If there was an award for bad award proposals, it would surely go to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, who have withdrawn their pitch for an Outstanding Achievement In Popular Film category at the next Oscars. “Ho ho!” say most of us. No-one can decide what the hell it is meant to mean. Blockbuster movies are hardly fighting to be recognised and supplicated. Some are good, most are trash; the ones that we like, we’ll go to see three, maybe four times with as many people as we can hector. Isn’t the cash enough of a win?
But for kicks, it’s fun to imagine what the criteria would be for a popular cinema in this day and age. These are my suggestions. I await a call from The Academy, as soon as I iron my bow tie in the toaster.
No tie-ins or setups
Remember when popular entertainment just told a story? Or rather, had an ending? No, you don’t. This summer – THE BEGINNING OF THE PRE-ULTIMATE CHAPTER TO THE MIDDLE OF THE SPINOFF, featuring oh-so-frayed cameos from a character who may just be serving coffee to our hero, but eventually – EVENTUALLY – gets her own film about defeating the mighty evil of almond milk, with Jared Leto gurning on her WhatsApp screen, his tiresome metal teeth parting just long enough to ask for a punch to the head.
Fucking puppets and models, goddamn it
The Force Awakens washed the sins of Star Wars clean by treating us to boxy droids, a weird blue elephant and Harrison Ford actually telling jokes instead of making them at the script’s expense. At least these were things you could almost touch. Sure, actors themselves are mere figures to be moved on the brand behemoth board, but in terms of effects, puppetry is an art that never cuts strings from reality, unlike the jizz-gasm of CGI we’re subjected to ever more frequently. And model-making is a lost art too. Bring ‘em back! Hang the digital DJ! Our eyes have swallowed enough pixels for a lifetime of nature walk therapy.
One or more of the four holy Chrises
Everyone has a Chris in their heart. A Pine, Hemsworth, Pratt or Evans . . . Because they, with Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. The Human Thumb, a.k.a. The Guy Once Labelled A ‘Portuguese Breast’ On BBC Radio 1), they’re trucking all the charisma we’re getting from men at the multiplex. Choose your Chris. Have them fight stuff, and quip, and shoot merrily to a Beastie Boys soundtrack. A Chris isn’t just for Christmas – he’s for spring, summer and autumn too. Let there be Chrises in your movies forever.
Music that lasts for more than a robot action scene
I don’t know about you, but I can’t recall the last time I swooned at a blockbuster score. Oh yeah – Bladerunner 2049, which was a big opening disguised as a nervy sci-fi, too smart for its own good i.e. enjoyable. There are a bunch of essays on the damning state of music in superhero/action flicks, and they’re right. Hollywood reckons our brains are too mushy to appreciate a moment of serenity, of silence. Hans Zimmer, the human foghorn, is the closest we’ve come. C’mon, Christ, get Michael Giacchino on the case, or give Thomas Newman more work.
Mythic stories that don’t default to English accents
Believe a studio executive – never advisable – and you’ll have a warped ass view of history. The Spartans were Scottish. The gods of Egypt were just popping over from their holiday home in Cambridgeshire. Viking peasants all had the screechy diction of a Dickensian prostitute. Nothing is sacred when historical periods or those we’ve come to adore in the pages of myth are butchered onscreen, rendered flat and unwaveringly British by the single, unified truth that to be ‘ ye olde’ is to be ‘having come from somewhere in Greater London or perhaps a Northampton arts school’. Yeesh. Gimme real Aramaic, Greek or Scandi any day, instead of the cod-toff voice, the battle cry of the posh boy darts club . . .