Sunday, January 08, 2006

An Introduction

The Hollywood Art
An Introduction:

Welcome to the land of movies…

Disclaimer: The Hollywood Art is NOT affiliated with any Hollywood studio, agency or other external public relations firm. It is a non-profit research-based archive dedicated to film studies, like IMDB or Wikipedia or any of the many other resources currently made available on the internet.

The images featured herein are not presented for the purposes of resale, redistribution or any public usage other than as illustrative materials in support of the texts. The texts alone are the copyright of Nick Zegarac. The sincere goal of this non-profit organization is to provide a fact-based media research archive in film studies without any form of legal misrepresentation, infringement or abuse.

While exploring the items contained in this blog I hope you will maintain a certain respect for the challenges I encountered while developing it. My dilemma stemmed from one seemingly simple question; what constitutes great motion picture entertainment? The answer, I soon discovered, was anything but elementary. Movies are the twentieth century’s most prolific art and art is always multifaceted.

In point of fact I became a devotee of film art at a very early age – seated in front of my parent’s black and white picture tube and absorbing every moment from host Bill Kennedy at the movies. This was long before I attended the university and discovered, much to my chagrin, that I knew nothing about fine art or film – at least not as far as scholastic interpretation was concerned. All the better for me, I thought – since the definition of art is as diverse as the art itself.

Who is more qualified to appreciate films? – The academic who locks himself away with his theories, liberally applying Freudian psychoanalysis, Marxism, Feminism, and Postmodernism (theories barely sustainable on their own – some not even realized until thirty years after the fact of the art they are being applied to) or Joe Average who understandably care little to not for any of the aforementioned, though nevertheless has a very clear understanding about what he likes?

Now for those who feel as though their smattering of motion picture arts and sciences is just a tad apoplectic, there are many legitimately based cinema study programs set up across campuses all over the world. Yet, these often concentrate on vintage films that have achieved their legendary status through studio publicity, theatrical reissues, television syndication and just plain word of mouth. I’ve met a good many ‘professors’ helming such programs but I have yet to encounter
one who can explain to me why the choices in film that they expose their classes to are the only or most profound ones to exploit.

Such films, Gone with the Wind being a prime example, share a collective audience affinity and admiration whenever and wherever they are shown. Yet a perplexing question remains. Why is it that GWTW has been able to pass into immortality while a film like say, Talk of the Town has faded into relative obscurity? True, the latter is no GWTW in either scope or execution. It isn’t even a film from the same genre or category. It is, however, exhilarating entertainment nonetheless.

Of equal curiosity is the overzealous commitment by some historians to link the number of Oscars won by a film to that film’s longevity; the award status seemingly warranting a renewal of interest and viewing, reviewing, study and interpretation. This narrow-minded and hardly conclusive conclusion would appear to be almost factual if one employed its theory on films like Gone with the Wind or The Sound of Music.

Yet, further consideration is needed. If fact, it must be given liberally and apart from Oscar factoids that two of the best loved films of all time, Singin’ In The Rain and It’s A Wonderful Life continue to enrich our social fabric; even as neither received an Oscar nomination. The former was considered just one of MGM’s many ‘par for their course’ musicals, the latter was a disastrous flop upon its initial release. But time does strange things to movies. Still, the academic world tends to shun such flukes. After all – mainstream and theoretical hoo-ha do not tend to go hand in glove.

Equally problematic to the overall study and appreciation of film has been our current fascination with creating ‘top 100’ lists. These lists are erroneously meant to encompass the films that ‘everyone’ likes and agrees upon as sharing in a central artistic levity and greatness, but at the considerable exclusion of at least twice as many other worthy contenders.

Such lists also place an artificial hierarchy on the quality of films from very different genres in a sort of apples to oranges race for posterity. The question is therefore, not, why is Citizen Kane a better film than, say, A Night At The Opera, but rather, how can anyone in their right mind justify comparing the two on the same list?

Furthermore, accolades and awards do not determine the artistic merit of any film. Nor do elephantine production values, solid story lines or stellar casting ensure a film’s lasting appeal. There has been enough star-studded, big-budget, box office bombs to reiterate this point. By assessing a film’s cultural impact one might come closer to defining those qualities that constitute greatness.

For example, if a film is capable of transcending time through conveyance of a universal message then that film may have a longer shelf life than one which cannot. Casablanca comes to mind here. It’s as ever fresh and revealing as it was the day it premiered. In other words, a picture that stays with you is one which retains its validity and poignancy.

This blog therefore assumes a three fold responsibility to its readership. First, for the young at heart, my fervent hope is that what you read will rekindle the fondness of youth once spent in sweet oblivious repose in a darkened theater.

To the film buff and enthusiast I extend the invitation to indulge in some facts and fiction behind some of Hollywood’s most enduring masterpieces and some of its greatest almost forgotten treasures.

Finally, for tomorrow’s generation; my sincerest desire is to serve as reference area on which you may come to appreciate the heritage of filmmaking as so much more than merely its prologue.

To inspire all who read these passages to visit their local video stores and revival houses, so that you may experience first hand the grandeur of North America’s longest running illusion: that which we have so lovingly coined ‘the movies’, these are my fondest wishes.


Nick Zegarac
…and now, on with the show!

@2006 (all rights reserved).