Monday, December 2, 2013

Movies: A Defense Of Contemporary Cinema

(Drivebycuriosity) - Contemporary Cinema is often criticized. The pundits claim that in general the quality of movies is sinking. They complain that there are too many remakes, too many sequels and too many films based on computer games and comic books.

The successful movie director Steven Soderbergh ("Sex, Lies, and Videotape", "Traffic", "Side Effects" ) complained that the studios are too focused on making money (deadline  newyorker). Directors like him couldn`t make high quality movies anymore because of  studio executives who don’t “love movies” and don’t “know movies” and the trend toward producing big-budget films for the foreign market. Cinema as an art form is dead.

I believe that the critique is overdone. I don´t feel that the quality of movies in general is sinking and I don`t think that today´s cinema is worse than in the celebrated eras of the 1930, 40, 50s and 60s. Contemporary cinema still delivers masterpieces and directors still shoot films which will be be some day included into the canon of cinematic classics.

In 2011 Lars von Trier demonstrated with his mesmerizing geo-drama  "Melancholia" what cinema is capable of. Last year Kathryn Bigelow delivered with the war-against-terror thriller  "Zero Dark Thirty" a masterpiece of storytelling and visualization and Paul Thomas Anderson enchanted the audience with the gorgeous visualized "The Master".

This year Alfonso CuarĂ³n showed with the space spectacle "Gravity" pure cinema magic, Danny Boyle hypnotized the audience with "Trance" and Chan-wook Park`s complex mystery thriller "Stoker" also left a deep impression.

And there were a lot of small and independent productions like "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" by the newcomer David Lowery, the super realistic science fiction thriller "Europa Report" and the erotical vampire movie "Kiss Of The Damned" by Xan Cassavetes.

And - like everywhere - there is the influence of globalization, here from the foreign language movies. Abdellatif Kechiche proved with   "Blue Is The Warmest Color" (in American theaters in French with English subtitles) about an intense relationship between 2 girls - garnished with generous filmed sex scenes -  that a movie still can provoke.

I don´t think that cinema nostalgia and praise of the "good old times of cinema" are justified. I am just reading the biography of Hedy Lammar, a Hollywood diva from the 1930s through 1950s (amazon). For many years the actress was bound by contract to the studio  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and had to follow instructions from studio boss Louis Burt Mayer, the creator of the "star system" within Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (wikipedia). The  powerful Hollywood mogul followed strictly commercial interests like the modern studio executives who don’t “love movies” and don’t “know movies”  as decreed by Soderbergh.

Movies then also suffered from a hypocritical and bigoted censorship which interfered with all movie productions, even belly buttons were strictly forbidden. And even when the movies passed the censorship they had often ridiculous story lines as the Lamar biography describes.

The little collection of movies I quoted shows that  contemporary cinema is at least as good as the celebrated cinema of the past.

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