The closing of the Sandcastle Theater in Woods Cross is a telling commentary about society today and the film industry.
Reuel and Dolores Kohler, the original owners of the 21 1/2-year-old theater lighted up the twin silver screens for the last time a week ago.The reason?
"We can't get the kind of movies we want to play anymore," Reuel Kohler said, explaining that the Kohlers' philosophy has always been to screen movies that offer only the cleanest in family entertainment to moviegoers.
In a sense, it's amazing the Sandcastle lasted as long as it did. Trying to find films that meet family standards surely was not an easy task. "Just about everything has something in it that's objectionable. It's just thrown in there. It doesn't add anything to the movie," Kohler lamented.
Therein lies the problem with most films nowadays. You almost have to plan on being offended. The question becomes, "How much am I willing to be offended?" There are exceptions, but they're rare. The films based on the Jane Austen novels, ("Sense and Sensibility," "Emma," etc.) period pieces emphasizing character development over special effects, are some of those noteworthy exceptions.
But for the most part hopes are quickly dashed with a quick look at the review. A mystery-drama, "Twilight," with a stellar cast (Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon and James Garner), that opened Friday would seem to be something movie fans could look forward to. But by reading Jeff Vice's review in the Deseret News, we find it's rated R and contains violence, profanity, vulgarity, nudity, gore and sex. Thanks a heap, Hollywood.
This is the kind of cast Alfred Hitchcock would have molded to make one of his hallmark films like "North by Northwest."
Even films you'd expect to be tame and innocuous, like the remake of "Flubber," have warn-ings. In Flubber's case it's violence, vulgarity and profanity. "Home Alone 3," another PG film, has violence, vulgarity, profanity and a poster showing partial nudity. Most of the other films listed in Friday's weekend section have considerably more pitfalls.
At least the reviewers warn us. It's somewhat like traveling on a metaphorical road. To get to your destination as a filmgoer you have to be willing to drive over potholes (most PG and PG-13 movies) or drive over potholes and dodge falling boulders and trees (most R-rated movies), like in that TV vehicle commercial.
Moviegoers didn't always have to make decisions like that. If a film wasn't noteworthy it was because the acting was bad or the plot was ludicrous or both, not because of the violence-gore-sex-nudity-drug use-racial epithets-profanity content.
One of the great all-time movies is "The Great Escape," a riveting World War II drama about allied POWs in Germany. It's a movie where the script and filming match the brilliance of the cast - Richard Attenborough, James Garner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson and Donald Pleasence.
If it were remade today it would be rated PG-13 or R, and in addition to the male stars there would be a female star like Sharon Stone. Yes, Hollywood would find a way to get a woman in there, even if it were just a dream sequence. There would probably also be a scene where prostitutes were brought in for the German command. And, of course, the language would be abominable because aren't military folks and POWs in particular going to spew forth a few streams of expletives? And so these would be the Deseret News warning signs: violence, vulgarity, profanity, sex and partial nudity. Look at the war films Hollywood's produced in the past 15 years and see if that's not the case.
Did anyone who watched "The Great Escape" when it came out in 1963 get upset because their ears weren't assaulted with profanity? Did anyone say, "hey, this isn't really realistic because in the military people swear a blue streak so I'm walking out on this film?" Director John Sturges didn't need garbage intruding on that enthralling story. And really, there's no reason why filmmakers need to clutter their films with gratuitous doses of sludge today, but they do.
Veteran Deseret News film critic Chris Hicks bemoaned in his column Friday that "They don't make 'em like they used to." If they did, the Sandcastle would still be in business.