Every presidency comes with its own type of cinema. The Ronald Reagan administration of 1981-1989, which led into the tail end of the Cold War, saw a number of raunchy escapist comedies like Porky’s and National Lampoon’s Vacation, as well as the rise of the American action hero in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s canon and, of course, Rambo. The Barack Obama years of 2009-2017 saw a number of tentpoles with multicultural casts, i.e. The Hunger Games, Furious 7, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Rogue One.
So in these divided political times of President Donald Trump where there are a number of inflammatory policies and rhetoric, what type of movies will Hollywood make?
Said Deadpool producer Simon Kinberg who is nominated in the theatrical motion picture feature category for his R-rated iconoclastic superhero movie, “My gut would say that there will be more escapist entertainment because they’ll be enough rise-up drama on CNN.”
The writer/producer pointed to hopeful political dramas, referencing NBC’s The West Wing which ran during the bulk of George W. Bush’s presidency.
“It was like the president you wish you had as opposed to the president you have. They’ll be some of that whether it’s an escapist comedy, adventure, action, or superhero movie. In some way, the movies will have to be more outrageous because the reality we’re living in is the craziest it’s ever been in my lifetime,” said Kinberg.
Producer Aaron Ryder believes that one of the reasons why his feature PGA and Oscar nominated sci-fi pic Arrival resonated so much with the masses (it’s bound to cross $100M by Oscar night) is because it emotionally connected with people at just the right moment when society seemed to be falling apart.
“You have to look when Arrival was first released. It was the week of the election. It was a moment when people wanted go out, and this provided an incredibly timely message about communication and miscommunication, and people working well together. Timing helped us in some ways. It felt like Arrival hit the zeitgeist.”
Bill Mechanic who produced this year’s Oscar and PGA nominee Hacksaw Ridge and ran Fox Filmed Entertainment from 1994-2000 as chairman and CEO had a more pragmatic take on the types of cinematic genres that get greenlit against a political climate: “I never made pictures for a presidency. It’s nothing I ever paid attention to. If you’re playing in the currency, that currency can always change. For me, I just don’t make movies for that moment in time; you want them to last. Things can change too quickly. The job isn’t to make the culture of the moment. The job is to make culture come to you.”
Mechanic’s fellow Hacksaw Ridge producer David Permut finds hope in the words of Harry Warner during calamitous times.
“Harry Warner, Jack Warner’s older brother said the power of the movies had to do three things: educate, enlighten and entertain. If you can do all that, that’s the power of the movies, and a lot of tonight’s nominated films speak to that,” said Permut.
“I think escapism is always good, comedies are always king; you want to get away from harsh realities of our world. Somebody said to me the other day, ‘It’s a tragedy what’s happened to this country politically.’ I don’t think it’s a tragedy; a tragedy is when you stop breathing. The fact is that we’re still here in the entertainment community because we’re still breathing, so you become proactive,” adds the Hacksaw Ridge producer.
Providing a specific example of a movie that’s in the works at his studio which couldn’t be more ripe during the Trump presidency, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Group Chairman Tom Rothman, who is also receiving the PGA Milestone award tonight, beamed, “We’re making a film that’s a co-production with Warner Bros. called The Phantom Tollbooth based on the Norton Juster book. In that book, rhyme and reason disappear and chaos takes over. All I will say is that suddenly that script feels more relevant today than it did in September.”