Movies and how they are consumed has changed at lightning speed. The coronavirus pandemic has shut down theaters, which were dying anyways, and online streaming is now the predominant direct-to-consumer delivery method. It’s now YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. The Hollywood & NYC studio systems are foundering on the rocks, with expensive overhead & production costs that can no longer be justified, because they don’t pay the bills anymore. Independent films, particularly documentaries, now have the market edge in many ways, as indies can make their movies quicker & cheaper, and are often more compelling in content.
For the longest time, Hollywood stars & the production studios that backed them, ruled the American film industry. That’s certainly been true since talkies came into existence around 1928, and the biggest indie movie stars, Buster Keaton & Charlie Chaplin, were destroyed by the industry. This paved the way for Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, etc, to become huge movie stars, and make lots of money for MGM, Paramount, Columbia, 20th Century Fox, Warner & Universal. Disney came along a few years later, and that’s been it for the American major studios. Until the internet changed everything.
Movies are primarily the creations of scriptwriters & directors. It’s a fact, you need both to have a chance at making a good movie. Most movies, in any era, aren’t good. That’s because it’s hard to make good movies, and even bad movies are something of an achievement, as it’s hard to make any kind of movie. Just sit through the credits of any modern movie, which usually run at least 5 minutes now, and you’ll get an idea of all the work involved in a production.
Knowing what a good movie is (in any era) is important because, 1) it makes watching good movies more enjoyable, and 2) it saves you time from watching too many bad movies. Therefore it is important to be able to distinguish between the good, the mediocre & the bad. We’ve all seen bad movies, so it’s really a question of how we react to them.
Those who tolerate bad movies are difficult to relate to, from the perspective of someone who knows movies. There are still a lot a good movies that I haven’t seen, and the best way for me to find them is to avoid getting derailed by watching too many bad movies. My attitude at this point is that I don’t have time for bad movies (or anything else bad), and I think that’s a healthy mantra at any age.
Since the directors are primarily responsible for a film’s quality, find the best directors from every era & genre. The best pre-WWII talkie directors included Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, John Huston, Orson Welles, Billy Wilder, etc. Post-war, look to Japan, Europe, India & Latin America, which more-than-competes with Hollywood’s output. Never fear subtitles, as some of the best movies ever made are subtitled in English.
For actresses, look for the women who have dynamic range & command attention, those are the best. The best leading women must be able to seduce any man, at any time, for any reason. Or, they smoke them out as gay. Joan Crawford, Faye Dunaway & Robin Wright are my all-time top silver-screen divas across the eras. They can play the good girls, or the villains, with equal ease. And they own men. That sizzles every time, and that’s why we watch. Others I always enjoy include Hedy Lamarr, Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Raquel Welch, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Sigourney Weaver, etc.
Best actors is a different standard for me, because I’m not sexually attracted to men, so looks don’t matter so much. Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Sean Connery, Peter Sellers, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis (also directed), Eddie Murphy, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rick Moranis, Steve Martin, Charles Grodin, Damon Wayans, Kevin Spacey, Johnny Depp, etc. As you can see, I’m looking more for talented dramatic actors, humor, with a dab of action hero.
I believe at this point there are so many talented actors & actresses, that works of art in film could be routinely achieved. The problem today is with screen writing & director vision, along with studio interests. Art is being cancelled by the MeToo, BLM & neo-Nazi campaigns, which are being directed on both sides of the aisle. That’s why independent film making is now exploding, as people are tired of fake movies (Hollywood & NYC), just like they are sick of fake news on Fox, NBC & the New York Times.
New Hollywood was roughly 1965-75 and defined by filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman, Peter Bogdonavich, Francis Ford Coppola, etc. They were deeply influenced by film artists Orson Welles, Jean Luc Goddard, Luis Bunuel, etc.
Steven Spielberg ‘s Jaws (1975) ushered in the blockbuster era, and George Lucas’ Star Wars (1977) consolidated it as the industry model. The mega-smash hit movie is now what every major studio is trying to produce– every summer & Christmas season. James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) pushed the film industry into the realm of CGI, and that’s what all of Disney’s Star Wars movies are today. Pixar evolved from all this.
Hollywood productions are increasingly unwatchable, with superhero & sci-fi propaganda films dominating the blockbuster realm. Virtue signaling SJW messaging is now endemic, and apparently required, in all Hollywood productions. Identity politics has much to answer for, historically, including degrading the film industry.
I Googled “Best Hollywood Directors Today” and these are the names that came up: Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Richard Linklater, Alfonso Cuarón, Martin Scorsese, Denis Villeneuve, David Fincher. To be honest, most of these names don’t excite me anymore, if they ever did. There are some good films made by these directors, but too much garbage & outright propaganda. And these are the so-called best.
As an artist & film fan, I know we deserve better. But this will only happen when the audience realizes en masse that a better reality is possible. Viewers must be more critical of what they are watching, and this is only possible by taking a film study approach. The history of movies is a massive field. It’s global, and always has been. For example, much of the best silent-era film making was Germany’s Wiemar cinema (1918-1932). All this has influenced what you see today, and to know this history makes subjective critical judgments of movies much more meaningful & correct.
You need to cover all the genres (short of pornography), to be a legitimate movie buff. Andy Warhol’s films & Midnight Cowboy (1969) are fair starting lines to debate modern pornography. For me, horror is one of my least favorite genres, yet I know & acknowledge the classics such as The Shining (1980), Psycho (1960), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), etc. I would categorize Silence of the Lambs (1991) as a horror movie, because it tries to scare you, and does. This just proves genres are mutable & fluid, as film history evolves. Notice there is no black film history, white film history, women’s film history, or gay film history for intelligent movie viewers, just film history.