I love going to the movies. I used to anyway. This has changed of late because Hollywood seems to have figured out a formula that goes like this: If we make a movie that is a hit, we’ll keep making sequels to it until people get sick of them, and then we’ll make a few more just to be sure. It’s gotten so that, in smaller markets like ours, it’s rare to see a movie without a number after it. This summer we’ll be treated to “Shrek III,” “Spider-Man III” and “Live Free or Die Hard.”

The same thing is pretty much true with books. It’s rare that you see a bestseller by someone who hasn’t written the same type of book umpteen million times. They write about one book a year with basically the same plot, the same characters and even the same page count.

On Broadway, most of the biggest hits are revivals of previous hits. Now, I’m not saying that these plays don’t deserve to be seen again. After all, Shakespeare’s plays have been presented and re-presented for the past four centuries, and no one’s complained other than high school students.

I guess the most egregious example of this phenomenon was “The Producers,” which was a terrific movie about producing a play that would be a sure flop to scam the play’s investors. Great idea. Great movie. So then they take the great movie about the lousy play, and they bring it to Broadway as a play about two guys who are trying to create a play that is a flop. Like the movie, it was a huge hit, and after that it was made into a movie based on the play that ... never mind, you get the idea.

The problem I’m getting to is that American culture seems to be stuck in neutral as though both feet of the arts in America have stepped on wads of chewing gum. American culture seems to be unwilling to innovate. I’m even looking forward to the new Chrysler SmartCar because most of the cars produced today look so ... blah. As for music, I stopped listening to popular music a long, long time ago.

This is not a good thing. I rarely ever go to the movies anymore, and I find myself re-reading the classics because what I find on the book racks is the same old, same old. And as for TV? I don’t really bother with it anymore unless I’m watching a movie — without a Roman numeral after it. Instead, I find myself thinking and, occasionally, baking, both of which are dangerous to my well-being.

So what’s the solution to this problem? I think that, if you’re like me and you are sick and tired of seeing and hearing junk that tells the same story over and over again, don’t watch it, don’t read it, don’t buy it. Maybe some day, somehow, someone will get the message.

When I can watch a movie, read a book or, heaven forbid, see a TV program and tell you what’s going to happen five minutes into it, something’s wrong.

If anyone is listening out there, challenge me. Entertain me. Make me laugh until it hurts, make me wonder or cry or make me think. But if you succeed, please just leave it at that. Just remember: There was no “Casablanca Part IV,” there was no “Return of Huckleberry Finn,” and there was certainly no “Guys and Dolls: The Revenge of Sky Masterson.”

Our country’s greatness was, in large part, founded on the creative energy of Americans. How about fostering it instead of squelching it? If the book publishers and filmmakers are worried about losing money for being creative, remember this: You’re losing money now, so why not go back to what Americans do best — innovate.

Michael Mager can be reached at 817-645-2441, ext. 2338, or


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