I used to really like movies. I wanted to make movies. I went to a lot of movies, talked about movies, thought about movies, spent money going to movies, felt affected and defined by movies, particularly movies about girls, which there were always plenty of, including the ’90s movies that probably made you gay, these girl team movies and about twenty queer girl films. I worked annually at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in exchange for free admission, saw everything that rolled through the art house theater and loved New York City because every independent film I wanted to see came to New York.
But for the last six years or so I’ve not been to many movies. I’ve blamed myself for this lapse in dedication. I’ve been too busy starting my own business or going insane, I haven’t been able to carve out two hours to sit and watch a thing — but lately, I’ve been taking steps to insert more “leisure time” into my life.
“I need to go see more movies,” is a thing I say to myself. “I never go to the movies. I miss movies.”
Sometimes I say it out loud to a romantic companion: “We should go to a movie” or “we should see a movie.”
I’ll think, “I haven’t seen a movie in so long, I’m sure there are hundreds of movies to catch up on!”
Then we peruse the movie listings of our local cinema and/or the options available for rental or viewing on any number of online movie-playing situations.
And I cannot find.
I’ve been hearing this a lot lately, and duly noted that, like me, my friends blame their decreased attention span for their reduced moviegoing habits.
The media is constantly telling us that the media is ruining our attention span, it’s almost an inevitable self-fulfilling prophecy at this point. But we’ll sit through television-on-DVD marathons, watch documentaries all afternoon, play video games for hours and watch Fight Club 26 times. Many of you might even read this 3,000-word article all the way through. Listen: if Memento, Almost Famous, Traffic, High Fidelity and Bring it On (all 2000 theatrical releases) came out tomorrow, you bet I’d make time.
I endeavor to suggest that it’s not us, it’s them — we’ve skipped the movies for five years because recent theatrical releases just haven’t been worth making time for. I mean, look no further than Julie & Brandy, our in-house movie-reviewing team, which so far has hated every movie they’ve seen besides The Runaways.
What WILL we make time for? Last year, I made (on-demand) time for The Runaways, Howl, For Colored Girls, Black Swan, The Kids Are All Right, and The Social Network. Many people I’ve talked to found the latter two didn’t live up to the hype, why so much hype about those two movies? They were good, but not fantastic.
True enough, but it had been such a long time since I’d seen a new movie about people. In a year clogged by massive computer-enhanced IMAX 3-D movies and giant historical epics, those two movies were primarily about how people got along with other people, in love or at work — and that’s very rare these days.
Why Don’t I Like Movies Anymore?
Based on a completely unscientific poll of my own thoughts, feelings and preferences, I’ve surveyed the evidence, done the research, and have the following reasons why:
1. No movies about women.
2. Movie studios/mainstream audiences favor lots of big-budget effects-laden megablowout thrillers over movies about people.
When Did I Stop Liking Movies?
But you’re an adult now! You must be thinking. You’re not moviegoing because you’re too busy/poor! But if I was too busy/poor, I’d still WANT to see movies, I just wouldn’t actually do it because of aforementioned business and poverty.
Yes, the younger you are, the stupider and more bored you are, and therefore the more willing you are to give up two hours of your life to the possibility of Batman Forever. As you age, you refine your taste and plan moviegoing accordingly.
I’m sure I watched ten thousand movies a year in my youth and therefore this graph, which I’ve constructed in order to pin down when precisely movies started to suck, begins in 1999, the year I turned 18.
Something changed in 2005, in which I saw only two films in the theater — Rent and Me and You And Everyone We Know. In 2006, I saw Dreamgirls, Borat, Short Bus, and, because my lovely friend Haviland made me; The Break-up. 2007 — just Juno. In 2008 I had a ticket for the midnight showing of The Sex & the City movie, cried my eyes out at Milk, and took my then-girlfriend Alex on a date to Rachel Getting Married. I didn’t see any movies in 2009. For Alex’s birthday in 2010, we got high and saw Alice in Wonderland. In June, Crystal made us all go see Twilight. That’s my half-decade in film.
Now that I’ve Netflixed or downloaded The Social Network, Black Swan, Up in the Air, The Runaways, Whip It! and The Kids Are All Right, I feel pretty much caught up on the past five years. Oh, we tried to watch Inception but fell asleep, it seemed like a demo reel for a very talented special effects guy.
Past half-decades weren’t like this!
Were I to attempt to recap 1995-2000, I’d beat my cumulative 2005-2010 viewings in 1995 alone — Clueless, Boys on the Side, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Mallrats, Now and Then, How to Make an American Quilt, Hackers, Too Wong Foo Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar, Kids, The Basketball Diaries, Toy Story, Apollo 13, Dangerous Minds — jesus. I could go on. ALL IN 1995! (Empire Records came out that year too).
Even solid movies like 2010’s The King’s Speech, which win awards and are universally appreciated, remind me of this quote from Run Lola Run director Tom Tyker: “You are seeing films that are so perfect you don’t even connect to them anymore.”
I miss movies that feel, no matter how large the room or the audience, like they were made just for me. Does anyone else feel this way?
Over the last five years, Hollywood has successfully and increasingly employed digital backlots, photo-realistic CGI humans, 3-D vision, performance capture animation, image-based facial animation, sub-surface scattering, instant motion-capture-to-CG and filmed entire movies in front of green screens, filled in later by CGI effects. Who needs character development when you can turn Sigourney Weaver into a blue computer person?!
A Brief History of Movies
Before I continue — a teachable moment. A long long time ago, most movies sucked. Many tend to judge the cinematic past by its few surviving relics, but really history filtered out the crap for us. When the invention of the teevee enabled Americans to watch as much crap as they wanted to right at home, weekly movie attendance plummeted, from 84 million during World War II to its all-time bottom of 17 million in the 70s.
Then, something fantastic happened! The 60s and 70s were an era of unprecedented social upheaval, and that, along with other factors like ‘the invention of film school’ contributed to film taking on a new, equally viable, role in American life:
It was a “perfect storm” of circumstances combining to produce one of the most creatively fertile periods in American commercial movie-making: a new breed of production chiefs trying to save their faltering studios by gambling on an incoming generation of artistically ambitious talent, and a receptive audience hungry for the dramatically provocative, thematically relevant, and stylistically daring, all happening within the context of a society gripped in a painful period of self-questioning and re-examination.
In other words, film became an art as well as a significant element of youth culture.
Then. In 1975, the blowout success of Jaws offered a glimpse of the future — a future in which one film could have universal appeal and make ten gazillion dollars internationally. The 1977 Star Wars trilogy confirmed Jaws was not a “nonrecurring phenomenon.” Back then, however, one blockbuster had the whole summer to itself. Over the next few decades, studios restructured financially and marketing people started gaining more decision-making power than the creatives.
Which brings us to today.
1. The Blockbuster Problem
Various evils assembled to create today‘s perfect storm, including but not limited to the rise of the MPAA’s power/censorship, an increasing focus on international markets, pressure on DVD sales and merchandising tie-ins, the recession, a “lack of ideas,” soaring marketing prices and a ridiculous focus on opening-weekend numbers.
This is very problematic for me specifically because as you’ve probably picked up, I’m one of an apparent minority of moviegoers who skip thriller/suspense/action films. I hate violence and I find special effects distracting.
Aside from the big-budget blowouts and the franchise films (Twilight, Harry Potter), movie listings lately have been chock full of action/suspense/thriller movies with names that mean nothing to me and posters that all look the same. Scanning some lists from the last few years I see piles of meaningless words: Red. Iron Man 2. Unthinkable. Death Race. Punisher. Transporter. Outlander. The Righteous Kill. Rampage. The Warrior’s Way. Tracker. Dead Snow. Insidious.
What the hell? These movies are like houseplants to me. I literally don’t see them. My eyes do not bother to register their existence. Thus my houseplants always die and I never go to the movies.
Predictably enough, the genre I’m most endeared towards is independent films, which is more or less the opposite of the blockbuster. I basically moved to New York City in 2000 and 2001 to see these movies — movies like George Washington, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Run Lola Run, Being John Malkovich, The Opposite of Sex, Buffalo ’66, All Over Me, Bully, Lost In Translation, Short Cuts and anything starring Parker Posey. Independent film, however, is one of many casualties of the recession and the Blockbuster Explosion and so are the theaters that used to show them.
That being said, I wasn’t mad at the blockbusters of yesteryear — I too loved Jurassic Park, Independence Day, Titanic, Forrest Gump – in How the Blockbuster Ruined Hollywood, Bil Mesce explains the financial impetus for the increasingly powerful blockbuster model, and its reliance on the “thriller” genre:
The life-sized, resonant thrillers of the 1960s/1970s have been replaced with a steady output of live-action comic books, drowned in the fantastic if not outright fantasy, and their richly shaded life-sized heroes replaced by pure-of-heart superheroes or similarly larger-than-life protagonists. With their breathless pace and non-stop action, there is little room for character, texture, or layered plotting. In fact, such hyper-energized constructs force plotting and characterization toward easily and quickly digestible clichés and predictable forms. Commitment to projects is based not on a passion for the material, but on a calculation of how many toys might it sell; how well it might play in Japan; how easily it can be condensed into a catchy 30-second TV ad. The cinema of ideas…Is long dead and gone.
The price of making these movies is astronomical. I couldn’t sit through Avatar because thinking about its budget w/r/t world hunger made me so angry.
But it appeals to apparently the only demographic of interest, as BitchBuzz recently noted:
“[Hollywood moguls seem unable] to see women as anything but window dressing for the male audience, that mythic demographic that’s supposed to guarantee success. Hollywood has pinned its hopes on that 18-36 male group and aimed most of its fare toward them.”
Which Brings me to…
#2: Female Trouble
It was the conversation around Anna Faris‘s What’s Your Number and the just-released comedy Bridesmaids that got me thinking about writing this article. Namely, two specific quotes I read (in print) a few weeks ago:
1. Kristen Wiig, Entertainment Weekly:
“I’ll be happy when the day comes when people don’t think it’s such a big deal to have a movie with a lot of women in it.”
2. Tad Friend, author of Funny Like a Guy: Anna Faris and Hollywood’s woman Problem (in which Faris is called “Hollywood’s Most Original Comic” and apparently is the woman upon which the future of our species depends):
“[Faris’s next film] is an R-rated comedy that’s ‘female-driven,’ meaning that it’s told from a woman’s point of view, and that’s always been a tough sell. Studio executives believe that male moviegoers would rather prep for a colonoscopy than experience a woman’s point of view, particularly if that woman drinks or swears or has a great job or an orgasm.”
Really? A woman’s point of view? A tough sell? Since when?
I had my intern make this graphic for you:
Oh! 2005, I guess. I mean, it’s a TOUGHER sell, sure, but are my retrospective nostalgia-tinted glasses playing tricks on me, ’cause I’m worried that “the time when it wasn’t a big deal to have a movie with a lot of women in it” is easier located in our past than our future.
As is extensively detailed in Ann Hornaday’s 2009 article from the Washington Post, Women & Film, it wasn’t always like this. It’s never been good, but it’s rarely ever been this bad.
In her article, Hornaday goes into some of the logistical reasons for this transformation: when studios became subsidiaries of multi-corporations responsible for contributing to quarterly bottom lines, there was a new/different pressure on studios and thus we no longer see “1970s/1980s/1990s stars like Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand, Sally Field and Goldie Hawn… making movies in a diverse number of genres.”
A quick perusal of the top 250 films on the imdb list cemented my hypothesis — in 1999, 56 of the top 250 films included female leads. In 2009 — 34.
Would you like a graphic? OF COURSE YOU WOULD!!
These are 1999’s most popular movies with female stars in primary/secondary roles:
…and these are 2009’s most popular movies with female stars in primary/secondary roles:
At some point in the mid-00s, women got ditched and then told that it has always been so. This became ‘official’ in 2007 when Warner Brothers President of Production Jeff Robinov allegedly made a new decree that “we are no longer doing movies with women in the lead.”
This is especially bad news for queers — of the 38 highest grossing LGBT films produced between 2000 and 2009, only TWO were produced post-2005, and they were guy movies — Brokeback Mountain and Milk. Also the best lesbian film ever, The Nicest Thing, hasn’t yet been done, girl.
In The New York Times‘ “Women in Hollywood 2009,” Manhola Dargis points out that Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Amy Pascal, Hollywood’s sole female film studio chair, was making movies “like “Little Women” and “A League of Their Own” [in the 90’s]. In recent years, however, Sony has become a boy’s club for superheroes like Spider-Man and funnymen like Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow.”
Dargis later told Jezebel that she finds it “depressing” that Apatow “has taken and repurposed one of the few genres historically made for women… [romantic comedies are] supposed to be about] a relationship between a man and a woman, but they’re really buddy flicks.”
Speaking of, I used to never think about gender when picking a movie — I didn’t really HAVE to, because even male-centric films appealed to me — from comedies like Ace Ventura, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Dazed & Confused, The Big Lebowski and Wayne’s World to classics like Good Will Hunting, Dead Poet’s Society or Saving Private Ryan. I loved Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Robin Williams, Johnny Depp, Young Leonardo DiCaprio, Ed Norton — and I loved anything made by Robert Altman, Spike Lee or Woody Allen. These days, it’s tough to muster up more enthusiasm for Michael Cera/Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s emo feelings or Vince Vaughn‘s hyper-male hijinks.
This week, Bridesmaids comes out, and it’s positioned as “a referendum on the viability of women in Hollywood comedy.”
I guess these just didn’t cut it?
This weekend, Bridesmaids earned a “better-than-expected debut with $24.4 million” — second, of course, to Thor. Fucking Thor!
In the 90s there was so much to see I’d sometimes see two in one day, and because I liked weird indie films nobody else wanted to see, that usually meant I was going alone.
But also — I remember dashing madly through Times Square on our lunch break from The Olive Garden, cigarettes furiously fuming into the crowded greasy air, running up the eight sets of escalators in the AMC just to catch 75% of The Anniversary Party before the dinner shift started up. I remember walking to Harlem late at night to see Girl Interrupted because crying at home was getting depressing.
My favorite part of the Sex and the City movie is that it was the first time in years I’d participated in a “mass coordination of friends to see the same film” situation. I used to like that a lot. I liked it enough to almost enjoy Twilight: Eclipse, just ’cause I was there with my friends and it was a thing.
In 1999, Entertainment Weekly boldly declared that “1999 will be etched on a microchip as the first real year of 21st-century filmmaking.” It’s a fantastic article, full of hope/dreams about a “new age of cinema” and “really exciting young artists who have their own voices.” Thanks to films like Being John Malkovich and Pi, agents aren’t afraid anymore to send “that odd, quirky type of material” to film studios! Stars like Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise aren’t afraid to take bets on movies like Eyes Wide Shut, Fight Club and Magnolia!
At the article’s end, director Bennett Miller counters the pieces’s thesis with a pretty adequate prediction:
“I think there’s going to be this wonderful, explosive glut of mediocrity. It’s going to be horrible. You know, big ideas without a lot of preparation. The technology invites a certain carelessness, because it’s easy to let your guard down and not be disciplined.”
And so it is.
Yes, it was exciting to suddenly garner laptop access to a bajillion movies, and it was very exciting to be able to live our entire lives on a tiny Blackberry phone, but those innovations have been around just long enough that I, for one, am over the novelty of it. Movies are best enjoyed in theaters, period.
These days when I stare at a screen, it’s for a television show or a documentary — I’m doing True Blood right now.
I’m not staying home because I’m lazy, distracted by technology or under-appreciative of the group-movie-watching experience, or even because movie tickets are expensive.
I’m staying home ’cause the stuff showing on my laptop is just so much better than the stuff showing on your screen.
Riese get out of my head!!! This is everything I try to explain to my friends when they want to go see the “latest/greatest/whatever movie”, but it never sounds this brilliant when I try to say it!!
And then they go “JUST ENJOY THE MOVIE HURR DURR. INTROSPECTION WTF?!! STFU.” And I sigh in exasperation.
Wait, wait, Riese. My highest aspiration in life isn’t supposed to be flipping a real semi end over end in a giant ball of flame?? I’ve been practicing with toy cars…
But seriously, thank you for making me feel justified in the face of all my guy friends who gave me shit for hating The Dark Knight.
I have so many things I could say here. This is an incredible analysis of why not only you but so many others are disenchanted by many of the movies releasing these days. I’ll just share a few thoughts.
I personally love thriller/suspense/action films. However, I see so much focus being placed on how pretty the film looks instead of where it should mainly lie, which is in story and writing. No amount of glitzy effects can cover up bad writing and bad story. This is my major qualm with the films being put out now. I would rather watch an ugly film with a great story than a gorgeous film with an awful story.
And, I understand that studio execs have a bottom line. I don’t have a problem with them trying to make a profit. However I do have a problem with how they think they have to go about making that profit. This idea that the 18-36 male is THE audience is ludicrous. They’re the focus audience because they’ve been made into the focus audience. There are a myriad of other targets that are viable options for revenue. How about we diversify a little? I mean, what could it hurt? It’s not like the film industry is in some kind of awesome monetary upswing or anything.
“I would rather watch an ugly film with a great story than a gorgeous film with an awful story.” YES. In fact, I have! It’s called “independent films from the early 90’s and late 80’s.”
Re: the bottom line — women-fronted movies are just as likely to make money as male-centric movies — because they’re so cheap to produce without all the explosions, etc. They just only make 20 million instead of 4 billion! So you know, that’s not enough I guess apparently.
This piece demonstrates pretty well that “The making of movies to please white male kids is ideological, not capitalist”: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/04/26/who-watches-movies/
Yes! Also, I think that maybe the problem is not necessarily the overuse of special effects, but the reliance on this formula for how and when to use special effects. So many of the big movies that use CG use it impeccably, which is super technically impressive, but for me it gets boring because they do it the same way every time.
There is so potential in the things that computers can do now to moving images. Like, it’s crazy. Do something aesthetically interesting, something that interweaves in weird ways with the story you’re telling. Right?
The stock photo of those two people in an (empty) movie theatre, thoroughly bored with the film they’re viewing, raises one question:
Why are they not making out?
i think the girl is a lesbian
Oh. This makes sense; it is the reason I never made out with my dates at the movies :/
wait I thought the one on stage left was a lesbian too!!! gawd stop popping my lesbo-centric bubble!
I he was a lesbian too…and a cute one at that!
besides harry potter and (500) days of summer, the movies i’ve been dragged to (yes, dragged) were horrible overwrought things that i couldn’t believe i had paid ten dollars to get into. i just wish everything didn’t have to be all SHINY SHINY BANG BANG to get people’s attention.
Yeah, Harry Potter movies are basically the only blockbusters I’ll go see. Like, Inception just looked so boring to me that I was ok with not getting a ton of pop culture references for a few months and just skipped it.
I went to see Inception just because I wanted to stare at Ellen Page on the big screen. I attended armed with a nalgene of margaritas. It was blissful!
OMG ten dollars I am totally moving to where you are to go to the movies for TEN DOLLARS.
During the day you can catch a movie for $4.50 in some parts of Michigan! Deep recessions do have their upsides.
In my small town, I get in for $6.50. If it weren’t a small town and nobody knew me, the kids’ fee is $3.00 and I can totally pull off under 14. Regrettably.
It’s okay, once I got carded for rubber cement in suburban Ohio. You have to be 15 to buy rubber cement and I am 22.
i felt super let down by (500) Days of Summer, sidenote
i think i was just in an odd place when i went to see (500) days of summer. like, “i want to end my relationship, so let me watch zooey deschanel’s pretty face tell me that love isn’t real” etc.
I didn’t like it either. Like, whatever. But I watched Whip It right after so that made everything better.
i was just really confused why we were supposed to care about this guy who was in love with this girl who he knew nothing about who was really never into him that much? like he was in love with the idea of her, not her. we never even saw her, she was just a type. and if he was my friend IRL, I’d get bored of talking about that real fast
i actually really liked that.
the whole point was that it wasn’t a romance. it was about him and how he thought he was in love with someone who wasn’t really there.
Agreed with the above ^. That’s exactly it, he has an immature relationship with her an an immature take on love. It’s his coming of age story; he learned something through his break up with Zooey.
well, also i’ve never had a crush on a straight girl because I can’t stand to want anything I can’t have, it makes me insane. So I couldn’t really relate to his character at all and just found his whole thing kind of tedious? This is probably an example of how some movies really speak to some people and not to others, which is actually great. I have no doubt others enjoyed it for their own reasons. such is the beauty of decent film
Yeah, JGL’s character just annoyed me, and while I think Zooey Deschanel is super pretty, her acting is just MEH. Similar to Michael Cera, she plays pretty much the same character every time that I don’t really enjoy that much.
and vince vaughn… (i returned the dilemma this morning)
yeah…. 500 days of summer might actually be one of my least favorite everyone was in love with movies ever.
Same here. But that might be because of my irrational hatred of Zooey Deschanel’s face.
You’re not the only one with an unreasonable hatred of her face; she can only seems pull one facial expression throughout “The Happening”. And that can also be said of Mark Wahlberg.
I still think there are good movies being made, I just think they’re harder to find. Good movies about gays, on the other hand? Not so much. I also agree with you that mainstream flicks ain’t what they used to be.
I can’t believe no Autostraddlers liked Black Swan. I thought that movie was so fucking good. But that’s just, like, my opinion, man.
I liked Black Swan! It was such a trip. Also, Mila Kunis. Seriously.
Did anyone see It’s Kind of a Funny Story? Because that was a movie about people relating to each other, and it was just out in 2010. I thought it was pretty fantastic, personally.
So, I agree that there are good movies being made, they just get less screen time and are therefore easy to miss. IKoaFS was only out for like a week here, while I remember Iron Man getting almost 3 months.
Or they get completely mis-advertised. Take one of my favorite movies of the last five years, Moon. When I watched the trailer I was expecting some kind of psychological thriller… which wasn’t what it was at ALL. Why advertise it like that? Just to get butts in seats? I don’t get it.
Moon! What a film. Yes, totally misadvertised – I was lucky I even saw it because the advert didn’t make me want to watch it! A friend recommended it to me.
The soundtrack is fantastic, I listen to it every couple of days. The film was so simple, yet really absorbing. The set, a funny 70’s nod, sort of 2001 Space Odyssey. And Sam Rockwell – perfect.
I read the book It’s Kind of a Funny Story and I’m actually planning on watching the movie tonight! I was worried the movie version wouldn’t be good but now you’ve encouraged me to finally watch it.
I liked Black Swan too
But I usually like Darren Aronofsky
“What the hell? These movies are like houseplants to me.”
Yup. Last time I went to a movie was in ’09, never saw such drivel. I do not even know the name.
Vince Vaughn plays Vince Vaughn in every movie, like John Wayne played John Wayne in every movie. I don’t care if a movie is violent, but I hate when they show it in a highly detailed, slow-mo panorama. When violence happens in real life, you tunnel vision down to one or two things, and it’s a quick blur.
I used to go the movies way more, but in the last five years or so I’ve stopped going as much because not that many movies interest me. I used to go see a new movie almost every week, and now I can go months without seeing a new movie.
I dunno, I’d be happy to see big guns and explosions, interrupted by interludes of zombies and pretty girls in love…
But big guns and explosives are much more exciting when pretty girls do at least half of the gunning down and exploding. Have you seen “Tomorrow when the war began?” Ellie Linton is completely awesome and would be my newest crush if I hadn’t been enamoured of her character since I was about 13 and just imagined the explosions.
But most of the time we just get Meghan Fox in “Transformers,” the only girl in the boys club whose only function is to look completely drool-worthy, be threatened and scream at key moments so that the male lead has a chance to rescue her and she can fall into his arms.
Anita Sarkeesian has a great video on the related topic of kickass female characters on TV over at her blog Feminist Frequency: “Dollhouse renewed? Why not Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles”
“tomorrow when the war began” is a really really really amazing book!
I read “Tomorrow when the war began” and loved it. I didn’t know it’s a movie! Ohmygosh, so excited!
Riese, you should go to my college, there’s a whole class just about women and film. In fact, the name of the class is Women & Film.
One of the dumbest things about the industry these days is all the complaining they do about how no one goes to see movies in February, so they put the shitty movies that they think will bomb in February. This is
a. A vicious cycle
b. A vicious cycle
c. A product of the ridiculous concept known as Oscar season. I enjoy the Oscars, but I would like to see a decent movie in a month other than December.
I think you maybe covered these things in the article but I am one of those people whose attention span is too short to read all 3000 words.
I love film so I’m going to be obnoxious and keep talking. Super surprised that the 70s were the all-time low for movie revenue, because I think The Godfather movies probably made more than $17m per week just by themselves. Also, Star Wars. And Apocalypse Now. And Taxi Driver. There were basically a shit ton of good movies made in the 70s.
2nded on the 70s, which is why going to repertory film screenings is SO MUCH FUN if you have the privilege of having a theater near you that doesn’t only show the new drivel. Speaking of the 70s, which were a pretty significant cinematic boys’ club, everyone here needs to see Wanda, written/directed/starring Barbara Loden. The gender discussions are fascinating (not necessarily always in a good way) but I think she’s such a powerhouse and it really knocked me for a loop.
Also if you read indiewire (nerd alert) a lot of smaller (and many times female helmed) films are making higher per screen grosses than the boring ballsy blockbusters, which is a tiny occasional comfort.
I am actually trying to pen less than 500 words about my feelings on this as a 3-5 movie a week in theaters goer (in a good month, not so much recently because of life stuff) and a lady filmmaker. There’s a word document full of feelings- so for now I’ll say THANKS FOR SAYING WHAT YOU SAID.
i dont like new movies either! /goes back to read article now
It’s funny, reading this article made me realize that I basically see movies just for the big, stupid, flashy stuff, and turn to theatre for stuff that actually makes me feel things. Speaking of which, I need to see more plays.
I’ll do that too (see movies for the big flashy stuff) cause sometimes I don’t want to think, I just want to see shit get blown up
THIS. A THOUSAND TIMES THIS.
Seriously…Avatar? Fuck, I almost threw up in my mouth it was so bad. And got told “well, it’s mostly about the effects, you know? It’s not supposed to be about the story.” Okay, NO.
I refuse to see movies purely for visual reasons. Refuse. If there is a shoddy, smashed together in five minutes story, I do. not. want. to see it. Sure, film is a beautiful amalgamation of story and visual effect, but if one half is neglected, the whole damn thing sucks!
And yeah, women are getting absolutely screwed in movies lately. Hurrdurr 18-36 year-old males. Eff that.
Also I could give two shits about 3D, I actually kinda just wish it would go away.
I think the 3D thing is gonna lose its appeal within the next few years and not be used at much, ’cause it’s been so overused? I hope
3D makes me nervous in that some directors are choosing to shoot films in 3D and I question what that means for any 2D version of the film. I was really excited to learn that Baz Luhrmann would remake “The Great Gatsby” *until* he said he wanted to make it in 3D. Why????
I was going to protest to this, but then I realized that I could think of no good movies of the last couple of years that you hadn’t already mentioned.
OH WAIT. SKY HIGH. 2005. BAM.
I think I started worrying about five years ago when the movie 300 came out and everyone freaked out and ran to see it. I had a feeling Hollywood was about to churn out a bunch of shit with a lot of testosterone and special effects. I’m sure it was already happening that’s just when I started noticing. I didn’t really think it would last this long though. I couldn’t agree more with this article.
Okay, I just looked at my movie listings. Is there something wrong with “Soul Surfer,” “Water for Elephants,” or “Something Borrowed”?
I’m apparently one of those boy-girls that enjoy sci-fi and fantasy fiction. But I can relate. It used to be that genre films got totally snubbed in favor of “really deep and important films.” Shoes on the other foot now I guess.
I think studios need to start embracing the straight to DVD movie. With advances in widescreen TVs and home theaters, why would someone bother going to a theater for a romantic comedy? The only reason I have for going to a theater is if the movie is best experienced on a larger than life screen.
I guess nobody told these guys about Soul Surfer, Water for Elephants or Something Borrowed?
I do like actually really well done sci-fi/fantasy stuff. Maybe I’m just old and dumb, but I somehow enjoyed it more when it wasn’t as perfect and flashy as it is now, like 80’s sci-fi movies. maybe I’m just talking about Flight of the Navigator
yes! loved Flight of the Navigator!
I wonder if netflix has that…
Oh I love seeing movies in a theater — the pleasure’s not limited to the ones that are all explosiony (which I find so boring that, as Riese said, I cannot force myself to pay attention to their existence). Sitting in this big soft cool cave, alone in the dark with rapt strangers, being totally absorbed into this other world? That’s the way to do it.
Some good movies I can think of that have ladies, from the past year or so: Winter’s Bone. (Seriously, Winter’s Bone. So fantastic.) True Grit. Greenberg (it seems a little unfair that it’s called that since Greta Gerwig is about 75% of why it’s great). I feel like the last few months, however, have been about the dryest good-movie season I can ever remember. Should I see Bridesmaids? I guess that’s the thing now?
If you listed the movies you saw chronologically, you could’ve stopped where you started with Clueless in 1995 because that’s the greatest movie EVER.
BTW, I hate movies. I don’t know why, but it feels like a serious time investment and afterward I always feel like my life is boring/lame. I prefer TV — little installments that keep you waiting in anticipation every week as they keep coming and coming. Insert some sort of sex joke here if you wish.
As long as we don’t overlook the awesomeness of RESIDENT EVIL, I’m cool. Zombie (and completely ridiculous apocalyptic) movies will always have a special, vapid place in my heart.
god damnit why are we going backwards??????????????
I used to go the movies way more, but in the last few years there’s been no original ideas. every freaking movie was either a sequel or about an old tv show/theme park ride/board game.
add that to the fact that you cannot sit thru an entire movie without a cell phone ringing or people texting and talking to their friends like they’re at their living room
movie tickets are expensive and the experience more often than not isn’t worth the price of admission.
just go backwards and watch all the movies you missed because you were born too late. if you make them european, you’ll enjoy more. I don’t watch much american cinema, but i’ve recenty seen and I recommend Debra Granik’s (yes, a female director!) Winter’s bone.
i actually literally did want to be a filmmaker once, so i watched a movie a day for most of high school to catch up on all of film history. so that’s like 300 movies a year or something.
i wish i had spread that out more.
i will see winter’s bone!
Winter’s Bone is brilliant, it should have won all the things.
well, perhaps all these movie feelings are trying to make you reconsider filmmaking. i see great things coming out from this…
haha.. i don’t know i read a few articles about how it’s tough out there for lady directors
i see what you mean… it’s tough unlike for lady writers. on the web. queer. i believe there’s a script lying somewhere in your apartment. and a script starts a movie.
(pardon the clumsiness of my english)
Riese, I agree with your basic point and empathize with a lot of your frustrations, but in the past couple of years, a bunch of movies I totally loved to death got made; off the top of my head, Inception, Kick-Ass, the Runaways, Social Network, Scott Pilgrim, the Fighter, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Youth In Revolt, Catfish, and Black Swan all totally blew me away, and that was just in the last year. At least 3 movies I’d put in my top 10 of all time came out since 2008. I mean, there was some total garbage too, but I guess I don’t see things as that bleak. Even as recently as last month, I totally fell in love with Sucker Punch, which goddammit I will defend as a cinematic masterpiece and a riveting thesis on violence as both emotional catharsis and a metaphor for feminist reclamation of an inherently misogynist power structure till the day. I. die.
Does this mean we just have different tastes, or do you think I’m subconsciously more forgiving of shitty movies than you are?
you can’t count documentaries! documentaries are amazing and getting better and better. this article isn’t about documentaries.
i didn’t like scott pilgrim or inception. black swan was good. i loved the runaways.
i think i’m maybe just obnoxious and i don’t like anything
If your dislike for movies is solely centered on “Hollywood” made films, then yes, I agree with you 100%. But there is so much more out there then that. There are so many great independent and foreign films that capture ones attention by telling a great story. The downfall is that one does need to seek these films out. And then there are times where films that represent our community are stuck in a financial rut and simply need money to be made such as this one… http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mosquitaymari/mosquita-y-mari-a-new-voice-in-independent-filmmak
it’s not. there’s a graf in the article about how i mostly watched independent films and how those aren’t getting made like they used to, which is the worst. i talk more about hollywood films in the piece so everyone can relate, but my primary love was independents.
Yes, I read that and completely agree with you.
I don’t know if I agree with that, Riese, that those independent movies aren’t getting made in the same way that they used to. I don’t think they are getting released in the same way that they used to, but as a part of (obnoxious alert) the new york independent film community, they’re not NOT getting made. And they’re not NOT getting made by women. Many of them will also be seen, in small release, in VOD, netflix streaming, iTunes…
There has been a sea change in the distribution model, that’s for sure. But that doesn’t mean that (especially on the East Coast) independent cinema is on the outs.
If you want to feel better about the state of American independent film, here’s a glowing piece by Richard Brody:
Chances are high that you are wrong and i am right as this is your area of life and not mine but i don’t understand the part of this paragraph that i’ve put in bold —
“I don’t know if I agree with that, Riese, that those independent movies aren’t getting made in the same way that they used to. I don’t think they are getting released in the same way that they used to, but as a part of (obnoxious alert) the new york independent film community, they’re not NOT getting made.”
I lamely spent two weeks researching stuff for this article, and I couldn’t find anything optimistic about independent film anywhere (which i link to in the piece), so I definitely will read that article!
I admit that I used to be super tapped in to the independent film scene and was aware of every movie that came out anywhere in the world, probably went to the Angelika at least weekly (I don’t know if it’s still what it was in the early 00s?), two other theaters in the east village (i wanna say cinema village?),
that place in the LES that existed with a pizza parlor? Two Boots?, and also oddly lincoln center had a lot of indies too. Where I grew up in Ann Arbor we had two theaters that had a lot of independent films.
And yeah, now I’m sort of out of that loop though that’s still the first place I look when I’m thinking about going to a movie for realszzzz
But! I do watch like heaps of documentaries, sidenote. TONS. ALL THE DOCUMENTARIES
That is true what you say about the distribution model. Hm. Thank you caitlin mae.
caitlin mae you should write an article for autostraddle about all the movies we should see
The bold part was a nice way of saying that six of my friends, including two women, have features playing in festivals and in limited release this year alone (at rerun, IFC, Angelika, Landmark Sunshine, Film Forum, Anthology… One or two screens, but screening nonetheless.) These are all movies made for WELL under $100,000. One of the women had a feature last year and a feature this year. And those are just people I know personally/have had a beer (or two or three or four) with. So maybe there is and maybe there isn’t money for indie movies, but that hasn’t seemed to deter anyone I know, and in my particular circle there are a lot of movies being made and being seen, not just at festivals.
I would be delighted to write about movies you should seek out for AS.
I’ve worked at a movie theatre for 3+ years, so I have seen a LOT of movies. While there is the occasional pleasant surprise, I mostly agree with everything here. I can see a trailer and check/guess the rating of a film and know exactly what demographic will come see it, and exactly how much money it will make opening weekend (and if it deserves it).
In that time period the only movie I have seen bring in the ‘women,18-35’ demographic as the primary audience was Whip It.
Sadly, that was probably mostly due to the fact that Ellen Page is from here.
I’ve actually started going to see films more frequently in the past two years, but that’s only because I moved out of a small-ish town that only does big Hollywood type stuff (I was once persuaded to see Wolverine. Why.) & am now in London – but it’s still not that frequent, partially because I definitely agree with you on the whole overblown action 3D thing.
In the past few years I think the best/most interesting films I’ve seen were things like Broken Embraces, The Kids are All Right, The White Ribbon, A Prophet, The Beat that My Heart Skipped, Hidden, No Country for Old Men, Catfish, & Exit Through the Gift Shop, Blue Valentine, Never Let Me God, and A Serious Man. I think there’s stuff out there, but you just have to sift through a lot of bad blockbusters to get to it.
Also: Toy Story 3?? Now that was a good film.
Broken Embraces was so good right? All Almodovar films are, really. If there’s any hope for women in cinema, we find it in our friend Pedro. He loves his Penelope.
Yes! Pedro does love his strong female characters. Still think All About My Mother is my favourite, though.
a few things:
A. Graphics = I love you
B. I now really want to watch Fried Green Tomatoes and A League of their own tonight.
C. I miss how good movies used to be but i still see and enjoy todays movies (wont lie I bought Easy A and Salt). But I spend 90% of my time alone so movies are like a friend so I can’t really give them up
D. Tankfully I have an old student ID and it only cost 7 bucks to see a movie.
Gotta say, not a fan of Easy A. I thought it was way too smug, tried too hard to be really hip. The parents were absolutely ridiculous, the whole counsellor/student relationship felt like it didn’t belong, and the ending was so uninspired. Mean Girls, Clueless, and Heathers are so much better!
Really!?! lol I loved it it cracked my shit up but I am not very critical about movies and I have a slight crush on Emma Stone (I think it’s the red hair, red hair always gets me even tho it’s not her natural colour). I loved the parents I wish my parents had been even remotely like that.
I definitely liked some of the parts. I loved the scene in which she “has sex” with her friend for the first time, when he’s like “What’s that smell?”, and she gives him this weird look, and he goes, “It’s not that bad!” And Olive’s brother was adorable.
I didn’t dislike the parents, but thought that they were just way WAAAAY too hip.
MAYBE if I happened to see it somewhere for really cheap I’d get it, but I wouldn’t pay full price.
Sorry, just to add…I consider myself really left wing, but I found that Easy A is like…REALLY REALLY LEFT, to the point that it’s not even critical of the church, it’s just mean-spirited. I feel that Saved! (another of my favourite smart “teen” flicks) handles issues of faith in a much more classy manner than Easy A does.
Considering the genre of the film, I doubt the production/direction team really cared about addressing the religious issues seriously. Their critique was to have the Christian group be complete asshats and bitchy in a way that was like: “See! These guys are complete asshats because of their religious beliefs! That means that right-wing religious beliefs are stupid!”
All in all, though, I really did enjoy that movie. I went to see it for my birthday and I think I’ve only seen one other movie in the theatres since.
I loved the church part lol but I don’t really care if people are mean about or to religion but anywhoo. I didn’t feel like they were trying to be mean or uber critical of religion. I think they just over exagerated (sp) it for comedic effect. I know that at my HS we had the group of christian kids and they did sing (not as often as in the movie) and they did preach but they didn’t try to do things like change the mascot.
I’ve found that the best films I’ve seen in the past decade have almost exclusively been European films. (But then I’m in Europe, so that influences it slightly). The US blockbuster movies just don’t do it for me – despite the perfect graphics etcetera they just don’t engage me completely – and if I’m not totally immersed I get bored.
gimme some last-decade european film recommendations!
I have the same problems with American movies lately that you do, Riese, and the few that I’ve really enjoyed lately have been European for the most part. For some reason I’m blanking on last-decade titles to rec, but one of my all time favorite movies is a German film from 1997 and you might still like it. It’s called Bandits and it’s about 4 women in prison who form a band and get invited to play at a policeman’s ball, where they escape and go on the run. It’s fun and it’s got some great friendships and a nice little homogay subtext between a few of the characters. Plus, the actresses sang/played their own songs and instruments (and the actress who played Luna wrote this one, IIRC).
Off the top of my head – perhaps other people can add to this:
1. Paris, Je T’Aime
2. Amelie (though I’d struggle to find anyone who hasn’t already seen this!)
3. L’arnacoeur (English title: Heartbreaker). Cute rom-com style film – Vanessa Paradis is one good reason to watch this!
4. Disco Pigs. (Do Irish films count as European?). Indie film, Cillian Murphys first film I think.
Since I’m including Irish films: In Bruges, Intermission and The Wind That Shakes the Barley are great ones.
5. Pan’s Labyrinth
6. Un long dimanche de fiançailles. English Title: A Very Long Engagement
7. Goodbye Lenin.
8. Lilya 4-Ever
9. Das Experiment (based on the Stanford Prison Experiment). If you liked Run Lola Run, I’d reckon you’d like this.
10. Girl Who Played With Fire/Dragon Tattoo/Kick the Hornets Nest. Warning, some parts are super disturbing.
Way older than a decade but my favourite film of all time: “Cinema Paradiso”.
Also, if you’re feeling emotionally strong enough to have your heart broken into several pieces: “Aimee & Jaguar”.
TimeInvariant, you have great recommendations
Pan’s Labyrinth, Das Experiment and Goodbye Lenin are amazing.
If looking for something lighter I’d say L’Auberge Espagnole. It made me wanna go study abroad.
Hehe, I didn’t notice my list was a bit on the dark side! :) Apparently I like heart-breaking European films. And Audrey Tautou (but who doesn’t?!?).
Seconding the recs for “Amalie,” “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Aimee & Jaguar”! Excellent films, all. I’ll definitely be checking out the rest of this list.
I’d totally agree with TimeInvarian’s warning and say you should only see “The Girl Who” movies if you have a lot of Sanity Points saved up. Lisbeth Salander is a kick ass character, but she’s stuck in some ugly, fucked up movies. I’d much rather see her runing around having adventures with that hot girl she was in bed with in the first movie than that bland douche Blomqvist.
Yep, she’s an awesome character but some truly dreadful stuff happens to her – and I must say I had to walk out of the room for 10 minutes of the first movie. I hadn’t read the warnings on the dvd box!
Mm. I like your movie picks too. Other not-American films I’ve seen recently
– Un Coeur en Hiver (1992)
– Das Leben der Anderen (2006)
– Soul Kitchen (2009): goofy German comedy, but also the other films I’ve seen (Gegen die Wand and Auf der Anderen Seite) from this director are really great and discuss intersections of Turkish/German culture
– Fremde Haut (2005)
– Dolls (2002)
– The Red Violin (1998)
– This is England (2006)
– Die Welle (2008)
– Spider Lilies (2007)
As a high school music nerd (now a college music major), I had a year where all I was watching was The Red Violin. It’s a pretty interesting, good movie, even if you’re not obsessed with classical music.
red violin was my favorite movie too for the first year of college :) all the stories and intersections with people’s lives that an object can acquire over hundreds of years…
yes i’ve seen Amelie and Cinema Paradiso but not the other ones, will look into it!
Riese — have you seen An Education? I really liked that one.
“Cinema Paradiso” is also my favourite movie, so I highly recommend it as well.
in no particular order and from the top of my head (but trying to list those not so obvious):
das weiße band (haneke, 2009),
werckmeister harmóniák (tarr, 2000),
das leben der anderen (von donnersmarck, 2006),
la science des rêvesder/the science of sleep (gondry, 2006),
der krieger und die kaiserin (tykwer, 2000),
les herbes folles (resnais, 2009)
animated: mary and max, persepolis.
i’ll continue when you’re done with these :)
a few older than a decade:
chun gwong cha sit (not european but..),(wong kar wai, 1997)
delicatessen (jeunet, caro, 1991)
le double vie de veronique (kieslowski, 1991)
der himmel uber berlin (wenders, 1987)
to conclude, i must leave a written mention of a female director so i’ll list a true gem by agnes varda – le bonheur, 1965 (she also did the only remotly feminist movie from the french new wave filmography – cleo from 5 to 7)
it’s been ages since i made a film list, but i think this is good. i would certainly see each of these again.
Jeunet is one of my favorite directors. City of Lost Children :)
I’ve seen a handful of the films on your list and they were really great – I have to go check out your recs!
City of Lost Children made me scared of Santa! Christmas is a disturbing time for me now.
der himmel uber berlin! my favorite movie!
I strongly, strongly second Persepolis (and read it too, if you haven’t!)
La Cité des Enfants Perdus (1995, but still)
And I must see Delicatessen.
you MUST see delicatessen. i never understood why it’s neglected in film circles.
mary and max is also truly wonderful.
oh my god, haneke’s the white ribbon was amazing.
Okay I just watched Le Bonheur on your recommended list and it’s making me feel all these ridiculous things, mostly in the realm of “What?! Noooooo” … I don’t know anyone else who has seen this film and need help processing… haha. I was wondering what your take on it was? I wrote some of my reaction here http://gyrfalkon.blogspot.com/2011/05/happiness.html
THANK YOU for putting words to how I’ve felt about movies lately.. EXACTLY!
and I agree with TimeInvariant, those are great.. :)
some other good european ones are:
La tigre e la neve (the tiger and the snow) by roberto benigni, 2006
La vita e bella (life is beautiful), roberto benigni,1997
(anything by roberto benigni, really..)
La surprise, 2007
viola di mare, by donatella maiorca, 2009
Fucking Åmål (show me love), 1998
Malena, by guiseppe tornatore, 2000
La vie en rose, 2007
indochine, 1992 (because I have a weak spot for french movies with catherine deneuve..)
yes i liked life is beautiful and Fucking Åmål and La vie en rose, have been meaning to check out indochine
uh, you should, it’s beautiful.. and um, I just remembered this danish movie called ‘supervoksen’.. it’s about three teenage girls, and it’s mostly kinda silly, but it has a really sweet lesbian storyline in it too..
(I don’t really know if it’s available anywhere in the US, but um.. *cough* youtube *cough*)
I know everyone is recommending Good Bye Lenin! but I can’t go on and on enough about how awesome and hilarious that movie is. If you’re looking for something more dramatic about a similar topic, The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) is also fantastic.
Have you seen Caramel? I think it was set in either Morocco or Turkey, with an almost entirely female cast. It came out in recently, I want to say 2009.
I liked this one (and learned how to wax my legs from it)! It’s in Lebanon aaaand there’s even a lesbian.
Also, I don’t know your feelings on horror, but: Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) from 2008 – the original, not the remake, which I like to pretend does not exist.
i am a really special kind of moviegoer in that i really can’t handle seeing violence or gorey stuff at all to a really special degree. Like when everyone was watching Kill Bill in my room I had to go into someone else’s room and even Ali, which I loved, I had to close my eyes a lot. Watching True Blood is turning out to be quite a challenge in that respect.
A correction: Diane Keaton, not Diane Lane, is the actress who starred in “Something’s Gotta Give.”
Also, I personally felt like I connected to The King’s Speech. I have social anxiety disorder, and while it doesn’t necessarily affect my public speaking ability (but it does affect other parts of my day-to-day life), I could really feel for what George VI was going through, feeling crippled by his difficulty with public speaking. I also think that good use of music in a film goes a long way, and I felt like the use of Beethoven’s 7th did a lot to make the climactic scene at the end, where he is giving the speech upon the beginning of the war, very emotional and affecting.
To each her own, I guess. I felt like The Social Network was pretty stale by comparison to The King’s Speech. A very pretty, interesting film, with a compelling plot, but not one that really AFFECTED me.
corporations seriously ruin everything.
no one has mentioned the bechdel test yet! i find it to be a good yardstick for whether i’ll enjoy a movie. the last movie i saw in a cinema was ‘barney’s version’ and that failed it spectacularly, as well as being totally bleh.
The Bechdel test is awesome! Last movie I saw featured more than two women. Who talked to each other. About the influence of race and culture on their musical careers. And, it was a good movie :D
Ooh, which movie was that? That sounds interesting!
It’s called ‘Murundak’ (http://www.murundakdocumentary.com)… I am counting documentaries as movies here ;) I am not sure whether it will screen anywhere outside Australia, but I would definitely recommend it.
Just last night the wife and I were talking about the Bechdel test. I think a lot of the movies that fail it do so because so few movies have female protagonists anymore.
There’s a community generated database of movies and how they stack up to the Bechdel test http://bechdeltest.com/
It’s fascinating to see at a glance how many movies fail the test and why.
I just want to give props to Pixar for sometimes being the sole studio in Hollywood that always puts story first. (though I definitely have doubts for Cars 2). Their films are always a must see and movies like The Incredibles, Up, Wall E, and Toy Story 3, are going to be remembered as some of the best films of the past decade. Plus their first female driven film, Brave, is coming out next year! As a huge animation fan I just wanted to say there is some hope for Hollywood.
very true, looking forward to Brave
Diana, this is totally true – Pixar have had some amazing films in the past ten years. Their films bear repeated viewings, and have the same effect each time (I can’t watch Up without crying).
It’s weird for me because I live in a small town in France, and we have 20 different theaters to choose from, a good third of it being what we call ‘art et essai’ (independent/artistic stuff where blockbusters are banned).
90% of the movies I see are shitty, but I think a lot of that depends on the availability of more developed/thought through material. And it seems like in the US, blockbusters rule the field. I mean, most of the movies mentioned in this article were completely uninteresting to me :/
YES PLEASE to the mystery science theater shot at the bottom! Nanoo nanoo!
Also: anything by Pedro Almodóvar, but especially: Talk to her (habla con ella), All about my mother (todo sobre mi madre), Volver, Abrazos rotos (Broken Embraces-my favorite), and Bad Education (la mala educación). Almodóvar has tons of queer stuff, but more in his earlier films. His newer ones are special for different and intangible reasons.
“Even the Rain” is also excellent. I third “Pan’s Labyrinth.” La vita è bella. L’heure d’été (Summer Hours) The Science of Sleep!!! I think the pattern i am seeing is mostly foreign films so I guess we should probably all move to Europe. I hear gay marriage is legal in Spain and that in Germany ss couples are legally recognized. Plus, Kindereggs.
Just wanted to say thanks for a great article Riese. You have summed up why current ‘Hollywood’ movies just don’t interest me that much any more.
Echoing the above posters recommendations for Pan’s Labyrinth and Disco Pigs(disturbing but totally riveting). I’ll also throw out a recommendation for a Hungarian film, ‘Kontroll’ if you dig offbeat horror/thriller type films.
I’d totally recommend C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005), a French-Canadian favourite of mine. Haven’t seen it in ages. I watched another F-C film last night called Leolo (1992). I wasn’t crazy about it (there are several kinda gross/disturbing scenes that turned me off), but on the upside, it’s also really dreamy, and the soundtrack is pretty cool. Other Canadian films I’d recommend seeing are I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing (1987), Nobody Waved Goodbye (1964), and while I’ve yet to see it, I hear that Videodrome (1983) is amazing.
I’d also like to add Polytechnique (2009) to that list! It’s a film that every woman needs to watch, anyway. I don’t know how well-known the Polytechnique Massacre is in the U.S. (or anywhere else in the world for that matter), but it’s something that is solemnly remembered every December in Canada.
Thanks for this. I’d add J’ai tué ma mère (trailer with subs)to this list. Most of the dialogue in that movie sounds like it was taken directly from my childhood. Amazing film.
Yes, Jai Tue Ma Mere (pardon the lack of accent aigus/graves) is on my “to watch” list!
Why hasn’t it been released in America? I absolutely ADORED it (and Xavier Dolan is just the most precious peanut)
Aw yeah, I watched C.R.A.Z.Y. about a month ago because it was on Netflix Instant in the gay/lesbian section and I loved it! Great film.
ok i get your ish with it but i just have to add in here that bridesmaids was still freaking awesome and not at all lame. i am not going to force you to see it but i feel it is my bounden duty to defend it.
i don’t have an issue with bridesmaids, weirdo, and I didn’t say that I did. i have an issue with the way bridesmaids is being discussed as the only comedy about women to ever be seen.
i want to see it, will probably see it this week.
This, on top of watching This Movie Is Not Yet Rated this weekend, has made me Hollywood-depressed.
Interesting points. Not sure i entirely agree although i do think that women are under represented in film.
However the girl with the dragon tatoo series is a major step forward. Its all about women.
And Inception is firmly in my top ten films of all time list.
To be honest, i reckon its down to taste
Great graphics, lovely article. My icon from a 1995 film should be indicative of my stance on the topic.
That said, here are some films, 2000 to present, that would be worth checking out:
The Hours – women’s stories
The Fall – visually stunning without CGI
Moon – refreshed my opinion of science fiction
Gosford Park – compelling story and lovely ensemble work
City of God – violent but great story and visuals
Persepolis – young woman’s coming of age story (graphic novels are better though)
Happy Endings – I like a good black/dramatic comedy
Shortbus – see above
Blue Valentine – the story really resonated with me
Brick – if for style alone (don’t worry you won’t see any “emo feelings” this time around).
If you enjoyed “City of God” you might find “Elite Squad” good too.
Yes, Brick. I would rather watch JGL in Brick a million times more than JGL in 500 Days of Summer. He just annoyed me in that movie.
Oh man, Brick was FAN. TASTIC. This is probably one of my favorite films of the past decade. Super perfect. And yes, 500 Days was dreadful, only made tolerable by the dreaminess of Zooey Deschanel, of whom it sadly seems harder and harder to believe she’ll ever grow into a decent actress with each passing film.
I have too many feelings about this to write them down now.
Re: Canadian films, I suggest everyone bookmark the National Film Board of Canada’s website (nfb.ca). They’ve got a terrific online archive, featuring some “classic” Canadian films such as Nobody Waved Goodbye (which I recommended upthread), Mon Oncle Antoine (1971), and The Company of Strangers (1990), the latter focusing exclusively on a group of eight women from very different walks of life. The NFB has also got an extensive selection of documentaries, short films, and animated shorts.
I think since 2005 the only American movies (not considering animations) that I’ve paid to see and really enjoyed are “Into the Wild”, “Milk” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”.
I don’t know if anyone else has recommended “The Motorcycle Diaries”, but it’s also a really good movie.
I agree with much of what was said here, but wanted to add that two of my favorite movies from last year, Winter’s Bone and True Grit, featured really excellent female leads.
Also, here’s hoping that some of the creative energy being poured into writing female-driven stories for the small screen (particularly in this last decade), will soon spill over onto the big screen.
some more suggestions:
the station agent
the darjeeling limited
bienvenue chez les ch’tis
temporada de patos
y tu mama tambien
It is true that the latter half of 00′ didn´t impress much. And only one of the top ten grossing movies of the decade was not based on published material(and that was Avatar).
That doesn´t mean they don ´t make good films. But can any movie compete with the memory of watching films as a teenager.
I would hazard a guess to say it´s not the films that changed but you.
Okey, I don’t want to argue the points made in this article, just recommend some good movies from the last 5 years; Coraline (2009), Ink (2009), The secret of kells (2009), The Fountain (2006), Asylum Seekers (2009), Mary and Max (2009), Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008), Paprika (2006), Ponyo (2008)
granted, some of these don’t pass the bechdeltest but most feature woman protagonists :)
I want to add MirrorMask (2005) too but it falls short one year :/ but it’s sooo pretty.. granted I saw people complain about “pretty movies with lack of substance” but I like it like that. also, NEIL GAIMAN.
Coraline! Yes, I recommend that one too.
Also Stardust and anything by Neil Gaiman
speaking of Neil Gaiman, he wrote the latest episode of Doctor Who. fandomgasm!
oh, and I just remembered 2 other movies:
Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006) and
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
bonus: both got Tom Waits in them :D
Wristcutters is AWESOME! I loved that movie.
Oh Wristcutters was so good! I really loved it.
“Hanna” was good. Really good. Plus, Cate Blanchett! And a female lead, who was, moreover, a child. I love movies about resourceful children. Pan’s Labyrinth and La Cité des Enfants Perdus (The City of Lost Children) were both good too.
“Hanna” was good and the soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers was great
I’m listening to it right now
Also, wasn’t “I’m Not There,” the Bob Dylan semi-biopic, in the last decade? I liked that a lot as well.
So many thoughts on this. First off, generally agree that lots of movies coming out today suck. I used to be a projectionist for one of the better small theaters in Chicago, Doc Films. The quality of today’s offerings versus what we were showing on any given night (whether it be from another country, another decade, or both) was quite noticeable.
Still… while you seem puzzled, Riese, at the fact that you (and the rest of us) are willing to sit through TV marathons but not movies, you didn’t really go into it all that much. I think that one of the reasons that today’s movies seem less worthy of our time isn’t just because they often pale in comparison to past offerings, but also because TV has become so much better in the last 15 years that we no longer have to go to the movie theater to see quality acting and story lines. As an example, I went back and looked at the Emmy nominations / winners from points in the past fifteen years. Check out how much has changed:
In 1995, these shows were in the running for best drama series:
“Chicago Hope,” “ER,” “Law & Order,” “NYPD Blue,” “The X-Files”
Now, while it’s true that I might have enjoyed The X-Files back in the day, there’s not a show on that list I would scramble to watch old episodes of right now.
In 1999, we have these nominees:
“ER,” “Law & Order,” “NYPD Blue,” “The Practice,” “Sopranos”
Okay, at least we have the Sopranos right now. Still, pretty similar to 1995.
In 2005, this is what it looked like:
“Deadwood,” “Lost,” “Six Feet Under,” “24,” “The West Wing”
Holy hell Batman. The West Wing? Totally have every episode. Six Feet Under? Yes please. Deadwood? Also quality. I never really got into Lost, but I can’t deny its popularity. I even have a soft spot for some of the seasons of 24.
Last year’s Emmy nominees were even more telling (2010):
“Mad Men,” “Dexter,” “True Blood,” “The Good Wife,” “Breaking Bad,” “Lost”
Not only are all of those shows excellent, but it should be noted that only two of them are from the broadcast networks.
A similar change has happened in Comedy Series. Check out the progression:
1995: “Frasier,” “Friends,” “The Larry Sanders Show,” “Mad About You,” “Seinfeld”
1999: “Frasier,” “Friends,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Ally McBeal,” “Sex and the City”
2005: “Will & Grace,” “Arrested Development,” “Scrubs,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Desperate Housewives”
2010: “Modern Family,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “30 Rock,” “The Office,” “Glee”
While the Comedy section is still dominated by the broadcast channels, we no longer have sitcoms with laugh tracks as the main sources of entertainment. Not to mention that 30 Rock, Nurse Jackie, and Glee all have extremely strong female leads / supporting characters. Modern Family and The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm all do as well, to an extent.
The point of this extremely long reply was that the quality of our small screen entertainment has gone way way up, even in just the last five years. It’s no wonder that we expect more out of the big screen these days.
This is a very interesting point/comment, thanks for bringing it up!
I mean, that’s not to say that movies aren’t worse than they used to be. Just that, we have so many more options. I was actually faced with this choice the other night… I thought about going to a movie, but I decided to stay home and start watching Game of Thrones instead…
I also have a problem with the current movies. Too much bang, ba-chow, wooh-dap, and KABOOM in movies. I can appreciate a good action movie, but there have been horrible ones released lately. Transformers 2 and Transformers 3 (predicting its atrocity)are prime examples. A whole lot of girls with their tatas hanging out, running in slow motion but horrible plot.
I did enjoy “The Runaways”, “Welcome to the Rileys”, “Rachel Getting Married”,”Kurt Cobain: About A Son”, and I’m sure I am forgetting a couple. Hollywood needs to make more personal movies. And when they do make more personal movies, they need to focus less on the perfection of it and focus in more on the rawness of the emotion.
Great article. I didn’t set foot in a movie theater for the entire calendar year of 2010, and saw one in 2009 because my nieces wanted to go. I’ve only seen 1-2 movies a year in the theater since 2006, and for more or less the same reasons.
I’m suprised you didn’t list “Inglorious Basterds” for 2009. Melanie Laurent’s Shoshanna Dreyfuss more or less singlehandedly wins WWII in that film, right? That’s a female lead.
On the other hand, though, “Winter’s Bone” and “Black Swan” were really exciting, innovative films with women as leads, so hopefully the reconstruction of women in films will continue.
About Basterds – I’ve never seen it marketed with her as a lead. Heck, that blonde seemed to be more of a central character than Shoshanna in the ads.
Yeah, but are we talking about content or marketing, or both? The above examples for 2009 include “Adventureland” and “Star Trek”, and while yeah, KS kind of had a lead part, it wasn’t marketed in that vein, and as for “ST,” I don’t remember any women in it at all (but then I fell asleep on the couch it was so bad).
Either Tarentino or the studio marketing “IB” hid the vegetables. The film is divided into 4 acts (chapters) and 2 are about Shoshanna and it’s made pretty clear that her plan was the only one that was going to be definetly successful in the end. Misogyny has gotten to such a pass that you’re right, that couldn’t even be suggested in the trailers (which were not well made anyway and made it seem like a bad comedy).
Even Tarentino’s films are a commentary on the devolution of women in film: “Jackie Brown” (1997) did well and got nice praise and all while fully fronting the film as Pam Grier’s. By 2007, “Death Proof,” which had pretty much all female leads, was being irately panned because the reviewers had to hear women talk. For spans of ten and twenty minutes at a time (the implication being, as if the reviewers should have been asked to give a ****. They were just women talking after all.).
And that’s a guy’s films. That’s not even touching on the hot mess that women face who are trying to make their own films. As we’ve heard, especially over the last few years, it just isn’t happening.
Roseanne just spoke out on sexism in Hollywood: “Nothing real or truthful makes its way to TV unless you are smart and know how to sneak it in, and I would tell you how I did it, but then I would have to kill you.”
Oh, no, I wasn’t arguing against you. I’ve seen IB and loved it because it was such a serious movie (I generally hate Tarantino movies). I constantly get IB and the WWII episode from Star Trek Voyager mixed up, but that’s a totally different matter lol
I brought up the marketing point because, like you said, it seemed almost purposeful to gear the movie towards the male demographic: showing Brad Pitt’s terrible/AWESOME accent alongside Hitler with lots of guns and ‘comic’ moments, rather than the actual main story which was Shoshanna’s. I think the marketing is as much related to the film industry as the actual content, since it shows what the industry deems “worthy” to show in a 30 second ad vs. a 2 hour movie.
Totally off-topic, but “Adventureland” reminded me of “Zombieland” which was an awesome movie with pretty good female leads. The sisters were way-way-way cooler than their male counterparts.
Well, in that vein I guess we’ll agree to disagree because things have gotten so bad, I don’t mind the marketing if they can get people to watch films about women again because I think every film helps in terms of altering the psychology of the audience and getting it back to where it was around even 2000.
(I don’t want to be one of those people that always makes it about this, but I also feel like 9-11 and the War on Terror were huge cultural watersheds that just ****ed eveything up, especially for women. It’s like there’s been a backlash on for a decade now and it’s at fever pitch.)
Anyway, I loved “IB” because I saw it in Jan. 2010, just a few weeks after getting my holiday gift, the WWII documentary “The World at War,” and I’d been watching it every night for like a week, and by the end I was so angry and on the verge of tears and then less than a week later I saw “IB.” It was wish fulfillment on a grand scale, it was deeply cathartic to see a young Jewish woman destroy them. So I love it for that reason.
I never got to see “Zombieland.” I’ll have to check that out.
I just wanted to say thank you for writing things. The longer pieces you do for Autostraddle are some of my favorite things I have EVER READ. I am not exaggerating. I wish I could find all your “Riese’s Pieces” (I know you didn’t pick the name but I think it’s perfect) in one place, but that grouping seems to have disappeared after the redesign.
Basically, I think that this statement from Autostraddle’s values is beautiful and true and applies perfectly to what you do: “High-brow and low-brow are tired categories; almost anything can be talked about with intelligence.”
Thank you again and keep writing!
Also if you wrote a book I would buy it in hard copy, that’s how much I love you
I dislike intensely how much films cost to make, and that actually turns me off wanting to see them, especially considering where else that money could be spent. It actually disgusts me a bit. Also, I think the quality of certain television shows is fantastic and much better than any crap the big movie studios spew out. Im talking about the likes of Torchwood, Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, which are endless better than most generic thrillers and action movies etc, and are made on a fraction of the budget. So why would I bother going to see a film when I can watch a better tv show for free, whereas the movie would cost about 10 Euro to see, no thanks! Anyways, savage article!
Just wanted to comment and say this is a fantastic article! I’m currently doing a Film Studies degree at uni, and even though I find time quite often to go to the cinema, sometimes the quality / subject matter of what’s on offer is simply depressing. Especially in regards to strong female roles.
YES. i used to love movies. my close friends and i would drive all the way to downtown houston to see the “art house” films at the Angelika, then i’d write these super-cerebral reviews for our highschool newspaper that everyone hated.
for some reason i have really fond memories of 2002-2003. Adaptation, Chicago, Gangs of New York (potentially gender problematic, but hey, Scorsese), The Hours, Far From Heaven, Mulholland Drive, The Royal Tenenbaums Lost in Translation, City of God…
I can’t even name a handful I’ve cared about in the past 5 years. It’s not me…IT’S THEM. I feel better.
I’m not sure where I stand on movies. I think you made interesting points and I have to say I’ve definitely seen very few that appealed to me lately. I share your distaste/inability to watch violent films, I can’t handle violence at all, which apparently limits my film viewing quite a bit.
That being said, I’ve seen two non violent films recently that I quite enjoyed. The first was Every Day, whose title is so ordinary I had to look it up despite watching it two weeks ago. Although it had its flaws, I found it was less about a marriage in trouble as it was about a man having moments of deep uncertainty in his life and pulling everyone else along with him.
And the second was the absolutely lovely Les petits mouchoirs (Little White Lies). I’m trying to convince everyone to see it, which is hard when it’s not playing in this city.
I love the idea of good films being made, and being successful, and being about women (!), but I’m afraid that it won’t happen, not in our current movie climate. I’m just not sure how to change that.
Something interesting I read today…
“‘To make a woman adorable,’ one female sucessful screenwriter says, ‘you have to defeat her at the beginning… It’s as simple as making the girl cry, fifteen minutes into the movie.’ Relatability is based on vulnerability, which creates likeability. With male characters, smoking pot, getting drunk, and lying around watching porn is likeable; with females, the same conduct is hateful. So funny women must not only be gorgeous; they must fall down and then sob, knowing it’s all their fault.” — Tad Friend in The New Yorker, April 11, 2011
(via Thought Catalog)
oops.. I hope this embeds the video?
i will be quoting this article for days.
Re recent queer films: Has anyone else seen Spork? The lead character is a female-presenting hermaphrodite, it’s set in the late 80s/early 90s and has the feel of a world influenced by 8bit games, and while the racial politics can be a bit questionable (it’s hard to tell if they’re going for over-the-top satire or just rehashing stereotypes) it’s lots of fun and manages to poke at the idea of non-gender-binaries being “Freaks” without dwelling onto Spork’s body.
Okay so my iPod is working my nerves and not logging me in.
So all I have to say about this is (tron) all the ways I felt (Tron) about a certain christmastime movie
Another thing to remember…
One thing that makes movies SO expensive is advertising. Movies that do a lot of merchandising (toys, backpacks, video games, etc) get to have those other companies pay not for production costs, but for ad campaigns.
Kevin Smith illustrated this recently when he talked about why he wanted to release his new movie, “red State” himself. It’s because he made the movie for $4 million. This meant that a lot of the people working on the film… cast, crew, etc… worked for far less than they would normally make on a film of the same size. Some (like Smith) worked for free. All so they could make a top-notch film for less money than Avatar spent on it’s catering.
But if he goes and sells that film to a studio, they’re going to spend a ridiculous amount on advertising. Even a studio like Lions Gate, who is notoriously frugal on ad campaigns, would have spent close to $40 million on advertising in print (a dead medium), on TV, and online. That 4 million dollar film now needs to make over $40 million just to have the powers that be declare it to be a “break-even” success.
With the blockbusters, the studios can count on big merchandising to offset some of those fees. Also, because of media spillage, some of the media push (which amounts to free advertising) spills over into other markets, which decreases the marketing costs in those other countries.
What we need to do is to make good films… the smaller, more character-driven films… more easily profitable. See it in the theater. Any of us who can should buy DVDs instead of streaming a film on Netflix (or, stream the film, and if you like it, THEN but the DVD). Love a movie’s dialogue? There’s often a script book out there. Buy indie films instead of renting them (again, if you can afford it… or rent to try, then buy).
If there’s money being made out there, Hollywood will follow. If the money’s being made by indie films on home video, especially by TRUE indie films (films being made completely outside of the modern studio system), then you can believe that the studios will try to get some of that money.
I don’t think movies have ‘started’ sucking’. Pretty much any form of entertainment that can get enough funding to have a theatrical release is going to be shit, because most writers are imbeciles writing for imbeciles. Media sucks because culture sucks, and culture sucks because people are witless fools who will never be anything but witless fools. The vast majority of the human race is excess baggage, and anything made by or for them is essentially trash.
Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog. An excellent read. I’ll certainly be back.
I don’t like ovies no more, first of all why would anyone care about those so called movie stars after their entire lives are on the tv all of the time. They are so nasty who cares? I see asses and boobs all the time. Maybe if the news would stick to the news people might care, but they think that people won’t to see the people in the worst possible position. How would they like people to see them like they portray those poor kids?
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I don’t like series, especially those that don’t have an ending. I only see a series when it has its ending. I don’t have the patience to spend a whole year waiting for the next season. And the worst thing is when they cancel the series without putting an end to it.