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Thread: The Evolution of Recent Movies

  1. #1
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    The Evolution of Recent Movies

    I just came back from watching the juvenile, female movie The Ice Princess and I continue to notice the evolving, growing development of movies of the last two years. The Ice Princess captures well the progress and shift towards more serious, subtle, less steretypical portrayals of human relatiionships. Unlike The Cutting Edge (1992), The Ice Princess avoids placing much emphasis on romance and more on the conflict and tension of a young girl between academics and sports, between self and mother, between self and coach. This movie contains some good scenes, a nice twist in the middle, two cameos that reflect the movement towards harder drama, depth in movies regarding girl rivelry but without the harsh over the top performances. There is more geniuness in this movie as it appears is happening with other recent movies (e.g., Elecktra, Little Black Book, even The Incredibles). Personally, I think overall movies on average are getting better qualitatively from perhaps the low of the 70s and 80s - the standard and bar is moving up. It's not all about bigger, faster, explosively massive anymore. Spartan with Vilmer reflects back to the Ipcress File days of espionage. I think even Alexander contains more substance than usual for historical epics (like Troy). I'm saying that the movie industry is deliberately creating a fantastic wave of great movies (2005 seems a little thin on that topic) but the average movie that is being distributed and produced seem to have increased in depth, emotional-qualitative substance.

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    Tabuno, what films from 2-3 years ago stick out in your mind as being lower down the "evolutionary ladder" so to speak? I haven't seen "The Ice Princess" (nor do I have any desire to do so), but I could probably name you 5 films at the theater today with no redeaming value for every one that is possibly interesting in some way. For instance, "Hitch" is the runaway winner at the box office so far this year. Does that film signify any evolutionary growth to you?

    That said, after seeing "The Incredibles", I remember being glad that a film like that was being made and was so popular with audiences. It's a smart film, and it gives me hope in our future that such a film was appreciated by so many people in this country. That sounds hokey, but it's the truth.

    Also, I was relatively pleased with the films honored with Academy Awards nominations this past year. There was no sure-fire schlock ala "Gladiator" in the noms this year. Of course that doesn't mean those nominated films were popular with mass audiences!

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    Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous:

    One recent example for the evolution in film would be the original Miss Congeniality (2000) and its sequel five years later.

    [spoiler]

    We find Gracie (Sandra Bullock) a slightly more complex character with more depth and a script that offers us more of the emotional expression of sadness and reflection than is usually provided in sequels. There isn't so much more bigger and louder than a more sophisticated editing between humor and drama. Sam Fuller (Regina King) also offers a somewhat more subdued, chip on her shoulder performance and the reconciliation doesn't come so easlier in this movie as in offers. One critic was very disappointed about the transformation that Gracie goes under at the beginning of the film but the director and script held up well to the transition from independent, rebell to soft, patronizing FBI figurehead. Gracie also has great moments of acting, reflecting back on her relationship (now lack of one). Throughout this movie there is an underlying current of humanism along with a great does of comedy, I think rather difficult to pull off in a movie.

    Except for Stan (William Shatner's) poor scriptlines, the movie proceeds to elevate the level of mass audience feels I believe.

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    Originally posted by JustaFied
    Tabuno, what films from 2-3 years ago stick out in your mind as being lower down the "evolutionary ladder" so to speak? I haven't seen "The Ice Princess" (nor do I have any desire to do so), but I could probably name you 5 films at the theater today with no redeaming value for every one that is possibly interesting in some way. For instance, "Hitch" is the runaway winner at the box office so far this year. Does that film signify any evolutionary growth to you?

    That said, after seeing "The Incredibles", I remember being glad that a film like that was being made and was so popular with audiences. It's a smart film, and it gives me hope in our future that such a film was appreciated by so many people in this country. That sounds hokey, but it's the truth.

    Also, I was relatively pleased with the films honored with Academy Awards nominations this past year. There was no sure-fire schlock ala "Gladiator" in the noms this year. Of course that doesn't mean those nominated films were popular with mass audiences!
    I really like the points you've made above and your comment regarding The Incredibles is right on the mark. It certainly signals some progress and the fact that our academy honored it was also a step in the right direction. One of Chris Rock's best moments was actually the segment where he introduced the Best Picture nominations to people and asked them to respond but then why limit it to Blacks? Are they the only ones who haven't seen them? Of course not, and it would've been great if he targeted everyone.

    Tabuno, you might be right about Ice Princess and the sequel of Miss Congeniality but what about Alone in the Dark, White Noise, The Pacifier or Are We There Yet? Do these films count in your process? I don't mean to make light of what you said, actually, I envy your optimism but most of the "improved" products you've mentioned including Little Black Book are geared for young females so perhaps you would've been better off focusing the title of this thread towards just that. I understand your comment regarding Alexander but it was released the same year as Troy so it doesn't really apply here. If anything, I think in general the quality has regressed.

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    My Narrow Focus

    arsaib4 is right about my apparent narrow focus on films. I have made the apparent statistical blunder of generalizing my comments from a selected sample (not random at that) to the general universe of current movies. Interesting I have not seen any of the four movies that arsaib4 suggested for review in terms of the regressive movie in movies. [I am assuming that Man of the House with Tommy Lee Jones compared to The Pacifier might redeem the genre a little bit for being progressively better than earlier man out of water movies.] Perhaps it's no wonder this movie year isn't has compelling as last years. I am going to have to see if the general public is going to tolerate the same stuff over and over again without improvement in quality and sophistication or will just bigger and louder be sufficient?

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    Re: My Narrow Focus

    Originally posted by tabuno
    I am going to have to see if the general public is going to tolerate the same stuff over and over again without improvement in quality and sophistication or will just bigger and louder be sufficient?
    Unfortunately, that seems to be the question that's been asked for, oh, about the last 25 years or so. Jaws was the first big "blockbuster" film, so they say, and that's been the model (with a declining level of quality) since. Generic, non-offensive, fluff pieces that will appeal to the largest possible audiences. I don't see that changing; maybe I'm just a cynic. But then I look at what's showing at the multiplex now, and it's just boring. Sorry, but that's how I see it. The big box office hit this week is The Ring 2 which looks laughably stupid. Naomi Watts is the only possible draw there for me, primarily because she's so hot, since she's probably not doing much acting in this film (though she is a great actress).

    Arsaib4: Yes, The Incredibles was both a box office success as well as a wonderful film, but it's in the minority in that regard. I'd guess the Chris Rock Q&A session with a more diverse group of people would still yield roughly the same result. Can't dispute the box office numbers - what's popular is popular, even if it's not any good. I guess everyone can't be as intelligent and discerning in their tastes as we are...oh wait, that makes us snobs. And I'm not even that smart, or discerning.

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    All of us on this site have taken turns lamenting over these issues including the quality of films produced in this country, distribution tactics, box-office #'s etc. I know that I've been very outspoken about it and even had a heated discussion with Chris Knipp a while back. I like the attitude you (JustaFied) displayed earlier. There's nothing out there and I don't want Roger Ebert types to try use their "worth watching" tags to soften the issue. (As much as people dislike Armond White - he's one of the very few who can absolutely demolish a film if needs be and that's the way it should be because the fire generated by the hype-machine from the other side is absolutely sickening.) A film is always worth a look to someone but people who want quality are getting a little tired of this. Yes, I realize that we've gone too far in one direction at this point but is it too much to ask that one fucking screen at a multiplex can be reserved for a film made for less than $20M? It's a bit sad that among the 17 theatrical releases I've listed in the "2005-Ist Q" thread, only one is American and this is because the "Summer Season" now starts in January!

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    Progress between Jaws and Spiderman 2

    Since Jaws, thirty years ago, to Spiderman 2 (2004), there has been progress made in mainstream movies of the blockbuster type. Jaws, in my opinion, tapped perhaps unconsciously into the psychological push-buttons of public's psyche. It gave us the classic cliche of the scientific nerd, the everyday sheriff-man, the gruff, ruff, independent shark killer, and even the mayor who wanted commerce over public safety. The hidden horror of Hitchcock was brought back, the sound effects, the humor and drama was fused together in a movie. Today, with Spiderman 2, the blockbuster, mainstream movie has moved ahead to focus more of character development, the individual psyche of the everyman - raising the bar somewhat on relational issues, about guilt, hidden lies, honesty, integrity, about wanting and believing something one can't have. Even the Incredibles (again with its gigantic boxoffice success) suggests that the diet of the mainstream public is receptive to more important themes of everyday strife, everyday emotional turmoils that underlie both these movies. In thirty years, I think movie making for the average man has progressed incrementally forward along with the public.

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    You're probably a bigger fan of Spiderman 2 than I am. I didn't see much more than a formulaic action movie there. I guess it had its heart in the right place...incremental progress, as you say.

    One other concern I have now is that the "quality" films of 30 years ago were more popular with mainstream audiences. M.A.S.H was a surprise hit when it came out. One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Taxi Driver, and Clockwork Orange were also well received by audiences, I believe. I'd bet all of these films would be limited-release "art house" films if they came out today. There just doesn't seem to be a market for these type of unconvential films in the mainstream film world today. The Incredibles, while certainly a "smart" film, took in big profits at the box office in large part because it's a cartoon and the kids like it. All of the Best Picture nominations, except for The Aviator, were initially released in limited release, i.e. "art house" theaters. Yes, they were spread out to the multi-plexes after the award nominations starting coming in, but why did it take that long? Million Dollar Baby has now grossed nearly $100,000,000, and Sideways is nearing $70,000,000. Those are good figures, but they're not "blockbuster" type of numbers. And some here would argue that they're not even that great of films anyway...So where's the quality, and where's the demand for quality? Incremental steps, or are we just stuck in the mud?

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    Diverse Population

    Is it possible that instead of the lowest common denominator that just like cable television there is now more slightly more sophisticated movie audience with specialized interest and tastes? Today's blockbuster represents only a portion of the theatrical audience and that the independent, art-house films are getting more recognition now than before in a more diverse forms. Sideways, Lost in Translation are getting respectable numbers considering.

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    I think the big blockbuster films do indeed appeal to the lowest common denomitator - that's the marketing strategy. Appeal to as many people from as many wide-ranging groups as possible. Be sure not to shake things up too much. It's formulaic and generic. And really, many of the "art house" films, such as those two you mentioned, aren't particularly bold or novel either. I keep harkening back to films like Network, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, MASH and other mainstream films made in the '60's and '70's that weren't afraid to kick the door down on their way in. We don't see films like that at the multiplex anymore - everything now seems so timid and harmless.

    But you bring up a good point in talking about cable T.V., which seems to be producing many quality season-long television shows, if not actual full length films. Maybe that's where discerning audiences are found now. And even network T.V. can still produce quality shows from time to time. Northern Exposure was one of the brightest, original, funny shows I've ever seen. It was on CBC in the early-mid '90's, but there's not much on now that can rival it.

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