Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Old Movies Are Terrible

Right off the top allow me to concede several things. Most of the movies that are made these days are horrible. They are horrible I suspect for a number of reasons.  The first reason is that it is much easier now to produce and export films. Because of this almost anyone has the ability to write and make a movie. As we all know from hitting the "next blog" button, giving everyone the opportunity to do something rarely if ever guarantees success. If there is one problem in the world it is that people are overconfident in their own abilities. We often make the mistake that just because we are capable of technically doing something creatively or artistically we believe that we are good at it.  Unfortunately many people have deluded, dishonest parents who praise any inkling of promise or ambition. The result of this is a world of self important assholes who think they are gods gift to art.

The second problem with today's movies is that film has become an industry completely dominated by profit.  We have this misconception that people are getting stupider and while the internet/youtube generation is not doing anything to deter this line of thinking, it is not necessarily the truth. The population of the world has increased exponentially and the ability to communicate our own stupidity has increased along with it. We aren't necessarily stupider, we just have the means to communicate that stupidity more effectively. Because we want to make money we are forced to create media that caters to the lowest common denominator. Movies that cater to the LCD don't have time to be subtle and vague. Everything on the screen has to read scary, funny, gross, cute, angry, etc.

But lets get to the meat and potatoes of the argument already. Throughout high school I wrote many essays that supported old timey movies. In fact, everything I have said here so far I've stated to the contrary in previous essays. Some of my older scathing essays lamented on what the word "celebrity" used to mean. I professed that yesteryears big name talents at the very least had a modicum of theatrical talent.  It would naturally follow then that people who have recited Shakespeare would probably fare better on the silver screen than someone who's first foray into film was a homemade sex tape. Yet, I may have overstepped my bounds. You see, just because a classically trained actor is involved in a film does not mean A) the film is good or B) What once was considered good acting has stood the test of time.

Old timey people (old people) will tell you that movies and music have gone to shit. While it is true that all music peaked in the nineties you will come to find that oldies will reminisce that the music and cinema of their youth was superior. Here's the secret: Everything is better in your formative years, thus you remember things that occurred during that time more fondly. If Ace Ventura Pet Detective came out today I would most likely think it was an awful movie. However, as a 13 year old the movie was comic gold so much so that I used to watch it 2 or 3 times in a row in one sitting. 

I used to have the misconception that the older a movie was the better it was. By virtue of a movie being filmed in black and white I decided sight unseen that the film was superior to anything that could have been made these days. The oldest of films were the trailblazers, the originators, the stuff that legends were built on.   Also, movie studios didn't crank out thousands of movies per year. What this means is that every film was carefully selected and backed to the fullest extent. All of the actors/actresses were hand picked through a laborious process to ensure that the best product was put forth.  As you can see, it would be easy to believe that the best movies were made in the past, that is of course until you watch one.

I don't want to single one or two old movies out. All of them are victim to the same tragic flaws that make them unbearable to watch. Is it fair to say that the guy who invented the guitar probably couldn't shred with the best metalheads out there? Is it fair to say that the guy who invented the bicycle couldn't keep up with Lance Armstrong with or without performance enhancing drugs? Even the guys who invented Mortal Kombat can't beat half of the players out there in a one on one death match. It would logically follow then that just because you are the pioneer of something does not mean that you are best example of your craft. I would argue that given a couple weeks any group of young film students could cobble together a black and white masterpiece that would rival one crafted in the days of yore.

Rules of Old Timey Cinema

Rule#1: The distinction between men and women must be clearly defined. Women are only good for two things being helpless and fainting. Should a women have an ounce of self confidence or intelligence then she is either a seductress or she has a dark secret yet to be revealed.

Rule #2: Ridiculous posture coupled with overacting. Whether it is a booming godlike voice punishing your ears with an overly enthusiastic tone or a close up of a shocked or perplexed face held too long every old movie is rife with embarrassing instances. 

Rule #3: Bad audio. This is multifaceted section and by far my favorite. In old timey movies the audio/video is rarely synced up correctly so you feel at times like you are watching a Godzilla movie. The music is always overly dramatic to the point where I find myself laughing at the most important or sentimental of scenes.  Finally, did they only have one gun sound effect for 30 years of film? You know the one, that kind of echoey muted "bang" followed by a  "clang FLING!" as the bullet ricochets somewhere off in the distance.  

Rule #4: No black people.

Rule #5: 26 minutes of credits at the beginning of the movie.

Rule#6: The third guy you meet is the killer.

I'm not saying that old movies are poorly crafted, predictable and highly overrated, oh wait a minute  that's exactly what I'm saying. Certainly we have to pay homage to old movies for getting the ball rolling. Just like every time the rock and roll hall of fame inducts a new member they first play some warmed over turd by Bill Haley and the Comets to remind us of where it all started. But let's be honest for a moment. Even though the film studios of today are crapping out remakes and disposable movies does not mean that we are not capable of making better films. If it was our desire to create well written, well acted, well shot movies we surely and certainly could. Vainly holding onto movies of the past and claiming that 50 of top 100 movies ever made were made before 1950 is ridiculous. I have yet to see Citizen Kane but I'm sure it blows. 


  1. You may have a point but I still love Bette Davis.

    And wasn't the maid black in gone with the wind ?

  2. Another fine post Drone, however...

    i do feel that good old "talkies" are better in every way than todays 3D shakey camera injoke fest that costs me the earth everytime i pop down to the local flicks.
    you are correct about Citizen Kane. It IS a bobbins film. it doesn't deserve the hype it gets. i do beleive though that some of the most inspiring and gripping films were made before James Cameron decided that blue was a good colour for aliens. (cant bare to what avatar) - if there is one good film in Black and White that must be watched its A Few Good Men. i only saw this film a year or so ago, but it forced me to rethink what makes a good film. it isnt special effects or a flash of boobies. its gripping drama, a damn good script and and a story that MAKES you want to believe in the message being put across.

    Oldie films are far superior to new films. - apart from ironman. Ironman rocked!

  3. Actually, the entire time I was reading this I was thinking of Citizen Kane. It's amazing. In fact, I'd be shocked if you didn't like it. Don't get me wrong, many of the cliches you mentioned are there (I don't remember a black person in it), but it is an awesome film in that it gets to the heart of what it means to live (and how that meaning is defined sometimes by the most minute of circumstances, events, etc). Even more impressive about the film is how prescient it was. It uses angles and camera shots that wouldn't be replicated en masse for a LONG time. While it may be almost 70 years old at this point, it still feels "contemporary."

    And while we're talking shop about movies, have you seen "The Fighter"? I know you loathe Christian Bale and all, but he was incredible as the crackhead older brother of Micky Ward (definitely deserved the Oscar). Maybe we'll speak more on TT...

    Take care, my friend.

  4. Well done drone
    There are a few great films made in the 30s 40s and 50s though.... great film is great film
    Todays films only the USA made main stream movies are not good film...are really shit...old or not old...and leading this world into...hmmm well leading it to a place we should not be

  5. I agree completely though most top 100 movie lists I have read usually only have citizen kane on them. Still need to see that movie though. Also I would like to touch on a special note about todays current movies. I love how people think there is no effort put into todays movies and special effects are "easy". Makes me laugh every time I hear someone say that.

  6. okay, as a movie/film buff, let me first give you the breakdown of the difference in my brain:
    a film is well crafted and artistic- made on celluloid, most often.
    a movie is made solely to entertain, often leeching brain cells from it's viewers.
    i love both for different reasons... that's another story.
    homework for drone:
    citizen kane, hitchcock's thrillers, capra!!! these folks from the old hollywood era show true cinematic talent!
    into foriegn? try bergman... "the seventh seal" is one of my all-time favorite films ever- if you're into existential art-house fare. akira kurosawa is an amazing japanese director whose films so influenced cinema, they are replicated by modern day directors almost shot-by-shot.

    movies movies movies... can't get enough. just say no to 99.99% of the remakes ever made. exception: true grit. how ever did john wayne get famous anyhow?

    and p.s. thanks for the pic of blue steel- or is that magnum?

  7. @Everyone I only mentioned citizen kane because it is always at the top of everyone's "best film lists." I'm sure I would like it. Also, I watch thousands of movies a year. While the rest of you are reading books and doing productive things like learning I waste my time on other pursuits.

    I realize of course that there are good films of every year and genre and that there are exceptions to the rules that I have mentioned. I also realize that many of you are commenting for your own edification but please realize how boring this blog entry would have been if it was called "Old movies are great."

    One of the great themes of this blog is creating faux controversy or representing counterpoints as my true perspective. Being sexist/racist doesn't suit me so being a dick and making you feel small about all the things you love is the only thing that I have left.

    p.s. I googled blue steel for the image so unless anyone says otherwise it is blue steel.

    p.p.s. I hope that anyone who read my comment didn't take it as though I was being hostile. I just want you all to know that I am genuinely aware of the damage I am creating and I am purposely trying to annoy you.

    thanks for your continued reading and support.

  8. You want to see what movies received accolades from the Academy? Have you seen HIGH NOON with Gary Cooper? He won an Oscar for his acting in that movie. I practically cried laughing and consequently got banned from my father's video library after that.
    And yes, we are now just more efficient in spreading the moron and idiot virus and sharing this with the rest of the world.
    The more things change, the more they remain the same.

  9. old movies really DO suck!

    you know what this made me think of? LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. whoever tells people that it's the greatest cinematic masterpiece of all time is a FILTHY LIAR.

  10. i try to watch old movies. i just can't do it. i change them so fast.

  11. porn is way better now. they were a bit "too hairy" backin the day.