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Ed Driscoll

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July 20, 2011 - 9:58 am
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Is the notion of the movie star obsolete? Barry Norman of the London Daily Mail seems to think so — and he blames Hollywood’s teenage audience for making Hollywood’s teenage-looking leading men increasingly superfluous. “Today, the mass of cinema audiences is aged between 15 and 18 — and that’s what poses such a threat to the existence of big movie stars:”

Kids of that age are not interested in veterans like Hanks (55), Cruise (49) or even Depp (48), except when he plays Jack Sparrow in the frankly juvenile Pirates Of The Caribbean series. Watching old men like them on screen would be like watching their fathers cavorting about.Even Roberts (44), Diaz (39) and Jolie (36), desirable as they might be to the audiences’ dads, come across as little more than auntie figures.

This modern, young audience has no interest in the established stars. What it wants to see is either people closer to its own age (for instance Robert Pattinson, 25, as a toothsome vampire in the Twilight saga) or crash-bang special effects in films such as the sci-fi Transformers series, or in the X-Men superheroes films, or the forthcoming Captain America.

They’re also partial to movies with men behaving badly, such as Hangover 2, or girls behaving badly, as in America’s surprise hit of the summer, Bridesmaids — neither of which features anybody you’ve ever really heard of.

Found via the IMDB, film blogger MaryAnn Johanson responds:

All true, but nothing we haven’t been hearing about for several years, at least. But somehow the failure of the Tom Hanks/Julia Robert vehicle Larry Crowne seems like a milestone in the slo-mo death of the movie star. It’s not that audiences didn’t respond to it but the reason why they didn’t respond: It’s not a very good movie. It’s like the movie stars aren’t even trying anymore.

Is this just more of the same doom-and-gloom we’ve been hearing for a few years now? Or is something bigger happening?

Is Hollywood imploding? Are we seeing a seimic shift in how Hollywood operates, perhaps akin to the shift to blockbusters in the late 1970s? Can Hollywood endure making only movies for kids? What will Hollywood look like in 10 years?

As we mentioned here last week, 20 years ago, reporter Julie Salamon documented how political correctness made it virtually impossible for Hollywood to successfully film a movie version of The Bonfire of the Vanities. At the time of her book The Devil’s Candy, PC had only then just begun to escape from the laboratory of the mad scientists of academia and seep into the media overculture. A decade later, PC would make it nearly impossible for Hollywood to tell the story of 9/11 and the then-nascent War On Terror.  By the middle of the first decade of the 21st century, Hollywood seemed like it was only capable of working off a handful of templates:

  • The Epic Quest movie (The Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and Star Wars franchises.)
  • The mindless zillion dollar popcorn action movie, usually with a sci-fi or comic book theme, and often itself a variation on the Epic Quest formula.
  • Raunchy sex comedies.
  • Anti-War agitprop.
  • Small-budget art films for urban (read: left-wing audiences).
  • Small-budget documentaries for urban (read: left-wing audiences).
  • And the Pixar franchise.

Which is why the question of Hollywood’s implosion was being asked six years ago — when the rest of the economy was humming along rather swimmingly, at least compared with today. (Curiously, Hollywood seemed to do OK during the Depression of the 1930s. Wonder why?)

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