I have rather mixed feelings about the importance and value of motion pictures; that is, whether comedy or drama, most films are enjoyable, yet remain pretty shallow, passionless and unimpressive. Just as we forget TV shows the moment the set is turned off, we frequently forget movies within the time it takes to walk to our cars.
It seems to me there used to be more films with mature, thought-provoking, adult themes as opposed to the infantile silliness we watch today. In fact, at times it seems like today’s movies simply have few adults in them, period.
Take for example the current crop of raunchy and humorous films like “Hangover” and its sequel, the road-trip movies and remakes like “Arthur.” The leading roles in these silly, little things are either a bunch of kids I’ve never heard of or adults, usually males, who are in the throws of a final adolescent fling. A severe case of clinical regression, to say the least. The apartment of the eccentric billionaire, Arthur, looks like a FAO Schwarz toy store. Though some of these films produce a genuine laugh or two, do they really satisfy anyone except kids?
Then, of course, there are the superheroes and these flicks never fail to delight me owing to the digital effects and spectacle. There’s something quite charming about seeing your comic book icons come to life. The last six months have unleashed “Thor,” “The X-men” (number 13, I think), “The Green Lantern” and “Captain America.” Yet, enjoyable as they might be, are any of them likely to inspire mature love, dread or joy involving people in the real world? Of course not. They’re just a bunch of entertaining foolishness.
Still, I need not point out that superhero flicks are box-office gold. Indeed, I can’t recall a single superhero film that hasn’t made big bucks.
But if we’re going to talk about money, we surely have to mention the animated Pixar movies; i.e., “Toy Story 1, 2, and 3”, “The Incredibles,” “Wall-E,” “Up” and many others. The total profits from these features has passed the $6 billion mark and are still rising. You’ll surely agree that these aren’t adult films; rather, they’re kids’ films with some adult appeal. There’s nothing new about this. The early Disney films, like “Bambi” and “Snow White” also turned on two or three generations of children, parents and grandparents. Today, not only are a large number of child-oriented movies appealing to adults but, as I’ve said, a surprising number of “mature” movies have grown increasingly childish.
And any discussion of movie profits should mention that, except for the weekend blockbusters like “X-Men” and “Toy Story,” the biggest money-making movies are porn, which are surely the most unimaginative and graceless and plotless junk to ever come down the pike. Ironically, TV porn is rated “M” for “Mature,” yet anyone who watches such stuff on a regular basis probably isn’t very mature.
Finally, I have to mention today’s horror films to further bolster my conviction that modern movies lack mature, emotional depth – which, in case you were starting to wonder, is the main point of this rambling claptrap. Some current horror films have become such blood-soaked slaughterhouses I can’t sit through them. They’re really no fun at all and might cause permanent, irreversible brain damage. Any worthwhile horror film should be rooted in physical reality and the film should at least suggest that the horror in question could happen.
The “Twilight” saga can be moderately enjoyable, but has about as much maturity as a third-grade Dick and Jane primer. People turning into wolves? Get serious.
What I miss in today’s movies – what I really yearn for – are warm, heartfelt, sophisticated love stories. At the terrible prospect of dating my mentality, I’ll point to some past examples. In the 1940s, Bogart and Bergman gazed longingly at one another – or at least as longingly as censors would allow – in “Casablanca.” Ten or 15 years later, love became a “Many Splendored Thing” and a tragedy for William Holden and Jennifer Jones. And then there was the time Barbra Streisand tried in vain to secure the affections of Robert Redford in “The Way We Were.” And Woody Allen got hopelessly tangled up with both Diane Keaton and Margo Hemingway in “Manhattan,” which is probably the best movie he ever made. Most of these films revolved around unrequited love or at least tragic endings. That’s the nature of most love stories. They’re more memorial if the couples don’t live “happily ever after.”
Call me over the hill, but I prefer a steamy, torrid love affair to the drunken antics of “Hangover,” the phoney sexual mechanics of porn or the superpowers of spider guy. So it goes.