One of the few true stars left in the film business is director Christopher Nolan, whose imprimatur can open a movie and sail it around the island of a billion-dollar worldwide gross. He’s not happy at all that his studio, Warner Bros., has decided to premiere its entire 2021 theatrical slate on HBO Max on the same day these titles premiere in theaters:
Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service. … [These movies were] meant to be out there for the widest possible audiences… And now they’re being used as a loss-leader for the streaming service — for the fledgling streaming service — without any consultation. So, there’s a lot of controversy. It’s very, very, very, very messy. A real bait and switch. Yeah, it’s sort of not how you treat filmmakers and stars and people who, these guys have given a lot for these projects. They deserved to be consulted and spoken to about what was going to happen to their work.
To which I can only say, LOL.
I’m not laughing at Nolan, who’s the real deal, but I am laughing at all these so-called movie stars whining and complaining, especially when they’re a big reason why Warner Bros. felt secure about turning them into TV stars.
One of the biggest reasons the theatrical experience died long ago, at least for any movie that was not the equivalent of a theme park ride — a CGI rollercoaster or a low-budget horror film, which is basically a trip through a spook house — is the death of the movie star. Or, should I say…
The suicide of the movie star.
Small films. Mid-budget films. Independent films. Thrillers. Mysteries. Comedies. Drama. Romance. All dead genres at the movies. Kaput. Over and out. Why? Because there are no real stars to attract moviegoers anymore. And there are no real stars anymore because all of the hideous people who star in movies have over-exposed themselves with their social media accounts, obnoxious politics, divisiveness, hate, narcissism, stupidity, arrogance, self-importance.
They have completely diminished themselves as screen idols, and that’s what it takes be a movie star — you have to become an idol, and you don’t become an idol exposing yourself as a jerk on Twitter, or on a late night show, or wherever.
You know, I’ve been watching Johnny Carson reruns on Pluto TV (which is free and awesome). The cycle I recently caught was from the late 70s and early 80s. What a difference. Diana Ross, Robin Williams, Burt Reynolds, Betty White, Sean Connery, Richard Pryor and on and on and on… Every time I flip over there, there’s Johnny and Ed and Doc, and it’s funny and relaxing, and the guests are all classy and larger-than-life. Above all, they are absurdly likable, which is the exact opposite of most celebrities today.
And then they walk off, back into the ether, not to be heard from again until their next classy appearance, or the release of their next film…
There was an aura around the movie stars of old, and that aura lasted pretty well until the end the 20th century. The stars of old actually felt a responsibility to uphold that aura, to help us suspend disbelief, to be what the audience wanted them to be — no matter who that person was, no matter their political beliefs.
Now look at how small and mean and dumb and angry and petty and self-involved and self-absorbed today’s so-called stars are.
Sitting in a darkened movie theater watching an actual movie star at work, whether it was Charlie Chaplin or Cary Grant or Barbara Stanwyck or Marlon Brando or Warren Beatty or Jack Nicholson, used to feel like magic. Now it feels like work, or like you’re a sucker enriching some barely-talented asshole who hates you or that you’re sick of because they never go away.
As great is Christopher Nolan and Denzel Washington and a very few others are, they can’t save this. The movies are going to end up where we the people decide we want to watch them, and we’ve already decided that unless it’s a theme park ride, we want to watch them at home on TV.
With the death of the movie star came an end to the magic of the movies. And for a time, a short time, CGI and cheap scares filled that void, but that couldn’t last forever, and now it looks like even that is coming to an end.
Movie actors and actresses have cheapened themselves, and by extension their product, and now they’re going to find themselves TV actors… And they deserve it.