Only in The Movies

By IAN MAISEL  |  August 11, 2006

I began to feel a kinship with the legendary assholes of Hollywood. Critics are quick to give the finger to Louis B. Meyer, painting him as nothing more than a cold-blooded shark who churned out mealy, lowest-common-denominator crowd pleasers. But faced with the economic imperatives of early-20th-century filmmaking, Meyer-esque filmmaking feels like good, hard common sense: lowest common denominator movies create the highest denominations of profit! And in the 1940s, that money, my friend, is what paid for me to build the public-relations firms that got my stars in front of all those newspaper and radio people.

Compared to the challenge of staying financially afloat, it was easy to make the actors happy enough to stay with my studio. All I had to do was keep them on the magazine covers by decking them out in the latest threads. In the ’30s, all the guys wanted gangster suits, but by the ’50s they insisted on the leather jacket look of  that no-talent hack Marlon Brandon, or whatever the hell his name was.

But I’m proud of our technical accomplishments in those years. We were the first studio to develop dolly rigs, camera cranes, and stereo sound, and it was cheap tricks like those that allowed me to pluck 18-year-old bimbos right off the street and plunk them into my films – for nothing! Here’s a secret: audiences didn’t care that my actors sucked and my stories were dull. The reason people packed my theaters? One word: Technicolor.

Take 8: Complications
It is unbelievably difficult to build chemistry between stars. In The Movies, it can take years of game time to get actors to develop a decent friendship, let alone get some starlet in your trailer. Relationship-building involves tediously dragging your leading twosome through open parks, bars, and restaurants, because no one in The Movies has any spontaneous chemistry with each other. Left to their own devices, your actors will remain completely neutral towards each other through their 50-year careers. It’s as if they lacked even the barest slice of personality. And oncce you do go through the trouble of seeding a relationship, it leads only to some surface-level interaction: a paltry romance at best, or maybe a good friendship. (Sorry, my dear Phoenix readers, there won’t be any Brokeback  moments in The Movies – romance is for straights only.)

The game can grow really exhausting for a number of other reasons as well. In order to make The Movies accessible to a younger audience, the user interface is a series of word balloons and pop-up bubbles. They are fun at first, but when you get into the white heat of a complex game at 2:30 in the morning, you want speed, and all of the extra clicks to get things done become a drag. And the game further ticks you off by running slower and slower as more characters and more complex sets show up on screen.

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