Q: Why do moviemakers go to such lengths to craft a film full of derring-do adventures (such as the "Indiana Jones" series), then ruin the magic by taking us behind the scenes to reveal all the special-effect secrets?
Rose Scott-Fituwi, Landover
A: It's because Hollywood thinks the business of Hollywood is very interesting, especially to outsiders. This is why you get a disproportionate number of movies about the movie business, or sitcoms and dramas about the lives of screenwriters or actors, such as HBO's "Entourage."
The same logic is behind the self-indulgent proliferation of "Making of . . ."-style documentaries that are now a standard component of marketing a movie's release and "bonus" filler material included on DVDs. With the rise of the blockbuster in the 1970s ("Jaws," "Star Wars," etc.), producers realized the moneymaking potential in keeping a crew on hand to film the filmmakers in copious verite, interview the actors and, especially, document the "magic" behind special effects. This was once thought interesting only to supergeeks and film students (same difference), but it turns out that lots of people wanted the curtain pulled away to reveal the rather humdrum process of stunts, makeup and computer graphics. Who knew?
Sometimes it really would be better to leave our belief suspended and not know what makes Spider-Man soar from building to building. But now our culture subsists on infotainment overload, where everyone fancies himself or herself as an undiscovered auteur. We're left with a surfeit of footage in which actors seriously discuss their motivation for scenes with robots, explosions, aliens. They've been convinced that everyone cares about how hard it is to get these shots right, to sit so long in a makeup chair. And they always talk about how hard it is, like it's the hardest job in the world.
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