When key players, players with incumbency and great advisers, throw up their hands and say, "I dunno. Things are changing. And we can’t say how."
I am no guarantee that a movie is going to be a success. … The audience has become smart about stars. So it’s chaos out there now. Nobody has any idea why people are going to see a movie. Nobody knows what’s going to be a hit or what’s going go be irrelevant. There are no new models. The new paradigm in Hollywood is that there is no new paradigm. (Tom Hanks in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly.)
Now, we could be listening to a celebrity who wants to express reticence or apology for the current project (in the case, Charlie Wilson’s War). Or this may merely reflect Hollywood’s puzzlement over the failure of recent war movies (The Kingdom, Rendition, In the Valley of Elah, Lions for Lambs, A Mighty Heart).
But if we are hearing a deep indeterminacy in the world of Hollywood, something remarkable is upon us. After all, Hollywood is good at listening, good at responding to the moment, good at finding a way to speak to shifting taste and preference of Americans, whatever these tastes and preferences are. If Hollywood has lost the thread, something’s up.
There are three possibilities:
1) tastes and preferences are in transition. And, God knows, this happens. Trends make their way through our culture. One Easy Rider and all bets are off.
2) tastes and preferences are now indiscernible. They are out there. But our powers of pattern recognition are modest and we can’t see them.
3) tastes and preferences are so disaggregated that a mass medium like film making can no longer count upon the mass audiences needed to manage an acceptable return on an investment of $ 100 million dollars. (This is the average cost of a Hollywood film. I’m sure Charlie Wilson’s War was much more.)
Svetkey, Benjamin. War Games. Entertainment Weekly. December 21, 2007. pp. 29-37, p. 37.