Apparently I need to start looking for a new line of work, if the most recent internet chatter is to be believed. In the past few weeks a bunch of articles have been written about the apparent death of film. Without any particular warning, cinema seems to have a terminal illness and is beyond saving in any meaningful way. At least, that’s what the likes of David Denby, Andrew O’Hehir, and David Thomson are declaring in missives that have been rolling around in my mind for a week or so now. It’s sparked a firestorm of response pieces, with one of the best being Matt Singer and Alison Willmore’s discussion of the debate on an episode of their Filmspotting: SVU podcast (found here), along with Matt’s piece at Criticwire here, and now I’m ready to actually chime in. You can prep yourself by reading Denby’s piece here at The New Republic, O’Hehir’s piece at Salon here, and Thomson’s piece also at The New Republic right here, but after the jump I’m going to kick in my own two cents about this controversy of sorts. As a tease, let’s just say that in my humble opinion the death of cinema has been greatly exaggerated. Read on below for my full thoughts, but of course make sure to tell me what you think as well about this debate…
In my eyes, this is sort of a silly argument that starts up and dies down every few years without really ever proving anything for either side. In this most recent incarnation, the trio of Denby, O’Hehir, and Thomson are granting to us that not all film these days are currently crap, but that especially mainstream Hollywood fare is pretty much DOA. The two main things they blame (besides simply just longing for the days of yore and the types of movies that we don’t see made anymore) are the rise of quality in television shows (especially on cable), as well as big budget and special effects laden films taking over at the studios/the box office. Now, it’s hard to deny that these are factors in certain types of movies no longer getting made as much and the overall quality of mass marketed flicks behind a bit crummier than in years past, but still…if film is dead, why are unique new movies still being made? Why would someone like Terrence Malick bother with his experimental fare if there was no point anymore? Why would Paul Thomas Anderson? Nobody loves the movies more than Quentin Tarantino, so should he just forget about finishing ‘Django Unchained’ and just go home? Of course not, and I’ll tell you why in a moment.
For me, cinema isn’t dead, it’s just once again in a process of evolution. Can I tell you exactly where it’s going? No, but as long as someone like Darren Aronofsky or David Fincher is still churning out new movies, I won’t ever be ready to declare film dead. There are some incredible filmmakers working today, and while they may not get the overall respect that the masters of the last generation get, they still are masters in their own right and I have faith in their ability to keep elevating the art form. Even in terms of gimmicks like 3D or heavy special effects films, it’s all about who’s doing it. A Michael Bay movie is far different than a Martin Scorsese movie. With 3D, you need only look at ‘Hugo’ or ‘Life of Pi’ to know that auteurs can use the format in a real unique way. As for special effects laden work, or even just massive spectacle films, well…we have Christopher Nolan. Need I say any more about that? Again, cinema isn’t dead, it’s just evolving.
Obviously, there’s lots more to be said here on the subject, and I didn’t want to get too deep into the argument right now, but this is a good start I think. I mainly wanted to throw my quick thoughts out there and then turn it over to you. What do you all think? Is cinema dead? Is it dying? Is it more alive than ever? Is the truth likely somewhere in between? I’m all ears (well, mainly eyes in this case), so chime in and tell me what you think…
-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!