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Filmism.net Dispatch October 25, 2012

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A few weeks ago I railed against movies without stories and which seem to be made by people more interested in performance art or what they can achieve with image than people who have something to say.

But there's something else missing from way too many movies. Where, I've been asking myself to varying degrees of frequency and frustration over the last few decades, are the 'movie' moments?

A movie screen is forty feet tall. Because it delivers actors inhabiting characters saying lines it's peripherally related to TV, but when it comes to the scope cinema offers, cinema is like TV the way War and Peace is like a leaflet about a lost cat nailed to a streetlight.

Actually I'm not even sure if it's the size of the screen that I'm talking about, you might have to ask a director. But every now and then we see a shot or scene in a movie that raises the hackles on the back of our necks and make us say to ourselves 'this is what movies were invented for'.

I also didn't want this post to be about George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and their creative progeny like Robert Zemeckis and JJ Abrams, but there's only a small class of moviemakers who seem to understand how to build a 'movie' moment.

Remember how you felt the first time you saw the boulder rolling down the slope towards Indy in the Hovitos temple in Raiders of the Lost Ark, or when the T Rex first tore its way through the dead wires of the electric fence in Jurassic Park? I'm not just talking movie history either. Look at when young Kirk first sees the Enterprise under construction on the horizon in Star Trek, or the plane crash sequence everybody's already talking about in the forthcoming Flight?

Maybe Peter Jackson came close in the Lord of the Rings films, but does any single shot from those movies still send ripples of resonance across pop culture? Do we talk about the Plains of Pelennor the way we talk about the corridors of Bespin or James Bond Island?

Maybe because of CGI, the thing we used to look to Spielberg and Lucas to provide is just too common now and it's lost its impact. Maybe (as a million movie critics must have asked themselves as they've become so cynical and hard to please) I've grown too old and forgotten how to appreciate the visceral thrill of what a movie screen can do.

About ten years ago I started watching the rising awareness about how movies were turning so formulaic and infantile and TV was becoming so adult and sophisticated, and despite being a cinephile a thousand times over before a TV watcher, deep inside I knew it was true.

I'm not saying there are no good movies. Look at some of the smart, affecting, surprising and at-times beautiful films of 2012 like The Sessions, Looper, Argo and The Dark Knight Rises. But since the Spielbeard told 60 Minutes last week while promoting Lincoln that effects and action don't interest him as much nowadays, who will save us from a slew of movies that can play just as well on TV or a laptop?

There's a bright spot on the horizon with the brilliant, screen-filling Cloud Atlas, but getting movies with Oh My God-o-vision made is getting harder. Most movies seem to be made with DVD in mind.

That makes me a bit sad. Every time I sit in a cinema seat, some part of me is hoping to see the rebel blockade runner roaring over my head followed by the enormous Corellian cruiser all over again.

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