Suwannee Democrat

Local News

February 29, 2012

The Suwannee Scribbler - The Hollywood addiction

Live Oak — If you were like millions of other Americans, this past Sunday night you watched the live Oscar broadcast on ABC TV. I was not one of them, however. Maybe it’s my age, but I find America’s compulsion to worship everything “celebrity” unnerving and sometimes outright alarming. I keep asking myself, “Why do we care so much about these strangers and their lives?”         

And then there is the length! To me, a three or four-hour long Oscar broadcast (The 2002 show ran 4-hours, 23-minutes!) is comparable to a diabetic stuffing himself with sweets in a candy store. Things might start out great, but not long into the process, you end up in a coma. In my case, that is probably due to the fact that out of the 24 statuettes handed out annually, I’m really only interested in three; Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Motion Picture. I suspect my Oscar disinterest is because so few of today’s motion pictures have much appeal to an old coot like me. I don’t think I am alone. Heck, AARP’s monthly magazine even has a regular column entitled, “Movies for Grown-ups.”

In much of the world, film-making is considered to be a true art form; comparable to creating fine literature, music, painting or sculpture. Not so in the U.S. Here it is all about making a buck and Hollywood has discovered there is a basic formula that can almost guarantee profitability. You just have to make sure you buy simple, predictable scripts that appeal to 15-year-old boys. Then fill in all motivational lapses with loud explosions, car chases, bloody hand-to-hand combat, gun fights and sexy, young actresses willing to bare all.

I really can’t blame the producers of such films. After all, today’s movies cost a bundle to make. Even a “little” independent film will run into the millions. And investors have every right to expect a cash return. They are not underwriting a movie’s production costs as philanthropists.

The downside of this situation is that a lot of really great stories never get told on film.  For instance, the last I heard, the proposed motion picture based on the murder trial of Live Oak resident Ruby McCollom was on “hold.” Understandably, some local folks might be happy with that fact. After all, the 1952 incident does no credit to the city.  But the Live Oak of 60-years ago---when Jim Crow was the norm in Dixie---is not the Live Oak of today and anyone with even the slightest understanding of the New South should realize that.

Having said that, the story begs to be told on celluloid and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the movie eventually gets made. It has all the elements of a great drama; murder, sex, coercion and political corruption. Unfortunately for the film’s producers, the tragic tale has no need for car chases, explosions or bosomy maidens. After all, Ruby was just a tired, sad, middle aged black woman driven mad after years of being victimized. In other words, the story of her complex life contains little to hold the attention of a teenaged boy.

If production does move forward on Ruby, I hope the producers have the good sense to invest in tripods for their cameras. All too often, it seems today’s directors insist on making their films in the so-called “documentary style,” meaning the use of handheld cameras that jerk constantly. That style however, does nothing to make my movie-going experience enjoyable. In fact, the last time I saw such a film, I went to the theater concession stand, not for an overpriced tub of popcorn, but for Dramamine, and, to be really safe, an air sickness bag!

Jim lives in Live Oak.

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