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Filmism.net Dispatch April 1, 2012

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You see a lot of avowedly (and proudly) B movies today, albeit with huge budgets, huge buzz and huge box office.

The movies that make up the studios' most lucrative period (late April through early August) are the sort of thing 12 year old boys went to the Saturday morning serials for half a century ago, all space ships, swashbuckling heroes, special effects and spectacle.

There's a simple reason why. The major studio films of today are still playing by the rulebook laid down by Star Wars 35 years ago, and that film was a response to the films its creator loved; western and sci-fi series about adventurers and heroes that played in the matinee theatres.

Look at the other trends, like the new paradigm in horror we've been in sway to for the last decade. It's easy to forget there was hardly a decent horror movie to be found throughout the 90s, but two things happened. First, a self-funded DIY project called The Blair Witch Project changed the film business like Star Wars had done 20 years earlier, proving that fans who loved movies made great filmmakers.

Second, when those filmmaker fans came to power in the Hollywood of the new century, they bought love of the films they'd grown up on with them no different than Lucas and Spielberg had done.

And many of the 20 and 30 year olds who took the reigns in the early 2000s had grown up in the video nasty era where exploitative, cheap and trashy horror films sat at the decaying back shelves of video stores, ignored by most people but beloved by the generation who'd become film geeks (a club we now all claim to belong to).

Fast forward 20 years and presto, we're seeing video nasty horror on big screens supported by millions in studio marketing instead of dumped in the yellowing corners of VHS history.

Schlock classics of the time from Dawn of the Dead to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had champions with newfound clout that wore their love proudly on their sleeves. It also had a lot to do with the ascent of Quentin Tarantino, the godfather of the cult film love movement.

A recent article where Martin Scorsese talks about his favourite movies mentions many of the classic gangster films from the 30s, 40s and 50s, movies that no doubt informed on his own revitalising of the genre through classics like Goodfellas and Casino. Read it here. Steven Spielberg is widely quoted as saying 'Before I go off and direct a movie I always look at four films. They tend to be Seven Samurai, Lawrence of Arabia, It's a Wonderful Life, and The Searchers.'

In fact, we're already seeing the second generation of the love of Lone Ranger and Flash Gordon matinee serials. Spielberg and Lucas created movies like ET: The Extra Terrestrial and Raiders of the Lost Ark in response to their coming of age in the 50s, and J J Abrams homaged the Spielbergian 80s adventure movement they created just as lovingly in Super 8.

What's the common theme here? A positive way of putting it would be that we have a class of very talented filmmakers applying the greatly expanded toolset of modern cinema to bring classic genres and film movements to life in ways we've never seen before.

They're using new technology, new methods and new social norms to free sci-fi, horror and adventure films from a host of restrictions they faced throughout the 20th century, everything from the Hays code to guys in rubber suits.

A negative way of putting it is that studios are giving hundreds of millions of dollars to fund overgrown kids who just want to make the movies they loved when they were kids, only better.

Is there anything wrong with that? Absolutely not, it's given us some of the definitive movies in the history of the medium (in fact, most of the them).

But who's going to start a cinematic movement or invent a genre that's completely new, something we've never seen before? Where's the modern equivalent of Georges Melies, F W Murnau or Orson Welles? Or is Hollywood (together with the independents who hang off it like remora) doomed to endlessly regurgitate itself?

Someome who has homaged a genre almost perfectly is Gareth Evans, the man behind action bloodfest The Raid. I got a chance to ask him just what was going through his mind here.

And when I watched Bad Teacher through the week, it appeared to be just another fairly humdrum adult comedy, but it actually has a very strong point of difference that's worth your time.

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