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The signs are everywhere: Hollywood is under attack. That London prankster (you say hero?) who shot Tom Cruise in the face with a squirt-gun "microphone" before a screening of War of the Worlds might have been defending himself against the star's impending assault of audiences around the globe. Me, I'd call it evidence that we moviegoers are fighting back--or at least conscientiously objecting.

"People who used to go to movies are watching television more," critic David Thomson told me recently. "They're watching DVDs more, they're reading books more. They're going out for a walk more."

In other words, we're exercising our right to send Cinderella Man back to Universal without its glass slipper. And if we're not springing for movie tickets, neither, it seems, are we buying the sight of lover-boy Cruise on bended knee before War is declared. Maybe reality TV--whose hold on our imagination appears to be slipping as well--has finally managed to accomplish something of value in the real world. What I mean is: Might Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica have revealed Engaged: Tom & Katie to be not only a show, but one that really ought to be cancelled immediately?

You could say the small screen is getting its belated revenge on the big one, except that our money spent on DVDs and video games and cable subscriptions is still flowing to the same handful of mega-conglomerates. So it's hard to trust that our disapproval of multiplex fare is hitting Hollywood where it counts.

Better, perhaps, for the cine-revolutionary to act local in the face of War. In Minneapolis this holiday weekend, the Soap Factory gallery declares its independence from Hollywood tyranny with "Multiplex," an alt-film installation that allows spectators to wander at will between screening rooms...without paying! The queer shorts of the fifth annual Flaming Film Festival--which also includes a free screening of Emily Goldberg's kick-ass rock-doc Venus of Mars--will be scorching local crowds at a trio of venues. And you can read more about that from Terri Sutton.

But this special film issue of City Pages wouldn't be a blockbuster without movie coverage on an epic scale--so there's more. The transcript of my hour-long chat with Thomson about why movies suck--why too many of them suck, anyway--starts here. Some highly rentable exceptions to that rule of thumb are remembered by more than a dozen Minnesota filmmakers--including Eric Tretbar, whose latest uncompromising indie The Horrible Flowers is profiled here. Summer blockbusters that deserved to bomb (e.g., Pearl Harbor) are targeted again, along with a handful of real-life Hollywood villains. (An online-exclusive sidebar offers a list of five summer movies that were too hot to handle.)

Oh, yeah--and just in case you're curious about the blockbuster you might not be seeing this week, there's a War of the Worlds review (you say retaliation?).

Enjoy the show!

--Rob Nelson

 
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