“Hollywood … doesn’t matter much anymore”

People don’t talk about movies the way they once did. It would seem absurd to say, as [Pauline] Kael once did, that she knew whether she would like someone by the films he or she liked. Once at the center, movies increasingly sit on the cultural margins.

This is both a symptom and a cause of their distress. Two years ago, writing in these pages, I described an ever-growing culture of knowingness, especially among young people, in which being regarded as part of an informational elite — an elite that knew which celebrities were dating each other, which had had plastic surgery, who was in rehab, etc. — was more gratifying than the conventional pleasures of moviegoing.

In this culture, the intrinsic value of a movie, or of most conventional entertainments, has diminished. Their job now is essentially to provide stars for People, Us, “Entertainment Tonight” and the supermarket tabloids, which exhibit the new “movies” — the stars’ life sagas.

Traditional movies have a very difficult time competing against these real-life stories, whether it is the shenanigans of TomKat or Brangelina, Anna Nicole Smith’s death or Britney Spears’ latest breakdown. These are the features that now dominate water-cooler chat. There may have been a time when these stories generated publicity for the movies. Now, however, the movies are more likely to generate publicity for the stories, which have a life, and an entertainment value, of their own.

The movie magic is gone: Hollywood, which once captured the nerve center of American life, doesn’t matter much anymore,” by Neal Gabler, Los Angeles Times, February 25, 2007

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Posted in: Caught Our Eye

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