6 WWWork (p. 56) - Where Is Hollywood?
What is a typical Hollywood movie like? Here is a conversation between two young people:
I’ve just bought a new DVD – do you want to come over and watch it tonight? It’s called Kingdom of Heaven – it’s about the Crusades in the Middle Ages. Lots of knights and castles and so on.
No way! It’s just another of those typical American Hollywood films full of violence. I don’t want to waste my time seeing it!
But I read that it was directed by an Englishman, filmed in Spain and Africa, produced by a group of multinational companies, and paid for by international money. What’s all this about American? And how can a film about the battle for Jerusalem not show any violence?
Oh, you know what I mean!
Many Europeans, Lene obviously included, believe that if a film is poor or violent or just plain stupid, it must come from Hollywood. Of course, most English-speaking films are not made in Hollywood anymore. Hollywood is no longer a place. It has gone global and become a vast international network of filmmaking companies. What these companies have in common is
1) America as a huge home market.
2) English as the language used.
Even where it is not spoken, English-speaking films can be dubbed or given subtitles. And that makes English-speaking films both cheap and popular in today’s competitive global market place.
78 per cent of the films shown in Europe in 2000 were produced by American filmmakers. This has led many people in European nations to fear for their national identities and native languages. In France they have gone so far as to pass a law which says that no more than 40 per cent of films shown in the country can be of “non-European origin” – a polite way of saying Hollywood.
So what’s the secret? Why are Hollywood films so popular even among the people who often call them violent and tasteless? Here are a few of the many answers that have been given to that question:
No one can match the kind of money Hollywood spends of films like the Star Wars or The Matrix series.
The appeal of actors like Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson is enormous. Hollywood films give the audience people they can identify with, people that they can imitate, admire or wish to be like.
Fans are attracted by the life-style of the “beautiful people” on-and off-screen, including all the scandals, romances and Oscar triumphs and tragedies.
The international audience knows, likes and will pay to see Hollywood movies because they trust Hollywood to deliver the goods, including:
– action films
– romantic comedies
– teenage melodramas
– horror films
– science fiction films
– historical dramas
Hollywood has the money to hire some of the best writers around and to buy up the rights to make movies out of the most popular novels and plays.
An American audience of 290 million means that hundreds and hundreds of movies can be made each year and then afterwards exported at low cost.
Huge advertising campaigns can, for example, put Walt Disney action figures in every McDonald’s in the world within days of the opening of a movie.
English as a world language:
English gives Hollywood a global market of well over a billion people. No other national cinema can possibly match it.
Whatever the answer or mix of answers, Hollywood’s grip on the film industry has forced filmmakers around the world to copy its methods. Many “foreign” films today now owe much to Hollywood. Perhaps the day will come when the international film industry will be dubbing Chinese or Italian films into English for the American market, instead of the other way around. If that happens, Hollywood will truly have gone international and it may not longer be possible to talk about a “typical American Hollywood film”.
1 Understanding the text
a Why didn’t Lene want to see the film Kingdom of Heaven?
b What do many Europeans think of Hollywood films?
c What do Hollywood film companies have in common?
d Why do some Europeans fear the influence of Hollywood?
e Mention a few of the reasons given for the popularity of Hollywood films.
f What effect has Hollywood had on the international film industry?
a Which kinds of films to you prefer, films in English or films in Norwegian? Why?
b Some say that Norwegian films are becoming more and more like Hollywood films. Do you agree? Can you think of any Norwegian films that would support or oppose this statement?
c Which of the reasons given for the popularity of Hollywood films in the article
above do you think are most important? Arrange them in their order of importance.
d Can you think of any other reasons not mentioned in the article? If so, where would these fit in you list? Compare you list with a fellow pupil’s. Discuss differences.
4 Making a list
a On your own, make a list of recent movies you have seen. How many of the movies were English-speaking? Could any of these be called “typical Hollywood” films? Using the categories in the article above, what kinds of movies were they (i.e. romantic comedies, action films, etc.)?
b Now compare your list with a classmate’s. Which films have you both seen? Why were these films popular, do you think?
Write a short biography of your favorite English-speaking actor or director. What makes this person so good at what they do?
Pick an English-speaking film you have recently seen. Using the Internet, find out:
– where it was made
– who directed it and what country that person come from
– what company or companies made the film and in what country they are located
The Internet Movie Database
6 WWWork (p. 56) - Where Is Hollywood?