Dear Hollywood Film Makers: Please accept some feedback from a loyal movie goer of many years standing. I think my first movie was “The Mummy’s Ghost,” starring Lon Chaney, Jr., which I saw at The Fitchburg Theater in 1944. Admittedly, I watched most of it from under the theater seat, but I paid my twelve cents, I was there, and I loved every minute of it – and the thousands of movies I have seen since. I just think that the current generation of filmmakers could do a better job of enticing older customers, like me, back into the movie theaters with a little more sensitivity to our feelings and requirements. Otherwise, you will be “Net-Flixed.” Here are a few examples of what I mean:
1. “What did he say?” In the 1930’s Golden Age of Movies, stage actors new to the microphone, would scream out their lines. It was nerve wracking, but at least you could hear them. In this post “Godfather” movie world, people either mumble or whisper. That’s not the way people talk. It may be dramatic, but I can’t hear you. Enunciate! Speak up!
2. “Is that the dog or the horse?” When my father ate in a dimly lit restaurant, he would ask the waiter, “Didn’t you pay the electric bill?” I understand now what he meant. Your films have become so dark it’s hard to see what’s happening. It gets worse watching the video which is smaller yet and just as dark. Why does so much have to happen at night or in dark hallways? I want to see what the people are doing. Turn on the lights!
3. “Is that the will or the microdot?” Your movies give us things to read. Often they are important to the story line. Make the print bigger and use contrasting colors. Red on blue may be esthetically pleasing but it is almost illegible. Better yet, have someone read it aloud. Tell us what it says!
4. “Lose the accents.” It is not necessary for a Midwestern housewife to speak with an Austro-Serbian accent. It is affected and detracts from the performance. Just have her talk United States, for Heaven’s sake!
5. “Don’t step on the laughs.” Funny lines make people laugh. That’s the good news. Don’t immediately follow it with another funny line as we’ll miss it while everyone still laughs at the first one. That’s the bad news. Either pause for a reaction or, better yet, bridge the dialogue between one joke and another.
6. “Give the staff a raise?” Do you save money by giving everyone on staff a screen mention? I like to know the actors and principle staff. I’m not sure about the gaffers and best boys. I have no interest in your secretary, driver, or the caterers. Cut!
7. “Crude language, nudity, and gore.” I won’t go moral on you but these are at least rich spices and should be used sparingly. Overuse is numbing and can detract from a mainline movie. Also, people do imitate what they see and hear in movies so you have some responsibility here. Don’t make others censor you, do it yourself with good judgment and common sense. Remember, the biggest box office success of all time was “Gone With The Wind.” (it still draws huge TV audiences some seventy years later). It contained exactly one “bad word:” “Damn!” And – they got fined for using that.
8. “Little things mean a lot.” There are lots of overused clichés: the kick in the groin, the unnecessary car chase, the tipping of the banquet table, give them a rest. My least favorite is the ten minute fight scene. Have you ever seen a real brawl? It is either over in two punches, or it turns into a wrestling match until bored onlookers, or the cops, pry the two would-be combatants apart. By the way, the little outnumbered guy may not always lose, but he does not always win either. And neither does the attractive young woman.
9. “What happened then?” I know you can’t always have a happy ending, that’s not real life, but at least account for all the story lines you raise. What happened to the brother who fell out the back window? Is he dead, alive, or still sprawled in the alley? Give us a beginning, middle, and an end.
10. “Discount the critics.” In business we learn that it is easier to plan than implement. We have more idea men than workers, and to criticize someone else’s work is the easiest of all. If you can quote Oscar Wilde and do other witty slurs, you’re guaranteed a job as a movie critic. It is hard to be objective. It’s all based on who we are and where we’ve come from. Not every movie about a troubled childhood abroad, shown with subtitles, and filled with meaningful dialogue and pregnant pauses, is an artistic event. Some of them are boring. Not every comedy-western is trite. Some are fun. So – listen to your audience, hear everybody out, talk to your peers, and then go with your best judgment. That goes for my advice too.
I am sure that others could add-to and improve this starter list, and maybe they will. Let us hope that by the end of the next year, you can honestly re-use the slogan you used so well in the Fifties and say:
“Movies are better than ever’