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Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest Forrest@moviecitynews.com

Movie Malaise

I’m sorry for my absence over the last week and a half.  I know you guys all missed me.  Things will return back to their regularly scheduled programming soon enough, it’s just been a chaotic couple of weeks in terms of work for me.  My MFA thesis is due in about a month, so I’ve been using the majority of my writing time to focus on that, and I haven’t gotten a chance to see a lot of new movies due to the workload.

But, more important than all of those real world factors is this: I’m utterly bored by the movies right now.  I don’t mean to sound like an elitist or a party pooper, but I’ve been having a real problem this year mustering up the energy to go out and see a film like, say, Sucker Punch.

Maybe it’s because my 28th birthday is a few days away and it’s just the result of getting older, but something has fundamentally shifted in me.  When I first started at MCN four years ago, I wrote often about how I felt it was important for someone who writes about movies to see absolutely everything that comes out in a given year, if possible.  The idea was that we can only appreciate the truly good movies when we subject ourselves to the really bad and mediocre ones.  There was also the notion that I could love a film that wasn’t necessarily well-reviewed or didn’t appeal to me on first glance.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

It’s strange how things have slowly shifted for me in terms of pop culture priority.  My time is more precious to me and time spent seeing a film like Sucker Punch, a movie that is not intended for me by a filmmaker I generally don’t enjoy, seems like it would be a waste.  Why would I go and see a film that I will almost certainly dislike when I could spend that time reading Melville or Joyce or watching a great television show or going to a concert or anything else that is culturally relevant.

I spent a big part of my life living in a bubble where movies were everything.  Maybe I haven’t seen a truly transcendent picture in a while, but that has faded.  I suppose a big part of it is that I’ve seen a lot of the great movies that I wanted to see.  I spent years and years doing nothing but catching up on the great films of the best directors so that I could be knowledgeable enough to hold my own in any discussion about what I considered to be the greatest art-form.  I remember obsessing over every frame of every single Kubrick film and hanging posters of the man’s work in my room.

I’ll always remember this: walking home from school when I was 12 and stopping at the video store every day to talk about movies with the clerk.  He was a big horror movie fan and he told me I should rent the films of Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi.  So I got Dead Alive, Meet the Feebles, Heavenly Creatures (then just out on video), the Evil Dead series.  I watched them all and found them to be enjoyable and innovative.  I felt like I had discovered something.

But look back at that story and you’ll see that every element of it has changed in a profound way.  First off, video stores don’t fucking exist anymore.  That culture is dead, just like record stores.  There is no place for movie nerds or music nerds to discuss the latest thing they’ve seen or heard.  There is no sense of discovery.  Yeah, we have the internet, isn’t that wonderful?  Now every idiot with an opinion screams in all-caps about how Michael Bay is a genius because his movies make money.  But more importantly, there are no 12-year-old movie fans out there who can’t research every facet of an “underground” director with the click of a button.  We live in the age of the echo chamber, where the second somebody has an opinion that is brazenly different enough to perhaps have some merit, then everybody jumps on that bandwagon…until it becomes cool not to be on that bandwagon and call that guy a hack…until that’s not cool anymore and so on and so forth.  The other part of it is that there is no way for a young cinephile to discern what is important or what isn’t because everything is so available.  Isn’t it great that we can watch every movie on demand ever?  Well, not really.  Because without someone to guide you or to recommend you – and not Netflix’s computers, a real person – then how can you decide that it’s more important to watch Scenes From a Marriage or Confessions of a Shopaholic?  When everyone has a voice, then the voices of those who actually know something become lessened and that’s not a good thing.

The other thing about my story is this: I became big Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi fans.  I thought they had visual panache and anticipated what they could do next.  I mean, I didn’t think they were Kubrick or Bergman or Truffaut or anything, but talented fellows who I thought deserved a break.  I thought Heavenly Creatures, in particular, showed that Jackson was capable of making truly innovative films and couldn’t wait to see what they would do with a bigger budget.  And when Raimi made A Simple Plan, I thought he was capable of being one of the great thriller directors of our time. Of course, Raimi got the Spider-man franchise and Jackson Lord of the Rings.  It seemed like the coolest thing, that these kooky horror directors were going to be given the reins of a big-studio blockbuster!  I mean, of course they were going to be subversive, right?  “Well, okay, that’s cool, they made straight up studio movies, now they’re going to make the films they really want to make though…oh boy.”  See, it’s a disheartening thing.  These directors who I thought were capable of being themselves always wound up becoming the establishment and that sucks for the 12 year old in me.  I mean, they’ve made some fine films, but they’ve lost the voice that I responded to when I was younger.

Or maybe it’s that I’m not that kid anymore.  That big blockbusters don’t do it for me any longer.  I feel like a drug addict who is not trying to get high anymore because my “drug” abuse in the past was so out of control, but just trying to get “normal” with each fix.  Maybe Charlie Sheen was banging 7 gram rocks or whatever the hell he did, but I used to bust out 10 Fassbinder movies in a day.  Once you do that, it’s going to take a lot more than the latest Zach Snyder movie to blow your hair back.

Lately, with the free time I have, I’ve been re-watching episodes of The Larry Sanders Show.  It’s just terrific because I didn’t appreciate it when I was a kid and now I get to see it in a whole new light.  But it also reminds me of something I’ve long discussed on this site: television is becoming a more intriguing medium that film.  A movie can never hope to have the hours that television has to develop a character in the same way.  I know Larry Sanders better than I know almost any movie character I’ve ever seen.  It’s probably why my favorite film of all-time is actually 5 different ones: Francoius Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel series, where we watch a boy grow up and change.

Nonetheless, there are movies I’m anxious to see this year.  We’ve got a new Malick, a new Van Sant, a new Fincher, and a whole host of others.  Hopefully something will get me back into the swing of things.  Antoine Doinel kept searching for love, no matter how old he got.  I want to keep searching for great movies, no matter what, but during the dog days of winter/spring when the studios are releasing nothing but crap, it’s hard to find the energy.

2 Responses to “Movie Malaise”

  1. JR says:

    I always enjoy a good blockbuster. But where are Will Smith and Angelina Jolie this summer? I’m not really interested in watching Van Wilder play superhero.

  2. Seankgallagher says:

    There are actually a few video stores left; if you’re in New York City, for example, World of Video on Greenwich Avenue in the West Village is still hanging on.

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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas