WTF: Yes, They Would Make the Movie Today

If you watch enough DVDs, particularly the behind-the-scenes featurettes and the commentary tracks, you’ll hear a slew of cliches paraded about.

These cliches include self-congratulatory interviews with the cast and crew talking about how clever the movie is (even if it’s not really that clever, like in Nobel Son or The Machinist).

Or, how the director fawns over a particular actor or actress, saying they were their first and only choice (which is ridiculously stupid to say about actors like D-list nobody Martin Henderson being Gurinder Chadha’s first choice for the lead in Bride & Prejudice).

Or my personal pet peeve is hearing television showrunners talk about how they want to “make Los Angeles a character” in series like Private Practice and Shark. (Hint, hint… no one living outside of L.A. notices the L.A. shots… to them, it’s just another big city near an ocean.)

The latest cliche I’ve heard popping up in interviews and discussion about films are particularly for movies that are 15 or 20 years old that are now seeing a new release on DVD or a never-before-released Blu-ray edition. The example I’ll pull is from the new “Deluxe Edition” of 1993’s Falling Down (and I put “Deluxe Edition” in quotes because there’s barely enough content – just a commentary track and a lone featurette – on the disc to call it a standard edition… but that complaint is for another week).

In the retrospective featurette of Falling Down, Michael Douglas says that this movie was so controversial, it wouldn’t be made today by a major studio.

What the Falling Down?

I’d like to give Douglas the benefit of the doubt, assuming that he means that were Falling Down made today that it would have been a different movie. After all, he knows a lot about movies. He just received the AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award this week. I’d like to give him that benefit of the doubt, but I really don’t think that’s what he meant.

He can’t be saying that Falling Down was really all that controversial, just because you had a white guy shooting up L.A. He can’t be saying that all the social problems addressed in the film – the gang violence, the traffic congestion, the hate crimes – are something that studios wouldn’t touch today. He can’t be saying that gritty street violence with innocent people getting hurt or killed is too taboo.

Don’t we see worse things in film all the time nowadays? And don’t we see this kind of stuff on television cop shows each week – from The Shield to The Closer?

The reality is, were Falling Down made today, it would be more violent, more controversial and more shocking than in 1993, regardless of the fact that they were filming during the Rodney King race riots. Did Douglas forget that his character only killed one guy in the movie, and that was a Neo Nazi nutjob? That’s hardly stepping over a line.

Let’s be realistic folks and not congratulate ourselves too much on production decisions from just a few years ago. Let’s leave the “they wouldn’t make that movie today” for films that really deserve it… like Birth of a Nation or The Jazz Singer, or even the much missed but wildly politically incorrect Song of the South.

I’m sorry, but Michael Douglas blowing away a phone booth with a machine gun isn’t that controversial today… or ever.

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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