Is the distinction between blockbuster games and art overplayed?

Do you listen to Rihanna or Bjork? Watch Transformers or Tree of Life? Play Braid or Mortal Kombat? More and more often, I’m find myself saying, “both.” (Except in the case of Transformers or Tree of Life?, in which I say neither!) If the mass audience was good enough for Shakespeare, it’s good enough for me.

A profile on George Lucas, a director whose films are pretty similar to your typical blockbuster videogame, takes a crack at debunking the difference between high and low art.

Critics have said that Lucas’s personal flourishes are elemental and unsophisticated. But, as Spielberg put it, that is George. He ushered in what you might call the personal blockbuster. Amid the dead-eyed sequel-makers who haunt the multiplex, there are directors who have figured out how to insert themselves – their kinks, the fears, their passions – into $100 million crowd-pleasers. In the Batman movies and “Inception,” Christopher Nolan works out his obsession with privacy and the sanctity of our minds; David Fincher burrows into the heads of loners (Lisbeth Salander, the Zodiac Killer, Mark Zuckerberg) on society’s fringes. When Tim Burton makes a bad movie (like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), the problem is often that it’s too personal; we’re locked in Burton’s head when we could use some popcorn.

Lucas talks reverently of a certain category of megadirector – James Cameron (“Avatar”) and Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings”) – who, like him, shepherd personal, seemingly ridiculous visions to the screen, only to watch them connect with a mass audience. “Those to me are some of the more interesting movies,” Lucas said. It’s because, under even the strictest 1970s definition, they’re personal films.

And who hasn’t thought that Jar-Jar Binks would be the perfect stand-in for Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

[NYT, img]

-Jason Johnson