Saturday, August 22, 2009

Movies today

The recent movies have been a big disappointment, while the older movies are imaginative and creative.

A lot of the movies today are fatalistic: your fate determines everything.  Merit seems to be entirely missing.  Take "Kungfu Panda", for instance.  The panda was a loser, who did not train, did not practice, and had no kung-fu skills.  Yet, the kung-fu experts were still powerless against the tiger and  ultimately it was the bumbling panda who saved the village.  Lesson: don't bother learning anything since the experts are powerless against ignorance.  Another example: the recent Star Trek movie.  Kirk was an obnoxious, un-trained person, who became captain due to his father, and mostly luck.  I don't remember him demonstrating any special capability that others lacked.  Why was he the captain?  It seems every other movie is about someone's destiny.  You can be a complete loser, but if it is your destiny, you'll be the hero.  What a pathetic excuse of a story!  This was also done ad-nauseum in the Star Wars movies, among others.  

Another plot device that I'm tired of is "Saving The World".  Why is every movie about someone saving the world?  Earlier it used to be saving a village or a country, nowadays it is a whole planet.  Nearly every science fiction movie is about saving the world.  This might have been interesting the first time around, but it is hard to identify with.  I haven't saved the world recently, and I doubt many in the audence have.  Science fiction can be so much more interesting: you can dream up entire worlds.  But all the stories seem to be about bigger weapons, and men (it is always men) saving the whole world with their utterly massive... egos.  Is the world so fragile?  And really, why is one person the sole hope of humanity?
The world also seems to be painted in obvious black-white tones.  The good guys volunteer for orphanages and the bad guys eat puppies for breakfast.  There is almost no shade of gray, or any internal struggle.  There is none of the suspense of Hitchcock's "Suspicion", where you don't know whom to side with.  There is none of the internal conflict of "Marnie", again a Hitchcock classic.

Story lines are not the only things that have suffered.  Camera work is much jerkier than it used to be.  Notice how these days cameras jerk around incessantly?  There are no long shots and no close-ups of emotion.  To see the difference, watch the recent Star Trek movie and then watch Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope".  There are continuous scenes lasting entire minutes in Rope.  You see close-ups of actors, there is suspense built through silence, though emotions.  In Star Trek, the camera work was a jerky mess, with no shot lasting longer than a few seconds.

So instead of watching the completely formulaic movies, I have started watching old movies. Of course Alfred Hitchcock is a favorite, with movies like "Rope", "Lifeboat", and "Marnie" providing some welcome relief.  Another movie that I enjoyed was "The Apartment".  It had beautiful camera work, a charming story, and lovable characters.  A big surprise was an ancient movie called "Sherlock Jr." starring Buster Keaton.  Buster Keaton's splendid acting and stunts were marvelous, and I intend to watch more of his movies as a result.    Combined with a home projector, there is no reason to suffer through new movies.