I’ve been a movie fan for most of my life. In fact as far back as junior high school I had aspirations to be a film critic. That never panned out as my life took a different course but my love for movies never waned. Yet while my love for film never left, it did mature as I grew older. Over the years I’ve come to love and appreciate classic cinema, not just the well-known Hollywood classics, but wonderful smaller gems and great groundbreaking movies from abroad. These pictures have not only earned my appreciation but they’ve given me a better understanding of filmmaking, cinematic creativity, and pure storytelling. These classic pictures have made an indelible mark on my movie perspectives and they continue to do so.
But it’s safe to say that classic movies don’t touch everyone the same way as they do me. Over the years I’ve spoke to many people who openly don’t like “old movies”. Then there are those who won’t go as far as to say they don’t like these films, but they back burner them due to what’s really a lack of enthusiasm. Now as a point of clarity let me say I’m not judging anyone’s taste. We all know movies are a subjective art. What’s good for one isn’t always good for the other and that’s the way it should be. But I can’t help wonder why there isn’t a broader appreciation for the classics these days and a rush to catch up with these films that paved the way for what we see today.
For me the classics represent a purer form of moviemaking. These were films made without the benefits of the technologies and innovations that we have today. They focused on good performances, sound writing, and a director’s keen eye. It was also a time of discovery in terms of technique. So many influential directors were finding new ways to tell their stories through their cameras and visual styles were first taking form. It’s through the classics that we can witness the new waves of filmmaking that broke new ground all over the world. Through the classics we can observe as the entire landscape of motion pictures evolve. This isn’t just a field ripe with unforgettable movies. The classics are a window into the fascinating history of cinema.
Today is most certainly a different era. The business side of movies has contributed to monster-sized budgets and even bigger studio expectations. The constantly evolving technology of special effects has become one of the biggest instruments in storytelling and presentation has become vital. 3-D, IMAX, high definition, etc. All of these things play major roles in modern filmmaking and our experiences are the better because of them. Or are they? Could it be argued that the fascination with flashy effects and 3-D presentation has in many cases taken the place of a good story with intelligent writing?
Take a look at the movies that are put out today. Now there have always been bad movies. Yet I’m amazed at how easy it is to get a movie made these days. Splash on a coat of fancy special effects or incorporate some of the numerous crutches that Hollywood uses today and you’ll get a big screen release. In many cases creativity has taken a backseat to repetitive and lazy filmmaking. Whether it’s the crutches of lame and vulgar attention-getting content or the crutches of shallow, mindless productions soaked in expensive visuals, Hollywood uses them to their fullest and we see it in film after film each year.
But couldn’t it be said that the studios are simply supplying the demand? Are they just making movies that people will endorse through their dollars and debit cards? Could the lower standards of modern moviegoers be feeding this monster? There are so many movies today that make tons of cash which leaves me scratching my head. I mean when else but today would Adam Sandler still have a job? Nonetheless “Grownups 2” hits theaters this summer and you can count on big box office numbers.
Now to avoid any hypocrisy let me say I love modern movies. I go to the theater every chance I get and I am as anxious for a next big release as anyone. I don’t shy away from big budgets or special effects and I’ll give the film its deserved praise if it’s done well. But I also love classic cinema and everything that it embodies and I want other people to love it too. Thankfully we still have some brilliant filmmakers today who work both in front and behind the cameras. They still give us great films – movies that entertain us, impress us, and provide an escape. But this is nothing new. They are following a rich tradition set before them by the likes of Keaton, Chaplin, Hepburn, Welles, Bogart, Huston, Stewart, Kelly, Kurosawa, Ford, Wilder, Cooper, Bergman, Hitchcock, Grant and so many more. It’s the classics that paved the way and its the classics that still hold up remarkable well today. I’ll never grow tired of them and hopefully more people will open themselves up to them as well. A good movie is a good movie regardless of when it was made.