Picture this: Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, Timothée Chalamet, Margot Robbie, and Florence Pugh star in the latest Hollywood blockbuster. The plot is… who cares, but it’s got a great cast… right?
Credit: Ultimate Movie Rankings
I am a self proclaimed movie connoisseur. I love to predict what movie is going to be the next hit and what faces I’ll get to see on screen. But increasingly often, it seems that producers are not trying to create art, but how many celebrities can fit into an hour and thirty minutes.
My most recent viewing was the 2022 film Amsterdam, a murder mystery comedy starring Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, and John David Washington. It was already a star-studded lineup, but what if I told you Anya Taylor Joy had a cameo? And Robert DeNiro? And Taylor Swift? What would appear to be a fantastic collection of notable actors (and one world-renowned singer) coming together to tell a well-crafted story turned out to be an overwhelming yet bland tale created solely for reactions like “Wow! That’s so-and-so from that other incredibly famous movie!”
I knew the film had subpar reviews, but I tend to enjoy movies even when the critics do not. The film opens with narration by Christian Bale’s character Burt Berendsen. He is a doctor who works to aid disfigured veterans of World War II, like himself. Berendsen’s close companion Harold Woodman (John David Washington) is a lawyer who fought alongside him in the war. The two are hired to perform an autopsy on the late general who led their division by his daughter, Elizabeth Meekins (Taylor Swift).
This is when I started losing faith in the movie.
I don’t want to offend any Swifties, but Taylor Swift is not a brilliant actress. Her short performance was average, difficult to compare to her coworkers. It was then I began to wonder why Swift was even in this 1930s historical fiction flick – before I was bombarded with the supporting cast of Eddie Murphy, Rami Malek, and Zoë Saldaña.
I understand why these actors were cast, of course. They are incredibly famous, talented artists and would draw in an audience from all spheres of entertainment. You may have not seen a Robert DeNiro movie, but I’m sure your parents have. You may not immediately recognize Mike Myers, but have you seen Shrek? These actors are cast in order to maximize the target audience of the film.
There is nothing inherently wrong with a film having a recognizable cast. There is a reason why these people are famous – they are good at what they do. However, when a film is dependent on the fame of its actors, it loses integrity in other fields. What Amsterdam was in celebrity cameos, it lacked in writing. The plot was mediocre and the characters were forgettable, which is surprising, considering the people that played them. Why is this an issue? There are plenty of bad movies who have no stars in their cast after all.
The problem is we are losing art.
Film is one of the most widely recognized art forms with incredible influence throughout history. It is a beautiful way to teach lessons, spread messages, and tell stories. Directors like Jordan Peele, Sofia Coppola, and Spike Lee have made long-lasting impressions in Hollywood, utilizing the art form to tell stories about womanhood or the Black experience. Movies with meaning, movies with gravity.
Credit: The Guardian
It can only be described as deplorable how commercialized film has become. Amsterdam was promoted as the film with the stunning cast and allocated an $80 million budget only to be met with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 33%.
Why is this important to acknowledge? The lack of recognition more humble films receive.
2022 also brought the release of the movie On the Count of Three, a movie I had not even heard about until I saw it listed on the “Currently Screening” board of my local movie theater. Aside from the supporting actors Tiffany Haddish and Henry Winkler, I did not recognize many cast or crew. I decided on a different film over this one, as I had seen little advertising about it and the names did not catch my attention. That was my first mistake.
Nearly a year later I found the film on a streaming service and decided to watch it, and it paid off. On the Count of Three is a dark-comedy thriller that follows two best friends’ last day of their lives as they decide to finally follow through with their long arranged suicide pact. The film has fantastic acting and writing– one minute you are contemplating your own ideas of mortality the next you are wondering if they did those dirt bike stunts themselves. It is a tragic story brightened with themes of friendship that kept me intrigued the entire time, and resonated with me even after watching.
I heard very little about this film, which upset and confused me. On the Count of Three was nominated for two awards at the Sundance Film Festival and won one, but it received little to no public praise.
Modern film has become a competition of who can afford the most big-name actors,, and it is making smaller artists suffer. It’s the classic dilemma of quality over quantity- but in this case it’s quantity over quality. More stars, bigger budget, more talk. Who’s going to receive more media coverage? Who’s going to attract a larger audience? The answer has, unfortunately, become simple.
In order to broaden your film perspectives, try to go out of your way to watch films you typically wouldn’t. Experimental films by new directors, actors debut roles, foreign films that aren’t popular in the U.S. There are a plethora of opportunities to consume revolutionary art, don’t allow the small scope of celebrity idolization to dictate your entertainment.
Watch On the Count of Three on Hulu
Jacqueline Schaffer is an Online Editorial Writer for Rowdy Magazine. You can find her at the Butler Plaza Regal theater trying to watch every movie she can to review on her Letterboxd.