Arts, Movies, Column

A Desperate Plea for Quality Cinema

I’m knocking on wood while I throw a pinch of salt over my shoulder. I have several four-leaf clovers in my pocket, along with seven lucky horseshoes, and I haven’t stepped on any cracks in five months. I’ve taken to playing loud music and wearing a tinfoil hat so “the man” can’t listen in on my words and thoughts. I tried to rent a volcano for a virgin sacrifice, but that’s a mountain of paperwork. Just believe me when I tell you that I’m saying this with the utmost hesitation, but I think that maybe we might be out of this recent “slump” in movies, perhaps. (Fingers crossed).

The slump I’m talking about is something I’ve noticed in the past few years. As I’ve said before, I keep a list of every movie I’ve ever seen (1,633 movies, aren’t you proud of me, Mom?). I sorted through them by year and my suspicions were confirmed. There was a definite drop-off in quality cinema over the past few years. To prove my point, in 2012, I saw about 40 movies I would categorize as at least pretty good—2012 marked the release of Wreck-It Ralph, The Master, and Moonrise Kingdom. But the following year, there was a very steep drop. In 2013, I saw only 22 movies I would say are pretty good. You might remember 2013 by such cinematic masterpieces as Marvel universe set-up/cash-grab Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man 3 (also known as Robert Downey Jr. Couldn’t Get Out Of His Contract), and Tom Cruise’s sci-fi movie that wasn’t Edge of Tomorrow, the disaster titled Oblivion. It was a pretty rough annum in cinema. Unfortunately, the next year wasn’t much better. I counted 24 movies I would categorize as “pretty good.” As a reminder, young-adult-book-turned-movie The Maze Runner, geriatric return to comedy Dumb and Dumber To, and the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie I bet you didn’t even know existed, Sabotage, all came out in 2014. This is not to say that good movies didn’t come out in these years. Whiplash, The Imitation Game, and Dallas Buyers Club were all released in these two years. But note how all of these movies were “Oscar bait.”

But, as I said earlier, I think we may be pulling out of this movie slump. The past few years have marked a definite rise in the number of movies that fit my nebulous description of “pretty good.” To continue our yearly review, 2015 had 31 pretty good movies like Mad Max: Fury Road, Spotlight, and Straight Outta Compton. Even better, 2016 had 33 pretty good films such as Moonlight, La La Land, and Deadpool. Yes, these past years have marked a rise in sequels, spin-offs, and cash-grabs, but putting these aside, there have been more and more films that are at least pretty good.

I believe that we could be re-entering a period of quality cinema. Oscar season of 2016 was filled with truly fantastic films. Moreover, we are only three months into 2017, and it’s already looking like this might be a great year for film. We’ve gotten through the usual garbage fire that is January, February, and early March relatively unscathed. The LEGO Batman Movie, John Wick: Chapter Two, Logan, and Get Out were all terrific films, and we’re just getting started. Sure, we had the usual junk like generic horror movie The Bye Bye Man or generic action movie xXx: Return of Xander Cage. But we have had a fair number of films that I would gladly watch two or three more times. Looking ahead, there are a lot of movies that are going to come out that look like they could be added to my definitely-not-arbitrary category of at least pretty good. Freefire, Dunkirk, and Baby Driver are all on my list to see. New theory: when we have a good president, we get bad movies, and when we have a “president,” we get better movies. Jacob’s column: come for movie talk, receive unwarranted political opinions.

We also have a few new directors, in addition to the rest of the great directors like Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, and Wes Anderson, who are proving themselves to be on par with “the greats” with their first few films. Damien Chazelle (Whiplash and La La Land), Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival, and Prisoners), Ava Duvernay (Selma and 13th), and most recently Jordan Peele (Get Out) are all directors that show incredible promise and skill, have many years ahead of them, and all have upcoming movies. I don’t want to speak too soon, but I’m way more excited than I have any reason to be for the rest of this year, and years to come, in movies.

Featured Image by Warner Bros.

March 23, 2017

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