Tuesday, July 14, 2015

They Kind of Still Do "Make Them Like They Used To"

On this week's The Movie Breakdown, Scott mentioned The Silence of the Lambs as the type of movie that doesn't get made by major movie studios anymore. I didn't agree with him exactly, but he is far from the only movie writer to peg that thriller as a "they don't make them like they used to" type picture. I got thinking about the movie and realized it actually has a good deal in common with a popular wide release thriller from last year, Gone Girl.

Both pictures are adaptations of incredibly popular best-sellers that had a decent foothold on popular culture even before the movie came out. The big difference is that Gone Girl is the even less commercial picture with non-traditional, labyrinthine plot that is populated by largely unlikable characters with a purposeful downer of an ending. While Lambs is closer to a more traditional but slickly paced, page turner of a thriller that has a straightforward narrative with a very likable and relatable lead (one of Jodie Foster's best roles, which looking at her portfolio is a huge thing to claim). It is a great movie that earned its Best Picture win and has complex characters and major dramatic depth, but I'd also say those things mostly describe Gone Girl too. Though saying all that, Gone Girl was such a refreshing movie, because it is rare and original. There is enough evidence to believe those kind of movies do still arrive to the multiplexes as long as you can wait until the Fall.

A much rarer breed in the modern landscape are pictures like Taxi Driver or All the President's Men. Thrillers that have a counter-culture and subversive edge to them that are less focused on action and more immersed in the internal struggle of the characters. In the case of All the President's Men, it has a very strong anti-government vibe and one that isn't scared to force up self-reflection and questions. It is the type of material and provocative storytelling that seems to be eternally trapped in 1970s cinema. The only real modern movie that jumped out at me that followed a similar tone was A Most Wanted Man. It is one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's last movies and one of the most neglected and underrated movies of last year. A really great old-school thriller that isn't about the twists or hotly paced action, but rather about the questions it plants inside you and the internal struggle that Hoffman has while discovering the truths of his case. It also isn't scared to be prickly in its depiction of the American government.

No matter if you agree with me or not, every movie mentioned here is worth checking out in case you've let them pass you by. They aren't standard films but have something very special.

2 comments:

  1. Scott Martin6:44 pm

    That is an excellent point in bringing up Gone Girl. I had definitely forgotten about that one when making my point. I haven't gone back and listened to the podcast, but I believe that I was more talking along the lines of distribution level and not so much in terms of the standard 'they don't make them like they used to.'

    Sadly the success of Gone Girl still does not appear to be shaping the Hollywood major production ambitions the way that it should. The past few years have shown multiple examples of mature fare for the older audiences really can be hits in the box office. Last year it was Gone Girl, and the year before that Gravity catered to the older demographics and made a killing world wide. The year prior it was the slow climb out of limited release that turned Silver Linings Playbook into a major money grabber.

    There almost seems to be no rhyme or reason behind what is given a proper shot and what is not. The actors involved no longer dictate enough weight in the eyes of distributors to put a film in wide release. If that was the case, the sheer size of the ensemble cast of 12 Years a Slave would have landed it at least over three thousand theatres in the opening weekend. Neither does the director behind the film mean much in securing theatres.

    It is quite unfortunate that there is a demographic and a group of fans who pine for more mature (and by saying that I am not just talking about exposed breasts and f-bombs) stories and characters, and to find such things they really have to be in the know of limited release titles. It is sad that I don't have any friends who have seen Nightcrawler. It is even worse when I have to explain to those same people that there is a film called A Most Wanted Man because they have never even heard about it.

    There really is no argument here to what you said, just the fussing and lamenting over the fact that the spotlight does not always fall where it should. That wonderfully creative and compelling stories that would endear to most viewers (such as Enough Said) end up being films that people may only see because they randomly stumble accross it and view it out of curiosity.

    Gone Girl was a beautiful refresher in remembering that sometimes great things make it through the cracks and end up on centre stage. What really sucks is that 75% of the best films I have seen since we begun the podcast are barely known by others. R.I.P., Inside Llewyn Davis, you were more things to the cinematic experience than most people ever knew.

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  2. You're correct in saying that your focus on the podcast was more about 'distribution' and even though you got the nice intro sentence, the article wasn't entirely aimed at you but rather inspired (sort like a supernatural horror to its source material).

    Though there aren't any obvious 'Gone Girl' movies, there are some tantalizing pictures aimed at the mature crowd like 'Straight Outta Compton', 'Black Mass', 'The Martian', 'Suffragette' (I totally see this as a limited that makes its way into wide). 'Steve Jobs', 'Bridge of Spies', and 'The Secret in Their Eyes' to name just a few that are coming out this year.

    The studio system is definitely broke when it comes to marketing real art and diverse content, as they're obsessed with either big gigantic franchisable blockbusters or in the Fall the picture that can win them awards (which as we both know is different than an actually awesome and thoughtful and challenging movie). I also think you're friends missing some of those movies or not knowing some of those movies is actually more of a reflection on them and more the fault on them then entirely laid on the studio system. 'Nightcrawler' ended up here in Brantford and had a marketing campaign on TV and I even saw some ads for 'A Most Wanted Man.' If an audience is really starving for that kind of fare then it isn't a mission impossible to find.

    I think sometimes people will cry and lament the lack of mature movies but then pass over the offerings at the cinema to watch the latest easily digestible popcorn muncher that came out. For example I know a person who was crying such things but instead of seeing 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' in the theatre used his time and money on 'Need for Speed.'

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