I live in a town of about 100.000 people, which hasn’t seen a new case during the whole summer (actually the total number of cases is -1, but I’m not sure why one was removed, but probably just some sort of duplication), so I’ve felt pretty safe about going to movies.
Yes, I’m kind of late on this, but on the other hand, I thought under the current situation, as the availability of new movies is bad, looking back at what was good last year might be a good idea.
And we are finally here… My favorite movie.
Okay, so what does it even mean to have a favorite movie? These often come with various understandable caveats. I mean, I set the list earlier this year and if I did it again right now, it might look very different. Many of the top movies would probably be the same, but the order might change quite a bit.
When watching a movie from the Alien quadrilogy, you can immediately tell who directed each of them. Well, except for the first one. Ridley Scott has been working for well over four decades and has directed 25 theatrical features and a bunch of other stuff during that time. How many of those 25 movies could you name? Okay, Alien, sure. Blade Runner. Gladiator. His movies range from 25% (A Good Year) to 97% (Alien) on Rotten Tomatoes, so it’s quite understandable that you don’t immediately remember all the completely forgettable or mediocre movies.
The movie that prompted me to talk about this was Drowning by Numbers by Peter Greenaway. I sort of picked it up from my piles of unwatched movies and just put it on without too much thinking. There’s a lot of movies on those piles I’ve bought for some specific reason, but don’t exactly remember why, so I wasn’t aware that the movie was by Greenaway (although I probably was at some point), but that became apparent pretty much immediately. The long shots, the angles and compositons of the shots, the music, the dialogue all just scream Greenaway.
Obviously, I’m not a professional critic, so this is largely just an outsiders view, but let’s talk about them anyway.
It’s probably tough being a movie critic. At least for the good ones. The bad ones… they can just go on and spew garbage about movies. The good ones are educated people. They often have degrees on this stuff. This stuff meaning something along the lines of film theory. But how does that help as a critic?
It doesn’t. At least not as much as one might want it to help. Actual criticism requires the hindsight of historical context. Imagine you had to go out and watch Citizen Kane on premier night. Whatever you would have written about it would seem ridiculous now, almost 80 years later.
In continuation of the topic from yesterday, let’s talk a little bit about how much movies cost to make.
Irishman was one of the Best Movie Oscar nominees this year. DeNiro and Scorsese have talked openly about the problems of finding a financeer. And I get why. The budget was $158 million. That’s not an unusually large budget these days, but it is unusually large for the kind of movie they were making. On top of that, Scorsese is one of the most respected working directors, but his box office results don’t really reflect that. Usually he’s movies do fine. They just about make their money back in theatres, so they are probably profitable in the home market. His previous movie, The Silence, was made with a much smaller budget of $46.5 million, but only managed about half that in box office.
Here’s a graph of the movies on my list per decade.
While the change hasn’t been consistently up throughout the century, the general direction clearly is. Of course, this is only me and my perspective, but I do believe the overall quality of movies has been rising.
As many have probably noticed, quite a few current movie directors have a background of making music videos. The timeline fits quite well. MTV started in the early 80s and at first the videos were not that interesting. They were just quickly thrown together to get something to show. They were often just based on a single visual gimmick, which are now just quaint.
However, these videos, technology (you know, cassettes and CDs) and general economic growth meant that the industry had more money to play around with, which meant larger marketing budgets, which in turn gave opportunities for many young directors to work with larger budgets. David Fincher directed dozens of music videos, including some with the biggest stars of the time, or ever, like Michael Jackson, Madonna and George Michael. Michel Gondry worked with Daft Punk, Björk and Radiohead. Eric Zimmerman worked with Nine Inch Nails, Ministry and Soundgarden. Don’t bother looking that one up. While seeing Head Like a Hole for the first time was a defining moment in my childhood, which I still remember correctly, Zimmerman’s movie work is… less than distinguished. Also, I guess his history with them is the reason all Michael Bay movies feel like two hour music videos.
As a decade just ended, we got a lot of different best of the decade lists. On Pitchforks top albums of 2010s, there were nine albums by women in the top 20. How many in the previous decade? None. Well, there were bands and duos with women in the top 20, but even taking those into account, we only have three. It seems women have taken their rightful place in the world of music. (Although I do think this is also largely about perceptions.)
Well, what about movies? Obviously my list isn’t as indicative as Pitchfork’s, it’s still noteworthy that there’s only 2.5 movies directed by women on my list. It seems that even when women do make great movies, it’s harder for them to continue with their career. Many men, who have made a low budget movie, which has garnered some interest, have opportunities to move into bigger budgets, but women are often forgotten.
Yesterday I talked about tangible accessibility, so now it’s time for the much more difficult topic of intangible accessibility and I think this is the part where will lose the most readers. But gladly, I can live with that.
Here’s the problem: Why is understanding movies such a sin? I understand that some (many) movie critics might seem arrogant and I probably do as well, although I can’t really claim to understand movies on the same level as the actually good critics out there. I guess that’s the culture now. You try to explain something complicated and you are automatically an arrogant prick. I might be, but not because of this.