So I was sitting around thinking about spending a lot of money and too much time at the cinema when suddenly the Oscars happened again and put me right off. Instead, I thought I’d look for something interesting to read online that would eat up about three hours of my life but give me more than just eye-strain, tinnitus and a painful ass to go with it. Well, “no tinnitus” anyway.
Here are five longform pieces of Hollywood journalism — not meant in a derogatory manner — focusing on the glamour, the craft, the decline, the rewards and (in the opinion of Raymond Chandler at least) all the dripping contempt that the industry of dreams could ever inspire…
writing in 1948, it sounds like not much has changed since
— by Raymond Chandler
If you think most motion pictures are bad, which they are (including the foreign), find out from some initiate how they are made, and you will be astonished that any of them could be good. Making a fine motion picture is like painting “The Laughing Cavalier” in Macy’s basement, with a floorwalker to mix your colors for you. Of course most motion pictures are bad. Why wouldn’t they be? Apart from its own intrinsic handicaps of excessive cost, hypercritical bluenosed censorship, and the lack of any single-minded controlling force in the making, the motion picture is bad because 90 per cent of its source material is tripe, and the other 10 per cent is a little too virile and plain-spoken for the putty-minded clerics, the elderly ingénues of the women’s clubs, and the tender guardians of that godawful mixture of boredom and bad manners known more eloquently as the Impressionable Age.
The Rules of the Game
Hollywood sells dreams, but when screen gods act devilish publicity becomes a nightmare
— by Anne Helen Petersen
Ultimately, the publicity game during the so-called “golden age” of Hollywood was in-house and immaculately orchestrated. All who participated—stars, studios, gossip columnists, MPPDA heads—shared the same goal: keep the images (if not the actual actions) of the stars clean, and keep the audiences buying them, both literally and figuratively.
Under the studio system, the boundaries, rules, and players in the publicity game were clearly delineated. Those boundaries and rules may have been periodically challenged, but it was a game, like most, with clear codes of conduct. Break those codes, and the consequences were clear: No one else would play with you.
The Day the Movies Died
What’s gone wrong, then? Why do All Movies Suck now?
— by Mark Harris
There’s no overarching theory, no readily identifiable villain, no single moment to which the current combination of caution, despair, and underachievement that defines studio thinking can be traced. But let’s pick one anyway: Top Gun.
Top Gun landed directly in the cortexes of a generation of young moviegoers whose attention spans and narrative tastes were already being recalibrated by MTV and video games. That generation of 16-to-24-year-olds—the guys who felt the rush of Top Gun because it was custom-built to excite them—is now in its forties, exactly the age of many mid- and upper-midrange studio executives. And increasingly, it is their taste, their appetite, and the aesthetic of their late-’80s postadolescence that is shaping moviemaking. Which may be a brutally unfair generalization, but also leads to a legitimate question: Who would you rather have in charge—someone whose definition of a classic is Jaws or someone whose definition of a classic is Top Gun?
SOME HOLLYWOOD EXTRAS SUFFER,
BUT OTHERS ARE ROLLING IN IT
— by Hillel Aron
The day will end at around 5 p.m., and each of the men will be paid $342 — not bad for less than eight hours of not working.
The small clique of commercial extras, or “background” actors, as they prefer be called, are lucky enough to be represented by the actors union, SAG-AFTRA, and are astonishingly well paid. While their nonunion counterparts might eke out $10,000 a year, Green and Shipp each make around $40,000 a year, working at the leisurely end of part-time. Matteo Sarria, 34, sitting across the table, makes around $80,000 — for working maybe 100 days a year. He auditions for speaking roles, too, but he’ll turn down auditions in order to take commercial work as an extra. The money is just too good to pass up.
Writers in Hollywood
let’s finish where we started, but celebrate the beginning, not the end…
— by Raymond Chandler
I hold no brief for Hollywood. I have worked there a little over two years, which is far from enough to make me an authority, but more than enough to make me feel pretty thoroughly bored. That should not be so. An industry with such vast resources and such magic techniques should not become dull so soon. An art which is capable of making all but the very best plays look trivial and contrived, all but the very best novels verbose and imitative, should not so quickly become wearisome to those who attempt to practice it with something else in mind than the cash drawer. The making of a picture ought surely to be a rather fascinating adventure. It is not; it is an endless contention of tawdry egos, some of them powerful, almost all of them vociferous, and almost none of them capable of anything much more creative than credit-stealing and self-promotion.
Thank you, this is so amazing, I’d like to thank the Academy, of course, but also [MUSIC SWELLS]