When the Movies Got Small

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

David Denby, film critic for The New Yorker and author of Do the Movies Have a Future?, talks about changes to the film industry and argues, though diminished, movies are still central to America's cultural life.


David Denby

Comments [21]

Come on, Brian! Soderberg's "solution?"

The kid who plays Spiderman agreed to 150K a movie while they spent 150 million on special effects! Dickering with the few actors who can actually make a buck may be the answer of a producer who wants to use as many actors as he can, but it isn't THE answer to saving movies. Come on.

Oct. 10 2012 09:49 PM
jonah freedman from brooklyn

ALL movies now use dialogue from other bad movies again and again and have music that is so embarrassing I can't pay attention to the movie because I'm cringing too much. please be more critical so this dead time in cinema can finally come to an end!

Oct. 10 2012 05:45 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Computers have RUINED movies. I can pick out the CGI in a few seconds. It doesn't look real.

I get more enjoyment watching a movie on TCM, Turner Classic Movies, hosted by Robert Osborne, than paying $13 to see a movie in Manhattan.

Oct. 10 2012 11:49 AM
Shana from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Can't believe I forgot to mention the phenomenal Robot and Frank.

And Mark, what is wrong with comic book movies? Were Ghost World, A History of Violence, Road to Perdition or American Splendor not good?

For every amazing movie that came out in the seventies, there were at least five awful or just plain forgettable movies. The quality of movies in general has not suddenly gone down. Remakes and Reboots (Maltese Falcon, Fistful of Dollars), Sequels (The Thin Man series of the thirties and forties) and Prequels (Temple of Doom) aren't exactly new to Hollywood. These are not even unique to Hollywood. Hell, there's a Chinese remake of Mel Gibson's What Women Want!

Oct. 10 2012 11:29 AM
Tony from Canarsie

Why are recent superhero movies so depressing (or "dark" as the kids and the studio marketing departments say)?

Oct. 10 2012 11:13 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

LOVED Paranorman, and so did my son - sort of surprised he didn't mention it. Now Madagascar 3, on the other hand . . .

Oct. 10 2012 11:10 AM
Shana from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

I saw Paranorman, Dredd, Looper, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and a lot of other amazing small movies. I also enjoyed some pretty big movies like The Avengers, Prometheus, John Carter and Amazing Spider-Man.

This is the same complaint every decade. Movies aren't as good as they used to be. And soon enough, in 2020, people are going to be complaining about how there aren't great movies like The Pianist, Road to Perdition, Ghost World and many others.

And seriously, I can't help but think this reviewer is just being a little pretentious when he decides that an entire genre of film, superhero films, automatically cannot be great films. Movies like Super, Chronicle, Special, Watchmen and The Dark Knight prove that you can make great art out of costumed vigilante stories. They don't even have to be mega-blockbusters either.

Oct. 10 2012 11:03 AM

I stopped enjoying movies when the MPAA started pushing draconian laws through congress. Also I have no interest in these comicbook movies that Hollywood seems to flood us with. Prometheus was decent but it was still a franchise tie-in "prequel" so even that lacked originality. For escapist entertainment video games give way more bang for the buck and for art I'd rather read a book or listen to music.

Oct. 10 2012 11:02 AM
John A

I am backgrounding this, listening for interesting points, and coming up empty. (He mentioned "Argo" - Thank-You) Stupid Movies, another reason why the US may be slipping overall intellectually. I like intelligent SF. Poor me *shakes head*.

Oct. 10 2012 11:00 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Wow, lotta parallels here to today's music, which is also being killed by its industry. Technophilia run amok, producing disposable output. We -- young and old, the world over -- still jam hard to the oldies. But what's on the radio today, we won't remember in 5 months...

Oct. 10 2012 11:00 AM
V. Janbazian from Hoboken, NJ

The segment brought up the Iron Man movies. It's a great example of the new trend of action/comic book movies. However, there is a balance. For the sake of staying on track with action/comic book movies, I'll bring up the last Batman film. There's a film that balances between great film making and "empty calories." There is a balance, it's possible. Unfortunately most producers are too ignorant and short-sighted to adopt let alone understand it.

Oct. 10 2012 10:59 AM
The Truth from Becky


Oct. 10 2012 10:59 AM
John Michael

I can't believe Denby has such a great idea and then doesn't appreciate the performances and slice of life in The Master. It wasn't a Hollywood movie with a three act structure but it made you think about the characters and what they were doing. Those small pieces together made a great slice of life!!!

Oct. 10 2012 10:58 AM
Mike from Tribeca

George Lucas, of all people, had to produce "Red Tails," which is about the Tuskegee Airmen, with his own money.

Oct. 10 2012 10:57 AM
Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

What we're missing is that it's the "high return / low risk" formula that computers are better at calculating, that is driving investors to invest in movies that the computers can identify from algorithms for "profitable".

Computers are better at that, even if handicapped by it not being possible to program "human value" issues from the algorithm.

Oct. 10 2012 10:56 AM
Nelson Diaz from NYC

Mr. Denby seems out of touch. While i agree that there are too many movies based on pre-existing media, I think he's generalizing too much.

If we look back to the 80s there is a glut of trash that made it to the big screen, nothing has changed. Hollywood still turns out crap for the masses.

But saying comic books movies in general are always pandering to children is just incorrect. The Avengers, Dredd, Looper- are movies that are for ADULTS.

Also- trailers have always been mindless, they're trying to appeal to the LCD.

Please stop generalizing about movies.

Oct. 10 2012 10:56 AM
kp from nj

I love the movies but haven't been to a movie in years.It's Complicated was the last movie I paid to see in a theater. Why? Because if you aren't a teenage boy, there is nothing worth seeing. Boardwalk Empire and others put the movies to shame.

Oct. 10 2012 10:56 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

This is an important conversation to have. So much of what gets released today is such utter crap, when compared to the more challenging fare studios offered in the 1970's.

I just saw "Robot & Frank" last night, which featured stars such as Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, and Peter Saarsgard, and it was a simply shot in only 3 locations, but is narratively rich, wonderfully acted film about aging & memory, but also featuring some fun satire of modern technology, and a jewelry heist sub-plot.

I want to see more movies like this, in which more thought-provoking yet still entertaining stories are told, with actors not made up so much that they look like models.

Oct. 10 2012 10:56 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Could you ask your guest if he has any opinions about the effect of the video game industry on the motion picture industry?

Oct. 10 2012 10:55 AM
Gina Pascuale from Bensonhurst

I rented "John Carter" the other night, mostly just for laughs. Wasn't that the biggest flop in movie history? At what point do the "empty calories" of special effects and fantasy no longer appeal to a wide audience?

Oct. 10 2012 10:51 AM

Anyone that wastes their money on films today deserves what they get, which is plenty of nothing. People still prefer to watch classic movies because they have women in them. Real women, the kind that have always been the backbone of this society. The homoerotic cult that developed in film-making post-Scorcese/Coppola has gradually pumped up machismo and demeaned women to baby-doll blondes or b#tches. It reached its zenith with Arnold Schwarzenegger and this inevitably led to the comic-book fantasy fetishism of today. That is the real problem with cinema.

I laugh now at the likes of Denby who feel excluded now because of his age, well join the club, women have been excluded for half a century now because of gender bias and black people are still waiting for an entry permit. Cinema is made by privileged white men for privileged white men, and so-called Independent cinema is the worst of it. I heard Denby's interview on NPR, he didn't mention lack of diversity once, and actually ludicrously blamed the lack of imagination on trying to appeal to the Global market. Red Cliff is the only film I've enjoyed in the last decade, a Chinese film that shows an appreciation of old-school Hollywood film craft that has been entirely lost in this country.

No, movies don't have a future.

Oct. 10 2012 10:18 AM

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