Good Movies Buried by Hollywood Machine

By Rob Patterson

Great movies still get made as well as ones that are good, artistic, emotionally fulfilling and satisfying retreats from everyday life. But at the same time there seems to be an ever-greater proportion of lameness.

Yeah, I’m a snob. On the other hand, sometimes I simply want to be entertained, and am not even in the mood for art, but at least something good, even if it’s so bad it’s good.

But as I click through hundreds of On Demand films I can watch either for free on premium channels or for a fee, I have become increasingly dismayed at how little if any of them I even feel compelled to watch. The vast wasteland is no longer TV — where good and even great visual entertainment is more easily found and better than ever — but at the movies.

I see what I might watch, and my thoughts are: Do we really need more vampire movies?

Can I maybe find simply dumb comedy? Shouldn’t historical epics have some relationship to actual history?

Is there a romantic comedy that resembles any romance I might have? And does an action, thriller or horror film have anything more to offer than action, thrills and horror?

The problem, I believe, starts with a devaluing of the story.

Instead of films being an entertainment medium for telling worthwhile if even good and great stories, the story has become subservient to entertaining. A similar observation can be made regarding genre. Rather than a film falling into a genre, it so often seems that the makers want to make a genre film and follow suit.

Then there are all the lesser remakes of films. And the movies based on classic TV shows. Plus the plague of sequels which rarely compare to the first.

That’s not to say that some movies don’t succeed as entertainment. The recent Angelina Jolie action flick Salt may be slight of plot, but the near nonstop dizzying action made it an engaging experience if not cinematically significant. The thriller Unstoppable about a runaway freight train carrying toxic chemicals kept me on the edge of my chair and even had an underlying message of working man solidarity and respect.

I recently watched the original Ocean’s Eleven for the first time since I saw it in 1960, and setting aside any silly Rat Pack nostalgia, what I recalled as a fun movie is pretty lame.

The 2001 version was tight, fun and delightful if hardly deep entertainment.

Nonetheless, the level of quality and even basic intelligence, directorial craft and dramatic skill of actors seems to have dropped precipitously over the last decade or so. Yes, great films do still get made, including ones that are highly original, innovative and affecting, even if the pearls often get buried.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email

From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2012

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