I love movies, but I feel that Hollywood has been full of itself since around 1995. In fact, I would wager that the movie industry deteriorated before the music industry, with respect to the quality of the product that they have pushed on American consumers. I grew up in the eighties watching the first Blockbuster films, and I have a lot of respect for the gritty nature of seventies films and the rough, ultra-realistic approach of the cinema in the nineties. I like artists as diverse as Woody Allen, Robert Townsend, Spike Lee, Tyler Perry, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood and even John Singleton both behind, and in front of the camera.
I am not one of those reviewers in which everything has to be deep, cerebral, or conscious. As great as action films are, they are only as good as their plot. Do not waste a lot of time blowing up stuff or killing people, just for the sake of it. Personally, the best horror films were from the seventies. Back then writers knew how to get inside of your head, there were no fancy special effects, and if you actually turned off all of the lights and watched a film you had nightmares in which you were certain that you would die in your sleep, out of sheer fright because your heart would stop.
I have been known to jump on trends however, including the last “art” craze of the beginning of the twenty-first century, which spawned few classics. Films like “Juno” are a work of art, while “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004) is a total piece of crap; nothing but pure, cerebral grandiosity, intellectual masturbation for a new audience. People see films like Magnolia (1999) or American Beauty (1999), and they think it is easy, and it is not.
Some of the same problems that exist within the mainstream record industry exist within Hollywood. It is not enough to watch independent films, you have to be open to watching films from any part of the World. There is nothing wrong with subtitles if the film is actually good; sometimes you can gain a deeper understanding of a film when you are forced to read subtitles that you would not if the characters spoke in plain English. The Passion of the Christ is a wonderful example of this.
Where are films like Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981) or Taxi Driver (1976) these days? Those films taught you all that you needed to know about the devastation, indifference, ugliness, and misanthropic attitudes of New York City in the seventies and early eighties. I understand that critics hated Fort Apache at the time, but it does submerse you into that world, even if it did feel like a made for TV movie. To be fair, some of the made for TV movies, of the seventies and eighties, are better than some of the big productions that come out of Hollywood today. Where are actors like Harvey Keitel, or Robert De Niro, in this day and age?
This is the era of the conscious actor that has political views that flirts with grandiose ideas of being a rapper or a musician. The comedies are too dark, they make you think too much. No one can just deliver mindless entertainment, everyone has to have a message. Some people are good at delivering messages, and some are not. I am sick of contemporary comedies with their heart warming endings, just make me laugh, and move on. Do I really care that Gwyneth Paltrow can sing?
Hollywood does not need us anymore. Regardless of whether or not I actually go out and pay $12 to watch a film, someone else is, and that is all that matters. Those of us that like to sit around and complain about films are part of a dying breed. Technically, from an evolutionary standpoint, it is hard to make a bad film. When I say that, I mean that there really is no excuse. Even movies shot on incredibly small budgets, such as few hundred or a few thousand dollars, do really well in this day and age. There are incredible plots, story lines that you can lose yourself in, and character development in which directors, writers, and producers you never heard of before make film making look incredibly easy.
On the other hand, the commercial nature of most films make it even more difficult to separate the good from the bad. Too often a film that looks flawless, because millions of dollars was spent on it, can make a mediocre film seem like a work of art. It is not until you realize that virtually every film looks good, from a technical aspect, that you realize that one must actually pay close attention to the way in which the story unfolds to have a respectable opinion about the film. When the blockbusters films of the eighties were first unleashed on American audiences, there was nothing like it. By the mid-nineties with advances in technology every film had that “high-concept” look and feel, and it was becoming difficult to discern which films were great and which were not.
A good editor can put together a 30 second to 2 minute trailer of a film and show it a movie theater, and you are compelled to watch that film and you might have to watch it a few times to realize that it sucked. This is how we get sucked into watching films like District 9 and Battle: Los Angeles. Hundreds of these types of films get released, and audiences eat it up every single time. I am not suggesting that Avatar was a bad film, but I am suggesting, that the special effects seduce audiences before they even consider the deeper messages of geopolitics, environmentalism, and colonialism.