Filmism.net Dispatch February 14, 2014

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I'm not the first observer to ask this, but when did movies start getting so long again? Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring led the charge way back in 2001, but Jackson's take on Tolkien's masterwork was a big expansive epic about a world full of incredible beasts and a huge cast of characters.

But in the last 12 to 18 months running times have been growing faster than the exodus of Hollywood people to Palm Springs and Santa Barbara on December 18. We expect it from certain directors like Peter Jackson (even his King Kong was over three hours) and James Cameron (Titanic – three and a half hours; Avatar – two and three quarter hours).

But butt-numbing movies have been cropping up everywhere nowadays. Lincoln was two and a half hours. Les Miserables was nearly two and three quarters, and so was Django Unchained. There Will Be Blood, The Hurt Locker, The Dark Knight, The Help, Inception, The Avengers, Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises have all been similarly taxing on your gluteus maximi.

As I said, the worlds of Lord of the Rings or Avatar demand it, but elsewhere it's simply because nobody says no to Steven Spielberg, Chris Nolan or Quentin Tarantino. Still, might there be a conspiracy of movie executives and exhibitors sitting in a darkened room making sure running times creep up and up so we buy more popcorn and post mix?

It's even creeping into other genres. Good action movies used to take 90 minutes, maybe two hours. The Expendables did it in an hour 40 minutes. So did The Terminator (is that the same James Cameron from Avatar?). Schwarzenegger's Commando was a brisk 90 minutes. Raiders of the Lost Ark took an hour 45.

But White House Down, a silly action comedy they spent way too much money on (and only partially recognised it was a comedy) took two hours 20 minutes. Admittedly that's the same running time as the movie it riffs on/rips off (1988's Die Hard), but let's be honest, White House Down is no Die Hard. It's not reinventing a genre and does nothing to earn the overstayed welcome.

Where will it end? Will every film be Modern Times Forever, the Danish movie about the decay of a Helsinki building that runs for 10 (count 'em) 10 full days?

But to other matters. Recent reviews, I hear you cry? I don't know if it's the best argument for gay marriage in the last decade, but Blue Is The Warmest Color was the most beautiful love story (let along gay love story) I've seen in a long time.

I also caught up with a movie that's partway between important museum piece and cult classic - the Raquel Welch/Ray Harryhausen classic One Million Years B.C. - and found something surprising there.

An even more obscure classic is the shambolic, politically charged, black power-themed advertising culture satire Putney Swope, and I saw the worthy but creatively plodding Dallas Buyer's Club.

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