We're two thirds of the way through the summer movie season. Thrilling but vacuous films have proved they can take in hundreds of millions at the box office in just a few weeks. Bob Dole has made his second major speech as Washington's answer to Siskel and Ebert. This time he found some inspiring, constructive movies to praise, while continuing his justified theme that the people who make films - writers, directors, producers - ought to think about what they're doing to America before they take the plunge on each new project.
OK, then. What is the state of the dominant world civilization's entertainment industry?
Well, it's improving, although not uniformly. Both film and TV industries are doing their versions of "following th'iliction returns." In this case, those election returns are more the box-office votes of individual Americans than the hectoring of political leaders like the earnest Mr. Dole.
And those box-office votes?
Yes, they still give a mandate to big, mayhem-and-car-chase flicks. Bodies shattering picture windows are not an artifact of the past. But, moviegoers are also giving a huge mandate to family fare like "The Adventures of Pinnochio" and pictures that entertain and instruct while still relating to real life.
There appear to be two reasons for this phenomenon, neither very surprising: 1) Demographics - baby boomers have nested and have families to protect and instruct. 2) Pendulum swings - wretched excesses of chain-saw, druggie, downer films and stalker TV shows cause a counter-revolution.
As sensible critic Michael Medved notes, G and PG-13 films are grossing more than R-rated ones.
A welcome trend deserves thanks. To whom do they go? First, of course, to ticket-buyers. Then, to moviemakers thoughtful enough to change direction without losing the magic of great storytelling. And finally, yes, to political leaders who saw an American flaw and spoke out about it.
Moviegoers now are giving a huge mandate to family fare that entertains and instructs.