Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Greetings from 1962

I have been in contact with a time traveller. He has come from the from the far-flung past to lecture on the state of cinema, but I think maybe the pictures he included are wrong?

Greetings movie-goers! Welcome to the year 1962.

Our theaters are filled with epic stories. Each year these films seem to get longer and more expensive, and each year we delight in watching the tales of our childhood heroes, like El Cid, Spartacus, and Ben-Hur, recreated with more intensity and realism than could ever be dreamed even just a few decades earlier.

El Cid (1961)

It's satisfying to watch our heroes brought to life before us, though sometimes they screw it up, like last summer's reboot of King of Kings, which strayed too far from the gritty Jesus we all know and love. A lot of us Jesus fans were really excited for an accurate movie of the character, but the studio ignored canon for no reason.

King of Kings (1961)

On the plus side, they're not making as many westerns anymore. Good riddance, they were always the same story and they never understood how people fall in love. There were some good ones years ago like Shane, but now they seem more interested in just cramming every famous actor they can into one movie, like that ridiculous How the West Was Won.

Shane (1951)

How the West Was Won (1962)

They're still all over TV, though, like Bonanza and Wagon Train, which is in its millionth season this year.

The long-running Wagon Train

Speaking of TV: In all honesty, if you're looking for a good drama, your best bet is television. With shows like Naked CityRoute 66, and The Defenders, movies just can't compete with the greats of TV drama. Even big-time movie directors like Alfred Hitchcock have been making the move to TV.

Big-name Hollywood TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Some movie buffs I know have been talking a lot about the coming revolution of new smaller camera and sound equipment, saying more and more regular people will be able to make their own films without worrying about the big studios or big actors. People mention names like John Cassavetes, Morris Engel, and some kind of "New Wave" coming from France.

John Cassavetes

I don't know. I can't see anything coming from it. Who would want to watch that when they can watch an epic? We have Cleopatra coming out soon. It's apparently got a really big budget and is very long. Everyone's excited for it.


  1. Nice. I really do feel like there may be a late '60s-type epic crash and then, from the scorched earth, a New Wave-type movement rising. This was very clever.

    1. It seems inevitable, doesn't it? What other possible end is there to this economy they've built? Tickets to The Hobbit with all the special features were like $20, and it's just creeping up all the time. What goes up must come down.

  2. With the advent of digital cinema I think we'll be recognizing this era as another kind of New Wave in a couple decades. You have beautiful, mind-warping films like Upstream Color shot on consumer grade cameras. People like Steve McQueen and films like Martha Marcy May Marlene and Spring Breakers. Hollywood is in dire straits right now, but with independent film making and distribution becoming easier than ever I think we'll be looking back on these years fondly.

    1. You're almost certainly right - any era that produces John Hyams seems destined to be adored - though there is that near-constant length problem.

    2. Once again, I think that's mostly in major Hollywood productions, although some stuff like Django Unchained does fall into that same trap.

      But the movies I've mentioned - Upstream Color is 96 minutes, Spring Breakers is 93, MMMM is 102. You could double feature McQueen's Hunger and Shame in just a little over the time it takes to watch Dark Knight Rises.

      I totally agree with you on the state of Hollywood. They're mostly producing bloated, spectacle-based films and most of them are going to likely be forgotten by time. But I'm turning my eye to the smaller films these days. I'm currently working as a critic at my local newspaper so I'm still seeing most of the major releases but the stuff that really excites me is what's coming to arthouses, and what's being released online. Last year's "It's Such A Beautiful Day" instantly became one of the most emotionally moving and amazing films I've ever seen, and that thing is roughly an hour long. There's some really amazing things going on in film these days, the problem is just that mainstream Hollywood is quickly becoming a quality wasteland. But I also think you're right about cycles and trends and eventually we're going to see some change.