When darkly lit films first came into being, it was because the people shooting horror or crime stories were underfinanced. Not enough lights were available. The lighting designer cleverly used the few instruments s/he had to light only one side of the face, leaving the other half in mysterious shadow. Kudos to creativity. They not only scared the viewers (their intent), but made it look intentional.
Skip several decades ahead. Now cameras are technically capable of shooting in low light settings, so night scenes begin to be a staple of TV and movies. I'm as in love with them as the next person. The scary walk through the forest at midnight, the perp lurching around the backyard - fun stuff.
But now I'm beginning to wonder if this darkness has become Standard Operating Procedure for TV, especially. I realize some dramatic license is allowed and even encouraged, but since when do business offices have no lights? From the old Law and Order franchise to Blacklist, apparently these CEO's, FBI operatives, etc., operate with only 25 watt desk fixtures--never with the standard overhead flourescents that we've all come to know (and hate, granted) in real life. People sit at their desks, talk on the phone, and receive visitors in light levels comparable to reading in bed under a sheet with a flashlight.
And who had any ideas that our courtrooms can no longer afford lights? Again, from L&O to the Sprint Kevin Durant commercial, why are they in darkness? Isn't a murder trial dramatic enough without turning out the lights? These people are harming their eyes trying to read legal files at this level, and they're hurting mine trying to see what's happening. In The Judge, you had to squint to make out Robert Downey's face. Is verisimilitude an artifact of the past? Even the judges look sinister.
At the bottom of this beef, of course, is the irritation that it will likely take several replays to see what is actually going on in many shows. In Game of Thrones, their dark dungeons and cave settings sometimes offer only moving slits of white/gray against blackness. When it takes a full minute to be sure whether it's Cersei or Tyrion we're looking at . . . come on, guys.
There's nothing wrong with my eyes, by the way. But sometimes my heart does a little flutter from one scene to the next as I ask myself: Have I grown full blown cataracts in the last 60 seconds?
Booze hound stars selling liquor on t.v. commercials. Really, guys? How many DUI’s do you have among yourselves? And yet there you are, young girls on your arm, or sitting at the bar exchanging conspiratorial nods with the bartender, as if there’s only a few in this world who understand the deep secret meaning of chilled vodka. (Here’s the real secret: Vomit on your shirt.)
I liked it much better when movie stars and athletes didn’t hop on the bandwagon to add to their fortunes from commercials. Jennifer Garner pours on the same charm and acting chops she used in Alias to sell me frequent flyer miles. Diane Keaton, fashion rebel and offbeat actor, now hawks cosmetics like a cheerleader on ecstasy.
Perhaps that’s where the real rub comes in. We realize, even though of course we know this full well, that it is all an act. Robert deNiro can turn on the same passion for a commercial product as he did for The Godfather. McConaughey looks just as slick in his car ad as he did playing the Lincoln Lawyer.
And I’m not even going to name all of the “mature” actors who are assuring us that we, too, can get a reverse mortgage that will solve our retirement problems, a magical drug for osteoporosis that will send us onstage dancing, the best yogurt on the planet. And my personal favorite, all our gorgeous stars who apparently use boxed, home hair color rather than a personal hairdresser. Who knew?
Somehow I want to cling to the notion that helping companies make more money is not as inspiring to an actor as a great script. That the millions that athletes earn each year might be enough without selling insurance and sodas and three hundred dollar shoes.
But we live in the Land of Never Enough . . . and also, luckily, Home of the Free - to record programs and fast forward commercials, to hit mute when the electronic salesmen barge into our living rooms, to discover that amped up volumes of frantic car commercials do not have to be part of our psyche. What a gentler America at our fingertips. Oops, did I just do a commercial?
Linda Lee McDonald
I live comfortably poor in Oklahoma City, have a backyard garden in constant need of a weedeater manicure, am visited by birds every day when they bathe in my mixing bowl birdbath, and am blessed with my two rescue dogs, Jake and Roxie, who save me every day of my life.