On Thin Skins & Dreams of the 21st Century Cinema
Any time I write directly about film as a 20th century media living in a 21st century world, people get upset. My feeling is that the emotion is tied to a sort of existential anxiety about identity and career, coupled with nostalgia for something we hold dear. I get it.
I love cinema. It’s one of my most beloved passions. But, massive changes are upon us, both on the business end, and even more harrowing, the loss of cultural influence of a media that has absolutely dominated the 20th century. But, if we are to keep this thing moving forward, we all have a responsibility to create a clear vision of the road ahead. This is not a community effort, which would be impossible, but an individual one which demands honesty, projection and ACTION.
What this means is that a) the content has to change b) the delivery of said content (don’t be hurt by the use of that word) has to change c) the form of said content has to evolve d) all of the above. Does this mean VR, does this mean 4D, or the end of the movie star and lower budgets, or does this mean something else all together.
I often hear people complaining about the lack of interesting movies being made. The classic, “they don’t make em like they used to” phrase. Bullshit. If they did “make em like they used too”, we would collectively be bored out of our fucking minds, because we would still be stuck getting sequel 300 of ON THE WATERFRONT (and I love that damn movie). Second, and more important, a ton of fantastic movies are made every damn year. This is without question. There is no lack in storytelling. That is the easiest and laziest fallback to a more complicated challenge. One that I hear time and time again. You cannot make this argument without context.
The real problem is an existential one. A question of supply and demand, and of a now, classical art that is too frightened of the future and too in love with its past to break through the noise. What does this mean? Without experimentation, and I mean real gritty experimentation we cannot know exactly, but, if we continue along the same path, this thing we all love so much will go the way of OPERA. And when it does, the good ol days is all we got.
People often point to studies done years ago about how the cinema is as strong as ever. This is misguided, because again, supply has increased, demand has decreased, while ticket prices have increased. It’s a shadow show. The decline of the American people going to the movies over the years has fallen drastically, while at the same time, the growth of media has increased tremendously. This is why Hollywood bets on the tentpole comic book franchises, those giant movies with endless sequels and stories cultivated years ago. That is where they have a true competitive advantage for now. Scale above all else.
But if you aren’t aware of Moore’s Law and exponential growth, its a good time to use wikipedia because those massive CGI movies are not far off to being replicated at home, with but a few talented people. We are already seeing that stuff being reproduced by small teams and sometimes individually on Youtube. We are not on stable grounds, and nothing, not even the most beloved, is safe.
Build the future, and bet on your vision. Cherish LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, but please, don’t remake it.