A friend of mine recently posted about being disappointed in the current crop of movies and pondered whether his expectations were simply too high.
I used to feel this way about people until years of therapy educated me to the fact that since you can’t expect anyone to behave in the absolutely perfect way you would in any given situation, well, you can’t quite fault them for it.
But art is something else and movies are really something more than that.
If you can’t depend on a chunk of the films in the last three months of the year to be really great, or at least really, really good, what hope is there for the future of the country/world?
Or to put it another way:
What else can THEY take away?
THEY get to fill the majority of movie screens most of the year with super heroes, escapist action and the mindless romps of cardboard characters that pass for humor. Surely the little sliver left for us adults, or people of any age with some discernment or taste, would not go undisturbed.
Well, I quickly diagnosed the condition. The U.S. film industry has entered a state of artistic global warming and it’s going to take generations of action to reduce the trend and it’s effect on the world. That is, if it’s not too late already.
Of course, this makes sense. We have for a while been the #2 polluting country worldwide, responsible for 15% of the planet’s greenhouse gases/carbon monoxide emissions (Note: Only China bests us at 30%) Not to mention, we recently pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord.
So if the choice comes down to huge corporate profits vs. the safety of the planet, be it from pollutants in the air, sea or mind, um, there is only one choice.
Money TRUMPS everything.
This is not to say we’re doing nothing about pollution or that there are no good films to see. We do and there are. Though it sort of reminds me of the quality of work I did when my divorced working Mom assigned me my daily household chores.
Never did I NOT get the job but not once, EVER, did I achieve anything spectacular as a final product. The amount of sheer commitment, single-mindedness and self reflection on the importance of the request that in turn would produce the ultimate load of uber clean and perfectly folded bathroom towels to please Mom could not be further from my #1 priority.
What I wanted was to do it my way, get my allowance money and not have to deal with what was clearly unwarranted and unjustified negative feedback. We made a deal and I more than fulfilled my end of the bargain. In fact I did a damn great job of it given all the amount of commitments I had to juggle and guff I was up against as a latch key teenager.
To not to see it my way was clearly ignorance, an inability to truly understand the task at hand with the funds available to me and the overwhelming nature of the job I was tasked with.
Or, so I thought.
It’s not that The Irishman isn’t interesting or well made. It’s just that, well, it’s a bit of a slog.
It’s not that Marriage Story doesn’t try. It’s just that, given the many (Note: So Many) problems in today’s world, it ultimately comes off as superficial, self-important, over-praised and naval gazing.
It’s not that Knives Out isn’t fun and has nothing to say. It’s just that, well, it’s not nearly as great as the first two and a half minute trailer and that’s a problem in an almost two hour spoof of an/all Agatha Christie film.
It’s not that Parasite doesn’t have a cool point of view and doesn’t subvert our much too comfortable expectation of “cinema.” It’s just that, well, it’s screenplay is far from seamless and it requires us to accept way, way too much fantastical stuff for a non-genre film.
It’s not that Jo Jo Rabbit is not entertainingly fantastical and welcome-ingly strange. It’s just that, well, when reinventing the comic Nazi archetype en masse one needs to be much, MUCH more clever and A LOT more specific (Note: See Inglorious Bastards).
It’s not that Hustlers doesn’t have a really and truly quite compelling pole dance by an age-defying Jennifer Lopez and literally countless seductively glossy film montages. It’s just that, well… an anthem of feminism and/or female empowerment? R-R-R-Really? No……really?????
I could go on and if you catch me in person I’d be glad to. You might not be interested or glad about it, though, and certainly I’d understand that. After all, there is enough disappointment, bitterness and anger in our overly polluted world already.
The point is, really, where are today’s cinematic equivalents of:
Citizen Kane, Singing In the Rain, Giant, All About Eve, The Graduate, A Clockwork Orange, Rosemary’s Baby, All the President’s Men, E.T., Sophie’s Choice, Do the Right Thing, Working Girl, Boyz in the Hood, Schindler’s List, Mulholland Drive, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Moonlight and yes, La La Land??
They (whoever they are) say that we get the best art in the most difficult of times. Judging from the movie art this year this means either the times are going to have to get a lot worse or filmmakers and the industry at large need to figure out a way to go from the satisfaction of good/really good/highly profitable to the exhilaration of great/risk it all fantastic/not trying to thread the needle of commerciality and art and thus achieving both incredible.
No pressure. At least no more pressure than past generations of filmmakers and their needy, more than willing to go on a journey, audiences ever felt.