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Filmism.net Dispatch January 4, 2022

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It's nice to talk about some positives in the world of cinema. Even before some poor bozo in a Wuhan fish market ate bat soup and inadvertantly destroyed gigantic swathes of the global economy and gave us an entire new global zeitgeist of social distancing, lockdowns and Zoom meetings, cinema was in poor shape.

For years prior to COVID we'd already been talking about how dumbed down movies are getting, how the only things on cinema screens are the latest blockbuster spandex-clad superhero sequel or animated kids film. As always, we can only blame the studios so much because if they're good at anything at all it's giving audiences what they want, and if they don't make movies for grown-ups any more it's because grown ups stopped going to the movies.

They don't care if people love comic book movies or thriller comedies about the Latvian goat herder community, they're desperate to make the kind of movies you want because it will mean you'll pay to go and see them.

Some time around the mid to late 90s, maybe after the first global recession of the digital age, the parents of Generation X lost interest in cinema because they suddenly needed two incomes to support an average nuclear family, so Hollywood started making more movies for families (so when parents did go to movies they'd take kids they couldn't afford to have babysat with them). That started the snowball of making more simplistic movies for teens, tweens and tykes we're still in the thrall of nowadays.

We rinsed, we repeated, and we ended up with the kind of cinema Steven Spielberg warned of years ago, where movies cost either under $10m or over $100m, nobody but awards enthusiasts seeing the former and everybody else seeing the latter thanks to advertising blitzes so all-pervasive we feel like we have to or they'll never shut up.

And with that, a curious phenomenon arose. An artefact of cinema the few cineastes left routinely designate as the Movies They Don't Make Any More became a thing.

Cineliterate fans and the film press (often one in the same) spend a lot of time bemoaning the offerings from big studios of superheroes and sequels nowadays.

But every now and then an outlier comes around, a movie with an original idea, a story we've never seen, one that doesn't have sequel or franchise expectations built in from the ground up and which attracts so much advance buzz from the festival circuit or film press everybody gets excited beyond measure because it's another Kind of Movie They Don't Make Any More.

From where else did we get movies like Baby Driver, Get Out, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood, 1917, The Revenant, The Martian and many more? They were all successful at the box office, critics as well as audiences loved them and several of them were serious awards contenders as well, even in the performing, writing and movie categories rather than the usual genre stomping grounds like VFX, editing or sound design.

Even within the conventions or frameworks of the endless sequels, superheroes, franchises and connected universes we get the odd gem that uses familiar characters and worlds and makes thrilling, original and very grown up movies out of them like Logan or Joker.

And every time one of them comes out, the movie press and fan firmament falls over itself to declare it another of those Movies They Don't Make Any More.

Yes, as moviegoers we are constantly assaulted with more ever-more CGI-spandex-connected-universe thrill ride fairy floss, but as the above list proves, the movies as an institution is in quite rude health even if you like original stories and you're an adult.

I for one think we should remember and celebrate that.

For the first time in what feels like months I've been to two movies on actual, real, honest-to-goodness movie theatres recently. I can't tell you about Matrix: Resurrections (hint; meh) or Dune (hint; wow) yet because I haven't written my reviews of them, but watch this space.

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