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Bleak Is Chic: How Low Will Hollywood Go?

Even James Bond has a case of the bleaks. In "Quantum of Solace," he has hardened into a morose assassin "blinded by inconsolable rage." Bond's jesterlike tech guru Q does not make an appearance. He is no doubt busy designing a smile for 007.

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What's causing this spike in bleakness, and why are we eating it up? Is it just a reflection of the real world and its Big Problems (global warming, war, an economy gone mad, blah blah)? Or is it that Hollywood sees bleak and apocalyptic movies as easy to market (simply wind up the clucking Chicken Little again)?

We could, perhaps, blame Cormac McCarthy, who has become the muse of A-list directors and producers. McCarthy is the celebrated novelist whose scalpel-sharp prose carves out any hope from his somber yarns, which usually end with some kind of violent judgment day. He was at the Oscars in February, applauding as the film adaptation of his book won Best Picture. He may be doing that again in the next couple of years. Two more McCarthy adaptations are in development. A third, "The Road," is being prepped for a 2009 release. The plot?

The end of the world. A father and son hack their way through a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Whee!

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An Australian man sits in a dim room, curtains closed, looking at bleak photography on his laptop.

Soggy, gutted homes in New Orleans. Click.

A Russian slum boy. Click.

Malibu on fire. Click.

Blood-smeared killing floors in Bosnia. Click.

Greenish-red toxic runoff in Sudbury, Canada. Click.

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