Unrequested Opinions

Are movies speeding up and dumbing down?

Are today’s movies creating a generation of movie goers who won’t have the patience for a complicated story or a lot of atmosphere? In his book Do the Movies Have a Future? film critic David Denby suggests that movies that rely on swift cuts, explosions, crashes, and an emphasis on spectacle rather than emotional engagement are shaping the future of movies by training a younger generation to expect these things. Razzle-dazzle becomes the be-all and end-all of the film experience, at the expense of deeper performances and more complex narratives. I wonder about this too.

I’m not saying life should be all vegetables and no cherry pie. As someone whose idea of a Christmas movie is Love Actually or Die Hard, I’m a big fan of mindless entertainment. But I also want likeable or relatable characters, I want a story that grips me, I want to see something in a new way—sometimes I just want an actor or an actress I can’t take my eyes off. I’m willing to watch the story unfold, characters change, nuances play out. Maybe I’m just old.

So many movies today are based on a comic book or a TV show or a video game full of cardboard characters, computer-generated locations, and action slashed into a million quick cuts. While we may enjoy the adrenaline rush as it all washes over us, I think there is also a need for films that require a little more from us. We need to develop a wider range of emotions than just fear and excitement—and movies that matter, with actors we can relate to, provide that.

Computer-generated doesn’t have to mean cold and heartless. Pixar proved with WALL-E and Up that even animation can grab you emotionally, and who didn’t feel a strong desire to move to the world James Cameron created in Avatar?

Denby argues that, “if movies mean less to people than they once did, it’s because the language big movies are made in—the elements of shooting, editing, storytelling, and characterization—is disintegrating very rapidly, and in ways that prevent the audience from feeling much of anything about what it sees. “ It doesn’t have to be that way.

Last year the entire seventh grade came to see the Jackie Robinson movie 42. The kids behaved typically for May as they filed in—full of high spirits and ants-in-their-pants. Once the movie got going, though, they were absolutely transfixed as they were dropped in a racist world they didn’t necessarily recognize—and saw the worth in behaving with dignity and pride in oneself.

When was the last time a movie really grabbed you emotionally or took you to a place you never thought you’d go? Which movie was it?



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