Ghost in the Shell, Superheroes, and the End Goal.

I was able to watch quite a number of films lately, ranging from Ghost in the Shell (2017), Logan, and John Wick 2 in the commercial films category to Unbearable Lightness of Being, Handmaiden, and Ghost in the Shell (1996) in the art-house/indie category.

One thing that becomes obvious when you look at the above list, is that I’ve watched all of the commercial films in theater (they are relative new films, after all), while the rest I caught online. (These films are more than a few years old and are naturally no longer showing in theaters.) Yet if you ask me to rate these films according to how much I like them, the commercial films go straight to the bottom, without question.

So why am I paying for lesser films and watching the better ones for free?

Accessibility.

By accessibility, I am referring to the fact that the commercial films are better known, aired on probably all available theaters, and, when I wanted to watch something at the theater, were there.

Compare that with the art-house films, which are in the first place lesser known; by the time I’ve heard of them, they are no longer running in the theaters. And even if I were interested in one that’s showing right now, in all likelihood it’s only showing at obscure hours, at theaters that’s way off the grid, or both. There’s way too many obstacles that’s placed before me, so much so that I end up not paying to watch them in theaters.

It’s All About the Money.

Of course, it’s all about the money. Non-commercial films have less audience to begin with, so they can’t typically afford to invest in marketing, so not many will end up hearing about them. In a similar vein, I imagine (not sure about the economics) it will be hard for them to pay theaters to show these films at the right hours, at the right places. And the less exposed these films are, the less likely it will be for them to gain wide acceptance, and so the vicious cycle spirals on, forever.

If your movie doesn’t have popular appeal, it seems, you’re screwed.

My Heroes… Acting as Superheroes.

That’s surely the main reason why some of my most respected actors and actresses are now acting in mediocre commercial films. From Samuel L Jackson to Michael Caine to Maggie Gyllenhaal to now Juliette Binoche—talented people all around are now accepting forgettable roles that pay big.

Of course they’re not to be blamed. We all need to make money and stay alive, and as actors and actresses, gaining exposure is critical as well. I still adore them as great actresses and actors, but I’ll try my best not to remember them in their new, mediocre roles. They probably hope the same too.

The Silver Lining.

A young woman in lingerie and a bower hat over a mirror, which reflects a man in the background
The unbearably lovely cover for The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The bright side to this is that we remember the really good stuff that shines.

Though we will not remember how Wolverine plunges his claws into the hundredth sidekick he killed, we will always remember the way Sabina plays with her bower hat in front of the mirror. And while we won’t remember a single line Samuel L Jackson mutters in the superhero movies he was in, there will be plenty of people trying to reenact the scene where he spat out Bible verses in style before ruthlessly gunning his enemy down. Not to mention we’re a hundred times more likely to collect the original Ghost in the Shell and display it on our shelves than the Scarlett Johansson version. (I adore the actress, but the adaption seriously leaves quite a lot to be desired.)

Lesson of the day for me: aim not for short term gains, but for long term impact.