posted by Joe Anaya on January 14th, 2013

It’s awards season in Hollywood. One nice perk of my various Guild and Society memberships is that I get to see movies for free. Unfortunately, with my wife’s schedule, she won’t see a movie unless she is home in bed by 10:00 pm because she’ll get too tired and fall asleep. And although she says I can see a movie without her, I know it’s just a girl trick. Anyway, recently, we managed to see The Hobbit.

The movie was unnecessarily long, 166 minutes. That’s 2 ¾ hours. A story that should have been one, maybe two, movies should not have been one third of a nine hour epic. I loved the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. I was a little dubious of turning the shortest book of the Middle Earth series into three movies (clearly a money grab by the studios). And I was right. One of my complaints was that it was too long, and the fact that it was just “okay” made it feel even longer. But it’s all part of a general trend of movies being too damn long.

So, go see Tarantino’s action movie Django; nope 165 minutes. Spielberg’s bio-pic Lincoln 149 minutes. “Well, it’s about one of our greatest presidents and the civil war; it should be long.” No, it’s about the political maneuvering to pass an amendment. So, why is it so freakin’ long? My god, I can’t start drinking my soda during the first half hour because I’ll have to go to the bathroom before the movie ends. I lay all the blame of excess at the feet of one man: James Cameron. Mr. Cameron was responsible for the blockbuster hit Titanic.

Before Titanic, producers would yell at directors to cut their film shorter, “because long movies don’t make money.” An extra 15 minutes per screening could mean you only get four screenings in a day rather than the usual five. You would literally make less money, just because you couldn’t show the movie as many times. The producers would also throw around the adage that modern audiences “don’t have the attention span for anything over two hours.” So, a director would be forced to trim every ounce of fat out of a movie, leaving only the essential necessary parts of the film. No long boring selections of their favorite artful shots that established mood. No scenes being kept in just because of a funny line or good actor moment. Just the best, most essential story-telling scenes. Nice tight 110 minutes of cinema.

Then Titanic was released at 195 minutes. That’s 3 hours, 15 minutes. I had a friend who worked on Titanic and he said Mr. Cameron wouldn’t let anyone use the words “3 hours and 15 minutes.” They had to say, “Two hours and 75 minutes.” (That’s a true story.) Anyway, thanks to hordes of pubescent girls, Titanic went on to make a bajillion dollars. Now, when any producer tries to get a director to eliminate some meaningless art shot or meandering scene that makes the movie longer, the director just fires back, “Titanic was over 3 hours long and it made a bajillion dollars.” End of story. The movie ends up being longer than it needs to be.

Now whenever I can’t see a movie because my wife won’t get home in time (especially if it starts at 8:00 pm),I shake my fist and curse, “Cameron!”

File Under Mr. Cool