Saturday, December 26, 2009

Films as a Reflection of Daily Me

As I mentioned in my last post, more & more people nowadays seem to want the fast way out - only receiving knowledge served up in bite-size easy-to-understand summary form.  The comfort of the familiar, coupled with the ease of understanding, has trumped over the need to expand the horizon for many.

With consumers spending more time with media than sleeping, how is the quality of information they are receiving?  If the Daily Me concept is true, I would say that it's probably more of the same.  According to Cass Sunstein, people who are only tuned in to other like-minded ideas is a threat to democracy.

Democracy might be a pretty big topic to talk about.  So maybe we can talk about the impact on something most people are familiar with - films.

I am a self-proclaimed semi film buff, always on the hunt for movies that are different.  And yes, I even occasionally participate in a film group called "We Don't Do Mainstream".  I am lucky to live in Toronto where there seems to be an endless number of film festivals showing fairly good quality films that are not in wide distribution.  (I heard someone mention we have over 80 film festivals in Toronto each year!)  However, it is still a sad state that some of these fabulous films never got the audience that they deserve.

Instead, looking at the 2009 box office, it's hard to miss a pattern of top grossing films (which I presume means they are watched by a large number of people) are what I would call entertainment-oriented films.  Many of them are sequels to previous films or adaptation of books.  Many of them have heavy emphasis on actions, special effects and computer animation, with some comedy thrown in.  And the pattern for the 2008 & 2007 box office results?  More of the same.  The supposedly-not-based-on-anything-blockbusters?  Some of them are still more of the same.

Worst part is people actually like these films.

According to the imdb top 250 films chart, which is determined by netizens' votes, people seem to like these recent films a lot.  If you look at the AFI 100 top movies of all times chosen by industry jury, it's not difficult to notice that the 2007 revised list, after expanding the selection criteria to films released up to 2006, only contains 1 addition from after year 2000!

The proliferation of B2C2C reviews like the prediction algorithms developed for Netflix are only going to make people more reliant on other like-minded individuals.  Peer reviews have their place & benefits - they serve as great first hand information, and definitely more trustworthy than official marketing materials.  But with people's tendency leaning towards the fast & easy, it's not hard to imagine people taking the summarized "5-star" recommendations as-is, without understanding why, and without understanding themselves.

What happened to our sense of curiosity & adventure?  Where are some of the films from award winning films from around the world? Short films? Documentaries?  As the Internet becomes a more viable & cheaper channel to deliver films to their audience, we need better ourselves in making informed decisions, and not be dictated by mechanical algorithms and marketing dollars.

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