenheit 911, this would be Bush to a T). And the public, all along, is clueless and could care less. The soldiers in this war are clones, almost zombies (much like the politically apathetic young adults of today). And in the end, the opposers can do nothing but hide and wait for a safe time to strike.

Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? Clearly both of these statements can hold some truth, depending on the circumstances. When it comes to Lucas's franchise, however, things appear much better when art imitates life. The earlier three films make their statements, but are more about entertainment than political opinion. Revenge of the Sith seems to be written as a political diving board, perhaps as Lucas's way of forcing the Vietnam War generation's values on the youth of today. It's hard to enjoy the film for longer than five minutes - the metaphors are jammed in so thickly that Sith at points seems like a propoganda film.

Here's to hoping that the next trilogy is written during a period of relative peace in the Empire. Err, country.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

How can the box office be saved?

It's been a problem for a while now.

Ticket prices here in Boston are in the $9 to $10 range. For $5 and 6 months more, you can own the film FOREVER. Is convenience killing the box office?

With home theater systems, HDTV, and the quality and ease of the DVD, many are choosing to cut movie going out of their already hectic schedules. DVDs offer extra scenes, documentaries, and at times (ahem, George Lucas), a completely different movie from the one you would see in the theaters.

Problem solved, one might say. Keep them waiting. Don't release DVDs so soon after the original release. They'll go to the movies if they know they have to wait.

And yet, somehow, the gap between the end of a film's run in the theater and its release on home video has shrunken to be smaller than ever before. Some suits are even fighting to allow you to buy the film as you leave the theater. It's as if they don't understand that this is increasing the problem.

The trend doesn't appear to going away, either. Batman Begins, which finished its run late this summer, was released on DVD on October 18. Many stores were selling it for $15 or less. Compare that to the cost of two tickets (to see the film once), and it's a no brainer. It makes sense to wait and buy the DVD.

Only adding to the convenience is Blockbuster Video, the chain which allows you to rent a film and then buy it for a few dollars more. That way, if you don't like a film, you've only wasted $4.

The only way to save the box office is to reverse the trend. Granted, going to the movies will never be as convenient as getting Netflix to your door. But it should be the experience it once was.

So here it is: the top five ways theater owners can increase revenues and bring customers back in:

5. Make it worth it to go to the movies again. Double features (a two-for-one deal, perhaps?) drew crowds in in the 30's and 40's. Try them with children's films and you've got a guaranteed money-making machine.

4. Lower the price of the concessions. Do I really need to pay $4 for a soda I could have bought across the street for $1.29?

3. Offer discount days. The Showcase theater in Dedham, MA offers $5 Tuesdays. I'd go every week if I could, and if they actually advertised it, I'm sure they'd fill the house. Plus, it brings it business on off-days.

2. Offer extras. You get them with the DVD, why can't you get them with the ticket?

1. LOWER PRICES. I promise you it will pay off.

Seen a movie lately that just wasn't worth the price of the ticket? Let me know.

My first blog!

Welcome to my blog...

So why am I here, you ask? I am a recent college graduate with a degree in English and a certificate in film. I have yet to find the opportunity to make money on both of my interests, so I suppose I might as well do it for free (for the time being, that is).

I hope to provide film reviews, views on pop culture, and an overall down-to-earth view of cinema as it exists today. I have heard all too many say that cinema died in the '60s; I beg to differ. Although main stream cinema may not be as intellectually stimulating as it once was, I believe that entertainment can be found in your average blockbuster. And aren't we all looking to be entertained?

So please, as my reader, feel free to challenge my views. Hell, feel free to say hello. It would be nice to know I'm not just talking to myself.