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June 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 11 Jun 1994 15:37:13 EDT
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I would argue that it is not the case that studio era production allowed more
opportunities for innovation and experimentation. That would be hard to
justify as a claim. It seems to me that the breakdown of the studio system and
 the rise of independent production has resulted in a prolonged period of
stylistic experimentation and innovation with the result that the average film
today follows very different stylistic principles (especially in terms of
camerawork, editing, and scoring) than prior to the Paramount decrees. There
has also been more room for directors such as Robert Altman or David Lynch, to
choose two representative examples, who could not have functioned in the
studio system. Yes, Welles made CITIZEN KANE for RKO but look what happened
after that. On the other hand, I would argue that standardized production at
the studio, using contract players and technical support, probably resulted in
a much higher minimal competence level. The average studio era film would thus
be more competent and probably more entertaining than the average American
film today. I feel that everytime I watch an old film by a no name director
I never heard of and feel the logic of the system at work. Could a film like
THE FLINTSTONES have been produced in the studio era? But, of course, Hollywood
 did many adaptations of radio shows, including Amos and Andy movies with the
actors in black-face. They simply wouldn't have had the sophisticated methods
for cross-media promotion which the horizontaly intergrated entertainment
industry allows nor would they have had the sophisticated special effects which
are what makes this film worth watching at all. What the film did was make me
appreciate the strengths of the original Hanna-Barbara series which I have
been watching with renewed interest. The average episode contains more good
 lines and sight gags than this over-written and under-thought mega-production.
--Henry Jenkins