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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Film Lives

Mark Harris, the very highly esteemed author of Pictures at a Revolution wrote a piece for GQ called The Day The Movies Died.

And as much as Pictures was a movie lovers’ book, this article is a classic bit of movie hating. It’s right out of the Crabby Old Man school of movie thinking, except Mark modernizes it by getting past the Spielberg/Lucas arguments and lays the blame on Simpson/Bruckheimer.

BOOOOR-ing!!!

Am I the only one who loves the films of 1968 – 1974 and is still sick to death of the fetishistic obsession of a generation of writers and film lovers with the period? I can’t imagine so. It’s like the old New Yorker cartoon with New York being 90% of the planet and everything else an afterthought. For these guys and gals, film history seems to be The Great Train Robbery, Birth of A Nation, 1939, hat tip to the Germans, and then film really begins with Targets and ends with Jaws.

It’s like an old man who can’t get over the girl who let them get to third base in the backseat of the car in high school. It was great. It was new. And it makes everything else seem boring. But dear God, let it go already!

Scott Rudin has now put himself in the lexicon of film discussion – surprisingly for the first time – with the phrase, “The scab you are picking…”

And the scab Mark is is really picking in this piece is corporate ownership and vertical integration of the studios, not any one movie or aesthetic trend. Mel Brooks got the joke right 25 years ago in Silent Movie, calling Gulf & Western – then owner of Paramount – “Engulf & Devour.” (He was working for pre-News Corp Fox, so he was safe.)

Harris also makes the incredibly false leap that is almost inevitable (99.7% of the time) that one makes when they choose any one film as The Exemplar… in this case, more the modern exemplar of Inception than of Top Gun. Harris writes off all the dismissals of Inception as The Next Trend like a person might write off all the obviously troubling things about that person across the room at a bar because he/she makes her/him wet/hard. “So what, he has a crack problem… some people can do crack socially.” “So what if she stalked the last six guys who so much as kissed her… I think we have a real connection!”

Of course, Harris sets up anyone saying anything that suggests Inception isn’t an exception to the rule as a downer. But that’s just bullshit. And to make the point clearer, I’d love to see the piece where he argues that Alice in Wonderland is not just the exception to the Tim Burton rule and that studios should expect every Burton film to do over a billion dollars from now on… or even better, every film made from a classic novel that appeals to kids.

Worse, Harris’ embrace of ‘Inception can be a model” is not what Hollywood is afraid of… it is EXACTLY what he is otherwise accusing Hollywood of doing. And in fact, Hollywood has done EXACTLY what he claims they are not doing in EXACTLY the model he tries to smack around… comic book movies. Bryan Singer did X-Men without any action on his resume or any effects work. And it was a modest hit that grew. That’s what every studio wants. And that is why Christopher Nolan ended up doing Batman. And that’s why Nolan was allowed to make Inception, which was a bigger risk that WB would have liked, but was made financially safe by laying off most of it to Legendary… and had they known it would be such a hit, they would have loved to have financed it alone.

But again, Fox laid off a big piece of Avatar less than a year before release. (That’s another title I’d love to see Harris embrace as a singular piece by a major filmmaker that did good. But the film doesn’t have the street cred, so it gets shoved to the back of the closet by the fetishists.)

Look at the history of comic book films. Sam Raimi and Jon Favreau were off beat choices, but not on the artiste track. Burton, Singer, Ang Lee, Gavin Hood, Timur Bekmambetov, Guillermo del Toro, Simon Birch‘s Mark Steven Johnson. All reaches. Most of them, incredibly talented reaches.

I know it’s easy to look at the very top of the box office and to see kids movies and action mediocrity. But look at some of the other $100m movies last year. Black Swan, Due Date, The King’s Speech, Robin Hood, Salt, Shutter Island, True Grit, The Karate Kid. All idiosyncratic. All got funded, released by a studio, and had great box office success. You can argue each movie, but just because The Karate Kid was a spin on the old series doesn’t mean that original ideas were not included and that the film stands separately from those earlier films. And True Grit blows the hell out of the Hathaway film… with due respect to nineteen sixt f-ing nine.

My point is, movies aren’t dead. Commercial cinema has been greatly bifurcated, but there was plenty of popular shit back in 1969. The Love Bug (#2 for the year!), Hello Dolly, and Paint Your Wagon were all there in the Top 10. So were the in-cinemas-now-as-remakes True Grit and Cactus Flower.

Thing is, I don’t want to sit here defending studios and The New Ol’ Days. There is plenty that sucks. There are many reasons why studios fail to produce more quality product that challenges audiences. The dollars generated by spectaculars, for kids and 4-quadrants, is seductive. The system is already suffering its excesses of the last few years.

But good gosh a’mighty… does Mark Harris really think that risking 100s of millions of dollars on a smart film whose box office was driven by beautiful special effects even more than the idea, is a smart model for studios to chase? Should this be what they are all after? Because dollars to donuts, that film will fail 8 out of 10 times and in doing so, fewer quality films of moderate budgets will get made by those studios.

It’s so easy to mock those who dirty their hands with red & black & green ink, dismissing them from intentions to execution to outcome. But it’s cheap, lazy work. I will GLADLY read Harris’ book on Blockbusters, good and bad, that is as deeply and thoughtfully researched as Pictures is. Because the devil is in those details, not in broad, attention-grabbing headlines like “The Day The Movies Died.”

And you know what you’ll be saying – a bunch of losers sittin’ around in a bar. ‘Oh yeah. I used to be a salesman. It’s a tough racket.’

Scott Rudin is going and doing likewise, gents. Harvey Weinstein is going and doing likewise, gents. Chrsitine Vachon is going and doing likewise, gents. Tessa Ross is going and doing likewise, gents. Etc, etc, etc. There are plenty of people out there, striving to make great art and some are even succeeding. Some of them are even getting movies made at studios.

You can’t make twelve $200 million movies a year at ANY studio. You can make one or two. That’s why Inception isn’t a model. Because you will bankrupt your business – or come as close as you can in the corporate world these days – chasing incredibly expensive art. And you know, I would have been thrilled to see Chris Nolan’s $70 million version of Inception. I would bet that I would like it better… and the box office would be cut by 75%.

Beware Old Man Disease. If you think movies died 24 years ago, you may be catching it. It can be cured. It’s not fatal… especially in very smart, very talented, very well intended people. You just have to back away from the cheap headlines and triple the length of your articles, so you can do more than memorialize a Rudin quote, but help readers understand how a guy like Rudin survives in a climate that so embraces the kinds of films he has no interest in making. Now, THAT would be a story!

37 Responses to “Film Lives”

  1. christian says:

    “Am I the only one who loves the films of 1968 – 1974 and is still sick to death of the fetishistic obsession of a generation of writers and film lovers with the period?”

    No, but I’m tired of people throwing out the lame insult of the wanna-be-with-it, YOU’RE OLD! if they note the changes over the years.

  2. David Poland says:

    Is that what you think I am doing, Christian?

    Do you not think that older people tend to be nostalgic for their past… and that kids are too, they just don’t have much of a past to linger on?

    Do you think “Movies are dead” is “noting changes over the years?”

    I think you’re arguing over the tiniest ingredient and not actually making any point… other than you think old people are stereotyped and shouldn’t be.

  3. the sandwich says:

    I could give two shits about all the industry whinging his article carries on with, but this bit strikes a chord.

    “The urgency of seeing movies the way they’re presumably intended to be seen has given way to the primacy of privacy and the security of knowing that there’s really almost no risk of missing a movie you want to see and never having another opportunity to see it.”

    And the Rudin quote is indeed classic.

  4. David Poland says:

    Yes, there is something to the idea that how we experience movies – particularly the current under-25s – has changed. But that too has nothing to do with any movie trend. It’s about availability. And with availability comes the pleasure of having access to great films that very, very few people would have a chance to see after theatrical release pre-1990 or ao.

  5. the sandwich says:

    I agree David. I see no “trends” in the article at all. There will always be shitty and not shitty films. Bitching about the split seems to be entirely futile.

    Harris’s article feeds on a bunch of Hollywood bitching about Hollywood (something they LOVE to do). I’m sure there are tremendous struggles and frustrations that inform their bitching, but I realy don’t want to hear about it (or see it as a basis for a article that long).

    And it isn’t just the under 25’s. I talk a good game about seeing a movie in the theater, but 95% of the time my life gets in the way. Do I sweat it? Thanks to that “access”, not much.

  6. Joe Leydon says:

    “…and then film really begins with Targets and ends with Jaws.”

    That’s silly, David. We greybeards know that film began a year before Targets, with Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate (movies, BTW, that Mark Harris wrote about in his terrific book — that, if memory serves me correctly, you tipped us off to — Pictures at a Revolution).

  7. torpid bunny says:

    I continue to be impressed by how vital movies are actually. My totally subjective feeling is that despite all the crap that gets made, there remains a general recognition of the importance of movies as cultural expression. People want to know about them and want to talk about them. Maybe that vitality is less than it used to be. But even with endless talk about the internet, the fact that people like to talk about movies they haven’t even seen is telling. Do people talk about tv shows they haven’t seen? I feel like the people who really have something to say in movies will always find a way. I was lukewarm on Inception but no one can deny that Nolan (and Cameron before him) reaffirmed the hunger of a very large audience for interesting and challenging entertainment. If I have a problem with movies in general right now it is the near total absence of political themes. I guess documentaries are doing that now, but it’s unfortunate that those themes have been stripped from fiction.

  8. Justin says:

    Although I feel like sometimes you come off as a jerk in some of your writings, I can’t really disagree with your argument (other than I guess the 70 million Inception comment. Seriously? You’re basically asking for a completely different movie, but whatever).

    This argument seems to come up every year since the beginning of time. There will always be popular shit movies and popular “artistic” movies, both inside the studio system and outside. How can can one complain about the movie business when we have a slate of ten exceptional films nominated for best picture? Somehow, great works seem to be created every year.

  9. Joe Leydon says:

    Seriously: As I have posted elsewhere: The biggest difference between now and the New Hollywood era (roughly 1967-80)is access. As I tell my students: During that bygone time, almost all of the movies we now think of as cutting-edge and trailblazing (Easy Rider, M*A*S*H, Taxi Driver, If…, The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, Mean Streets, Network, Midnight Cowboy, etc.) were MAJOR STUDIO RELEASES. Which means they opened in theaters EVERYWHERE. (I reviewed Taxi Driver while working for a paper in Jackson, Miss.) Nowadays — yes, it’s arguable that just as many exceptional movies are made. But you have to go looking for many (if not most) of them. Put it like this: Last year at SXSW, I saw two extraordinary films — Tiny Furniture and Monsters — that were very well received by critics, but never played in traditional theatrical venues in Houston, the fourth largest metro area in the US. Both, however, were available as VOD. Provided, that is, you knew where to look for them.

  10. David Poland says:

    But Joe… the two real keys to that period are 1) Kennedy/Vietnam/Nixon and 2) the old studio system going out of business.

    Tiny Furniture and Monsters would never have existed in the 70s, much less had theatrical distribution.

    Also. the cost of distribution was completely different back then. Many fewer films were in theatrical and it cost a lot less for films to be distributed nationally.

  11. Joe Leydon says:

    Of course Tiny Furniture and Monsters could have existed back then. And I saw movies like them back in the day. Tiny Furniture actually would have looked a tad glossier, and released by Paramount. Monsters may have had a few more monster attacks — maybe — and would have been released by New World Pictures.

    Remember: Last time I checked, I’ve got, what, close to a decade on you? I’m old enough to have reviewed movies day-in, day-out during most of that period. I reviewed movies you’ve forgotten about, or never heard of in the first place. That doesn’t make me better or smarter or nicer than you. That just means I was in a different place at a different time with a different perspective. If Judith Crist were reading this, she’d laugh at both of us, and dismiss us both as whippersnappers.

  12. samguy says:

    @Joe: The movies actually DIDN’T open everywhere, at least not at first! Movies generally opened in NY, LA & Toronto, then slowly platformed out to other major cities and then to “multiples.” “Jaws”maybe hit 1,200 screens at some point during its run over the summer of ’75 and even it’s “wide” opening was probably a few hundred screens.

    @DP: the funny thing about the top 10 of 1969, the two musicals, “Dolly” and “Wagon” were considerd flops because of their then astronomical costs. Both of them probalby only grossed what they did because of their respective stars, Streisand & Eastwood.

  13. Joe Leydon says:

    Samguy: Didn’t say they opened everywhere at first. But eventually… Hell, even Small Change (released by New Line and Fellini’s Casanova (released by Universal) opened in Shreveport, La. No kidding.

  14. IOv3 says:

    Joe, I really would have liked to have seen the 1980 New World version of Monsters. That would have been epic.

    Again, as stated in another thread, this is just nostalgia from a guy whose apparently TOO GOOD for nostalgia. It’s also snobbery because apparently the blockbusters today are stupid and their stupidity keeps us from really good movies. Yes, it’s all Optimus Prime’s fault. Go figure.

    That aside, David, it’s not the fetishist. It’s everyone because countless people have pulled an ET TU BRUTUS with that film and it’s not going to stop over the next 2 to 3 years. The death of 3D isn’t going to help either.

  15. LexG says:

    I envy that Joe was working the beat during my entire beloved era of 1982-1983 HBO mainstays I’ve mentioned here before that NOBODY remembers; Boggles my mind that movies like King of the Mountain, Green Ice, Take This Job and Shove It, Going Ape, Beyond the Reef, Ticket to Heaven, Final Exam, Endangered Species, Gas, The Last Chase, Loophole, Green Ice, Jekyll and Hyde Together Again, Incredible Shrinking Woman, all played in big theaters and that working critics of today were around to see such rarities on an actual theater screen. Catch any of those for work, Joe?

    Obviously there are HUGE, IMMORTAL movies from the same years that still get watched all the time and I can remember seeing posters for in the lobby when I was a kid… but there’s like five or six dozen early 80s movies like the above that I can’t imagine seeing ANYWHERE but HBO in 1982… mostly because few of those have EVER been heard from again.

  16. movielocke says:

    Hell, I’m not that old and I remember national ads for “coming soon to a theater near you!” because putting a release date on a film for a national release was unrealistic. And another bygone memory is of sneak-preview-double-features, when you’d get to see an in-release movie followed by a movie to be released the next week. We almost always went to those as a family because my parents saw it as such a good bargain. Thanks multiplexes for killing that. :-p

    There’s two threads here that need to be merged. Part of why new Hollywood was possible was because of old hollywood dying. But old Hollywood dying was pretty much triggered by Old Hollywood doing what Mark Harris advises in his article, make more 200 million Inception esque gambles, make every film like that!

    Harris should be smart enough to realize that the 200 million gambles could be great films, but more often they were films that nearly destroyed the studios because they invested so much in making them. Fox would have remained a much more powerful force in hollywood filmmaking if they hadn’t had to sell off so much studio real estate to pay for Cleopatra and Doctor Doolittle. Old Hollywood died because the old suits gambled the entire studio, repeatedly, on one or two mega release movies a year. New Hollywood got its chance because they made films that were cheap and profitable. That’s why the Blair Witch of the 60s, Easy Rider, was such a wakeup call. It was trendy, incredibly cheap, the gritty production values didn’t matter to mass audiences because it made a massive profit raking in the grosses like one of the studio behemoths.

    There’s another thread here, Distribution. Distribution changed in 1948, which is arguably when the studio system began to crumble (because they started laying off staffs of craftpeople and everyone became freelance, sadly). After the paramount decision, distribution became very fragmented. And with fragmented distribution the studios now had a lot more risk to deal with. Before the paramount decision the studios had a guarantee that B movies would play, they might not play for long, but they had a more or less guaranteed return because the studio owned distributors were compelled and required to play the B and bad movies as well as the A and good movies. When paramount came down, Studios suddenly slashed the production of B movies. That’s where Roger Corman, AIP and the like came in, they saw an opportunity with a sudden vaccumm in the market and pounced, and at the same time they pounced an entire new distribution channel opened up, the Drive-In theatre.

    Drive Ins needed cheap films and they needed a lot of films and they needed the films to skew to the demographic that dominated the new distribution channel to a scary degree, teenagers. Films were made for them and about them but were generally patronizing, laughable, or bad, it didn’t really matter, though, they cycled through the drive in machine no matter what.

    But Because Studios slashed B movies that meant they were left with a yearly production schedule of only A movies. And all those studio A movies were competing directly against each other for the very first time for screen space—very limited screen space. And if you have only A movies to release in a year, you absolutely MUST assure that those movies will be good enough to be MUST SEE and turn a profit. From 48 onward, budgets began to balloon, it was all downhill from there to the final Doolittle-Cleopatra destination that finally killed old hollywood. The course correction came from New Hollywood, and pretty much saved the industry.

    But there was also a positive side effect to this change in the studio. Up until 48, movies from hollywood were made for all audiences. Whether you were Disney or WB, your films were intended to be enjoyed by everyone. That meant that more mature topics were on the table but extremely tricky to address (the smuggling of theme and layering of subtext in this era is phenomenal artistry) . Look at the Best Picture nominees for a couple years before 48, The Yearling and The Bishop’s Wife amongst other similar fare jump out. Three years later these films would be impossible to come out of the studio system, Bishop’s Wife would be an unremembered TV movie, a footnote in Cary Grant’s career and probably lost if it was a live broadcast; and Yearling would be rewritten to be more kid friendly (patronizing + lessons spelled out in bold) and made only at Disney if made at all. Instead, three years after Paramount, we had films like A Place in the Sun, and Streetcar Named Desire nominated, films explicitly about sex, lust, desire and their place in modern American life.

    Films evolved quickly following the paramount decision, much of which was driven by the market segmentation caused by the breaking of vertical integration and creation of new channels like drive-ins. And New hollywood didn’t save the system on their own, they were enabled by a major change in distribution again, the gradual shuttering of single or dual screen town square theatres and the opening of five-six screen theatres attached to one of the new suburban Shopping MALLs of the 70s. Without Malls increasing capacity, Jaws’ record breaking 500+ simultaneous theatre release would not have been possible (Jaws also made Summer into a major moviegoing period again, summer as a box office season had died off as home air conditioning units became common in the united states). And all the changes that new hollywood brought in wide distribution, high concept marketing and development etc would have been for naught if it weren’t for those additional screens coming on line. And massively increasing the number of screens per theatre is not all that different a “problem” from the “problem” of movies being too available today.

    All of this is a very verbose way of saying that the problems of today are rather similar to the problems of old. Distribution still rules everything, and major changes in films are always dictated by what the market forces of the culture and technology of the moment allow. When only theatres had air conditioning, movies were hugely popular in the summer because people knew they could get out of the blistering summer heat (this was partially why the movie business was still successful for the first five years of the depression).

    When people bitch about watching a movie on an iphone, I wonder about what they thought, in their youth, about listening to a movie in a drive in from that awful little drive in speaker.

  17. IOv3 says:

    I still enjoy the drive-in. The fries there are so wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. I also dig those speakers.

  18. christian says:

    Nobody will have nostalgia for watching movies on their iphone. Yet.

    An even more obscure HBO movie of that period was called RUNNING SCARED, not the Billy Crystal version, but with Judge Reinhold hooking up with some girls and battling smugglers in the early 60’s. Quirky action comedy.

  19. LexG says:

    I canceled my subscription to EW about two years ago, but also: Doesn’t MARK HARRIS write some version of this same story two or three times a year? Reads EXACTLY like some impassioned “make smarter movies for women” spiel he had in EW a while back, and all he did was copy-and-paste.

    EDIT: Yeehaw, glad GQ ponied up the money for Mark to rewrite the same material from 2008:

    http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20205970,00.html

    Also, I know it’s not him, but when you see MARK HARRIS don’t you always think it’s that gay guy from Stern who married Martha Raye?

  20. IOv3 says:

    Yeah, Mark Harris is only associated to one guy, who married Martha Raye, and also enjoyed buttermilk baths.

  21. samguy says:

    @Joe: Remember that Roger Corman was shocked that no one wanted Bergman’s “Cries & Whispers?” He got the rights for a song and not only did he book it into the usual art houses but in drive-ins because of his connections! The picture also received a Best Picture nomination as well.

    BTW, I only corrected you to clairfy for the kids that back then even if movies did play everywhere, they didn’t open everywhere simultaneiously. Hits like “Shampoo” and “Taxi Driver” might gross $30-#50 million back then and play for several months. I remember “Cuckoo’s Next” playing at the long gone Encino theatre in the Valley from late ’75 though the April or May of ’76. It had to be moved because the theatre wanted was surely going to be the next big hit – “Missouri Breaks!”

  22. yancyskancy says:

    Lex: If Mark Harris could be with an actress, you shouldn’t have any trouble. You just have to forget about K-Stew and Dakota and set your sights on Betty White or Charlotte Rae.

  23. LexG says:

    Awesome, love reading stories about these formative mainstays like Cuckoo’s Nest and even Missouri Breaks in their theatrical run. Such a dork that I even geek out when I’m watching, say, DEATH WISH II, and Bronson cruises by the Chinese theatre and EXCALIBUR is on the marquee, or some ’80s titty movie I had on for a laugh the other day where NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN was at the Grauman’s in the background (even inspired me to look up the release dates of when that played there and what dates things hit the Mann main house versus the TWIN, which I’d forgotten about.)

  24. LexG says:

    Ha, Betty White’s too A-list now, but wasn’t Mamie Van Doren still both alive AND flashing her tits (!) just a few short years ago in that hideous Schwartzman/Segal/Prepon thing about COOL ETHAN?

  25. pranavikha says:

    Ha, Betty White’s too A-list now, but wasn’t Mamie Van Doren still both alive AND flashing her tits (!) just a few short years ago in that hideous Schwartzman/Segal/Prepon thing about COOL ETHAN?

  26. Joe Leydon says:

    LexG: Not only did I review Take This Job and Shove It — I interviewed Robert Hays, who went on tour to promote it. It was kinda-sorta his follow-up to Airplane! — and he looked ready to enjoy a big film career. That didn’t quite work for him, alas.

  27. PJM says:

    Of course all eras have their good movies and their bad movies. But is the percentage of films that are “good” or “original” or “groundbreaking” or “unique” higher or lower today than it was 30 or 40 years ago. There is no answer to this question, since those qualities are subjective and unquantifiable, but there are probably more people who say there are fewer of such films today than people (like Poland)) who argue that the percentage has not changed. And the films at the ends of the spectrum – the very best and very worst – how do they compare to those from years gone by. I would argue that the very worst today are better than the very worst 40 years ago for technical reasons – the availability of highly trained film technicians (thanks to the film school explosion) and relatively cheap equipment make it fairly easy to make a film that is reasonably well photographed, in focus, has clear sound and few obvious editing gaffes. But at the top end it’s a different story (again, in my opinion). The same surfeit of technical expertise masks the fact that there are fewer truly original films, with unique, compelling, visual ideas and themes. The difference now is the visual influence of TV (and I include the internet in that category). The tiny screen on which people are now used to “watching” films makes the prevailing filmmaking style dead visually – brightly lit medium shots focusing on the actors’ mouths and emphasizing dialogue over picture. More films are available now than ever before!? Sure, at 300 or 600 lines of resolution. That’s like reading the TV Guide summary of a film…

  28. Krillian says:

    My three thoughts on Robert Hays are always
    1. Airplane
    2. Take This Job and Shove It
    3. Starman TV show.

    Early 1980’s memories. Prophecy. Blood Beach. My Bodyguard. Ahhh….

    I missed that Mark Harris in GQ is the same Mark Harris from EW who writes at least two trend pieces a year. It’s all making a little more sense now.

  29. Joe Leydon says:

    I actually went over to IMDB to see what ever happened to Robert Hays — and, frankly, I was kinda depressed. On the other hand: I was amused to see he did the voice for Tony Stark/Iron Man in so many ’90s cartoon shows.

  30. cadavra says:

    Putting on my pedant hat again: SILENT MOVIE was 1976, which would make it 35, not 25, years old. Time flies for us boomers, eh, Dave?

    Surprised no one’s mentioned the growing phenomenon of aging A-listers (or ex-A-listers), many of them Oscar winners, who’ve taken to turning up in small indies. This past year alone, this would include Annette Bening, Michael Douglas, Helen Mirren, Bill Murray, Susan Sarandon, Kevin Kline, Robert Duvall, Dustin Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Sissy Spacek, Joe Pesci, Danny DeVito, and others that don’t immediately come to mind.

  31. Daniella Isaacs says:

    “Am I the only one who loves the films of 1968 – 1974 and is still sick to death of the fetishistic obsession of a generation of writers and film lovers with the period?”

    No, me too. As I said, or tried to say, on another thread, the only difference between the 68ish-74ish era and today is that today’s equivalents of 2001, NASHVILLE, THE WILD BUNCH, (CHILDREN OF MEN, LITTLE CHILDREN, THERE WILL BE BLOOD) don’t get highlighted the way they used to by the mainstream culture. And yes, I think the people who might well celebrate the great (ambitious, literary adult) films of today tend to be stuck in the past. The one thing I would disagree with is the idea that it’s just nostalgia. The myth of the “golden era” of the late 60s and early 70s has seeped down to younger generations. Talk to just about any (male, anyway) film-loving undergraduate and they’re STILL gushing about CLOCKWORK ORANGE, TAXI DRIVER, THE GODFATHER. You ask them if they’ve ever seen comparable 80s films like THE RIGHT STUFF or DEAD RINGERS or artistically ambitious 90s films (besides PULP FICTION), like HEAT or JFK, and they just stare at you.

    (And, David, don’t you mean “hat tip to the French [new wave]” as the only thing they acknowledge between 1939 and 68?)

  32. Krillian says:

    Every person discovers those movies for the first time when they see them. And Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver and The Godfather are all really cool, especially if you catch them when you’re younger (teens or early 20’s) and they’re REALLY cool.

    I tried watching 2001 when I was 13 and was bored. Watched the whole thing, kinda liked the ending even if I didn’t get it, but I liked 2010 more. Then a couple years ago I tried watching 2001 again. No dialogue for the first 25 minutes. Lots of classical music playing to slowly-moving ships. Something interrupted me around 40 minutes and I just have never bothered to get around to it again.

    Is THE RIGHT STUFF comparable? I remember it being pretty bombastic. When I think classic must-see 80’s in the vein of 1968-1974, I think more of FULL METAL JACKET or BLUE VELVET.

  33. torpid bunny says:

    There is so much aggregate talent out there, so many movies are made every year, and the conditions of their production and exhibition are constantly changing. On the flip side, the number of movies that are groundbreaking, deeply entertaining, truly memorable and aesthetically imposing is so vanishing in comparison to the total number produced that trying to find patterns over the course of decades is very difficult. It’s like trying to find patterns in earthquakes. The analysis may be possible but it would tend to be very academic and not likely to appear in GQ.

  34. Daniella Isaacs says:

    Krillian, good point. Young guys like movies with killing and kink and THE GODFATHER/TAXI DRIVER, etc. all have that in common with BLUE VELVET and FULL METAL JACKET, and not THE RIGHT STUFF. Still, I think young guys are more likely to have seen THE GODFATHER/TAXI DRIVER than FULL METAL JACKET/BLUE VELVET, and the latter two didn’t really change the zeitgeist upon their release the way comparable 70s films did–maybe BLUE VELVET came close. I guess I just prefer THE RIGHT STUFF and DEAD RINGERS to BLUE VELVET and FULL METAL JACKET. Again, the major point is that while there are certainly dry periods in film–Hollywood in the mid 60s comes to mind–they’re making good films all the time and the fetishistic attention to the good ones of the late-60s/early 70s is a frustrating thing when film lovers should be celebrating and making the case for the good films of all decades, especially the under appreciated ones.

  35. Joe Leydon says:

    Tonight I showed His Girl Friday to film history students at Houston Community College. This film always plays well with college students, I have found. But tonight, for some reason, it positively killed. Abundant laughs in all the right places. Think about it: A 70 year old movie got big laughs — guffaws, really — from a mostly under-30 crowd. Film lives, indeed.

  36. In my view, The traditional film industry “Hollywood” fits well with the time in which it was formed, namely the industrial revolution. Film equipment at that time was massive and the logistical requirements to produce a film were extreme. As a result a centralized production hub made sense. As technology advanced, equipment became smaller and cheaper. At the same time workflows became easier. In combination with technological advancement, state film incentive programs have caused filmmakers to leave Hollywood to produce films elsewhere. I don’t believe this will cause the end of Hollywood. It will however continue to mold Hollywood into what it primarily has already become; the home of the blockbuster.

  37. iChuck says:

    EARTH WILL NOT LET MOVIES DIE
    They are too accessible.
    And that is meant in two ways: they have the power to affect us emotionally, on an entertainment level, and occasionally spiritually; and in this day and age of information, which isn’t going away any time soon, they are literally physically easy to access. Whether you pay $10 at the B.O. or wait for Redbox and dvd, or download it on your phone(!), we now live in a society in which movies are becoming both intimately personal and universal, and as easy to find as music on the radio. By saying that ‘movies died’ is really one person’s view that nothing, ever will be good or original again. It is the defeatest statement of a die-hard pessimist. For whom in this lamenter’s mind have ‘movies died’? For that sad and disappointed person, promising themselves that the end is near and nothing will again inspire them in cinema. The old man never to again reach third base in the back seat of a car.
    Like Mr. Poland, I call bullshit.
    As an artform the painted canvass had its day, as did sculpting, as did poetry, etc. But when Michaelangelo
    produced ‘David’was the internet all a-twitter with buzz over the mastery of his work? No.Would it be today? No.
    It is a classic masterpiece, but not entertainment. Nothing beats seeing it in person, but one must cross half a world to experience it. The same is true is of any Renoir or Degas painting, you can buy a print or even download a photo of it on the internet. The themes (and stories) in these timeless pieces are rich and complicated, but they are not easily accessible, in the former sense to many today. You can’t even see a play without attending it, except through…anyone…anyone? Film.
    Movies, while oft “homaged” or rebooted, or sequeled will because of their power, accessibility, the world wide society we live in, or for the simple fact that every new generation appreciates the classics will not see their death as art or entertainment for quite a long time.
    Forget the studio-ization, forget the sequel-itis and the B.O.numbers, forget the “technology has outgrown story” theme and the “blockbuster killed film” theories. For the death of every one, cynical, no longer passionate critic’s love of movies, a thousand are born. We are at one of the most exciting times in cinema, where audiences are so much more open to themes that were previously ignored, and have an ever expanding library. Storytelling through film is as topical and political and important and entertaining to the world as ever and to have lost sight of that is the reflection of an individual, not the movies.
    “A cynic is one who can tell you the price of everything, but the value of nothing”
    Those who woe the death of movies: take heed.
    By the way, the guy copping a feel with a girl in the back of a ’63 Buick got to third base probably on the same night he took her to a movie. That he didn’t even want to see. That he actually kinda liked.

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“We don’t have any idea what the universe is. Wise people have always told us that this is proof you shouldn’t think, because thinking leads you nowhere. You just build over this huge construction of misunderstanding, which is culture. The history of culture is the history of the misunderstandings of great thinkers. So we always have to go back to zero and begin differently. And maybe in that way you have a chance not to understand but at least not to have further misunderstandings. Because this is the other side of this question—Am I really so brave to cancel all human culture? To stop admiring the beauty in human production? It’s very difficult to say no.”
~ László Krasznahorkai

“I have a license to carry in New York. Can you believe that? Nobody knows that, [Applause] somebody attacks, somebody attacks me, oh, they’re gonna be shot. Can you imagine? Somebody says, oh, it is Trump, he’s easy pickings what do you say? Right? Oh, boy. What was the famous movie? No. Remember, no remember where he went around and he sort of after his wife was hurt so badly and kill. What?  I — Honestly, Yeah, right, it’s true, but you have many of them. Famous movie. Somebody. You have many of them. Charles Bronson right the late great Charles Bronson name of the movie come on.  , remember that? Ah, we’re gonna cut you up, sir, we’re gonna cut you up, uh-huh.

Bing!

One of the great movies. Charles Bronson, great, Charles Bronson. Great movies. Today you can’t make that movie because it’s not politically correct, right? It’s not politically correct. But could you imagine with Trump? Somebody says, oh, all these big monsters aren’t around he’s easy pickings and then shoot.”
~ Donald Trump