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Where Have All the Good Movies Come From?

I know I wasn’t alone when I claimed that this summer had been (with a few big exceptions) a massive disappointment for movie fans. In fairness, with a few bright spots, 2009 wasn’t exactly an above-average year either. However, myself and the better half have been going to the cinema fairly consistently over the past number of weeks and I have to admit that I’ve been more consistently impressed by films like The Social Network, The Kids Are Alright, Easy A and The Town than I have by any run of films in at least the last year. Is it just me, or are things finally looking up?

A veritable feast of good cinema...

I’m going to be honest. I think 2008 was a phenomenal year at the cinema, and would disagree with anyone who would say otherwise. Looking at the list of big films released that year, it just seemed that they were of a generally higher caliber than I had seen in quite some time. Gone Baby Gone, The Dark Knight, The Mist, Cloverfield, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Iron Man, Kung-Fu Panda, Wall-E, Hellboy II, Tropic Thunder, Vicky Christina Barcelona, The Incredible Hulk, Burn After Reading, Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, Milk and Gran Torino all come to mind. Now, of course, opinions will differ – people will say I’ve included some “only okay” or “downright terrible” films while excluding some genuine classics – but that’s an impressive lineup.

In contrast to 2008, where major studio releases were almost as frequently entertaining as their quirkier brethren, last year there were highlights, but most of them came out of left-field. Box office hits like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra were rather limp efforts – the real gems were the smaller films like (500) Days of Summer or the decidedly “out there” Inglourious Basterds. Of course there were good films – I did compile a top ten for the year, after all – but they seemed to be stumbled across at random and in the strangest places, amid a sea of debris.

I’m probably going to find myself alone in arguing this, but I found last year’s “Oscar crop” particularly weak, which may explain why I feel that the wait has been so long since a consistently great run of films. Of course I dug The Hurt Lockerwho didn’t? – but Avatar left me cold, as did quirkier fare like A Serious Man. As such, there was nothing to really break-up the two big blockbuster seasons for me.

Ill be rushing to make winter screenings...

To be honest, the trend of disappointing films continued into this year. The films that I ended up enjoying were typically divisive – you were as likely to deride Shutter Island as you were to fall head-over-heels in love with it; you’d be torn as to whether Kick-Ass was insanely over-the-top in an endearing or an awkward fashion; could you even get to see I Love You, Phillip Morris? They were also spaced considerably apart. The “big” summer films like The A-Team and Iron Man 2 were generally argued to be nothing special. Sure, there was Inception, but that was barely compensation.

And yet I found myself actually anticipating Oscar season this year. New films from Darren Aronofsky (The Black Swan) and Danny Boyle (127 Hours) are reason enough to get excited, but we have the reunion of the Coen Brothers and Jeff Bridges ahead of us in True Grit. My inner nerd is more than a little bit excited about this Christmas’ “event” film, Tron: Legacy. I’m not necessarily convinced that this enthusiasm carries across into next year (though I am anticipating Kenneth Branagh’s Thor and the Green Lantern films), but it’s enough to tide me through to the end of the year.

It’s somewhat interesting to have this sudden sense of excitement now of all times. I mentioned the wave of good films in cinemas to my parents, and they responded by wishing that some of those would hurry up and make their way to DVD – the video stores are finding themselves living with the crumbs from a very light Summer. And I say that with the honesty to admit that we will watch just about anything (no matter how crap the reviews) for our weekly movies.

Ah well, I shouldn’t complain, I suppose.

7 Responses

  1. I’m not really feeling the fall season, either. Grant that I have not see Easy A but I’ve heard a lot of really mixed things about The Kids Are All Right and, come to that, most of the fall’s other offerings. Universally The Town has been high-fived and The Social Network will probably land in the top five of many a top ten of 2010 list.

    Really I only feel like I’ve got Black Swan, True Grit, Tron 2, Harry Potter, and 127 Hours to look forward to. With maybe one or two other films thrown in for good measure. I’ve been dying to discuss what happened to cinema in 2010 with someone like-minded; I just feel like we had a few stellar years of movies and suddenly someone slammed on the brakes.

    As far as American cinema goes I’d be willing to argue that it has something to do with Obama’s election and the subsequent malaise that’s set in in the wake of everyone realizing that he, too, is a politician and also a human being.

    • Maybe I’m just easy to please, but I’ve found the past couple of weeks have had a fairly decent selection of movies. Up until the end of September or start of October, I was struggling to create a “top ten so far” (what with the end of the year approaching and all that), but I think there’s certainly been a better crop than last year.

    • And I think that you might be on to something, politically. I see The Dark Knight in 2008 as a fairwell to the Bush administration and Star Trek in 2009 as a welcome to the new one. Although I’m not sure we’re seeing dissatisfaction setting in (yet), I do think that the wave of “optimistic” blockbusters many were expecting aren’t quite going to flood multiplexes.

  2. I haven’t been to the movie theater the entire month of October man. Except for The Social Network, there just wasn’t any movie I felt like I wanted to see. November is looking better as I’m planning to see Due Date, Morning Glory, 127 Hours all within the next 2 weeks and maybe even give Unbreakable or Skyline a chance.

    • The Social Network is the only time I hit the theater all October, too. I could be convinced to see Due Date, I want to see 127 Hours, and I might be convinced to see Skyline since the TV spots make it look less like a made-for-TV SyFi channel movie. Really, I won’t be itching to get to theaters until December; I wouldn’t be surprised if only Harry Potter got me to go out this month.

      • I don’t know, maybe my standards are lower. 127 Hours is a must, but I also wanna see The Black Swan, True Grit, Tron Legacy and even the goddamn King’s Speech. So, I have a man crush on Colin Firth!

    • Really, I dug October. Keep in mind that our releases are staggered, so we’re seeing the rake of movies that were too artsy to release in Europe during a world cup. 🙂

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