Saturday, October 01, 2011

Cinema: An Art Form In Distress

I have a question… What the hell is happening to American cinema?

I just got home from Peery’s Egyptian Theater, which screened Spiral Staircase by Robert Siodmak; it was undoubtedly the best film I’ve seen this year, yet it’s over sixty-five years old. If you’ve not seen this film, and are a fan of nineteen-forties film noire, you must see it. It’s a character piece about a mute girl working as a caregiver in New England in the early nineteen hundreds in a town where a serial killer has been murdering young women. She becomes trapped in the mansion in which she works during a terrible storm and the killer is in the house! It was exquisitely shot with one of the richest screenplays of its generation. The last wonderful film I saw was The Guard starring Brendon Gleeson and Don Cheadle, which was an Irish production that came through Sundance last year by the same production team that made In Bruges (also amazing). That’s it, though. Before those two, the last decent film I saw was Black Swan, but that was almost a year ago.

So, the best films of the year were either older than my parents, or from the UK. In a country that spends more on films than its government spends on aiding the impoverished, why can it not produce a decent piece of cinema? Daron Aronofsky, Clint Eastwood, and Joel Coen are really holding down the fort lately, since Martin Scorsese seems to be going a little senile, if the trailer for his new children’s film is anything to go by. Oliver Stone, Edward Zwick, Wolfgang Peterson and Ridley Scott haven’t directed anything memorable for at least five years. I’m worried that the age of classic filmmakers is coming to an end. I’m telling you, NYU cannot accept me into their masters program fast enough; American cinema needs me in the worst way. Don’t worry, you’ll see why in about ten years.

American documentaries have been carrying the industry’s credibility for a few years. The Cove, and Casino Jack and the United States of Money were fantastic and brave pieces of filmmaking. The Devil Came on Horseback, a documentary about Sudanese genocide, was the most powerful film I’ve seen in my entire life, but I wish the film wasn’t so necessary, because its subject matter may be the darkest thing the world has ever seen, and it’s happening right now. If you haven’t seen it, you need to see it, even if the only thing that comes from it is a fresh perspective of your own life. It notes that the only thing necessary for American support there is pressure form its constituency. A group of friends and I sent at least thirty letters to our representatives, but have yet to hear back from anybody (color me surprised.) Please, anybody who reads this, educate yourself about what is happening in Darfur, and act on it. I’m sorry this last paragraph turned into a political push, but it’s necessary; the barbarity that’s occurring throughout that region is absolutely abhorrent.

Anyway, I have to slander Michael Bay a little while I’m on the subject and have the chance. Is he, or is he not the worst thing to happen to the silver screen since its conception? “Yes,” said Cole, “Yes, he is indeed.” The man is a hack with a big box full of squibs (squibs are tools used to make explosions on sets.) All the man does is film explosions in a desert, and chroma key robots into the shots later. He must have been so pleased with himself when he made Armageddon. It was a film about an explosion that saved earth! Are you kidding me! But it’s not his fault, because the drooling masses can’t get enough of it, and enable the man to keep pumping out this brainless, over-budgeted, visual swill! There is a sinkhole in Thailand with that man’s name on it… Terrence Mallick should probably be pushed in too…


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