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No More Movies (jayriverlong.github.io)
605 points by jeffreyrogers 26 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 563 comments



Reading between the lines it seems the writer has mainly watched American movies that are easily accessible. I recommend instead of scrolling through the Amazon catalogue like he described, he might want to see if there is a local film festival that screens world cinema. Cinema from other parts of the world for me often leads to great new perspectives and insights. Outside of Hollywood there is plenty of auteurs and refreshing cinema happening. Or take a deep dive into the best of the best without the American lens with lists like the TSPDT.

https://www.theyshootpictures.com/


Even easier: Criterion Channel. $10/month with the best movies from all over the world all the time.

The current Neo-Noir and Wong Kar-Wai collections are worth at least quadruple that price out of the gate.

https://www.criterionchannel.com/videos/neonoir-intro

https://www.criterionchannel.com/world-of-wong-kar-wai


Unfortunately still not legally accessible outside the US. [Although I managed to get trial access with a VPN, but then I did not work anyway with a laptop running linux connected to TV with HDMI due to a certain DRM protection]

I have been enjoying MUBI a lot, the European alternative to Criterion Channel. Especially since they added a fixed catalogue aside from their new movie a day model. They also usually highlight three great reviews as a companion reading to the movie plus the user base is delightfully snobby, with no low effort jokes like you will see on Letterboxd.

They also do great retrospectives, currently Kelly Reichardt and Christian Petzold.


I found Criterion to be quite easy to VPN actually compared to some other services. You have to use a VPN to signup, but watching the movies doesn’t require it which is nice. And they don’t have any issues accepting international payments either.

(For reference, this was about 6 months ago, and I live in Australia)


I think the Criterion Channel catalogue does differ somewhat by country; I needed to use my VPN to watch Y tu mamá también from Canada.


I don't understand why sites like Netflix or MUBI do not allow an easy search or easy browsing of their ENTIRE catalog by certain criteria (country, length, rating, budget, etc.) Pirates do an incredibly better job at it and it amazes me every time.


Netflix makes their user interface terrible to search. This is by design: when things get pulled due to licensing or whatever other arrangements are made with studios or their parent companies, users are all none the wiser.

The reason why P2P will reign supreme is because it cuts through the bullshit of backwards business restrictions and empowers people to watch content on whatever device they want, when they want, and how they want. Netflix has, what, 30,000 titles available? Compared to the 400,000 titles at your nearest P2P based source.


There is a way to browse by genre which map to a generic URL but are much more direct than the default aimless auto-playing nightmare of their default interface.

https://www.finder.com/netflix/genre-list

http://ogres-crypt.com/public/NetFlix-Streaming-Genres2.html

Some don't resolve to any results, which I think is a result of their poor catalog.

http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/68778 = Action & Adventure starring Tom Cruise


Netflix doesn’t want you to see how bare-bones their catalog actually is


Criterion is available in Canada...


Kanopy. Free with many library cards. Views are rate-limited per month, which limit I think may vary by library system, but still, you can watch at least a movie or two a week for free if you're part of a participating system. Some major, recent films, lots of mid-tier non-blockbusters and the kind of thing that plays the film festival circuit. Tons of (often political) documentaries, if you're into that. Damn good, for free, and you can ignore the documentaries and just focus on the movies and still have loads of content. Only weakness is that, oddly, it's awful for kids' content.


Really? We were amazed by the amount and quality of kids content. It's a completely separate section, so it's not part of the main Kanopy app, but it has tons of movies and dramatized readings of children's books. But yeah, the first thing I thought when I read this was "Kanopy".


I can really recommend Wong Kar-Wai. I may have rewatched some of his movies four or five times.

Chungking Express is such a beautiful movie. You can also take a look there at a bit less developed and less modern Hong Kong.


I drunkenly and blindly bought the Criterion Blu-ray for just a little south of a Benjamin and it was totally worth it, and the price for the originals began climbing after the release of the revised version included in the box set. It's my favorite from WKW's oeuvre; it has the same feeling as Lost in Translation which is another one of my favorite films.

As I grow older, I realize that my interests have shifted from big explosion-a-minute blockbusters towards simple movies of people doing, essentially, nothing.


Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love is one of the most beautiful movies ever made and, rightly, considered one of the greatest movies made in the modern era.


Back in '90 I acquired a laser disc player. The conventional wisdom of the moment was laser discs were on their way out, and people were selling and giving away laser disc collections for cheap. I bought the entire Criterion Collection, what it was at the time. Something like 5 crates of discs, all classic black and white films. I watched most of them, but many do not hold up and feel like experiments today. I don't know where they are now - in a box somewhere in long term storage.


Wow, I bet you could get some seriously good money for those if they are in decent shape. There is a massive retro video resurgence going on now, so folks paying big money for rare VHS tapes, I'm sure the Laserdisc market is just the same too.


I have a big pile of Laserdiscs too. I couldn't imagine going to the trouble of selling them individually though.


For your consideration, the LaserDisk DataBase:

https://www.lddb.com/


Mubi is also excellent


+1 Almost every memorable movie I've watched in the last 2-3 years was on Mubi


Kanopy gives you five movies a month for free with a library card and has a similar catalog.


I think so, too. Although I'm almost lost for cinema nowadays because of a lack of time (I write novels in most of my spare time), my girlfriend still goes to the cinemas very often and I know from her that I'm missing several outstanding movies every month. There are also good US productions every year.

What the author perhaps means is the decline of US action movies. They have become faster and dumber over the years and arguably are mostly unwatchable by now, at least in comparison to action movies from the 1970s. Why have they become so bad? I used to think it's just because they are cut too fast and 30 minutes of unnecessary action is added at the end, but now I believe the scripts have also become worse. It would be interesting to hear from an insider like a script writer what has changed.


When I first witnessed Fury Road I thought George Miller had single handedly ushered in a new renaissance for action movies.

Unfortunately no other directors have carried baton forward, and now I'm just waiting for the sequel..


Maybe I'm just not enough of a film connoisseur but I just watched Fury Road last night and thought it was mediocre. Sure the action was okay and it was cool how you just started with the action but the storyline seemed superficial at best and I felt like the climax came way too late in the film.


A lot of what's good about the film's wrapped up in technical film-making appreciation. The remarkable quality of the action-storytelling, how "legible" the action is, the quality of both those things despite the by-modern-standards limited use of CG, how good the practical effects themselves are, the costuming and set-building and world-realization stuff, simple efficiency and competence at "set-up, pay-off" screenwriting (less common than it should be, especially in flashy action movies), that kind of thing.

[EDIT] Basically, I think there are three general viewer-categories for the film, here presented as their reactions:

1) "It had lots of action. Seemed like normal action in an action movie, I guess. Hated the story and characters. Movie sucked overall, don't get why people like it."

2) "The action was notably good. I can't explain why, but it was definitely good. Film overall was just OK. Liked it fine, some stuff about it was neat, but don't get why some people are raving about it."

3) "Oh my god I'm going to need several days and pages of notes to unpack everything that was great about the action and storytelling, and especially the two of those together, in that movie. There's so much to cover. I can't wait to be able to watch it at home so I can analyze the editing more closely, that's going to be great. A+."


Agreed 100%, perhaps the most impressive thing about the movie is how economical it is with storytelling and worldbuilding. Think about the fact that it is largely just fantastic action set pieces and incredible visuals. The consider how much you understand the world and characters within it. A lesser movie would have a 10-minute exposition dialog scene early on, telling you in excrutiating detail exactly what Immortan Joe is doing and why he is bad. Fury Road is the absolute pinnacle of "Show, don't tell" for me.


Then there's the niche category (cannot speak for Fury Road, but can speak for, among others, True Lies):

"Wow, putting a reel transition there is BRAVE." (yep, that's a multi-projector projectionist reaction, True Lies has a reel-to-reel transition in the middle of a conversation, and you have up to "seconds" of lost frames in a switch-over).


Interesting. I feel Fury Road is a shining example of zero storyline shite, and George Miller to be an over rated hack.


My best friend and I watch hundreds of movies per year (about 1 every day) and we thought Fury Road was horrid as well. By contrast, Thunderdome, was a very smart film, as far as hollywood movies go.


Are there any recent action movies that you thought were shining examples of the genre? If so, what about them did you like?


The recent "Nobody" is a good twist on action, as well as "Hardcore Henry" is interesting. When the storyline takes unexpected turns, or uses clichés as bait and does not follow through on the cliché can be fresh. In general, a feature length film is too short to do many literary works justice, and serialization does a far better job relating a quality story. For example, Netflix's "Ozark" would not be called "action" in the feature film sense, but the intellectual violence in that show is far and above stupid gun/car/fist violence. Films like "The Congress", "Terminator 2", and "Tropic Thunder" represent the best the Hollywood feature film system can produce.


Watching fury road is like listening to a classical symphony. A masterpiece in composiing and weaving together sequences.


fury road is a masterpiece. 0 exposition or intro, just drops you right in to non-stop madness. might be my favorite movie now


My family saw the Star Wars that came out in 2016 for Christmas. I was shocked to find myself bored out of my skull. I thought, "How can Star Wars be so popular among my friends if I hate it?" A year later I told the story to someone and they helped me realize that it's not Star Wars in particular, it's action movies in general that I hate.

They can be fun in 10-minute snippets, though. And pretty.


To be fair, the latest Star Wars trilogy shat out by Disney is crap compared to the masterpiece that was the original.

The original trilogy had a great cast of charismatic actors with chemistry and a great story that kept you invested in the characters, while the latest one hasn't got any of those and is just cashing in on the nostalgia of the original.


Also, you're not 12. My kids were enthralled by the recent movies (yes, even Solo) in a way that you and I can no longer be.


That is true. Also? The Star Wars universe at the time felt open & surprising, like anything could happen. By the end of the newest prequels, it felt like the movies were highly constrained by everyone’s expectations. They were Marvel-ified by Abrams, and then they handed over the franchise to a more controversial film maker who couldn’t quite pull it off either, and then you had an impossible situation that Abrams made the best he could of, but was ultimately a mess.

Whatever. Nowadays, I will watch scifi movies simply for the visual aspect, and there were some nice scenes in the new trilogy. But the surprise and novelty of the original trilogy could never really be satisfied, in part because I’m not 12. :)


I found Rogue One to be very interesting, but the newer episodes or Solo couldn't keep me interested.


I could live very well with a Star Wars universe consisting of the original trilogy plus Rogue One. The sequels had their moments but not enough of them.


I can only offer counter-anecdata, but whenever I see a kid wearing Star Wars merchandise, it is from the original trilogy. I think the last trilogy will have even less cultural impact than episodes 1-3.


The original trilogy had mediocre acting but had one-liners that were on par with Evil Dead. I think that's what made it a cult classic.

None of the other movies will be remembered for their one-liners, but from what I can tell that's not what Disney is trying to do anyway. They're selling characters, not movies.


Author here -- No, I have never been a particular fan of action movies. I find them pretty boring; they're perhaps the worst offenders in the "all movies are the same" category.


A lot of it comes down to legible editing and camerawork. If you have a big name actor who can’t do the action that well, you can use shakycam and fast cuts to obscure that. That specific trend is probably on its way out thanks to John Wick, though.


> the writer has mainly watched American movies that are easily accessible.

I highly recommend Scandinavian crime drama's they are under rated https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-OOpZitfd0

the work of Jurgen Haabermaster is also outstanding for all those who want to break out of the bland diet Hollywood serves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAlxNNvfvJs

on a serious note I found some fantastic serials that are not so well known and which I will remember for a long time (e.g. Indian "Sacred Games", Italian "Gomorrha" or "Suburra", British "Small Axe", USA "Snowfall", German "Dogs of Berlin" or "Dark", French "The Bureau"). In fact there wasn't a single show in the last 2 years where I felt I ended up wasting my time or were forced to bail out after S01E02 because it didn't resonate. The alternative to great serials is only a good book and from my pov a movie can never give the same depth as a good serial.


I'm so happy to see a Mighty Boosh reference here, one of the best shows ever created!


That was exactly my reading. I watched 75 films so far this year, most of them obscure at least in a sense that I had to make an effort to get them and while not all of them were great, a lot of them were interesting and that's after four decades of watching movies and seeing surely more thousands of them. I am sure I would feel similar to the article's author if I limited my choice only to what streaming services offer.


I think interesting and competent is what you might strive for after you've consumed enough of a type of media. You see it in music and video games too. Eventually the big hits and blockbuster games are all pretty boring, if you're an engaged consumer of the medium, you'll start looking for more novel ways to be interested, and start appreciating competency more than you used to.


Maybe? I'm willing to bet that after 810+ movies he'll have seen all of the tropes and techniques trotted out by those outside of Hollywood. How many ways can you really tell a compelling story or possibly show an artistic experience?


As long as you're not overly obsessed with identifying every variation of a cliche, there's plenty to enjoy.

The stories will have different backdrops, and they can proceed in ways that foreigners might find quite unexpected. Different cultures have different assumptions about how to make a love story truly romantic, what's funny or weird, or what counts as a faux pas that eventually dooms the protagonist. Even the same trope can be executed very differently because of these factors.

The cinematography will be different. The music will be different -- Bollywood BGM feels very different from K-Pop. The fact that you'll be reading subtitles all the time will certainly make for a fresh experience, especially when you're listening to something like Japanese where the sentence structure makes it difficult to translate the timing of the punchline into English. Action sequences will emphasize different things, often because of budget or location constraints, but sometimes simply because there was a local fad for something. There will be references to local traditions, literature, and historic events that make really interesting rabbit holes to follow.


>How many ways can you really tell a compelling story or possibly show an artistic experience?

Is this a joke? Do you actually think american film captures every single possible artistic experience?


If I'm wrong list some movies, please. I will watch them. I've seen enough foreign films to see many of the techniques used between films and between directors.


Recently I watched One cut of the dead. One of the few comedies that surprised me in the last ~10 years.


So I watched it yesterday, based on your comment.

I'm not sure if this movie is funny (it's very subjective) but, thank you.

That's one of the most original movie I've seen in a long time, it's so clever and unpredictable.

Really, thank you :-) !


1770 films so far and as a European I'm more in awe with early Iranian cinema than ever. Definitely a world away from Hollywood, in the best possible sense.


Any film recommendations for someone new to the genre?


(Sorry, I must've turned off the notifications in HN, because I never know when someone replies to a comment I've made.)

Rather than recommending films, which can turn into a long list since I'd find it difficult to decide which deserves more attention, I've shorlisted a number of highly respected and influential directors that I've closely followed (not in a social media kind of way)

* Majid Majidi

* Abbas Kiarostami

* The Makhmalbaf family (https://www.makhmalbaf.com)

* Dariush Mehrjui

* Bahman Ghobadi

* Jafar Panahi

* Bahram Beizai

* Asghar Farhadi

Most of these managed to create amazing films despite being closely watched and heavily censored by the authorities.


Abbas Kiarostami - Where Is the Friend's Home?


> Reading between the lines it seems the writer has mainly watched American movies that are easily accessible.

Bingo. I mostly gave up on those decades ago. Come on, I remember walking more than once into a Blockbuster video rental store (remember those?). I'd make a few rounds of the isles, come up empty-handed, then walk out the door.

I started mostly going to an outlet called called Tom's Video on Grandview Highway in Vancouver, Canada. You could rent lots of Asian cinema there. HK movies, Japanese movies, Korean movies, Chinese movies, and from other parts of the world as well.

The author of this blog has simply burned out on one kind of movie and lost perspective.

A movie doesn't have to be entirely original. Even if the stories are tropes, there are always different actors, different cinematography and so on.

Blues songs are more similar to each other than American movies, yet there is a point in coming back to the Blues. If you say, "what's the point of listening to the Blues; it's the same song structures and soloing cliches", you're missing the point.


Yeah, that is my impression as well. Mass market film is extremely narrow by definition, and as Hollywood gets more globalized, the themes need to be even more narrow to be widely relatable. But video production costs have plummeted. You could make an incredible and quite experimental film with an iPhone and and a few freelance actors. I think the real problem is our discovery "algorithms" are winner takes all.


Author here. I've watched a lot of international films, probably between 250 and 300. These are pretty much the only films I watch nowadays -- you're right that the American lens on film gets tiresome. Nonetheless, I still have many of the same issues with international film, given by constraints of the medium.


When I see these kinds of takes on movie quality dropping I typically encounter the impact CGI has had over time. I was surprised that you did not similarly decry the impact of CGI on cinema and the over reliance on it.


This might just be my problem, but I really hate subtitles. It takes me out of the movie and in dialog heavy movies completely pushes out the visuals.


I really hate dubbing and love hearing the actors talk in their native language even when I don't understand it. I'm extremely fast at reading subtitles too, so that's never a problem for me.

I never understood those countries, like Spain, which make dubbing some sort of national pride. No, Spaniards: dubbing sucks, you just don't know any better ;)


I don't like dubs either. Which is why I mostly watch American movies. I can just listen to the dialog. I have watched some Japanese and Korean content on Netflix. I tried to watch it with subs at first, but I gave up pretty fast since when I want to watch a movie/show I want to watch it not read it. I have backlog of books for reading, but even then I am mostly reading books in English.


Agreed, of course with English (which is a learned language for me) it's way easier since I don't need to read the subtitles.

But even with other foreign languages I enjoy watching with subtitles. For starters, you learn what other languages sound like. Plus, let's face it, most dubs are terrible quality. And finally, it's surprising but you start picking up the language! I've never studied Japanese but I started picking up words and inflections just from watching Japanese movies (and the same happens with Korean, Chinese, etc).


There are worse things than dubbing... In Polish TV all movie dialogs are read by a single person, typically male. I guess they came up with this horrible idea during communism, because dubbing was too expensive, and now we're stuck with it.

In cinemas however, movies typically have subtitles.


Terrible! I heard this single male voice also "explains" the jokes of comedies like the Simpsons, is it true?


No, I've never seen this. Except maybe in rare cases when the joke is really idiomatic and the translator screwed up the job by explaining joke rather than translating it.


I’m the opposite, I can’t stand watching TV or movies without subtitles because I want to know exactly what is being said at all times, and don’t want to miss part of the story because I couldn’t hear a couple of words. But, I’m also originally from Europe, so am quite used to it.


I agree, I love subtitles, and prefer watching everything with (English) subtitles, even films/TV shows in English. Mainly because of the same reason as you, and just to add, I also watch a lot of stuff that has strong regional UK accents. Sometimes, it's not just the accent, but the regional usage of very specific slang that is simply just incomprehensible because I'm not familiar with the word's usage in that manner and can't infer from context, even if the words themselves are in my vocabulary. (A recent example that comes to mind is Derry Girls...)

But I also wonder if there's something related to how people read that factors into this aversion to subtitles?

For me, subtitles are almost invisible and I spend zero-to-negligible effort "actively reading" them -- they just sort of get absorbed by my brain while I'm watching what's on screen. So it doesn't really negatively affect my enjoyment or engagement with the show/film at all.

I think maybe the folks that struggle with or dislike subtitles view the act of "reading" subtitles as a mental context switch that interferes with the parallel act of watching and listening.


Watching English show with English subtitles is different, because I can just ignore the text (this is actually how I learned to watch movies since all movies in movie theaters here are subtitled so I just listened for the English words and watched the movie).

Sometimes I do watch some TV shows with subtitles on (English dub & sub) if they have very inconsistent audio equalization i.e. during some scenes music is super loud and then they dip into really quiet dialog so I don't miss the beginning part.


its often not at all exactly as said... also you might miss a lot of the performance if you are not able to see how things are expressed...


I have a lot of trouble with it too, though Parasite was very watchable (thankfully, as it is a fantastic movie).


I agree.

I sometimes wonder if we will ever have the quality of films Hollywood made in the 60's, and 70's.

(On technical note, I'm waiting for the day dubbing is perfected. I will watch a good subtitled movie, but prefer not to.)


I agree. Even with Netflix I find myself looking for British, Australian or French productions I. Film and series as they seem fresh, less repetitive and deeper in character than recent American productions.


Roger Ebert wrote an essay [0] in 1992 reflecting on his career as a critic. He writes

>In the past 25 years I have probably seen 10,000 movies and reviewed 6,000 of them. I have forgotten most of those films, I hope, but I remember those worth remembering, and they are all on the same shelf in my mind.

Overall, he seems never to have lost the joy of watching movies. A relevant quote:

>When you go to the movies every day, it sometimes seems as if the movies are more mediocre than ever, more craven and cowardly, more skillfully manufactured to pander to the lowest tastes, instead of educating them. Then you see something absolutely miraculous. Something like "Wings of Desire," or "Do the Right Thing," or "Drugstore Cowboy," or "Gates of Heaven," or "Beauty and the Beast," or "Life Is Sweet," and on your way home through the White Hen Pantry you look distracted, as if you had just experienced some kind of a vision.

[0]: https://www.rogerebert.com/roger-ebert/reflections-after-25-...


Love this quote from Roger Ebert. Thanks for posting it. He was a great reviewer because he loved what he did. His passion came through in everything he wrote.


Drugstore Cowboy. Good tip for op. Go watch some Gus Van Sant movies. Elephant is my favorite I think even if DC was the first I saw that got me.


Ebert has a great review for Elephant too: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/elephant-2003


Wow, that was really an excellent review. It is pretty spot on.


The root cause of this is basically Hollywood (i.e. who makes what gets shown in your local multiplex) has given up on making movies exclusively for American audiences. You need a global audience, and you need the potential to get a billion dollars + in revenue. E.G. as he points out comedies have died, that's because comedy is highly localized versus the kids movies + adventure plots which are more universal. End result is everything gets boiled down to its rawest, most accessible elements and everything feels samey.


> End result is everything gets boiled down to its rawest, most accessible elements and everything feels samey.

This is basically what is referred to in the industry as "high concept." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_concept

Bob Iger, Ex-CEO of Disney, was a big proponent of high concept movies. You can read more about it in the screenwriting book, Save the Cat. https://www.amazon.com/Save-Last-Book-Screenwriting-Youll/dp...


> The root cause of this is basically Hollywood

this is what i've started calling the "it takes one to tango" fallacy, where an issue has two responsible parties but only one gets blame. hollywood's not forcing people to spend their money on mass-produced uninspired movies - worse! thats what people pay to go see!


Sure, the consumer does have some degree of influence here, but they're still picking from the menu of options the studio makes available.

If someone likes movies as recreation, even if they would prefer something different than the action blockbusters, their choices are "don't enjoy yourself to send a message to the studios" or "watch a movie you might enjoy less than something from another genre"... most people who enjoy watching movies are probably gonna chose the route that still lets them enjoy watching a movie.

The incentives don't line up. Its like buying McDonalds at an isolated highway rest stop - I don't particularly love McDonalds, but if my choices are a hot meal or whatever I can get from a vending machine or pack with me, I'll take the hot meal every time. Its not an enthusiastic endorsement of globalized fast food chains despite my paying for it.


> The incentives don't line up.

this is again "it takes one to tango" - the people create the incentives the studios follow. movies largely make money with sales volume. this is important; tickets arent more expensive for different movies, its strictly a numbers game (ignoring uncommon deals like toys and video games, etc). according to the first link i clicked, marvel's last movie infinity war grossed two BILLION dollars. you are simply wrong if you think some novel, avant-garde sundance indie is going to interest that many people.

the world is the way people want it to be. this is the tyranny of the majority. if we want non-incentivized things to exist, we're gonna have to invent new socioeconomic theories in this movie thread : )


You are assuming a fair and competitive market where the consumer is actually in charge. False assumption.

The world is the way the people with money want it to be, because it’s the lowest effort, most extractive model they can legally get away with. That’s not to say people didn’t like Endgame, but we all could have done without the last 3 or 4 Transformer movies. There are plenty of examples of trash movies that only get made because the story is watered down enough to pass globally.


The entire premise here is a bit odd to me; are people forced to spend their time and money watching a sub-par movie? Couldn't they watch one of the innumerable television shows that are available, watch YouTube, older movies, etc., etc.? The comparison made above to having to eat McDonald's in a desert doesn't make any sense in this context since that is talking about needing life-supporting nutrients in a literal desert.


If there's nothing in movie theaters but trash, but your culture values movie-going experience, then you have no choice but either watch trash or forgo this part of your cultural experience altogether. I've been choosing the latter for years now, but I can understand people that choose the former - because I still miss the experience. I'd love to go back to it - but not with trash.

The McDonalds analogy is actually better than you think - imagine by some market quirk most of the restaurants in your city hired chefs that suck at their job. Because, say, The American Culinary Institute declared food is not supposed to taste good, it is supposed to send the right message, and the taste is secondary. It's not like the food isn't edible or harmful anymore - it still delivers the nutrition, and still kinda edible, but sucks. Ignoring the fact you could cook for yourself - let's imagine for a minute you have to dine out - what would you do? You'd go and eat sucky food. And since you do, the business model is provably working. Maybe if the whole town agreed to not eat out for a couple of months as a protest against sucky food, it could be changed - but what are the chances of that actually happening?


Invert it. I want to watch a movie in theaters because that's a treasured pasttime. What's available to see is what's most profitable to the producer (which is measured globally), rather than what's pleasing to the customer (which is measured locally). It doesn't matter that there are alternative avenues - we're talking about a specific, consolidated economic sector that is behaving irrationally at the local level.

I didn't write the McDonald's thing, so I'm not gonna try to contextualize it.


I understand your frustration but I still cannot get past the point that, generally speaking, an individual must make a specific, conscious, and unforced series of decisions in order to repeatedly end up in front of movies that they dislike. Their decisions must also by necessity happen in a context where there are many other media options available.

I also enjoy the cinema but I only go when there are films that I find interesting and worthwhile. In my specific case this means that over the past few years I've seen Parasite, a showing of the original Alien, a few midnight B-tier horror movies, etc. I don't get to go to the movies as often as I would prefer but the alternative of wasting my time on films that I don't find attractive while simultaneously financially supporting an industry I disagree with seems obviously non-viable to me.


Lots of people go to movies to go out with a group of friends. They have to agree on the movie, and don't each pick their own one. They enjoy spending time together maybe more than they enjoy the actual movie.


> I understand your frustration but I still cannot get past the point that, generally speaking, an individual must make a specific, conscious, and unforced series of decisions in order to repeatedly end up in front of movies that they dislike.

That seems like another odd assumption to make. It doesn't need to be based on individual choices, social dynamics drive plenty of decision making [1]. FWIW, I've only seen 1 new movie this year, and I only plan to see 1 other, so it's not like I disagree with you at an individual level. That's not how it works out in the larger population though - for many people it's their leisure activity of choice.

[1] e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abilene_paradox


Another way of wording this is there's plenty of sequels that play to the long tail of fans of the original who will see anything relating to it

The consumer is in charge of what movies they see. To suppose otherwise assigns people no agency: it's easy to do when it's others, but, it's not a valid way of analyzing it.

I see this as a slippery slope argument that supposes any people who choose to see movies are drowned out by zombies who see only what ads tell them to see and think they're happy, but they're actually not


> The consumer is in charge of what movies they see

No they are not. The consumer is in charge of what they see given the options available. If what the consumer wants is not being produced, then the consumer is choosing the least-bad option (which is sometimes to choose a different activity).


I agree, and the next step would be to argue if there's _any_ options that pass arrosenberg's 'bad' filter, and I feel it gets awkward from there: I can't tell you what passes your filter. I respect your opinion and often say as much myself, but the argumentation is weak in several areas


In general I agree with you. But I think you're committing the fallacy illustrated by the following joke:

Two economists go walking down the street. One of them looks down and says, "is that a $100 bill on the sidewalk?". The other economist says, "it can't be, someone would have picked it up already", so they ignore it and walk on by.

Hollywood is controlled by a small number of corporate conglomerates, many of which have their hands in too many pies to keep track of. Their movies are largely stagnating, which is probably creating an opportunity for better movies to capture an outsized share of the market. Some day, some of those movies are going to come out and make a lot of money. Studios will scramble to react and get stuck in a newer and more different rut.

This is the same kind of cycle that Hollywood has gone through over and over again since the beginning. We're just in the trough of the cycle.


>but they're still picking from the menu of options the studio makes available.

They're often not, just choosing whatever gets more promoted.


"Nothing" is the common denominator of everything. Mass market movies are attempting to reach this perfect "nothing".


I know more than a handful of people who complain about Hollywood originality, but only go to the theater for Marvel or Star Wars movies.

Or who only go to see a movie that has 80% on Rotten Tomatoes (unless its a franchise movie).

The real problem is that TV killed the middle-rung movie. All that is left is blockbuster spectacle (which costs too much to take risks with) or art house stuff.


>The real problem is that TV killed the middle-rung movie.

You're 70 years too late. Life magazine in 1957 talked about how one of the consequences of the Hollywood studio system (from both TV, and the 1948 Paramount antitrust case) was the death of the "million-dollar mediocrity" (<https://books.google.com/books?id=Nz8EAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA146>):

"It wasn't good entertainment and it wasn't art, and most of the movies produced had a uniform mediocrity, but they were also uniformly profitable ... The million-dollar mediocrity was the very backbone of Hollywood".

The "million-dollar mediocrity" died because the Paramount case forbade block booking, in which studios required that theaters purchase said mediocrities to also buy big films. Original TV movies appeared in the 1960s but their budgets and production values were too low to really fill the hole in Hollywood, but today's streaming companies' insatiable appetite for content has opened a new outlet for middle-tier films (and, more importantly, series).


> today's streaming companies' insatiable appetite for content has opened a new outlet for middle-tier films (and, more importantly, series)

Also consider that a home entertainment room has a comfort and quality level that surpasses that of a typical budget [movie] theater (though I've been to a more luxurious theater that I would gladly pay money for even if I had a proper home theater -- it was that good).

What I miss by staying at home and watching a Netflix film is the social aspect, and after the past 14 months, I think people are hungry for that. It's fun to cheer when your favorite star makes a cameo, or sing along to a Disney musical. If someone could figure out how to market it, I think there's money to be made there.


> The real problem is that TV killed the middle-rung movie

I nodded away to your last paragraph, but then I thought about my old Saturday job at an independent cinema. We charged £2.50 for a ticket (now £3.50, just checked; about US$3.50 & $5 in today's), the money was in the snacks, and of course it is in major chains too.

I think the real problem is consumer perception/treatment of cinemas as expensive rare treats comparable (in price) to going to a theatre. Which they are, at major chains fully laden with snacks, but don't have to be. Television is no doubt a contributor to that image of cinema, but not I think in itself the cause of this.


> I think the real problem is consumer perception/treatment of cinemas as expensive rare treats comparable (in price) to going to a theatre.

My happiest relationship with film was when I was able to go to the movies every week (some weeks even twice!). I was going alone, during the week, to independent movie theaters that charge 4-5€. It's a great experience, even if you don't love the movie. It never feels like a ripoff.

The main problem IMO is that people don't want to get out of their comfort zone (and lack time/interest to find new stuff they might like). But of course when tickets are 15€ instead of 4€ people are much less willing to take the risk.


The price of popcorn and a soda/pop at one of the big cinemas is comparable in price to a movie with dinner at one of the local places that serves a meal with the movie. Given the choice, I know what my dinner-and-a-movie date night choice is.

What we are paying for as consumers is the experience, but the experience keeps getting worse, and the price keeps going up. I suspect this is also part of what's killing the drive-in theaters too.


To assign blame to diffuse 'consumers' as well as the Hollywood/politicians/FAANG/manufacturers/international megacorporations that are the other side of whatever 'it takes two to tango' issue, the consumers need to have the capability to effectively communicate their demands back to their partner in the trap. Not only do they need the capability, they also need the expectation that the communication will be heard, else there is no reason to do it. But that line of communication is lost at large scales. Maybe a few purists will make a principled stand for nuanced, poignant, artistic, deep films, against the degeneration of the film industry towards bland, repetitive, shallow superhero rehashes, and will refuse to buy a ticket. But capturing those ticket sales would likely mean that more casual viewers didn't bother with the more difficult films. The only number that matters to Hollywood in the end is the box office gross sales; artistic purity is either counterproductive or immeasurable in that context and therefore irrelevant.

I want to make responsible choices, and want to reject bland movies, or disposable packaging, or privacy-invading ad trackers, or greenhouse gassy lifestyle choices, or any number of similar issues. And I do make personal sacrifices that reflect these preferences. But I fully expect that Hollywood will continue to churn out uninspired movies, that the 'local' Walmart and, shortly thereafter, the landfill will contain almost as much plastic as product, that websites will increasingly pack their pages with ever-more-invasive trackers, that people will still live in single-family housing with multiple internal-combustion vehicles and long commutes.

To be clear, I believe the blame actually lies with neither of the dancers, but with the system in which they operate. You can't expect the biggest studios like Universal/Paramount/Warner Bros/Disney/Columbia to make any decisions other than those which they're incentivized to make. They have no reason to do so, and if they did, they'd soon be replaced by a competitor who didn't. A corporation is not a moral entity, it's essentially an AI that attempts to maximize quarterly financial numbers, you can only expect it to act in the narrow context of incentives and consequences on which it operates. That cultural/social/political/economic context is the enemy, not any individual consumer and not any individual corporation.


You're simultaneously claiming that movie viewers have no way to communicate and that Hollywood listens very hard to ticket sales. I think you'll have to pick one.

I agree these are systemic problems, but I think it's a giant mistake to absolve a corporation's execs and employees for moral responsibility for their actions. The social context is also part of the system, and it's one of the easiest parts to change.


It's simultaneously true that a single individual cannot communicate and that the actions of a diffuse, uncoordinated population are heard. That population can always be expected to contain a lot of uninformed, irrational consumers. "But what if everyone simultaneously thought very carefully about they want to consume" is not a thing that will ever happen and therefore not a valid solution.

I don't absolve executives of moral guilt, they're clearly doing something wrong. I distinguish between this condition of being in the wrong with the condition of being to blame or responsible for the result. They are guilty, but if they didn't make the call, there will always be another greedy, narcisistic, power-hungry sociopath ready to take their place in the boardroom. "But what if all executives in the entire competitive industry rejected the cash grab and instead made the moral choice" is also not a thing that will ever happen and therefore not a valid solution.

Without a mechanism for coordination, neither consumers nor producers can effect change; the system is all that's left to blame. Therefore, instead of moralizing or advocating individual action, we should build mechanisms to help people coordinate, work to shift the Overton window, and change the system to incentivize the behaviors you want, building very carefully to make sure that your changes are self-reinforcing.


Movies aren't made for single individuals, so I'm not sure why you think explicit communication from a single individual is the important kind of communication here.

Who gets to decide that the consumers are uninformed and irrational? I presume that's you judging people for their tastes? In my view people are in fact pretty good at picking the kind of entertainment they want.

A lot of critics complaining about mass tastes seem to have not thought through what is economically viable in mass media. The complaint is effectively, "I, a discerning person who had studied this medium, want different things out of it than casual consumers." Which is almost tautological. What restaurant critic goes to McDonald's and complains that the food's not amazing? Its job isn't to amaze the kind of person who becomes a restaurant critic.

But there is a mechanism for coordination. You're using it. Fans use it all the time to push entertainment industries in directions the like. In my view, that this isn't happening with film is not because of lack of communication. It's that the number of movie tickets sold peaked in 2007: https://www.the-numbers.com/market/

Innovation has moved away from the dying medium because the economic incentives for film have shifted.


> That cultural/social/political/economic context is the enemy

quite right! what to do?

i usually dead-end with some question like "how to reverse incentives" or "forcibly generated counter-incentives" or "inherently diversified incentive portfolios". i wonder if we need some kind of knights-errant (justicars from mass effect), agents small in number but large in power to correct wrongs.

in daniel suarez's freedom, there is a meter/gauge that measures the concentration of power. the desired state is not diffuse OR centralized, but in the middle. you need both. the public needs power to be involved and feel involved, but there is not always time for a decision by committee and there is a time for prompt, decisive action.


I think this is ignoring the problem of the global market. Studios found that it was more profitable to cater to multiple countries and cultures simultaneously.

For example, even if 100% of America went to see a film, that only represents approximately 1/3 of China's population. As a studio, ignoring that market would be seen as throwing away money. So you will see immense pressure to make your movie marketable in China as well as America.

Even if many American consumers choose to watch a film catering to them that studio would still be pressured to view that film as a commercial failure.

It doesn't seem to matter so much what the local consumers want since their demand is dwarfed by global demand.


Every US movie watcher could stop watching certain movies and the studios would still make a lot more money globally than a US centric comedy, for example.

The consumer does not have that much power. The individual consumer almost certainly doesn’t.


Don't forget product placement and merchandise sales; those can pretty significantly offset the cost of making a movie. Ticket sales are becoming a smaller and smaller piece of the pie over time.


I do blame consumers as well. Lowest common denominator consumers are absolutely to blame for their exceptionally poor taste. Unfortunately, they happen to be the majority of consumers.

This opinion simply doesn't get expressed very often. People think it's elitism or something and react negatively to it.


One party in the equation is a very powerful, profitable industry, the other is a huge but atomized group of people.

To assume that the only power dynamic at play is consumers making individual choices as fully rational, considerate actors is a vast oversimplification. Your equation isn’t more even, you’ve just flipped the one side, assuming that consumers have all the power and Hollywood is just haplessly following demand.

Yes, lowest common denominator viewers are the biggest purchasing group, and that’s the money that Hollywood is chasing. But that was true before. What changed isn’t the same consumers demanding more Avengers and less art films, but Hollywood setting their sights on the global audience, thus increasing the market for generic movies a hundred fold. Now the incentives are so skewed towards that group that the individual American consumer has next to zero power in influencing Hollywood’s direction with their dollars.

You also ignore the power of advertising and limited choice. Marketing can and does create an audience of consumers that didn’t exist before. It’s not about “here are my products, now you choose the best” it’s “here are my products and I will subtly convince you that you need them.” Consumers are not rational actors in a classical sense of going to a market for a specific need and picking the best product from a wide selection. Marketing is sufficiently advanced that the owner of a supply can also create demand for it.

Finally, Hollywood also controls the selection of choices. So as others have pointed out, people who would prefer smarter films have to forego movies altogether if they really want to “vote with their dollars.” So they might still choose a sub par movie if they like the theater and their friends want to go.

PS: I’m not advocating for a solution, so much as I am pointing out that there’s more to market forces than a simplistic libertarian view of the market can offer. I think in this case it’s inevitable and Hollywood movies are just gonna be like that now. But there’s more at play than “oh well, consumers chose it!”


Yeah i guess the root root cause is TV + streaming competition has squeezed them so much that's the only way to get people to come out to the multiplex.

Edit: Well since I introduced the idea of a "root cause" I concede the truth is the root cause of all business decisions is, has been, and always will be market forces.


Hmmm. So who gets the blame for sugary drinks, snacks and other unhealthy junk food? The peddler or the consumer?


> "it takes one to tango"

Love it.


Hollywood certainly involved, but I think something closer to the root cause is that the number of tickets sold for films in the US peaked in 2007: https://www.the-numbers.com/market/

I think the root cause of the ticket shift is technological: cheaper screens, higher resolutions, better bandwidth. People have lots of entertainment at home.

So what does that shift mean? Execs get risk-averse in flat/contracting markets, which alone would account for some of the perceived decline. Artists and execs who are excited for innovation/risk are going to move toward expanding market segments, meaning toward streaming.

Also important here is who is buying tickets. 20 years ago I would happily haul my ass out to an art-house theater to see something novel and interesting. Now it's almost all available from my couch; the hard problem is picking something. More educated audiences are more likely to have the money and technology to watch from home, making niche theater-distributed films even riskier.

What's still going to work in theaters? Things with mass appeal and audiences, especially ones that take advantage of the kind of sound/video that most people don't have at home. Things where audiences know what they're getting. Of the top 20 films from 2019, 18 were related to existing IP, and the other two were from famous directors: https://www.boxofficemojo.com/year/2019/


That’s an interesting. It seems then that French cinema, or European cinema in general is more localized and thus rarely becomes an international blockbuster (with rare exceptions).

Mexico tends to export to Latin America (southern cone) altho one could argue that while there are regional differences, in broad strokes mainstream latam culture jives with each other.


Industry knows that. Netflix did damage to the industry (and ultimately to themselves) according to the actual Hollywood. Lynda Obst talks about it here (how Netflix did damage): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_oHW31jQfg I recommend watching the full interview, it gets to the bottom of it.


It's why we don't see many satirical films in the same vein as Robocop and Starship Troopers anymore. It would be something that the Chinese censors would never allow. Whether it's the over the top violence or the skewering of the state and corporate power structure. Stuff like that annoys the Chinese govt more than most, so Hollywood would just bow out on such a film

It's funny how many strange one off films and games are being made online through crowd funding now (not all are good but a few are decent) due to this global pleaser approach to film making.


Why would Chinese censors have a problem with films making fun of American capitalism and imperialism?


I don't think the modern Paul Verhoeven would be poking fun at just America. I think that hypothetical director would be poking fun at China and its attempts to bully other nation states in Africa and the world as well. That enough would throw it in the "not in China" camp of films.


Robocop and Starship Troopers were criticizing ideology and norms that are widely yet unconsciously accepted in America. That's why they're good.

Anti-rival sniping is comparatively boring and we're all steeped in it all the time, anyways. It's the furthest thing from counterculture.


Because people might view it as making fun of Chinese capitalism and imperialism.

Avatar was viewed by some as being about problems in China relating to demolishing people's existing homes to build new buildings in their place. There was some discussion at the time that they only allowed it due to being the top grossing movie of all time.


“Good films get smaller audiences, but more of the viewer.” - Jean-Luc Godard


Comedies have most certainly not died. They've just changed in tone.

A few highlights from the last decade — Booksmart is a very different take on the teenage buddy comedy. Jojo Rabbit and The Death of Stalin are some of the darkest black comedies I've ever watched, which would never have gotten made in the 90s. Birdman is completely surreal. The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of most joyous films to watch I know of, and The Artist is a comedic love letter to the silent era.


For sure. Or look at things like Knives Out or Thor: Ragnarok. Solid comedies both and mass-market successes.

The notion that people can't be funny anymore just because they can no longer use particular groups as punchlines is just lazy. A great example is Get Out. It's a lot of things, but it can reasonably be called a comedy: https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/11/jordan-peele-ge...

Or look at Sorry to Bother You: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorry_to_Bother_You

I thought both of these movies were hilarious, and they worked with extremely "challenging" social topics.

As an old, when people start talking about movies were only funny back in the day, I suspect they just imprinted on whatever was funny in their youth. Time moves on, and humor has to move with it.


Booksmart was the first thing I thought of too when he said, “since 2012, the only successful comedies have been animations aimed at young children.” (edit: I mean to say, you can still see movies with originality even if they're not "successful" i.e. blockbusters)

In 2018 when I originally got AMC A-list subscription, I tried going to 3 movie a week at first, so I went to a lot more movies I was unsure about but they were very original and memorable, but they weren’t super popular (at least I was the only person I personally knew who had seen it).

Sorry to Bother You ($18 million)

Blackkklansman ($93 million)

Eighth Grade ($14 million)

Crazy Rich Asians ($238 million)


Sorry to Bother You was so interesting, especially how they approached the first 2 acts. It was like a surrealist version of Do the right Thing. the 3rd act is well, it's different and while it doesn't live up to the build up... it's unforgettable .


I concur. Sorry to Bother You was a really good movie. It is often missed how good this movie actually is. I feel like there needs to be a louder conversation on how brilliant this movie is in so many ways.


Blackkklansman was brilliant


I don't think even that is true. There's plenty of fairly mainstream successful comedies. Jumanji comes to mind.


That was... 26 years ago?


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumanji:_Welcome_to_the_Jungle

Fifth highest grossing film of 2017

Sequel did very well as well


The Death of Stalin is one of the funniest things I have seen in a long time. Cannot recommend enough. Sorry I don't have much more to add, but it's so good I wanted to add my recommendation to the pile


You're not helping your argument though.

Those were great films, however, they were niche.

'Superbad' was a big, hollywood thing. A cultural touchstone that we remember, make jokes about, memes.

Very few people ever saw Booskmart or The Death of Stalin.

The Globalization of Hollywood - and increased cultural sensitivities have changed this.

Comedy doesn't cross borders as well as Thor.

Without going into details, cultural sensitivities and fear of Twitter mobs is a 'fundamental' issue. It's not a side issue it's a primary driver. Have a listen to the podcasts and talks by various comedy writers, you can see the evolution.

People with power have their knives out to destroy others - some of them obviously need to be cancelled, and some others raise some questions, but there are very, very few left with the power to make the jokes they want. Everyone else has to kowtow in fear. Comedy requires 'absolute safe spaces' in order to work, particularly writers rooms, which, if we could record what they say ... my god we'd all be offended.

I'm hoping that this will just be a 'phase' but I'm afraid it may not be as the issues overlay with ostensibly historical issues of social justice, and as soon as we broach that domain, everything becomes deadly serious and we all act like good corporate citizens.

It may very well take an established 'provider' like a different kind of Netflix with a different set of sensibilities.

Edit: listen to Tina Fey and Judd Apatow podcasts and less public interviews, they hint at the shift while being very polite about it.


> there are very, very few left with the power to make the jokes they want.

I guess Spike Lee (Blackkklansman, 2018), Boots Riley (Sorry to Bother You, 2018), Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, 2019), etc. are one of the few people left with the power to make the jokes they want. Or are those not the kinds of jokes you were thinking about?

(TW: next paragraph) I get the sense that you are simply wrong about this. I don’t know of any examples where a good comedy was ‘cancelled’ because of a twitter mob. If you are afraid that the era of the prison rape joke is over, then I hate to brake it to you, that joke was never funny, and even if it was, it certainly isn’t any more[1].

1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uc6QxD2_yQw


Death of Stalin, Booksmart, Jojo Rabbit are definitely smaller independent comedies, but compare:

    The Artist:        $130M gross, $15M budget
    Knives Out:        $311M gross, $40M budget
    Birdman:           $100M gross, $18M budget
    Grand Budapest:    $173M gross, $25M budget
    Midnight in Paris: $154M gross, $17M budget
    Superbad:          $170M gross, $20M budget
All of those are in the same rough ballpark, but Superbad had 70% of its box office revenue in the US+Canada.

Compare Grand Budapest and Birdman, which only saw 40% of their takings in NA. Midnight in Paris comes in at 37%, and, as a European production, The Artist saw only 35%-ish of its revenue in NA. Even Knives Out, the most hollywood-y of the lot, came in at 53% revenue from NA.

Superbad is a Hollywood movie with Hollywood sensibilities, so it obviously performed best in the US, and it's obviously become a cultual touchstone there — but I personally only even heard about it relatively recently. All the other films performed much better elsewhere so obviously don't seem to have had as much of a cultural impact from a US-centric perspective.


I don't understand what point you are making?

1) Superbad was sleeper hit - it did well in the theatres but far better in the long run. It launched a bunch of careers into the mainstream. It's also a broad comedy.

It was no more or less 'Hollywood' than the films you listed.

2) The films you listed are mostly Oscar Winners - which get a massive, global boost from that kind of exposure. They're also 100% 'artsy' kind of comedies made by highly respected auteurs - they're not broad comedies like Airplane or Animal House (or Superbad).

3) They're also mostly from the 2000's era, in which the general point is being made about 'challenging to make comedies' these days.

4) I don't think the box office differential rally helps that much as conceivably Superbad is going to naturally appeal a little bit more to North American audiences for the reasons you stated.

Here is a Hollywood reporter take on it [1] the decline of comedy is not a controversial idea.

"It’s been a decade since any comedy launched a blockbuster franchise. "

"The studios have backed away from comedies, just as they have mid-budget dramas, perceiving both as far harder to sell than tentpoles. "

"Even a comedy superstar like Will Ferrell has had trouble getting movies made. “It’s becoming a little finicky,” he told the podcast Armchair Expert in early June. “I’ve recently come across things where I thought, ‘Boy, what a great idea,’ and went around town and everyone just went, ‘Nope.’ “"

...

[1] https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/general-news/comedy-b...


Comedy is way too broadly defined. Maybe my definition of comedy is too narrow, but I at least expect to laugh out loud during a comedy once in a while. Too many comedies lately just reach for the "cynicism" and "dark comedy" tools rather than genuinely make you laugh. Another thread put it better: We need more slapstick. We need more irreverence. We need a modern Mel Brooks or David Zucker / Leslie Nielsen combo to come back and show moviegoers how to totally run out of breath laughing again. Be able to poke fun at people, or companies, or institutions, or at least something outside of politics, and not worry so much about the Twitter mob sharpening their knives.


Apparently you couldn’t make a Mel Brooks film back when Mel Brooks was active either because hate mobs[1].

1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62cPPSyoQkE


What you're referring to is 'broad comedy' - and that's my point. They don't make them in a big way.

The films listed above are not 'broad comedies' they're comedy/dramas.

I'm not sure of the 'Mel Brooks is not an argument' (link in one of the responses) is a defence at all, because the fact is, he took excessive risks while trying to make a point, risks which would not be made today.

He was Jewish and took on very serious issues with Nazis ... but he definitely was not Black, and Blazing Saddles ... wold be too much for today.

By all accounts, Tropic Thunder would not get made today because of the ostensibly 'blackface' character - I think that's a really good 'threshold' to analyze because while I don't think the character is generally offensive and most wouldn't see it as that - but it's definitely going to be for some, to the point where Execs just couldn't back making the movie. There's going to be guaranteed outrage, and that outrage, if the press decides to amplify it, will kill a film and have all the parties involved running scared with apologies.

The Kids in the Hall (Kevin McDonald) indicated they couldn't make what they made today. They did indicate they got pushback back in the day from some of their bits that mocked religion - particularly from the US - but they still got to make it, which is the point.

Casting for any role which involves 'mixed' anything is a minefield which risks overthrowing a project. The casting of Cleopatra (who was Macedonian), caused controversy by people speaking on behalf of ... Ancient Egyptians? Whom even modern Egyptians could hardly make a claim to?

There's a lot of good talk about having more people from different backgrounds in roles, and especially have them among rank and file production, which is obviously good, but this should be a different theme from say, what jokes are acceptable and not.

Those are different kinds of issues that are getting crossed up in a cacophony of Twitter noise.

HBO, Disney and Netflix are not interested in creative expression, they're inserted in products, broader audiences, and films that speak to their choice narratives. If you listen to some podcasts you can hear the opinions of these executives themselves speak about it. These are not your 'creativity first' type of people.

Cable TV has always allowed for a narrow set of channels that challenged conventions, kind of a 'Late Night Loophole' in which naughty stuff was tolerated. We need this equivalent for streaming sources. We need an 'Adult Swim' version of Netflix that invests heavily in outrageous things.


Blackkklansman was a relatively big budged film starring popular actors and made by an established director back in 2018, Spike Lee, and oh boy did he take risks. Despite being a historic drama/comedy the movie ends with the horrors of the Trump presidency. Just like Mel Brooks, the message is pretty obvious. Despite these risks this movie was aired in most big cinemas throughout the USA for several weeks (just like any other big budged drama/comedy would).

Casting: I don’t remember a time when casting didn’t cause the hate mobs to go haywire. When Noma Dumezweni was cast as Hermione Granger people went nuts. Some historians raised issue with the fact that Xerxes II was acted by a black man in the movie 300 despite being Persian. And I’m sure casting a black man as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar was equally controversial. Now in the era of people realizing how much representation matters, of course it is going to cause controversy if you hire an actor to play a role of a underrepresented group while the actor does not belong to said group. This didn’t used to be the case, but it is today. However this has such an obvious solution that I doubt it has hindered the production of a single movie.

> "It’s been a decade since any comedy launched a blockbuster franchise."

The times change. At one point hiring a white actor to play a black role did not stir a huge controversy, now it does. Franchises come into fashion, people get tired of them, creators move on. Just because comedy franchises aren’t big today, it doesn’t mean they are not possible. More likely is that people have seen enough sequels in other genres that they don’t want to see Baby Driver 2 no more then they like to see Dump and Dumber 5. And I think for a reason, comedy sequels tend to be pretty shitty (and I guess it makes sense, how often can you tell the same joke before it stops being funny).

I think you are over-reading into the twitter mobs. I don’t think they have as much power as you give them credit for. I think the biggest achievement of the twitter mob in the film industry was to give Sonic the Hedgehog a makeover. I don’t know of a single example where a comedy was cancelled because twitter didn’t like it. And I think comedies get made today just like they did yesteryear. And I think producers of comedies had to be careful about the subject matter before just like today. And I think they stirred controversies before, and they will continue to do so, irregardless of the political climate.


Obviously comedies will still get made on some level - and certainly times will adjust ...

... but I am I am listening to Conan O'Brian's podcast with Sean Penn at this very instant and they've literally brought up the challenges of comedy writing in cancel culture. Literally today's episode.

These are comedy/acting figureheads discussing the problem, so I'll take the word that it's an issue.

Casting is far more controversial that it's ever been, with an ever developing set of rules for who can play what under what terms. 'Progress' in the 1960's was allowed more expansive casting, i.e. breaking taboos. We are now in the process of establishing taboos.

Sean Penn just said 'I would not be allowed to play Harvey Milk in today's climate'. He then indicated that it's important to support people who have not had opportunities, but said in private conversations (this would be Hollywood 'elite' - Sean Penn is extremely connected) - the view is universal that anyone should be allowed to play anyone and that it's only on podiums on TV do the more radical voices come out. He and Conan then both agreed to terminology as 'Virtue Signalling'. It's a thoughtful discussion I recommend the podcast episode.

Kevin Hart was cancelled for the Oscars and that's a 'huge' thing as it's a global brand and they were left without a host. They've made all sorts of adjustments due to popular outrage. Just as a quick example.

It's not so much 'cancellation' as the mobs influence over the very sensitive Studio Execs and their various decisions.

Superbad would not get made today. It could (if they cleaned it up a bit) but it's just not thematically right: it's way too young white guy, crude, the tranny jokes, the 'girl on period jokes' - it just wouldn't make it past the ideation stage. Seth Rogen is now doing 'Social Progress' movies aka 'Long Shot' with definitive feminist values. Nothing wrong with that at all (it was modestly funny) - other than to say - that's what's being made instead of Superbad.

Tropic Thunder is comedy genius and it simply could not get made because of the main character's blackface, and the other major characters portrayal of mentally handicapped people. They couldn't adjust the script around that. So forget 'ideation' even if it was pitched it would be a 'no go'.

The Hollywood system is very sensitive these things and all sorts of deviations are made. A lot of it is good spirit, but a lot of it is just suffocating.


You should not be downvoted for this—you are correct. These are exactly the conversations that film executives are having internally, especially on the buying side. They don’t see it as a Twitter thing entirely, but as an engagement with the social “conversation” and the realities of the marketplace. However, the incentives are primarily fear-based. Why court the risk of a backlash when you could develop something else (they think)?


... and the root cause of that is the commercial nature of most popular film production.

This might sound like a trivial statement, but as we are finding out - the profit motive can take us down a highly problematic and noticeable path.

A challenge, though, is figuring out what paths, content-wise, this has already taken us down with us simply having internalized the choices as axiomatic.


I view that as a positive. Like a lot of other things in the US, the film industry has a long and racist past starting with the infamous "Birth of a Nation," which was highly profitable at the time of its production, but you couldn't make a blatant racist propaganda film like that now, which I'd say is for the better. The article mentions "Borat" which is an interesting example because I'd imagine a lot of people just don't get the joke and would also view it as a racist and anti-semitic film.


> the profit motive can take us down a highly problematic and noticeable path

when i was writing a sibling comment i had this same realization. the fault of capitalism is that its an expression of populism, of the tyranny of the majority.

i think the american founders had this correct, at least in principle: there needs to be a system of checks and balances with populism meeting elitism.

i wonder how one would go about architecting such an economic system. free market capitalism only for small businesses, no larger than one state? stronger government intervention interstate?


That’s a misapplication of the principles they sought to apply and why they sought to apply them.

To put “checks and balances” in context, the United States was not at the time a “state” in the post-Napoleon sense, it was a Union of States that better fit that model, and what they were trying to create was something in between the completely impotent Congress of the Articles of Confederation and a centralized Congress with carte Blanche authority. We got a Congress that could do more stuff, with theoretically carte Blanche authority, but unable to act with that because Congress cannot speak with one voice, and we gave it a whitelist of powers that it could exercise, later supplemented with a blacklist of powers it was forbidden from exercising. The United States also for the first time had its own Executive authority separate from the militias and armies it paid for and its own courts and revenue separate from the States.

The impetus for this by the way was not successfully prosecuting a war of Independence, that made the Constitutional Convention more possible and peaceful than it otherwise might have been, but because Congress, as it existed at the time under the Articles of Confederation where each State had effectively one vote, could not effectively resolve State and marketplace disputes. If Rhode Island’s government was knocked out and taken over by a militia of debtors devoted to the cause of cancelling their own debts, especially their out of State debts, there was not a damn thing Congress could do on its own. No bankruptcy courts, no protections, no courts of any kind flying the American flag and a Massachusetts Court couldn’t effect action beyond the borders of Massachusetts; Massachusetts would have to go to war to effect any action in Rhode Island.

Political systems are considered dangerous and hard to manage, in need of those checks and balances, because their powers as seats of authority are a target for ambitious people who seek to control or abuse their fellow men, and those powers range all the way up to cancelling debts, seizing private property and putting people to death. Economies don’t have offices of power because they are not organizations to be managed and controlled: only the results of human activity.


> when i was writing a sibling comment i had this same realization. the fault of capitalism is that its an expression of populism, of the tyranny of the majority.

Then, you had the opposite realization to mine, since I described a "tyranny" of the capital-owning minority, who, in particular, control the large film production studios. And if you believe they simply must give the people "what they want", then I'll quite some Bakunin at you:

> ...That abstraction called the common interest, the public good, the public safety, ... where all real wills cancel each other in that other abstraction which bears the name of the will of the people. ... this so-called will of the people is never anything else than the sacrifice and the negation of all the real wills of the population; just as this so-called public good is nothing else than the sacrifice of their interests."

obviously these harsh words are not directed at the outpouring of Kung-Fu Panda and Marvel superhero films, but if you tone it down a few notches it sort of applies.


China does this to some degree. Small businesses are free to transact without much intervention but very large companies get influenced/controlled by the small government elite in the Chinese Communist Party.


In which corruption is among the most pronounced problems.


What?

The great American comedies are loved worldwide from the classics like the Three Stooges and Abbot and Costello to the "modern" dumb movies like the Hangover or Superbad. The pull to milquetoast, harmless comedies come from INSIDE the US by the usual suspects.

A comedy like Borat can be made because it makes fun of the "right" people, a FSU country, Islam, Roma people, American conservatives, rednecks, etc, so it is New-York-Times readership approved. Keep the same script but change the demographics and you will get pages upon pages of harsh criticism all over the media.

Young people need to understand that there is always an ideologically war going and the powerful people push their worldview unto us.


FYI The Hangover came out 12 years ago, Superbad came out 14 years ago. The rest of your post I'm not so interested in discussing, but comedy to me appears to be a genre that has moved to TV, like most genre fare for adults these days.


FYI Bradley Cooper stars in the Hangover, now that we are sharing useless and obvious facts. The point is that those kind of irreverent movies were loved abroad so the current situation is not because the globalization of the audience, a thing which btw is 40 years old at the very least.


I just found it interesting how you called them modern, they were probably some of the comedies I would call modern, and then I looked and realized they basically predate the founding of Uber.

Those movies you mention weren't necessarily made to cater to foreign audiences, Hollywood may have always enjoyed making money from foreign audiences but the balance has largely shifted over the last several years to the point where foreign box offices and audiences come first and determine what films get made and their content, that's a big shift in my opinion.


> they basically predate the founding of Uber.

So anything before the smartphone era is what... not-modern, sorta-modern?

If the founding of Uber (2009?) is a milestone of some sort, man I feel ancient.


I should have used the creation of Bitcoin, the true cultural milestone on this board (January 2009).


That's an interesting choice.

Personally, I think I'd go with the release of the iPhone (June 2007).


OP must be 21 or younger


Let me narrow things up... Hollywood's global market is located in Red China. Tailoring for them is the reason why HW's products are so dull so they hardly can compete with high-class TV series.


What a bad post.

>1. TV and Film have switched spots.

There's a lot more than Marvel going on today no matter what the author implies here.

>2. Self-Censorship. Comedy was big in the early 2000s.

Claiming that there have been no comedies since 2012 is just ridicilous and pointing at Deadpool as the only potential counter-example just shows how little the author has explored beyond blockbusters.

> 3. Most Stories are the Same. > 4. You Learn the Tricks.

This is mostly the same point and if the author didn't just watch the biggest blockbusters he'd have found how much pleasure you can get at that point by going for deconstructions, Meta, movies who play with, ignore or go against the tropes etc.

>Passive Media Consumption is Fundamentally Bad.

Fundamentally? He spent 2-3 hours on movies every 5 days, I doubt he doesnt spend as much time on something that he'd deem empty calories now, too.

At any rate, you've hardly exhausted that much after 819 movies even after including those he'd seen before when he was watching less.


Yeah the the author circles around the root issue but ultimately misses it: it's not a quality problem, but a consumption behavior problem. Thinking that it's possible to be amazed by a new movie everyday is a consumerist myth, that's not how the brain works. When they say :

> Those films of childhood were special – they’d fill me with wonder and ideas, inspiration for scenes to then recreate in The Sims or Lego

It's not the film that were special, it was the fact that they watched few movies and had time to tinker about them. The wonder was not only in the passive watching experience, so the author will always be disappointed if their quest is to find the movie that could do that. Of course that's also applicable to video games or any other media when you feel the magic is lost.


I really thought that he'd touch on the fact that one of the differences between movies when he was a child and movies when he is adult is his age. That he doesn't still play with Legos is probably not the fault of cinema.


Content consumption "binges" are just that, they leave a feeling of regret if remembered at all.


I would consider this to be a lame post on Reddit. I'm confused how it got voted up on HN.


Certainly there are flaws in his reasoning, but it's still interesting enough to spark discussion, as evidenced by the number of comments.


> “1. TV and Film have switched spots.”

> There's a lot more than Marvel going on today no matter what the author implies here.

I agree. It now costs a lot less to propel TV to have “good enough” special effects that nearly rival movies. Pair that with better plots and more time for telling stories, it’s not hard to see why TV is more enjoyable these days.


It's not just that TV has more time but, with streaming, TV has a lot more flexibility to choose the right amount of time and the right format. Aside from the odd miniseries, traditional broadcast TV was pretty much limited to 30 minute and 60 minute slots with ads, typically in episodic form although that started to change with VCRs and then, especially, DVRs. Oh, and there was a significant incentive to hit enough episodes for syndication deals.


I wonder if he realizes how ironic it is to have "Passive Media Consumption is Fundamentally Bad" on a blog?


I will agree with the point about comedies is somewhat true, comedic releases have diminished greatly. We used to get a great new comedy every year. I can name 20 great comedies in the 80s, 90s and 2000s respectively, but in the 2010s there's only a handful.


Can you give some example titles to illustrate your points?


Comedies - Spontaneous, Popstar, Everybody Wants Some

Deconstruction/Meta/Anti-trope -Jump Street movies (count for both this and comedy as do some of the others), The Lego Movie, Cabin in the Woods, Better Watch Out, I'm Thinking of Ending Things

'Film' instead of movie - Another Round, Thorougbreads, The Lighthouse, Ex Machina


Fantastic list


I feel like this will happen if you watch 74 movies a year that you've never seen before. Even when I had time to engross myself in international cinema in the mid 00s with none of today's level of distraction I wasn't hitting 74 a year and that was with Netflix DVDs and a membership with a few private BT trackers and DC++ on top (of course one had to wait hours to days to pull things down).

I think that the real ceiling for quality content, film or no, is the writing and there's no way to generate more high-quality writers on demand. Editing? You can walk down a street in Brooklyn and find an editor no problem. Cinematography? Art schools produce tons of people who are good at taking pretty pictures.

But there's only one Charlie Kaufman. There's only one Aaron Sorkin. There's only one Quintin Tarantino. There's just the Coen Brothers. No amount of art school or trial and error can make you a compelling writer.

So we're at a point where there's an abundance of people who can help you make a movie technically, an abundance of people who will finance a movie, an abundance of people who will act in your movie (everyone I remember from the 90s is still available as an actor on top of everyone else trying to be one) but just not an abundance of good writers and that'll probably always be true.


I don't think writing is special compared to other arts. Sure, there are many editors and cinematographers, but there are very few who can actually make an interesting edit, or interesting cinematography. Similarly, there are many writers in the world, but only a handful of really great ones, even fewer great writers who know how to write for film (being a great novelist doesn't mean you'll automatically be great, or even good, at writing a great screenplay).


> Similarly, there are many writers in the world, but only a handful of really great ones, even fewer great writers who know how to write for film

There's cool editing and shooting on reddit filmmaking subs not to mention the super competitive music video market for cinematographers and editors

> Similarly, there are many writers in the world, but only a handful of really great ones, even fewer great writers who know how to write for film

I feel like this is what I indicated as well.


> There's cool editing and shooting on reddit filmmaking subs not to mention the super competitive music video market for cinematographers and editors

There's cool writing on reddit writing subs as well. Nice snippets do not a great whole movie make, in any part of the art form.


What makes the writers more special than cinematographers, audio engineers, set designers, editors.

Each of these skills can be learned and each of these also have some level of personal creativity and discovery that can't be learned and is intrinsic to a person.


If you have a bad writer, no amount of good other stuff can salvage your movie.

Not true for the other roles.


I basically stopped watching movies a long time ago—I was never much of a cinephile to begin with—but last week, out of either boredom or curiosity, I streamed a Hollywood blockbuster from the 2000s that I had read about somewhere.

What struck me most was how the action scenes, editing, costuming, sets, casting, and acting all seemed—to my nonexpert eye—to have been carefully and professionally done, while the storytelling was horrible: implausible, unnatural, and full of obvious holes. The story didn’t need to be great literature, but it should not have been hard to make the pieces fit together in a way that made sense.

I don't know whether to blame the writers, the director, or the commercial motivation for making the film. This particular movie was obviously intended to lead to spinoffs in video games and other forms of merchandising, and that may have influenced the editing in a way that garbled the story.


There has been huge trend from the audience towards overanalysing plots and story details. Specifically, to analyse them independently from the emotional and storytelling aspects. Jump onto reddit and you see everyone ripping apart the details of Star Wars, the Marvel Universe, Chris Nolan films, etc.

I think that this is a mistake. The point of the plot is to support the story. It doesn't matter if it's logical if it makes you feel something powerful. The plot needs to be strong enough to hold up during the running of the film when the viewer immersed in the story.


>If you have a bad writer, no amount of good other stuff can salvage your movie.

no, if you have good actors they can make your bad writing in some ways standable.

There is the whole "so bad it's good movie" which is generally because the actors manage to make the badness bearable.

Con Air and The Rock were not written by a writer as good as the ones you mentioned but they did have the right actors to make those movies really enjoyable for a lot of people. I would submit the actors salvaged those movies.


> Con Air and The Rock were not written by a writer as good as the ones you mentioned but they did have the right actors to make those movies really enjoyable for a lot of people. I would submit the actors salvaged those movies.

I mean we can expand the scope of the conversation and lower the bar, but the article writer's scope seemed to be one of being "on a quest for the one-in-a-hundred experience" to which I was responding to the dearth of such.

Are Jerry Bruckehimer movies really one-in-a-hundred experiences?

I mean I get where you're coming from: I loved and still love Starship Troopers but I'm not gonna assert its high-value cinema or on the level the article writer is seeking.

Friends is some of the most mindless television I've ever seen but its basically the most popular and successful TV show ever, so what do we want to measure?


I’m still not sure what Starship Troopers even was. Was it a comedy, satire or just a flat, wide-eyed warning about war and nationalism in the vein of WW1? It’s a movie that starts in a regular high school, dating, and (spoilers ahead, NFSW ahead) continue with most of the crew being eaten alive, slowly, in full view of the camera, while begging to be killed. The seriousness of the nationalism in the movie and the following / preceding carnage, the apparent lack of irony and the characters basically having the acting skills of cardboard cutouts sort of make it into … something I’m not even sure what.

It’s like an army recruitment movie for a losing war except this one continues to film after the cadet signs the papers, and then and follows him on camera to his horrible, painful, slow death. Then unironically waves the flag at the end and with a number to call for more info.

It’s either so good that the entire movie is a hilarious deadpan parody about horrors of war, or it’s so bad it’s inadvertently become that. In either case, it’s definitely something. It reminds me of the Wilfred Owen poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46560/dulce-et-decoru...


>It’s like an army recruitment movie for a losing war except this one continues to film after the cadet signs the papers, and then and follows him on camera to his horrible, painful, slow death. Then unironically waves the flag at the end and with a number to call for more info.

This is quite likely the intent. The same style that makes Robocop to be understood as a classic action movie even if the intention was to subvert.


There was an interview with the scriptwriter (can’t find it though) who said they wanted to make a film about nazi germany and the young people who bought into the cause. If you look at the costumes I think it is not so far fetched that was one aspect of it.


I think all of your criticisms of the movie were aimed at the book too. The movie followed the book pretty closely except for the mecha-suits.


I heard the movie was basically ready to go when someone noticed how similar the story was to Starship Troopers. They had to get the rights just to avoid a lawsuit. I'm not really sure I agree on how similar they are.


>The movie followed the book pretty closely except for the mecha-suits.

There's a surface similarity but the tone is completely different. To me, the film is pretty obviously a largely satirical retelling of the book's story.


>and the characters basically having the acting skills of cardboard cutouts

Neil Patrick Harris!


The director, Paul Verhoeven, has been very interested in World War 2 and has in fact made multiple movies set in WW2. The satiric elements in Starship Troopers and its parallels to Nazi Germany (and especially the propaganda elements) were definitely intentional.


yeah, 1 in a 100 movies I don't know - not sure I put Sorkin at 1 in a 100 as a writer. Also one person's 1 in a 100 is another person's pretentious piece of whatever.

I think for a lot of people Star Wars is a 1 in a 100 - if so, to quote Harrison Ford: "George, you can type this shit, but you can't say it!"

on edit: I had missed that he was looking for a 1 in a 100 movie originally so I went back and reread, he says "Perhaps worst of all is the realization that the movies you like are very rare, and as you dive deep into film, you’re on a quest for the one-in-a-hundred experience." so it is not that he is looking for an objective 1 in 100 movie, but rather the 1 in a 100 he likes, thus Con Air and The Rock could stand for someone as those 1 in a 100 - for example I like both those movies but I hate everything else Michael Bay has ever done (don't know who directed Con Air - hmm Simon West quick google, yeah looks like I hate all those too)


Hilariously, both Aaron Sorkin and Tarantino worked on The Rock, although they are not credited.


There is an old US crime show, which nobody in the US liked, but was a hit in Germany - the people tasked with translating and dubbing realized how bad the original was and decided to rewrite it into a comedy.

I can't remember the name of the show, but I read about it in a reputable newspaper, so I hope I'm not spreading an urban legend.


Nope, confirmed. Dubs were done by ZDF and they did that with Bud Spencer and Terrence Hill movies. Also the Persuaders (die Zwei).

Now I finally understand why they are always raving about those crappy old westerns on a German image board I often visit.


Where the Spencer and Hill movies originally in English or Italian?


I have stopped watching German dubs long ago, but I watched a lot of the German dub of Scrubs during its original run, and much later came across the original English version. It's incredibly striking how the dubbing changed the character of Dr Cox: In the German dub, he's portrayed in a high-pitched voice, rendering him a maniacal goofball, whereas McGinley's original performance uses a deeper flatter voice that made him appear much more psychopathic (though admittedly I only saw one episode in English, so that may be cherry-picking).


You're 100% correct.


> old US crime show, which nobody in the US liked, but was a hit in Germany

LOL, by some reason this phrase causes search engines to reduce ad hitlerum


A movie doesn’t have to be cerebral to be good. The Rock is a good movie for the type of movie it is. There are bad movies in the same basic genre as The Rock or Con Air, many of which also starred Nicolas Cage.


Yeah, good point. I don't disagree with that. On the flipside, bad acting will ruin any movie too, no matter how good everything else is.


That goes for every role. Bad lighting will kill thr movie, bad audio mixes will kill it and on and on.


It's possible to get everything wrong and still keep making movies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Asylum


Z Nation is possibly the best zombie show to date. Low budget doesn't mean it has to be bad.


You can come up with the best story you have but if I as an audio engineer create a mix where you can't legibly hear dialogue you'd walk out of the theater in anger.

If the cinematographer has constant camera shakes in every shot - even a dialogue scene - then also you can salvage the movie.

For some not so extreme examples think about what happens if the actors are shit - The Room is a good example. The story is good but the acting is what made it into a "so bad - let's troll this" movie.


>For some not so extreme examples think about what happens if the actors are shit - The Room is a good example. The story is good but the acting is what made it into a "so bad - let's troll this" movie.

I never thought I'd see someone praise the writing of The Room. The acting is bad, but the dialogue is so completely inhuman that I can't imagine anyone doing it well.


>You can come up with the best story you have but if I as an audio engineer create a mix where you can't legibly hear dialogue you'd walk out of the theater in anger.

But we're talking about basic competency now, not what makes a movie the very best it can be.

> If the cinematographer has constant camera shakes in every shot - even a dialogue scene - then also you can salvage the movie.

I wonder if you had Paul Greengrass movies in mind


> if I as an audio engineer create a mix where you can't legibly hear dialogue you'd walk out of the theater in anger.

Tenet? No one I know in the US could watch that film, but my international friends liked it, presumably because they had subtitles.. the theater had to blast the sound to make the audio vaguely discernible


Honestly, Nolan's audio cacophony generally works for me (though it is distressing, which is the point). Tenet in particular worked great.


The theater I was at reached a point of nearly physically hurting. It doesn’t really work when it’s distressing during passive explanatory scenes. I didn’t even get the chance to be confused by the technobabble


That is a Christopher Nolan signature trait.


> I think that the real ceiling for quality content, film or no, is the writing and there's no way to generate more high-quality writers on demand.

Pretty sure there's a decent number of writers out there in the world beyond the handful you mentioned, and plenty more trying to break in. For example, somehow you failed to mention any women writers.


Almost anything can be learnt, including writing well. Unfortunately, today’s incentive for anything is money, and Hollywood is no exception. And so we've fed a diet of trite, banal, and contrived writing because it fits the now-established recipe for box office returns.


Agree 100%. There are only so many good writers out there. Notice who the writers are on your favorite TV shows and then what happens to the quality of said TV show when the writers switch to other projects.


I think the bottleneck you're describing isn't "writing" but creators who will be trusted with a $X0 million budget without excessive oversight.

Sorkin or Tarantino get the leeway to create something without executives second-guessing every little decision, most people, even very talented people won't.

There are tons of talented writers producing things, but in a less expensive medium. The cost to produce a novel is literally 0.1% of a Hollywood movie. There is a lot more freedom to work there than when you're spending tens of millions of dollars.


One of the cool things about having kids is that you get to go through all the movies again from the start.

I got to get all excited about Star Wars again. And Indiana Jones. And Back to the Future. One day soon they’ll be old enough for The Matrix. How cool will that be? I’m gonna get to watch Terminator with these guys for the first time one day.

You also get all the old TV. We’re 4 seasons into The A-Team, and have watched every episode of The original Battlestar Galactica and a bunch of other series from the time when television was suitable for children.

There’s tons of stuff out there. It’s cool too get a fresh start on it all.


Same for video games !

And that’s the reason I’m all in for remakes : if we fail to create new interesting games (although we are not yet where the movie industry is), at least we can make the old marvels of some decades ago bearable again for the new kids.

Well crafted remakes like the Spyro’s one are a breeze to share with nowadays kids and I truly hope we get more of them alongside new games.


Agree, I even started putting off movies at some point because I thought they would be cool to see with the kid so why waste the time now.


I love it when a plan comes together. ;-)


I have come to the same conclusion as an author. My two thoughts why this happened:

1. Writers and directors use all the accumulated information about what viewers like and not like, extract patterns, and churn out new movies according to the same small set of rules. E.g. first time the main hero is approached to save the world, he/she/it should refuse. Then something bad happens and the main hero agrees to save the world.

This makes all movies and TV series pretty boring and predictable. Everything is written according to some meta-script. And I've read blogs of some writers so I know that such meta-scripts exist.

2. Storm of political correctness and other movements that took over USA, that look totally irrelevant and crazy outside of the USA. E.g. I won't be able to ever understand why historical persons in the movies should be black even if they couldn't be black in that position at that point of history. There're even more crazier examples.

Same reason why I stopped reading american Sci Fi written in the last 15 years. There're passages that are weird and loathsome.

Frankly, I'm happy that it happens. Movies, books, music is a powerful way to influence the people. USA used it successfully to spread its influence over the world. But if they continue pushing all their crazy beliefs down our throats, people start to avoid that.

I have a feeling that it's already happening although I don't know how to prove it. Probably Netflix has the numbers but it would be grossly politically incorrect to publish them. I know that Disney already experience losses from pushing current US ideology in their movies.

It's also interesting to watch what will win: ideology or greed.


> ” pushing all their crazy beliefs down our throats,”

It always sound both funny and silly to me when people use these terms to describe the presence of equality ideas in movies/shows. I read a review of Brooklyn 99 where the reviewer complained that the episode was ”force-feeding” political discussions to them.

Really? That’s the analogy for it? What is remotely mandatory about including a political topic in a movie? I couldn’t think of anything less mandatory than an arbitrary American movie or show. There are literally thousands and thousands of them. And movie watching is not “required” in any sense or circumstances.

And when you compare one black actor performing a role that you have an opinion that should not be black inside a movie with how much white washing and under representation of black people happen in Hollywood movies, it becomes even sillier to say that you are entitled to have your allegedly white roles being performed by white actors.

How can someone seriously use analogies such as “down the throat” for this kind of message?


Some things are germaine to a plot, some are not. This is a frequent issue in hero movies where a producer wants some particular detail added for nostalgia, or wants an extra villian added because they scored well in audience opinion testing.

The standard example of this is romantic subplots. Frequently stories with no romantic subplot are modified to have one to align with a studios research - and these romantic subplots always feel fake, pushed down your throat and overall contrived, especially for characters never written to have chemistry.

Social justice bingo is the romantic subplot of our time. I have no doubt there are general mandates around including certain ideas or themes, or removing others. See eg, the huge plot change in "WandaVision" where they even left in the Doctor Strange commercials (plot point from original story) but totally removed him from the ending.


I don't share the opinion that it's "foced down the throat", but at least for young adults, many conversations are about the currently popular TV show or movie. So while it's not "forced down your throat", I think many people watch them to fit in. From what I saw it started with Breaking Bad, then Game of Thrones, and then it started getting faster and faster.


Meh. Let me guess: you live in USA. You're obliged to justify all this out of the fear of being "canceled": fired from your job, removed from social networks for saying politically incorrect stuff or supporting wrong political party or saying that there're less or more genders that is proclaimed by some powerful minority organization with the right to cancel.

From other places this is experienced as craziness. What is "equal and ethical" about black women playing King of Sweden from IX century (this is a contrived example as I haven't even attempted to watch any of the contemporary historical movies from USA)? He wasn't black, he wasn't woman, why violate the history?

Especially, considering that most of the world has nothing to do with the slave trade in the US, or with genocide of Indians in the US, or any consequences of it. So why we should suffer raping of the history just so that Americans could "restore the balance"?.. Besides, I don't even think that it restores the balance. It's a superficial measure that is very cheap compared to restoring the equality indeed.


I live in Brazil, I am Brazilian. Why did you feel such strong rejection of a black woman playing a white king? I have no idea which movie are you talking about, but I am pretty sure their intention was not to trick, mislead, or miseducated viewers that the Swedish king was not a white male. You continue to sound silly to me.


It's not a strong rejection. It's two things:

1) I'm annoyed that US tries to impose its cultural norms on all other countries in the world, like they have monopoly on some absolute truth. Some of their cultural norms are weird and repulsive.

2) They include huge fragments dedicated to the ideology in all the movies and all the books, like it is obligatory by law. E.g. when I open almost any recent Sci Fi book of US author, it would be filled with graphic descriptions of various sexual deviations. Or something even less relevant, e.g. that "half of the country is filled with dumb bigots supporting Republican party". I didn't buy the book to read about US politics, I don't care. I want my Sci Fi, not read about gender 33 and gender 45 group sex orgy every second page.

I just made a conclusion that it's simply not worth the time to watch recent US movies and read US books.

It has almost nothing to do with equal rights, etc, etc. Besides, like I said in the other comment, including this in the movies doesn't make people equal. People at Amazon will work for measly pay, while Bezos will continue to get richer. Black people will be put in jails instead of giving them education and jobs - including them in the movies doesn't change that a single bit.


> He wasn't black, he wasn't woman, why violate the history?

Because it's acting. Maybe women are just trying to have some fun playing men, given that historically in the West, women were always played by men (or boys). Cross-gender and cross-race acting is nothing new. Have you ever seen a play? Are you upset whenever Othello is played by a white person?


> What is remotely mandatory about including a political topic in a movie?

We are talking about fairly subjective preferences or perceptions. You don't have to be a film student to know that films/movies/tv are frequently used as tools for social engineering. When you notice, you can either feel positively or negatively about it and most importantly, you dont need to have a "good reason" for feeling either way.


Re point number 2: The example you give is not really supporting your point, and is pretty much an on the nose example of (cognitive) bias that comes off looking quite hypocritical, and slightly racist (for lack of a less loaded term).

Please do not get your emotions up, I will try to explain. Your comment strongly implies a preference for movies from the past. Hollywood movies were/are notorious for “whitewashing” characters - i.e. using white characters / actors in roles where this would be very implausible according to the internal logic of the story (or history in cases where it applies). Objecting to one but not the other seems extremely hypocritical - there is a lack of consistency / fairness there. And then the question is why the preference for one vs the other?

The more interesting question IMO is whether that preference is something inherent, or the result of years of exposure / programming that has normalized the practice one way - such that you are still able to suspend disbelief - but not the other?


This is what I'm really talking about: this kind of craziness requires a lot of scaffolding and mental gymnastics to explain.

While you live in the states, you're surrounded by it. It's aggressively pushed from everywhere. You can't resist, because disobedience will likely cause harm to you (e.g. losing a job and failure to pay the mortgage).

So you naturally start to believe that it's all true and justified and the only way. I get it.

But if you're outside of your society, outside of the pressure of making everyone accept this, it looks weird, even deranged in many cases. I'm pretty sure it causes and will cause loss of sales outside of the US. It would be carefully hidden and hard to prove, but I don't have to prove it. E.g. I just know that nobody from my friends and family would like to watch such a movie. Yeah, we discuss it and the opinion is pretty much universal among my family, my friends, my coworkers.

It's even hard to understand it because we were not involved in the slave trade. And we really can't understand what problems experienced and continue to experience black people in the USA. This is true, but while it is hard to understand, it's much more easier to understand that making them play main roles in historical movies doesn't repair any injustices made to them.


> It's even hard to understand it because we were not involved in the slave trade. And we really can't understand what problems experienced and continue to experience black people in the USA. This is true, but while it is hard to understand, it's much more easier to understand that making them play main roles in historical movies doesn't repair any injustices made to them.

It (and this is usually fiction in historical settings, not historical movies, which are different genres, unless you are talking about black people playing black historical figures, which is a weird thing to object to) repairs (or, more accurately, mitigates) the injustice of current, active discrimination and underrepresentation of blacks in the film industry, not some distant historical injustice more closely tied to the slave trade.


> you live in the states, you're surrounded by it.

When you live in a different country, you are surrounded by cultural norms of your country and disobedience is punished too (usually much more harshly than in the US). Your assumptions about actors' skin colors are as much influenced by the culture of your country as they are influenced by the US culture in the US, as evidenced by the phrase "the opinion is pretty much universal among my family, my friends, my coworkers." Please don't conflate a view from your culture with nebulous "obvious objectivity".

> making them play main roles in historical movies doesn't repair any injustices made to them.

It does not repair injustices of the past, but it helps fix the injustices of today: non-white actors of today should not be kept out of movies just because of a specific historical setting.

Any historical movie is just a modern interpretation of true events. There is no actor that can be a completely authentic reflection of a historical character. A respectful, non-mocking actor play by a person of different race can be a good reminder of that.


> When you live in a different country, you are surrounded by cultural norms of your country and disobedience is punished too

Yes, it is true. But my country doesn't try to impose its cultural norms all over the world like they are universal truth that should be applied everywhere.

Also, I don't really want to argue whether the society and processes in the US are just or not. It's that they're not interesting to dive into for somebody living in another country.

E.g. I've started reading a sci fi book recently (won't name an author), and stopped after reading like 60 pages most of them describing all kinds of deviate sexual relationships. It's that I want to read the sci fi book, not an encyclopedia about 50 genders and how they mate with each other in all the intricate details.

But I have a feeling that writers and directors in the US are forced to put that in their work. It's like communist system is commonly described: not only you are forbidden to object, you must also constantly demonstrate that you support it.


> So you naturally start to believe that it's all true and justified

Or you continue to believe what makes sense, but you keep your beliefs private out of fear.


Yes, Hero's Journey plot (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero%27s_journey) is very well understood and yet continues to sell well and generally the idea of certain shapes to stories is beautifully explored here among other places: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOGru_4z1Vc


Point 2 is completely backwards in my opinion. The "political correctness" not at all emanating from America. It's emanating from China. Sensitivity to Chinese censors has colored a lot of major blockbusters. There remains little to no filter on what gets produced for US audiences and the latest from Eric Andre on Netflix is proof positive of that. Eric Andre pushes some of the same buttons as Borat with more emphasize on physical danger than parody, but he still got his movie made and released and I thoroughly enjoyed it.


The difference is you expect that from China, but not from US that has something called a First Amendment that used to mean something in the past. If you justify censure in USA with examples from China, that's saying USA is going down.


But USA is ‘going down’ isn’t it? Media is created more and more for Chinese audiences. The market there is simply more appealing for producers. What gets produced has always been economically motivated, why would that change now?


The first amendment is very much in tact and is not applicable here at all. Artistic freedom in the US and Europe is arguably at all-time high from a public acceptance point of view.


The First is not about artistic freedom only and it is visibly under attack from all sides. I am an European and I don't take sides, it is just what I have observed.


> I won't be able to ever understand why historical persons in the movies should be black even if they couldn't be black in that position at that point of history. There're even more crazier examples.

Ooh, I got a crazy example for you: https://slate.com/culture/2004/12/ursula-k-le-guin-on-the-tv...

  A Whitewashed Earthsea
  How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books.
  By Ursula K. Le Guin
  
  On Tuesday night, the Sci Fi Channel aired its final installment of Legend of Earthsea, the miniseries based—loosely, as it turns out—on my Earthsea books. The books, A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan, which were published more than 30 years ago, are about two young people finding out what their power, their freedom, and their responsibilities are. I don’t know what the film is about. It’s full of scenes from the story, arranged differently, in an entirely different plot, so that they make no sense. My protagonist is Ged, a boy with red-brown skin. In the film, he’s a petulant white kid. 
Maybe when things like this stop happening we'll understand what you mean by "storm of political correctness", but until then, it's too little, too late.


Curious what examples you see of Disney or other producers losing money pushing ideology.


It's all over the conservative media platforms. They keep repeating it so people will think it's true. It's not.



I've tried to find the proof but failed. Maybe I misremember something. Maybe it's my wishful thinking.

Although I'm pretty sure I've read something that impertinent pushing of current US values causes aversion and losses in the viewers. Such things are really hard to find, you won't ever find this on a first page of CNN or BBC because it is an inconvenient truth.

But I've found the confirmation that the first point (using big numbers and meta-script) is successful and increases revenue of Disney.


I think you need to open your mind more. 90% of entertainment has always been garbage, often with an agenda. Just look at "The Turner Diaries", or "Rise of the Nation". There is plenty of good stuff on the screen. Movies, games, and television are all competing for the same audiences and I do think Movies are losing out. They are essentially Novellas, which are not as popular as Novels.


> I won't be able to ever understand why historical persons in the movies should be black even if they couldn't be black in that position at that point of history.

If they are historical persons, they either were or weren't black. You are probably talking about fictional persons in more-or-less historical fiction. And both inclusion that minimizes the racism of the historical period and exclusion are potentially seen as problematic (from the Left; obviously, you’ve kind-of articulated the Right objection to inclusion.)

Of course, whitewashing by placing White characters where they make no historical sense, often simply inserting white characters into adaptations of existing stories from other cultures (especially in lead roles) is still (not only historically) more common than implausible inclusion of non-Whites, and remains a big complaint by (AFAICT) lots more foreigners to US media than occasionally including black people in improbable historical positions.


Sensibilities have changed and the target audience has become larger. Since the 2000s films have sloooowly become less sexist, racist, homophobe and used less flat gross-out humor. Because you can make jokes that are not made at the expense of minorities.

And this is not something purely happening in the US. It might just be perceived that way because they have such a large cultural influence around the world. There is racism, sexism and all the other stuff everywhere in the world, and the cultural reckoning is happening there too, just in very different ways.


The article mentions a new Borat couldn't be made now, and the footnote, probably added after the new one came out, excuses the author being wrong by saying Sasha Baron Cohen already has popularity and support so could get away with it.

It's simpler than that though and fits other points made - the new Borat was actually a lot more politically correct and followed the American ideology that has emerged recently, adding a woman character and going after Trump republicans.


> the new Borat was actually a lot more politically correct

No it wasn't PC (IMHO). It went out of its way to offend and pushed the envelope. I couldn't watch it to the end because of this. It brought up tired old stereotypes which I thought were long gone.


Or because sequels often add new characters. And the Trump Republicans made themselves ridiculously easy targets...see the Four Seasons Landscaping fiasco, paying off Playboy models and pornstars, suggesting publicly that people inject themselves with bleach or somehow use sunlight internally...

People mock them because they do stupid things. Those are called consequences.


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