Prior to September 11th, 2001, there was always that occasional film that critics would proclaim as an insight into the world, into humanity. Usually, these films would be nominated for an Academy Award or twelve, and they would fade away into the obscurity of a small box office followed by a resurrection of sorts into curricula the world over for film students. But, at least for the moments that belonged to them, those films would make an impact. Maybe lasting, maybe not. Regardless, someone would probably shout out that this film would change the world. Ultimately, however, it wouldn't, but its lingering frames of celluloid relevant vision would remain in the thoughts and imaginations of the next generation of filmmakers, resulting in yet another "temporarily profound" film venture.
After that infamous date, however, it seems that more and more of these films are making their way into the consciousness of the various pop cultures of the world, and, for better or worse, staying there. It has long been held by the intellectual elite of this world that we are mortal. We live, we die, and with the exception of a few great or heinous people, we are forgotten. Lately, though, this mortal perspective has been passed on to our entire planet, our very species. We are dying as an element of the universe; we are killing ourselves.
Terrorism and the environment lead our headlines. We are in a constant situation of, no matter what we do as individuals, our fates lie in the hands of others. As a result, our art, specifically our film, is beginning to reflect that reluctant nihilism that we are all a part of. We can be killed walking down our own streets, working in our own offices. Indeed, we will be killed walking down streets of foreign lands; breathing the air and drinking the water of our future. Our existence is coming to a head and, for whatever reason, be it profit or a genuine sense of love, Hollywood is trying to warn us.
Take a mere slice of the recent films that have graced the silver screen: Babel, Children of Men, even Al Gore's foray into film, An Inconvenient Truth. Warnings all. They make no effort to disguise their intents. We need to change, and change now, or we're all fucked.
It's almost irony that in a world where people are living longer, our lives can change in less time than ever before. In one second, a building can fall. In one second, a species can be erased from history. In one second, a life can begin and end.
Art has long held the key with which people react to their environments. Almost anybody with half an education can name a painting whose inspiration was death and destruction. Monkeys can probably spout the titles of no less than a dozen so-called war songs. Even the theatre has lent its hand, withered hand it is. But politics? How many people know the history of politics? The great decisions in the last century that led us to where we are today? Not many. Pop culture, it seems, is far more important to most citizens, especially of this country, than any other subject. And finally, Hollywood has taken notice.
There was once a time that supposedly incendiary films were squashed, or relegated to the art house circuit. It wasn't too long ago that the original Manchurian Candidate was finally released after being hidden from public view since JFK's assassination. It wasn't too long ago that the filmmakers behind movies such as Brokeback Mountain would have been admonished. But now, there is an overwhelming sense that humanity is running out of time, and every topic the world over is being brought to the forefront, perhaps in vain attempts at vanity, but perhaps due to the necessity that we need to figure out what's really important right now.
We truly are in a strange new world. China is once again, after centuries of absence, a world power. America is no longer the moral leader and savior of the world. The Middle East, thanks to the proliferation of nuclear technology, is no longer a footprint in Imperial plans. Make no mistake, the power struggle for tomorrow's world is more volatile than it has ever been before. Unfortunately, the average yahoo on the street isn't capable of understanding the minutiae involved in running societies, despite the fact that every yahoo has a definitive opinion, however uneducated, of how such actions should be done.
Which leaves us with film. The ultimate art form. No other art form in the world has the ability to be as affective, nor as pervasive, as film. And, thankfully, we're starting to use it as such. A few years ago, nobody, save naturalists, probably even gave a damn about penguins, then March of the Penguins arrives. The drug trade was seen as black and white, then Traffic. Even television shows like Battlestar Galactica are joining the fray, portraying several sides of several arguments in dramatic ways that laymen can comprehend.
I usually hate it when Hollywood decides to rear its head into the political world, primarily because there was always an overt agenda. But, now I see the necessity of it all. The powerful will continue to maintain and gain power; the stupid will continue to become even more stupid. Hollywood can educate, should it want to. And I think it finally wants to.
Let's hope for the best. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of time.
* This is the first part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that's happening over at The ...
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