Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cataclysm Practice; Far from Being Buried by the Events of 9/11, the Blockbuster Movie Is Alive and Well and Living in Hollywood

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cataclysm Practice; Far from Being Buried by the Events of 9/11, the Blockbuster Movie Is Alive and Well and Living in Hollywood

Article excerpt

Byline: CATHERINE SHOARD

Blockbuster by Tom Shone (Simon & Schuster, [pounds sterling]18.99)

THREE years ago, a handful of film critics were holed up in a London screening room watching Greenfingers, a gentle comedy about a convict who takes up gardening. The credits rolled. Suddenly, up flashed footage of a plane crashing into the Twin Towers. Must be a trailer for the latest blockbuster, everyone thought. Sure looks realistic.

Independence Day fireballed the White House, Deep Impact drenched the Empire State Building, Godzilla squashed Times Square - small wonder people thought 9/11 was the latest Josh Hartnett vehicle.

Might these films have even inspired such evil? Could anyone bear to watch, let alone make, a blockbuster ever again?

Of course they could. Spider-Man, released soon after the attacks, simply airbrushed out the World Trade Centre and got on with the business of raking in $820 million, making it the fifth most successful film ever.

Unless you take into account inflation, that is. Then it plummets 30 places to a notch above Home Alone.

Such cold shower stats are just one of the delights of Tom Shone's snappy history of the genre or, as he defines it, "not quite a genre but almost; often science fiction but not necessarily; something to do with action movies although not always; but most definitely not Kramer versus Kramer".

Actually, Blockbuster can seem less like a history than a case for the defence. What drove Shone to his keyboard was Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, the drooly doorstopper about the auteurs of the Seventies (Scorsese, Coppola, Altman). Biskind blamed the blockbuster not only for numbing the collective mind but also for castrating American art-house. "Star Wars was in, Spielberg was in. We were finished," he quotes a moaning Martin Scorsese.

William Friedkin compared the blockbuster to the Big Mac: "The taste for good food just disappeared. …

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