My sister and I were talking yesterday; she was anticipating her trip to the theater to see the Hunger Games and wondering if it was going to be good.
For some reason, that struck me as interesting and I got to thinking. Of course it's going to be "good." It is almost certain to be an extraordinary entertainment experience. In fact, this is true about just about any big-budget Hollywood movie. Think alone of the spectacle of costumes, props and locations, the camera work, the sheer number of actors on screen. Even when a movie really misses the mark and fails to tell a great story or provide a moving experience, it is almost always capable of entertaining us if we let it.
Imagine applying Hollywood production standards to your kid's school play. How much entertainment value would you get from Hollywood standard special effects, sound track, or choreography if it were done locally? Even catastrophic "flops" like Cleopatra or The Postman provide stunning levels of production value entertainment if viewed in the right light.
I don't mean to suggest that I myself don't have very high viewing standards. I know I do. I don't like to spend time with movie and TV that doesn't offer something truly meaningful. But, it is important every once in a while to step back and notice that the people who produce shows, fill our lives with incredibly good entertainment all the time, even when they fail to do something profound. It is very rare to see any movie so bad that watching it truly feels like such a waste of time and money and that I actually want to leave the theater.
And theater-going aside (which must be a special case in favor of putting up with sub-standard work, considering that we've put on clothes, gotten into the car, shelled out money, and restricted ourselves to the option now playing in front of us), we watch a huge variety of shows with spectacular ease in our modern world. Even if you just weigh the quality of work now available around you at all times, through Netflix, TV, Youtbue, you-name-it, there can be no doubt that we have all become super-connoisseurs of entertainment. We can preview and watch snippets and move on oh so easily when they don't strike our fancy. There is no commitment. It is easy to flip through channels and get frustrated thinking "there's nothing good on" -- but the real problem is the reverse! Almost everything on is good to some extent, so it takes something exceptional to even tempt us.
We are clearly the most entertained people to have ever walked the earth. (Even the most pathetic of game apps on my phone is, truly, astonishingly capable entertainment). Please don't misunderstand. It is important to be discerning, exactly because of this glut of entertainment; it is more important than ever to spend our time wisely on things that feel fulfilling and meaningful. But don't lets confuse that idea with the idea that the things we don't like don't have some entertainment value to offer. They as often as not involve the myriad talents of people who are extremely good at what they do and the expenditures of massive amounts of money. They are "good" productions at some basic level. Even if we don't want to watch them.
Here's a piece I came across on a site called the Daily Beast while doing a bit of research on Hollywood's Top Ten Biggest Flops. The article says that "aside from Geena Davis's sassy one-liners, there is nothing enjoyable about 1995's Cutthroat Island." Seriously? Nothing?
This photograph alone looks pretty spectacular to me. Look at that dress she's wearing. Its gorgeous. Imagine that at the local high school theater production. Also notice that there's some sort of explosion going on in the background? Imagine how much entertainment value would be packed into an explosion like that were it part of your local neighborhood's 4th of July fair? Just because the movie lost money and didn't live up to its potential, doesn't mean it had nothing to offer the consumer. Should we only decide we've been entertained if our excitement is proportional to how much the production company spent?
In any case, I haven't talked to my sister today to find out how Hunger Games went. But I'm pretty sure that, by almost any reasonable standard, it was good.