Hollywood rolled out the red carpet for the annual Academy Awards Sunday night. So, with the winners fresh in our minds – if you give a damn about such fanfare – this is as good a time as any to make a few personal observations about the current state of motion pictures.
In the recent film, “Gangster Squad,” arch-villain Mickey Cohen, a powerful Mafia connection in Los Angles during the late 1940s, has one of his enemies chained between a couple of cars and torn in half. We’re given a graphic, overhead view of the horrific halving. It’s the film’s opening scene. I guess the director wanted to make sure he had our attention.
Given such vivid, bloody portrayals, I sometimes find myself longing for the “good ol’ days” in the late 1960s, when Clint Eastwood could decimate an entire town with no more than his six-shooter. Though I never actually kept a body count, I’m quite certain the assault rifles in today’s films stack up more bullet-riddled bodies in the first five minutes than Eastwood did in all the Spaghetti Westerns combined. Despite all the mayhem, these westerns were somehow so ridiculous no one seemed to take them seriously – not even psychotic viewers with a blood lust. In fact, there was very little blood in the Eastwood movies; that is, no one was beheaded or torn apart. Then, in 1976, Martin Scorsese released “Taxi Driver” starring Robert DeNiro, who walked away with the Best Actor Oscar for his role as an alienated, increasingly crazy fellow who finally vents his murderous fury in the film’s climatic scene. At the time, it was one of the bloodiest rampages ever put on film but, by today’s standards it’s relatively lame.
Nearly all these movies carry an “R” rating. Gross horror flicks like “Hostel” and films that depict, in graphic detail, brutal and savage rapes – like Susan George in “Straw Dogs” and Sondra Currie in “Jessi’s Girl” and even that hideous torture scene in Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” – earn no more than an “R.”
And speaking of Quentin Tarantino, he has this thing about blood and gore, either as a spoof in “Dawn to Dusk” or as a realistic portrayal in his recent release, “Django Unchained.” Either way, he creates more bloody carnage than I care to watch for the rest of my life. All with an “R” rating.
Of late, we’re invited to observe such a rising flood of savage acts we’re becoming numb to them and are scarcely moved at all.
You can find equally repulsive violence on TV. The other night I clicked into five minutes of “Spartacus” and five minutes were more than enough. Some dude swung his sword and decapitated his enemy, but the headless corpus didn’t immediately fall to the ground. Instead, it remained standing, shooting blood from it’s neck 3 feet into the air and raining down upon the victor who, needless to say, was covered with blood. Indeed, everyone involved in this wholesale slaughter – and there were many of them – were covered with blood because the scene involved an entire battlefield. They slapped and “M” rating on this one: “Not Recommended For Children.”
And yet, when a film depicts a loving couple having normal, tender, but graphic sex – full-frontal nudity and all that – a great, disgusting scream rises from our outraged citizenry and they immediately brand the film pornographic and slap a triple “XXX” rating on it: “Not suitable for anyone under 35.”
Really now, isn’t there something drastically wrong with our moral standards?