After briefly reviewing Professor Zimmerman’s directions for the MID-TERM ESSAY, we began class with a clip from THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965). We decided we would discuss whether the film could be considered a “blockbuster” after we heard Elliot’s presentation on THOMAS SCHATZ’S “THE NEW HOLLYWOOD.”
According to SCHATZ, post-World War II television censorship brought forth a change in American cinema. A renaissance after what he calls art cinema with arteurs like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola for example, came forth the idea of genre innovation: combining multiple genres in order to appeal to the entire market. This was due to the arrival of shopping malls across the country, to which teenagers would flock, the on-set of commercial television, the invention of the at home VHS, and more movie theatres opening up wherever suburban sprawl was happening, altogether inciting a new-age of competitive film-making and merchandising.
We related the similarities between what SCHATZ outlines as the blockbuster to classic Hollywood cinema using the examples GUYS AND DOLLS (1955) and STARWARS (1977). [Tangentially discussing how STRWARS (1977) is a mixture of genres (adventure, family, science fiction, romantic comedy, etc.) whereas THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965) is purely a musical.] GUYS AND DOLLS (1955) is a narrative driven love story (also a musical) and STARWARS (1997) is a plot driven, “spectacle:” each moment leads to the next without much weight in terms of its narrative. For example when (MARK HAMILL) LUKE SKYWALKER’S parents are murdered the movie pays little attention to his grief (less than 20 seconds). As SCHATZ describes, the Hollywood “spectacle” is a turn away from character development in film—separating the art from the idea of “the novel” and utilizing the tools which make film unique: special effects and editing.
We discussed some of the priority rules SCHATZ outlines in making a blockbuster and selling a movie: the movie must be filled with celebrity actors or have an appealing plot/narrative or appeal to mass audiences, the movie must parlay into various medium forms: books, toys, video games, gimmicks, etc.; the idea of “market synergy,” and the movie must pre-arrange a marketing plan; i.e. foreign presales/sell distribution rights before movie is released to recuperate budget, i.e. STEPHEN SPIELBERG and “the concept”: selling the “idea”
Next we talked about what is most important in terms of spreading “the concept” or “the idea” across multiple platforms. Deciding that diversity of genres is key. SCHATZ calls new Hollywood a “commercial intertext” as it is transcendent as an industry, it can be commercially drive. Forget the art. SCHATZ discusses three sorts of new Hollywood films: high concept/high budget blockbuster, well known stars in low budget film, and the independent feature.
Then we watched a clip from GOLDFINGER (1964). The film, like STARWARS (1977), is plot-driven with a musical score that assists in this rapid-speed editing/scene transitioning. Like STARWARS (1977), GOLDFINGER (1964) became a franchise with extensive merchandizing yet little character development.
We ended with a presentation of PETER BISKIND’S “STARBUCKS” which was summarized as a magnified lens into the changing industry, tracing the changes made by filmmakers, STEPHEN SPIELBERG and CRAIG LUCAS.
Gleaning from this unique recitation, readings, and the previous evening’s lecture: the transition in American cinema at this juncture is a combination of Hollywood’s beginning an ownership over film as an art form (a ‘we-can-do-what-we-want’ type of attitude) as well as a response to the changing American terrain in terms of commercialism, capitalism, suburban sprawl. So begins the age of ‘bigger, better, faster.’