Oct 3, 2012

Why the movies are not dead or dying

"The range of films made by the studios has shrunk—serious drama is virtually out of the question. A good, solid movie like Tony Gilroy’s “Michael Clayton” (2007), with George Clooney, wouldn’t have a shot at being made now. I suspect “The Social Network” got made only because Aaron Sorkin wrote the script. “Lawrence of Arabia,” from 1962, which is playing all over the county October 4th for one day on big screens, wouldn’t even be considered now. At the studiosthe blockbuster obsession joins with the opening-weekend obsession. Since grownups tend to wait for reviews or word from friends, they don’t go the first few days the movie is playing. That means, as it has for years, that people from, say, fifteen to twenty-five years of age exercise an influence on what gets made by the studios way out of proportion to their numbers in the population. My friends under about forty-five accept this as normal: They don’t know that movies, for the first eighty years of their existence, were essentially made for adults. Apart from the fall season, adults are mostly abandoned for the rest of the year. They wander about looking for something to see and usually retreat (quite rightly) into television.My younger friends are innocents who think they are wised-up modernists accepting the market realities. Realities that I can’t accept." — David Denby The New Yorker
I don't dispute the facts here. I wrote a book about them myself. I do dispute the jilted-lover tone, though. Can Denby not see how partial he sounds? But of course the older demographic are angry. They're no longer the apple of Hollywood's eye. (Just as women audience might feel passed over when Hollywood lost interest in them after the war). But to dress that up as an aesthetic argument — the movies have gotten worse — seems hopelessly partial. What he really means is "movies are not aimed at me any more." I feel his pain. Who likes being less powerful than you were the day before? But I don't buy it as film criticism. It seems to me that WALL-E is as easily good a movie for kids as Michael Clayton is a movie for adults. The level of artistry is the same, the level of craft is the same, the level of technique the same.  So it's not about corporate malfeasance: most kids don't respond to that as a theme. In much the same way that Michael Clayton resolutely fails to include any zero-gravity dancing. It wouldn't be appropriate in a movie for George Clooney fans (although I'm not entirely certain of that.)  


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  2. Movies have been "dying" for over a hundred years. They always on the brink of self-destruction, it seems. These articles always remind me of Norma Desmond ranting about the fall of film. "They're dead! They're finished! They took the idols and smashed them!"

    Shh, you'll wake up the monkey.

    Also, I noticed that The Master's grade has gotten progressively lower from B+ to B to B- as time goes on. Looks like it's been growing on you!

  3. I can't really understand the perspective that holds up "Michael Clayton" and cries, "AHHH! EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED!" Less than two weeks from today, there's a movie called "Argo" is going to be released. I feel like just that one movie disproves the premise that nobody's making movies like "Michael Clayton" anymore.