Films Which Conform to and Subvert Hollywood/Mainstream Cinema Standards and Techniques

“The art cinema film is defined by two definitions: realism and authorial expressivity” – Bordwell 2008.

The ‘dominant’ cinema is the term used to describe how mainstream films around the world follow a model referring to Hollywood’s film-making formula which contain features that are seen as normative the classic Hollywood film-making structure, and thereby this is the dominant category over all other film dimensions. Hollywood/mainstream films tend to hold the same elements within them which make films in this category clearly distinctive from the European art-cinema or other counter-cinema types. These features include the films genre (Westerns, Romantic-Comedies, Musicals), the studios in which they are created, the directors of the films, the actors who play roles in the movies, along with the key objective to attract mass audiences to make a great profit from the motion-pictures.

‘Avatar’ (2009)

Hollywood film plots are mostly easy to follow: they portray a seamless flow of images, contain a homogeneous world, supply closure, as well as providing an escape for audiences. However, the opposing counter-art cinema differs with the Hollywood film greatly. Solid aspects of counter-art cinema films include: creating digression in the film, making audiences feel estranged, providing little or no closure, and focusing on the reality of the real world.

‘Amour’ (2012)

A film which very much conforms to Hollywood/Mainstream film techniques and standards is ‘The Holiday’ released in 2006. This Romantic comedy directed by Nancy Meyers very much follows the conventions of a typical light-hearted Hollywood love story, with an all-star cast, as well as making it easy for the audience to have an emotional attachment to the characters. The two main characters Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz) and Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet) have both suffered painful break-ups and seek an escape from their depressing situations. Amanda who lives in LA, and Iris from England, come into contact through a holiday house-swapping website and agree to exchange homes for a two week get-away at Christmas time.

Although they have escaped from their bleak lifestyles back home, the two women still feel lonely and miserable. Their fate takes a turn however when Iris’ brother Graham (Jude Law) comes into Amanda’s life and film composer Miles (Jack Black) enters Iris’ life to change it forever. Fitting with the conventional Hollywood ‘Rom-Com’, the two women face some hurdles attaining their true loves, but of course in the end everything works out perfectly and they all live happily ever after. The film provides the viewer a great amount of escapism with its easy-going narrative as well as its warm moments of passion and romance.

‘The Holiday’ (2006)

A film which very much subverts the Hollywood film standards and techniques is ‘Funny Games’ (2007) directed by Michael Haneke. This Austrian director is famous for creating films which explore very truthful themes and intend to make the viewer feel uncomfortable, and often extremely suspenseful with his use of realism and displeasure. The director also lacks the belief in making films which provide audiences with any degree of catharsis; because in reality, there isn’t always a happy ending.

This observable Crime Thriller re-make begins with a loving family George Farber (Tim Roth) his wife Ann (Naomi Watts), and their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart), who take a trip to a lake house for a family holiday. Upon arrival they are greeted by two young men claiming to be their neighbours but turn out to be psychopaths; taking the family hostage and making them perform violent acts on one another for their own entertainment.

The film highly subverts the mainstream film-making method as it creates a disjunctive flow putting the viewer into a state of intense anticipation and never at ease, as the two taunters create a living hell for their victims. A very outstanding feature of the movie is that it makes the viewer question their pleasure of viewing violence in the cinema, whereby one of the psychopaths breaks the fourth wall and directly asks the audience what they would like to happen regarding the fate of the tormented victim Ann Farber, and her injured husband. In the same scene, a moment of catharsis is given to the audience as victim Ann shoots and kills one of her tormentors. This moment of emotional release is however taken from the audience when the still alive young man rewinds the scene; suggesting that this is what the reality of film viewing is; that we seek violence in the cinema for our own ignorant pleasure.

‘Funny Games’ (2007)

‘Funny Games’ is an example of a film which subverts Hollywood/Mainstream cinema with its strong disturbing scenes, high elements of suspense, lack of catharsis as well as its use of frightening and sadistic lead antagonists. Along with causing the audience to feel an extreme amount of uncertainty and insecurity, the film also differs from the standard Hollywood film as it purposely makes the viewer question why they feel the desire to view violence through the cinema, in very disturbing way.


  1. Bradshaw, P. 2006. ‘The Holiday’. The Guardian. [online] [Accessed 6 March 2013]
  3. Lott, R. 2013. ‘Funny Games (2007)’ Flick Attack. [online] [Accessed 6 March 2013]
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