Thursday, February 23, 2017

It is Official: "Cinema is Dead"

It is now official. The era of real cinematic film-making is at a close. So says film director Martin Scorsese in a recent interview last month. 

Martin Scorsese
“Cinema is gone. The cinema I grew up with and that I’m making is gone. The theatre will always be there for that communal experience, there’s no doubt. But what kind of experience is it going to be?” he questioned. “Is it always going to be a theme-park movie? I sound like an old man, which I am. The big screen for us in the ’50s, you go from Westerns to Lawrence of Arabia to the special experience of 2001 in 1968. The experience of seeing Vertigo and The Searchers in VistaVision.”

Well, we all agree that as technology evolves over the years, so will the craft of story-telling. Big blockbusters involve special effects, invasions from outer space, superheroes battling costumed villains and explosions that are so far fetched they could never happen in real life. There are few filmmakers today that know how to truly direct a motion-picture: Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, M. Night Shyamalon, Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. These men respect the classic movies of the 1930s through the 1950s and, inspired by the way movies were directed during the height of Hollywood's Golden Years, often mimic the proper use of telling a story through the lens. Sadly, most of today's directors come from an era of video tape which means liberal use a hand-held camera and quick cuts during editing. Someone needs to remind today's film students that a using a hand-held camera is not direction. In fact, if the camera moves about too much I get motion sickness and I know I am not the only person who suffers from this.

To me, there is something special to watching a Hopalong Cassidy Western on Saturday morning or a Mary Pickford silent on a snowy winter evening. Of course my wife and I still watch the latest movies that appeal to our inner preference, but last year's motion-pictures featured more duds than hits. Oddly, 2015 gave the appearance that Hollywood finally figured out the recipe for making an entertaining movie. In 2016, Hollywood did the exact opposite. Ghost Busters, for example, was poorly edited and a disaster from the viewpoint of Screenwriting 101. But when the movie came out on DVD with scenes not seen in the theatrical release, the entire film worked perfectly. (Why they did not release the DVD version in the theaters I will not know.) Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad also suffered from bad editing. Regrettably, the DVD releases of those movies did not do them justice.

Jungle Book and The Legend of Tarzan were surprisingly better than I expected and neither featured ghosts, monsters, demigods, exploding buildings, car wrecks or costumed characters. Let's be frank: it's all about demographics these days. The majority of ticket buyers in this country are under the age of 30. Scorsese points to the proliferation of images and the over-reliance on superficial techniques as trends that have diminished the power of cinema to younger audiences. “It should matter to your life,” Scorsese says. “Unfortunately the latest generations don’t know that it mattered so much.”

Which brings me to the social commentary of the week. Last month I met a man much older than myself who lodged a complaint: "They don't make good movies these days. It's all about superheroes and zombies and car chases. Even the superheroes are looking younger with each movie. Hollywood isn't what it used to be." 

So I asked him what was the last movie he saw in the theaters. His response? "Oh, I haven't been to the theaters in twenty years."

And that is why they don't make the kind of movies he wishes they would make.

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