Friday,21 July, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1327, (12 - 18 January 2017)
Friday,21 July, 2017
Issue 1327, (12 - 18 January 2017)

Ahram Weekly

That’s entertainment

That’s entertainment
That’s entertainment

The year may be new but our basic needs remain the same — food, shelter, health and hopefully wealth.  However, we often neglect to consider that entertainment is also a basic need, the relief that helps us continue our struggle for our daily needs.

It comes in many forms, books, plays, music, dance and the 20th century introduced film, the biggest form of entertainment. A miracle of life’s dreams and reality, film reached a peak of sorts, around mid-century, the late 40s, 50s and early 60s. Then television came along, challenging the art of cinema, petrifying movie-makers and theatre-owners, as viewers seemed to favour the living-room comfort of the new form of entertainment.

The novelty of the “little box” was miraculous.  At virtually no expense or effort, here come the stars, celebrities, leaders, right at home. You could also watch sports, games, concerts, soap operas, sitcoms, talk-shows and above all — old movies.

Scratching their heads, movie makers agonised at how to face the new challenger. Theatres were empty and movies were flopping at an alarming rate.   “Tora, Tora, Tora”, a masterpiece war film was ignored by viewers. Even the early James Bond movies struggled at the Box Office. What could they do to regain the public’s interest?  After almost a decade of doom, they came up with the right idea. Movies have to be bigger and better than what television offers.

By  the mid 70s young directors like George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, Frances Ford Coppola and such acting talents as Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, started their battle with the little black box with The Godfather, Jaws, Poseidon Adventure and Love Story. The public was back standing in line to see the newly invigorated screen wonders.

Star Wars was the most spectacular of all, wielding its charm that has endured for decades, such as this season’s Rogue One, which has broken all records once again, except for its predecessor, The Force Awakens, (2015).  

 TV producers were alert to the growing competition. Bigger is better. They started wooing superstars and spent big money on more meaningful productions that kept the viewer at home in robe and slippers, grateful he does not have to face the traffic, the crowds and the winter weather.

 Carefully scripted shows such as Columbo and The Odd Couple. Mash and Masterpiece Theatre were nothing less than an explosion of fine entertainment within your own home. Production costs rose, so did salaries for stars, writers and directors, opening doors to talents, painfully idle, longing for a venue. Television became their home and cable’s Home Box Office (HBO), led the march to television’s new found glory.

While HBO is not the only cable network, it is the oldest and most popular. Founded in 1972, it has continued to grow and now claims to be seen in one third of US households, 151 countries and 122 million subscribers worldwide. The most expensive of US broadcasting transmissions of US premium services, HBO is well worth the cost.  Half the world got an unprecedented thrill with the transmission of the Thrilla in Manila, the boxing match of Mohamed Ali.  HBO was the first TV network to continually deliver its signals via satellite.

Home seems to be where the entertainment is, providing joy and excitement and much needed relaxation, be it a sports game, world news, or maybe The Sopranos or Sex and the City, E-Entertainment News, your “Kardashian wonders” or your “Beverly Hills Wives”. The scope and variety is endless with a vast treasure of entertaining gems.

It has been many a decade since film brought us those big stars such as Harrison Ford in Star Wars or Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.  Not too many “Clooneys” or “Jolies” available, the cinema and television draw from the same pool of unknowns, but when they are cast in Downton Abbey, a chronicle of the a British aristocratic family and their servants, dealing with the consequences of WWI.  We care little if they are unknown. We learn to love them, worry about them and we become involved in their lives. They penetrate our very souls and are the centre of our concentration. Such aesthetic pleasure is seldom afforded in today’s films, judging by Golden Globe Awards La La Land; meets  OJ Simpson, are little deserving films that few have seen and fewer have enjoyed. 

The best five movies of the year are Spotlight, Creed, Revenant, Victoria, and Hateful 8. Except for Rogue one, their box-office return is dismal. Awards are no longer what they used to be.

What is cheering up the army of movie fans who love their couch, is another HBO masterpiece Game of Thrones. Grippingly hypnotic, its well-woven stories has made it the number one hit of the past six seasons. Rivaling any movie, its episodes are attentive to detail, clever plots, richly textured characters and superbly choreographed and photographed battle scenes, which have earned the series its many awards and nominations. Addicts wonder what will happen in the seventh and last season. Surely they will suffer withdrawal symptoms. 

A cruel winter is upon us. Curling up on your favourite rocking chair and old warm slippers, watching worthy entertainment in your own home is safer, more comfortable and less costly. We might miss the magic of the dark theatre, passing around the popcorn and sharing thrills with hundreds around you, but all things considered, there’s no place like home.


 “That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.”

Henry David Thoreau (1816-1872)

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