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Film For Fun?

 Recently, during this year’s annual post holiday movie blitz I saw Good Night, And Good Luck, a wonderful film directed by George Clooney and staring David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow.  During the movie, Murrow asks if entertainment is the sole purpose of television.  Being a newsman, obviously Morrow believes it has far greater potential.  As I left the theatre I found myself asking the same thing about film.  Are films just another form of entertainment like a baseball game or rock concert, or are they something more?

 Based on the list of films with the highest revenue, it would seem that, yes, they are just for fun.  Almost all of them are works of fiction.  While Titanic, the number one grossing film of all time is based on an historical event, I wouldn’t call it a documentary by any stretch of the imagination.  In the top ten there are a great number of science fiction movies, emphasis on fiction, not science.  And, rounding out the list is The Passion of Christ which I would generously call historical drama.  Continuing down the list the analysis doesn’t really change.  So, I think it’s safe to say that most people watch movies to enrich their fancy rather than their intellect.

 Contrasting this is the increased number of independent films available at theatres and their increased financial and critical success.  In fact, none of the films nominated last year for best picture, director, actor, actress, or a support role even made it into the top 100 box office revenue list.  But while not box office smash hits, Million Dollar Baby, Sideways and Finding Neverland still clearly fall into the category of entertainment.  Even Ray and The Aviator, both based on real people, lack historical realism.  Of course there are certainly true documentary films but if they are presented like the six o’clock news are usually run out of theatres like they were shot out of a cannon.  And obviously, the time required planning and making movies prevents them from presenting current events.

  So does this mean films do nothing more than furnish eye candy to the masses?  Not at all.  Were it not for the many technological developments made in the pursuit of entertaining movies, we might not have the quality of television that exists today.  Many of the video cameras, audio recording devices and editing methods used to bring you the evening news and 60 Minutes were first developed to bring entertaining films to your local theatre.

  Much of the greatness of film is its ability to entertain.  Indeed, that may be its greatest attribute.  More than the ball game or rock show it involves us and affects us each individually.  It is a suspension of reality during our sometimes too real lives.  It makes us laugh and cry.  Scares us and gives us hope.  Brings us together and transports us into our own fantasy world all from the comfort of a theatre seat or the family room sofa.  Film is what each of us make it.

  So put that in your Kent and smoke it, Mr. Murrow.

 

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