Lack of Interest, Lack of Quality. Why Movies Today Suck.

If you haven’t noticed, there hasn’t been much activity on my blog these past few weeks.  Sadly, it has been over a month since the last movie I watched, and unfortunately, it was a repeat viewing of the Dark Knight Rises.  As a self-proclaimed cinephile, I’ve always felt responsible to see films that are being released, no matter how I feel about that or no matter what the public perception of the film may be.  We all have films that we love or adore that are not critically acclaimed (Space Jam, You’ve Got Mail, Lucky Number Slevin) and films almost everyone thinks you’re crazy to like.  But I’m not exactly sure if it’s with age or just the sheer exhaustion, but there’s seems to be a lack of quality with the current films that are being released right now.  I know in a month or so, my mouth will not be full of criticism or frustration with Hollywood, but focused more towards the new Oscar potentials like Silver Linings Playbook, The Master, etc.  But considering where I attend college and the difficulties of seeing those kinds of films, it’s extremely disappointing and frustrating to see the new movies come out only to feel that my $8 was wasted.

Don’t get me wrong, I love guilty pleasures.  There are films that I watch that sometimes I feel ashamed to be watching, but personally, those films had a quality in them where the focus was not necessarily on the dollar, but on the filmgoer.  Today, we are constantly blitzed with really crappy action, animated and dumb comedy movies.  Remember the days when we would get about 4-5 high quality animated films?  Now we get 10-15 mediocre ones.  Remember the days when the $100 budget was rarely crossed and when it did, we could expect something grand?  Remember when slapstick comedies were actually funny?

I’m only 23, but I sound like a 70 year old man trying to remember the good ol’ days.  I fell in love with movies when I was a child because of the experience.  Because I felt like I was transcended into a world that I never could experience.  I felt surrounded by the sound, the images and the visuals that were transpiring on screen, realizing that a movie is so much more than movie.  I think Hollywood has lost that ideology.  Movies are not looked art anymore.  It’s looked at as a business.  As a dollar sign.  And who can blame them?  All they are doing is pleasing the mass population.  We love explosions, terrible writing and foolish characters.  What we are essentially saying is, “please don’t make us think!”

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the advancement in film, specifically garnered on comic book and super hero films.  His argument was that almost all super hero films that have been released in the last 4-5 years are high in quality, writing and plot.  That the comic book films of today are so much better than before in all phases.  And I do agree.  Comic book and super hero films are in such high quality right now, and the investment studios are willing to take is something of appreciation.  But isn’t that somewhat of a sad situation?  That the films that are producing the best writing, character development and story are from super hero films?  Our standard for films has been extremely diluted, and what we confuse with substance we lack in observing quality.

Please feel free to respond.

Case and Point (Any Nicholas Cage film is a case and point though…)

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One thought on “Lack of Interest, Lack of Quality. Why Movies Today Suck.

  1. Thanks for sharing your perspective on our (cinephiles) collective disappointment. It does seem to be harder than ever to find something worth watching at the local multiplex, and it doesn’t help that independent, repertory, and art house cinemas are declining due the economics of digital projection. But we do what we must.

    I think part of it does come down to growing up both as a person and as a cinephile although 23 seems a little early to be at full on exhaustion I admit. The more films you watch, the more experiences you carry with you to the next viewing, the more you know the potential of what “great” cinema can be, the more you have to compare each movie to, and the more carefully you look at films, all of which together can be a potent combination.

    Of course you also have to consider the ol’ axiom that Midnight in Paris expressed so beautifully: That we admire the the past (movie-viewing or otherwise) because the present is always a little unsatisfying. I have heard other critics express the same sentiment, noting that the 70’s there were plenty of clunkers in its day even if all we remember are the “All the President’s Men” and “The Godfathers'”. When we look back over these years, I think the great films will stick out and we’ll realize the embarrassment of riches we’ve had.

    And to answer your question, Yes it seems ironic to feel so tired when prestige season is finally here and we’re on the cusp of films like The Master. The fact that Looper is also in this quarter is shocking as well. It seems that many filmmakers have caught on to what James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic) did with his films, releasing them in the winter where there is little competition for that kind of spectacle and a greater chance for awards season prizes. As much as people find Award season grating it is obvious that studios perform better when they reach for the goal of “Oscar-winning greatness”. Whatever that is.

    I think we’ll continue to see a trend of smart Hollywood movies released in the winter time and that will leave the summer even more barren. It’s their fault for abusing us with a never ending cycle of sequels, reboots, remakes, reimaginings, and generally recycling poop. Hollywood is far past the point of the 70’s where directors gained creative freedom because the studios admitted they didn’t know what the people wanted. Now their gamblers who push all in on virtually every film hoping that it makes numbers like The Avengers or The Dark Knight and they can continue to create a franchise and sell the game, lunchbox and happy meal.

    Of course as sad as the current days of production are, we have to appreciate the many blessings we’re enjoying right now. We, at this time in history, have access to more films, from more time periods and countries, than ever before. If the current crop of releases are not satisfying, than perhaps it is time to reach into cinema’s glorious past. The AFI 100 and the most recent BFI Sight and Sound List (the individual polls provide far more variety and interest than the collective 50) are great places to start and many of them are available On Demand. Granted not every film will scratch that itch but I guarantee that many will.

    That being said VOD is a great way to pick up on all sorts of films that you won’t be able to see in your area – indies, foreign films, documentaries, classics – and it is generally cheaper as well. And the options are numerous. I mean you don’t just have to make individual purchases of films or traditional 24-48 hour digital rental services although their good options but subscription based services like Netflix, Fandor, Mubi, and Amazon provide a pretty wide selection of good and great films.

    There you’ll find documentaries have grown in production values, fidelity, narrative styles, and storytelling craft. A film like Hell and Back Again would never have been possible up until now and it is absolutely incredible. Foreign films are also a great place to see styles of performance and filmmaking that are rare here in the states. I would provide A Separation as one example of the great offerings that world cinema is providing.

    Now if you’re looking for classic storytelling values than look no further that TV. TV has truly grown into a medium that respects the power of story and now more than ever, of images too. Breaking Bad is better composed than most shows on TV and a lot of the films in theaters too. In fact I don’t think you could go wrong with anything on AMC. HBO, FX, SHOWTIME, and even networks like NBC have great dramatic and comedic offerings. And as talent continues to crossover (RIan Johnson (Looper) has directed 2 episodes of Breaking Bad so far) the medium will continue to grow and compete with film.

    Competition can only grow with film as the power of internet video (YouTube, Vimeo) and video games continue to develop as storytelling mediums. Film will have to find a new place in this landscape of story.

    The real question is: Are you prejudiced against superheroes? I ask jokingly because I wonder what’s wrong with superheroes being the best genre available. In the past other genre films took primacy in the market place. Gangster films, westerns, and musicals all were, at one time, the most produced films in the market place, and today many of the films in those eras are looked at with love. I think real problem is that while superhero films have become more legitimate and the level of craft (writing, special-effects, acting) has improved, the films themselves are not much more than the sum of their parts.

    I would elaborate but I think these two pieces do a much better job. http://www.salon.com/2010/05/06/superhero_movies_bankrupt_genre
    http://blogs.indiewire.com/pressplay/trailer-watch-marvels-the-avengers-just-another-superhero-movie#

    Finally I just want to say that whenever I’m down, I turn to a superhero myself, a man called @FILMCRITHULK and his wonderful piece http://badassdigest.com/2012/02/05/why-you-love-movies/ It may not fix today’s problems but it will remind you of what cinema can be and why you love it in the first place.

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