Neglected Visual Effects Artists? Hollywood Needs to Change their Billing Traditions

I stumbled onto THIS ARTICLE in Far Out Magazine about the need to uplift “neglected” visual effects artists in cinema through celebration of stellar films like Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, and I agree, but the basic issue of rendering praise where it’s genuinely due may be more related (at least these days) to a continued overemphasis upon the idolatry paid to shitty “actors” instead of the superb artists behind the scenes.

It’s hardly news that outstanding writers, cinematographers, effects artists, set designers, animators, and other makers of movie magic have long been crammed into the back of the bus compared to the parade of barely gifted underwear models and pretenders delivering pre-written speeches and demanding obscene salaries for their efforts. Directors, of course, are often included in those first-class accommodations, worthily and unworthily. Since the beginning of Hollywood’s Golden Age, a few extraordinary “in front of the camera” talents have reached regular levels of charisma and performance genius that transcend film itself, with or without the application of any extra cinematic bells and whistles: Fred Astaire; Bette Davis; (early) Marlon Brando; Judy Garland; Charlie Chaplin … the list of those “stars” who almost always brought a wave of automatic Magic flowing over audiences upon first sight is actually pretty slim. And it hasn’t gotten that much bigger over the years, with the advent of neorealism, realism, postmodern cinema and sundry.

There are still many superb talents among the “stars” but few true immortals. Some sneak into the select pantheon by the sheer enormity and breadth of their popular output, rather than by overwhelming and wondrous talent: John Wayne; Tom Cruise; Clint Eastwood; Elizabeth Taylor; Meryl Streep; these and a few other greats come to mind as far as the present day is concerned. All of them are legends, but none are jaw-dropping geniuses, despite the bounty of awards continually lavished upon such famous red-carpet strollers. The emphasis upon an idolatrous fascination with movie stars is nothing new—“matinée idol” was not a termed coined last year—but the subtle shifts over the years from big studios cultivating rosters of multi-talented contract players, writers, technicians, etc. and the subsequent rise of the free-agent “superstar” has occasioned a far too easy overemphasis upon the cults of lesser personalities.

Since most of the biggest money-making films in our present (and in my opinion, mostly worthless) era of cinema are driven by mind-boggling visual effects and not by any acting prowess emanating from today’s interchangeable “acting” automatons, perhaps it’s time for the industry itself to rectify the “neglect” of artists behind the scenes by putting VFX artist names first in the onscreen opening credits and paying them salaries big enough to buy multiple vineyards in France.

Or everyone can just call-off the whole damned farce and start reading books on weekend evenings. It’s reached the point wherein you’d almost have to pay me to watch a streamed contemporary movie in the comfort of my own home.


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