Formulaic, Foreign and Full of $h!t: Cinema in the 21st Century (So Far)

I never understood the folks glued to the latest Netflix series, Amazon special, or HBO Documentary. Most of the content produced just doesn’t do it for me. At risk of sounding like a boomer saying “you kids don’t know good taste”, most of what comes out these days is garbage. I know I’m not alone because there are plenty of articles, movements and even businesses centered around cleansing your life from this poisonous influence.

movies don’t all have to be a cinema masterpiece. 2001: A Space Odyssey and Escapd From New York were both “great” in their own right

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good film or TV series as much as the next guy. But getting excited because Stranger Things had a scary monster, because Black Mirror had a shockingly relevant dystopia or because the latest Avengers was “epic” just shows sadness to me. Where is the depth?

I think this is the draw that foreign films have. Snowpiercer, though a bit cheesy at times, was entertaining and asked interesting questions. No Tears For The Dead, a foreign film that had some Korean dialogue and some English dialogue was riveting, both emotionally and in it’s action sequences. Where is the Hollywood answer? They don’t have any. One of the closer answers was The Man In The High Castle but this show quickly jumped the shark for me. The first season was amazing… Then we had the followup seasons which didn’t quite do it for me. Throw us into a historically re-envisioned world than shift gears and now it’s all of a sudden a character driven drama?

We’ve surrendered artistic creativity and creative insight to market and cultural forces. With movies demanding budgets in the millions, it’s no longer possible to make a bold statement on a shoe string budget. Instead, we have to hit all the right focus groups and buzzwords. It’s important to bring a finished product to a market with a chance at sustained success, but two and a half hours, or a season’s worth of the Thorazine shuffle is not the standard.

Despite the doldrums of the past 10-15 years, I am actually excited for what the future holds. There most be thousands of young, ambitious filmmakers who were spoon fed this garbage and thought “if this is the best they’ve got, I’m going to be the next Spielberg or Kubrick”. As technology continues to improve and platforms become decentralized, Netlix and the like will risk becoming the print media: outdated gate keepers who could not get with the times.

It’s a win-win for us though; we won’t have to rely on Prime Studios to pump something enjoyable out, we won’t have to wait, hoping the “next season” will be as good as the last one. New and vibrant content will be produced by folks who saw Jack Ryan and thought “interesting, but I can do better”.

Like war, there is no “peak” in cinema, or “golden age”. There’s effective and enjoyable films for the time and a few that manage to transcend their age. Cave men used stone knives to cut meat. We have better materials and implements to cut nowadays, but the knife transcended our paleolithic ancestors. Likewise, Seven Samurai will probably be studied for decades to come… What will transcend from the collective conscientious we have now?

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