William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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A GOOD CULTURAL SIGN? – AT 10:50 A.M. ET:  We don't normally report on movie grosses here, but maybe we should, because they're often pretty good cultural signs.

Hollywood has been a creative mess in recent years, despite a few fine movies.  The dominance by the college-educated leftist crowd has been depressing, but I wonder if generational change is coming.  There's a new James Bond film out called "Skyfall."  I admit that I haven't yet seen it, but everyone I know who has seen it has loved it, and loved the "typical" Bond song sung by Adele. 

What people say is that it's just a good, old-fashioned Bond thriller, and that's why they love it.  Apparently, the kids are catching on, because "Skyfall" is burning up the market.  From Deadline.com:

Believe it or not, considering this spy has been on film since 1962. But Eon Productions/MGM/Sony Pictures’ most successful 007 starrer Skyfall rose to #1 in Week 5 to knock off Summit Entertainment’s Breaking Dawn Part 2 in Week 4 at the domestic box office. The 23rd James Bond actioner even has a shot of outgrossing domestically the Twilight Saga finale. Skyfall made $10.8M for the weekend and $261.4M domestic cume through Sunday. Breaking Dawn Part 2 ended up #3 behind DreamWorks Animation’s disappointing Rise Of The Guardians in Week 3.

Good, good.  The smug little Ivy Leaguers in Hollywood who think that good plots and good characters are out of date are getting a lesson in audience.  I recently got to see another winner, "Argo," which again is an "old-fashioned" thriller about the escape of some American government people from Iran after the Ayatollah Khomeini was Cartered into power in that country in the late seventies, replacing the pro-American Shah.  Although "Argo" has a stupid, but thankfully short anti-American narration at the start, that is quickly forgotten and the rest is a good guys versus bad guys thriller that actually thrills.

Just before his death in 1991, the great British director, David Lean, said that Hollywood had forgotten how to tell stories.  He was right.  Maybe there's some learning going on.  I certainly hope so.  Maybe a new, young audience, part of the 9-11 generation, not the Vietnam generation, will respond. 

We have to be careful about these things.  Two movies do not make a trend.  But that they were produced at all is encouraging.  I'm also encouraged that movies like "Lincoln" can be made.  I'm further encouraged by the success of the Investigation Discovery channel on cable TV, which features real-life crime stories, often well told. 

The more Hollywood can return to good stories, the better it will be for the industry and the culture.  And the more it avoids politics, ditto.  If you have opinions on this, please send them along.  I'd love to read them.

December 9, 2012