Of course the most apparent reason is Hollywood’s marketing-driven films that rely on huge budgets mainly for paying off the A-list stars and spending tens of millions of dollars solely on marketing. Billboards, benches, buses, commercials, promotional products, merchandise and in some occasions people say all that an entire movie has to say in a catchy slogan. This, coupled with the vulgar and dumb taste the mass market sustains and studios want to capitalize on has left art cinema crippled.
(Y) Sorry about the titles. The neon Y went off as soon as I posted it.
cinema only reflects the movie going public. there are still directors and producers who want to make good pictures, and some that want to make art. There have always been bad movies made just to gross money because the public would lap it up, and in the past there were usually not more than a few great movies a year. The problem is that the people who are supposed to be our great filmmakers of today, are not as good as the great filmmakers of yesterday. Aranovsky is no John Ford, and PT Anderson is no Mizoguchi.
That might be part of the problem, but I mainly blame the studios. During the New Hollywood period, directors were allowed huge freedom, and they made masterworks. Nowadays, as Scorsese puts it " you see a movie on a billboard and you don’t even know who the director is". The control issue is a big part of it, and another chunk that holds responsibility is the blockbuster. Several New Hollywood directors, such as Coppola and Friedkin did make blockbusters, but Spielberg and Lucas put them on studios’ radars. With the huge business Jaws and Stars Wars made, studios didn’t want to even have a thought about smaller, more intimate projects. By the late 70’s the indies were dead.
I believe the main reason Hollywood films have reached the horrific state which they have can be blamed upon the power wielded by the big agents combined with the imbeciles who run the studios and choose which projects are greenlit.
Maybe if Adam Sandler retires good movies can get a break.
The biggest problems are monetary. Movies cost so much to make today that no one can afford to take any risks. So the mainstream productions of today are increasingly “plastic,” well-marketed money machines that have little inspiration or soul. Indies, on a smaller scale, are equally hamstrung; a hot project will get workshopped and pitched around for years before the filmmaker gets to start filming (if he’s lucky enough to start), until the idea has grown stale. To do what Godard did in Breathless, take a few actors and a camera and just improvise a bunch of scenes, or to do what the Italian neo-realists did, which was in essence to strip everything down to the most basic human elements, would be impossible today because it would cost more and pose too much of a risk. If I was a filmmaker I’d probably shoot everything dv and release it right online. But at the same time, I’d feel some resentment about not working with 35 mm, not having theatrical premieres, etc. The old studios of the 30s, 40s and 50s may have encouraged a great deal of hackwork and kitsch, but they were so wealthy and successful that they could also afford to sponsor guys like Fuller, Lang, Ray, Mann, Hitch, etc., so it’s a case of something good coming out of a capitalist juggernaut, which is rare. It’s thrilling to see a Fuller film in Cinemascope, and you know he was only able to make two or three movies in that format. No one addresses the primacy of funding — Godard once said that when you are watching a movie you are always only watching piles of money, the actors are piles of money, the locations are piles of money. The bad conscience of movies — that they are super-expensive and are often funded by shady people — demands that the movies themselves tout an anti-money, “isn’t-poverty-romantic-and-wonderful?” line. The villain in so many Hollywood movies is a corporate strawman in a suit, and yet behind the scenes, it’s the corporate guys who make all the decisions. And make them badly in most cases.
I think that the problem is that the heads of the studios are more intertested how much money a film makes rather than the quality of the film. It’s a lot easier to stick with a formula that works than it is to take a chance on something original. That’s why there are so many remakes, sequels,prequels, & flat out clones of previous works.
They think they have all the formulas.
Leah, formula is a good word. And Christopher, you said what was I was trying to say in a nutshell: the remakes have become ridiculous. A few years ago it was tv shows — every bad tv show you could think of was being made into a movie. Film had never sunk so low.
Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love? I thought he was wonderful.
It’s a shame, actors are lucky if they get to make two or three great films in their whole careers. Jason Patric is one of my favorite examples of this; he’s really a damn good actor, but he’s had only two really great, distinctive roles: Collie in After Dark, My Sweet and the psycho-doctor in Your Friends & Neighbors.
I’m not sure I buy (haha, a pun) into the idea that funding is the biggest problem with filmmaking today. No doubt it’s an issue, and always has been. But with the advent of DV and now HD, one can get pretty good imagery on the cheap (and technology only gets better/cheaper). Once could bemoan the fact that it’s not 35mm (or even 16), but really, what is it we’re watching here? An artistic creation or a bunch of flickering frames? Fact is, you really don’t need millions of dollars to make a great film if you have talent and drive. Sure, money makes it easier, and let’s you expand your vision, but at the same time, the lack of it can force you to see creative opportunities you might otherwise miss. I take a walk around my city and see a million great locations where one can shoot a film, guerrilla style for no money. You wouldn’t even need a permit (well, maybe legally but…). No, you can’t make “Apocalypse Now” this way, and perhaps there is some merit to the idea which says that sort of filmmaking might be over. But that doesn’t mean you lose the essence of what makes great cinema.
Certainly, some have taken up the task of making films this way (cheaply). The problem I see is with distribution. If you make a masterpiece, how is anybody going to see it, without a stroke of luck (or ingenious marketing)? The next Antonioni or Bresson could be out there, making films, and unless he happens to be our close friend, we won’t know it. Film festivals only go so far, and even then, a lot of good stuff slips through to cracks (in favor of mediocrity). Another issue, maybe most problematic, is that it’s just too damn easy to make a film. There is so much garbage to sift through, finding the good stuff can be a real chore. The cheapness of video creates that kind of drawback. When you are spending money to shoot and process film, it kind of forces you to make it worth your while, and do something good. Still, I think there are more opportunities for more young aspiring auteur’s to pick up a camera and make something interesting. It’s just that if you don’t have the creative spark, nothing interesting is going to happen no matter how much money or energy you pour into your work. I’d say if one was looking for a root cause, that’d be it, IMO.
edit I mis-read the title of this thread, so I realize this is supposed to be about Hollywood, but I still think some things I wrote here could apply (ie, lack of a creative spark). I’d say too, maybe it’s not such a bad thing if quality filmmaking comes out of the hands of Hollywood, which is always going to be restrictive creatively and shut a lot of people out of opportunity for no good reason. If people give up that dream (and for most, that’s all it is) once and for all, maybe we can get to work putting a more reasonable alternative in place. What that is however, I have no clue.
Part of the problem is Hollywood’s inability to commit to a project. For instance, a studio may finance a Terrance Malick film for 30 million dollars, but not distribute it to try and recoup their investment. Furthermore, there are many films that are distributed, but Hollywood has no concept of how to promote some films. Or Hollywood will buy a smaller film that has no business being distributed, which only further tarnishes the image of independent films.
The audience is much of the problem today. Hate admitting it, but it’s true. Because the greater audience is the younger generation with the attention span of — say — a squirrel, films have to the high concept and fast paced. If films don’t serve the audience, they’re not doing their job. So, filmmakers are just giving the audience what they want. Too bad some of us aren’t the majority…
But also, I don’t think Hollywood does a good enough job of going after the older generations. If they were still making movies like Lawrence of Arabia and Casablanca, people would go to see them, if they knew that they were showing.
Well, since anyone can be a filmmaker today if they can afford a camera and a computer, I’m not sure why more people aren’t sprouting out of their fucking basements with passion projects that could outdo most of the shit that gets made under the studio systems. In other words, I blame the filmmakers since they’re the assholes leading us on, and letting it happen through their own fingers.
@Jason, who is the “they” you are referring to? The older generations? Average viewer? Greater Population? Everyone? Who?
@Aoaijea, we are talking mainstream cinema here, there are plenty of independent, unknown filmmakers who aren’t making the crap that you/we are/have been referring to.
Is it really possible to compare the filmmakers of yesteryear to those of today? The difference between the times and social conditions are great enough that I think we can safely say that those great canonical directors of the past were products of a unique point in time and that if they were young guys making films today their output would be completely different. I’m always wary of the much used idea of “the good old days” that we can never recapture. I think that filmmakers of the past were breaking ground and revolutionizing film in a way that can’t really be expected of today’s filmmakers. What can a film be today that it hasn’t been in the past? What is there left to do that hasn’t been done (another cliche, but one that I agree with) ? I might suffer from a lack of imagination but I think the Golden Age of film is far behind us and we have to be somewhat content to shift through the mass of commercialized crap to find worthwhile films. Films are just not the novelty they once were and the act of filmgoing is not the event it once was. Film is a non-event that is ever-present in our media saturated world and these attitudes towards film are to be expected given the circumstances.
I like Big Hollywood films. But i think they think we are all dumb. And i have to admit it isn’t all wrong. Why is Will Farrell a big draw? Adam Sandler? Stupid films for a stupid viewer.
And it is geared toward 12 year olds. I am 41 and find it hard to find mainstream films i can identify with. Same goes with actors. As far as i am concerned a good actor is a good actor no matter the age. But i see Jessica Alba in stuff woman 10 years older should do. Not to mention someone with the ability to act.
And then the remake. Allot of films can easily be remade. And be better than the original. So why do something like the Day the earth stood still? If that new film was not called TDTESS i would not have minded. But it seem like such a travesty otherwise.
Hollywood we are not all dumb. We don’t all like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
I agree, Richard. It’s funny though that even in this digital age, where it is easier than ever to acquire the tools necessary to make a film, films are still being produced and sold in accordance with old measures. We haven’t rid ourselves of scripts, three-act structure, arcs, linearity. Perhaps that is why they are all engineered to be sold as “events”, because those responsible for them understand their products are so disposable. Why bother, we all know it’s a con? It’s just shooting pages of script. Is there no new territory? When was the last time any of us were challenged by a mainstream release? As ever, money is a problem. There is far too much of it available for hacks and none given to those who follow a different path. Maybe it’s the artists’ fault. What is lacking is a new orientation towards oneself, towards the world. So many are so eager to be co-opted by the industry. It’s a grind otherwise, self-financing. Working without reward, without remuneration. Why fight it? Advanced twenty-first century capitalism permeates this reality down to the molecular level. You’re either on board or you’re left behind. Not waving, but drowning.
I was about to answer: Well, mainstream has completely devoted itself to the ever same ingredients, to the ever same formula – be it in action, be it in romcom. But then I thought: Wait, didn’t they rely on certain fixed structures in the old days, too? Maybe the difference is: Then they worked freely with it, using it to their advantage and proving their capabilities by sticking to the structure, but at the same time filling it with new ideas?
But then: Weren’t there a lot of bad mainstream movies in the old days, too?
KJ-We have not rid ourselves of 3 act structures, arcs and linear narratives because they work best. Writers have tried experimenting with that in literature for a long time now but with few exceptions changing it doesn’t work well. And you can criticize capitalism all you want but how many good films have been created under communist regimes and better yet how many films you admire are even allowed to be shown in communist countries where censorship is the rule. Talk about lack of freedom to create.
Thorsten-Yes there have always been a lot of bad mainstream movies, it’s nothing new. Most movies from foreign countries are crap too. We just get to see their best films here fior the most part. Sturgeons Law-90% of everything is crap.
They work best for the making of industrial cinema, but I prefer the exceptions, no matter how few. And because spectacular capitalism churns out and floods the world with the most garbage convinces me of nothing but that it is ruthlessly efficient.
They need a theme. The bulk of what comes out is either slasher, action or dysfunctional families.
Really, how many ways can you spin a dysfunctional family and make it interesting.
Did we really need a remake of “Friday the 13th”?
The studios will produce whatever they think will turn a profit and gradually bad drives out good as the market regresses to the least common denominator.
So the Oscars will go ga-ga over a slick piece of mediocrity like “Slumdog Millionaire” and meanwhile a master like Satyajit Ray doesn’t even have a decent box set on the market.
The regression to the least common denominator continues and all you can hope for right now is for material outside the megaplex mainstream to maintain a critical mass and continue if it’s only in a limited form.
>>I don’t think Hollywood does a good enough job of going after the older generations. If they were still making movies like Lawrence of Arabia and Casablanca<<
Some of us old codgers like edgier stuff than that pablum.
Geez, between the kvetching here and on a very similar thread, you’d think there aren’t any good movies being made anymore.
Good movies that challenge the viewer always have been and always will be in the minority because most viewers don’t like being challenged. They just want to sit back and let the movie roll over them & entertain them. Whether it’s IRON MAN today or GONE WITH THE WIND yesterday.
And if you think that Adam Sandler is the crux of all that’s wrong with the movies, let me just point out that Hollywood has already survived both El Brendel and Pauly Shore.
Hollywood had a bad year this year, big deal. 2007 gave us There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old men, Zodiac, In the Wild, Assassination of Jesse James, Michael Clayton, Eastern Promises, Gone Baby Gone for starters. Hopefully 2009 will be better.
I just worry. Much of 2007 was thanks to the work of specialty divisions like Warner Independent and Paramount Vantage. But they’re all gone. Was 2007 the last great hurrah? Have the studios learned finally that distributing these films is simply not worth it?
And what effect will 2008 have? Seems like the message for the studio’s taking is that it’s a lot more profitable to make audience friendly movies that are of reasonable high quality than high quality movies that are audience friendly.
It’s more of a production company problem than a filmmakers. I wonder how many times a filmmaker has to take a project that isn’t high on his list but if he doesn’t make that project he doesn’t work. writers at least can easily own the tools of their art but it’s expensive to make a film. I know equipment has become more reasonable in the digital age but not everyone wants to make movies in that DIY style-and I can’t blame them-I for one don’t want to watch most of them either.Mumblecore for example is mostly unwatchable.
I don’t like mumblecore very much either but I’m not convinced DIY style needs to devolve into that sort of wannabe-Cassavetes, shakey cam style. Perhaps once we get over the novelty of “anybody being able to make a film”, we will stop seeing crap peddled as innovative and people will start focusing on actual good work. It might take some time but then again, in this day and age maybe less than one thinks. I think aoaijea has a good point here; filmmakers need to stop making excuses for why they can’t make something interesting out of their basement, and just start working for the sake of working. So what if you don’t get a premiere? Are people into this for the art or for the fame/recognition? It sometimes feels like 90% care more about the latter. For sure, distribution sucks, but to me that’s not a good reason to prevent something decent from being made. Worry about that bridge when you need to cross it.
I think Richard makes some good points too but I don’t really see the things he describes as bad. In our media saturated world, I think it’s great that we can stop worrying about film being “novel” and instead focus on weather or not it’s “good” (a separate topic in itself). It’s like a huge burden lifted off one’s shoulders. Thank the 60’s and 70’s filmmakers for legitimizing film as an art, and move on.