WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE REALLY GOOD (ORDINARY) AMERICAN MOVIE?
I love the movies and have the sneaking suspicion that, on average, they have real life beaten hands down. I have put in “on average” to cover myself against some rather special people who may be tempted to chastise me for seeming to dismiss some wonderful moment or occasion (of which I am glad to say I have had many).
But though romance and great lovemaking are wonderful and memorable—as are one’s children (when small) and close friends, romance in particular can be exceptionally painful—whereas, where movies are concerned—the pain, thankfully, is confined to the screen.
But enough of the preamble. What I really want to say is that there seems to be a decided shortage of the kind of intelligent, well written, well acted, tightly edited, and crisply directed movies—which an adult (and here I do not mean porn) can watch with enjoyment—and which Hollywood used to turn out in profusion; and which didn’t cost an arm and a leg to make.
My archetype is EXPERIMENT IN TERROR starring Glen Ford which admittedly had the advantage of also starring Lee Remick and Stephanie Powers and being directed by Blake Edwards—but otherwise was a routine movie. In fact, I originally saw it in black and white back in 1962 when I was at university in Dublin, Ireland. It was a compelling, and thoroughly entertaining, thriller.
I’m prompted to raise this thorny subject because I have just been reading about the apparent financial failure of no less than six enormously expensive blockbusters, and because I have been watching of the recent crop of thrillers via Netflix—for both professional reasons and just to chill out—and have been decidedly under-impressed. Mostly, the latter—even when starring well known names—are mediocre at best. And I’m being charitable.
All of this makes me wonder if Hollywood is not losing its production quality edge when it comes to movie making.
Watching a number of foreign movies and TV series—French, Swedish, British etc.—reinforces that viewpoint. The production quality of the British TV series, WAKING THE DEAD, for instance, way exceeds that of most U.S. made thrillers that I have seen over the last few years—and for sheer originality of plotting and characters, you would be hard to beat LUTHER.
I’m not against blockbusters, especially when they are of the quality of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA or A BRIDGE TOO FAR, but I’m far from sure the current trends are healthy for the U.S. movie industry—or for the viewing public.
Fortunately, Netflix’s outstanding HOUSE OF CARDS and HBO’s GAME OF THRONES (which I haven’t seen, but which is being widely praised) gives us hope. On the other hand, the programming of the mainstream networks could well induce one to find a high bridge over a hard place, and jump.
ELECTRONS VERSUS PAPER: “Nielsen reports that they have it on good authority that fiction eBook sales will overtake print by 2014. According to their Understanding the eBook Consumer July Report, Nielsen estimates that for next year, eBook sales of fiction will amount to 47 million units, some 300,000 ahead of the paperback figure and 48% of total fiction sales.”
I’m reserving my opinion at this stage. We live in very strange times where the book business is concerned.