When asked, “what are you doing this weekend?” my response was merely, “a friend and I are planning to catch a movie”—either Lincoln or Argo, both Oscar-nominated films. Once the Oscar list is published, this is something that we, like so many other people, routinely do each year: We make an effort to see each of the major movies in advance of the awards. The top movies this year are complex; they evoke lots of human emotions and address complicated issued. One leaves thinking: “Let’s follow up with coffee and a long conversation to dissect the essence of the film.”
My friend and I decided to look through the movie listings in the Bronx, where she lives and I was visiting, to find out where those films were playing. Lo and behold, neither Lincoln or Argo, nor a single one of the serious Oscar-nominated films were playing anywhere in the vicinity. The vast majority of the films in local movie houses were explicitly violent: Hansel and Gretel (I can’t imagine how parents are explaining this version of the classic fairy tale to their children) was featured in two out of the five theaters), Django Unchained, and Gangster Squad also seemed to be everywhere, and rounded out a bloody, graphically violent array of films. Nowhere in our Bronx area could we go to find anything like a quality film.
Give Us the Option
I couldn’t help thinking how different our choices would have been had we set out to see a film in Manhattan or Brooklyn. What are theater owners and movie distributors trying to tell us? That Bronx residents can’t relate to meaningful, thought-provoking films with little-to-no violence? To a degree, of course, many of the nominated films include some violence, and I’m not saying that such films—or even the gory ones I described above—have no place in our culture. But why must the entertainment industry assume that no one in an entire borough of 1.3 million residents (more than the entire populations of Atlanta and San Francisco combined) would be interested in thought-provoking movie experiences? Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone in New York—even residents of the Bronx—were given the option of seeing quality, less violent films in our neighborhoods?
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