Sunday, February 22, 2015

They don't make movies (or stars) like they used to

Watching, or listening to, all of the hoopla surrounding tonight's 87th Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, I have to stifle a yawn. I just can't get excited about a bunch of movies, or performances, that in 10 years (probably much less) few will remember or care about (and most people don't even care about now).

Would Boyhood and Patricia Arquette have been up for Academy Awards if the movie had been shot in 12 weeks instead of over 12 years?

And speaking of Patricia Arquette, it almost seems as though the category, or Oscar, should be called the Award for a Supporting Actress Who Didn't Succumb to Cosmetic Surgery, as seemingly all every Hollywood reporter (and many actors) seems to talk about is how marvelous it is that Arquette hasn't gone under the knife, or gotten Botox or fillers, even though she is only 46, which is like 112 in Hollywood Years -- and was in her early 30s when Boyhood started shooting.

Indeed, these days it often seems that the Best Acting categories have as much to do with makeup (or lack thereof) or physical appearance (ability to gain 20 pounds or adopt certain mannerisms) and/or costumes (or lack thereof) than with actual acting. Though yes, I know, it takes acting ability to successfully pull off an accent (Meryl Streep) and convince people you have a physical impairment (loved Colin Firth in The King's Speech and I hear Eddie Redmayne is great in The Theory of Everything).

And while there have been some good movies over the last 20 years, part of me, a rather big part, longs for the days when movies entertained or moved us not because they had loads of cool (usually gratuitous) special effects, or car chases, or whips and chains (Raiders of the Lost Ark, good; Fifty Shades of Grey, bad) -- but because they had good, or great, actors/acting, and directors and scripts.

Do this year's Best Picture nominees even hold a candle to those from 1939, when Dark Victory, Gone with the Wind, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Mice and Men, The Wizard of Oz, and Wuthering Heights were just some of the nominees? (Granted, that was an incredible year, movie-wise, and Hollywood has had several not-so-great years between then and now.)

[For a complete list of films nominated for Best Picture, along with the winners, click here.]

And what about those great actors and actresses from the 1930s and '40s and '50s? Yes, yes, there are many good, even very good, actors around right now -- Dustin Hoffman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Tom Hanks, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Colin Firth immediately spring to mind -- and actresses, such as Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett, and Julianne Moore.

But how many of today's "stars," or their performances, will we remember 50 or 80 years from now? How many can truly compare to the likes of actors Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Gregory Peck, Spencer Tracy, James Stewart, and Humphrey Bogart -- and actresses like Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Ingrid Bergman, Judy Holliday, and Audrey Hepburn?

Granted back then, under the studio system, it was easier to create (and manage) stars. But how is it I can easily recall, and still watch, and enjoy, movies from that Golden Era and can rarely find anything of more recent vintage to watch on On Demand today, when there are hundreds of movies available for streaming?

And speaking of the number of bad movies out there.... What happened to screenwriting -- and originality?

Granted, I am probably pickier than most when it comes to choosing, or viewing, movies. (Okay, a lot pickier, according to the spouse.) But when is the last time you were excited to go see a movie -- actually went to see it in a movie theater -- and came away saying "Wow! That was an amazing movie!" or "Wow. What a great movie!" or "What an incredible well-written, well-acted movie that was. It should get an Academy Award"?

I'm not talking about movies that entertained you for a couple of hours. Movies that dazzled you with their special effects, or violence, or nudity -- or let you tune out for a couple of hours.

I'm asking, how many movies have you seen in the last five or 10, or 20 years, do you think that if you saw them again in five, or 10, or 20 years you would still think "Wow, that was a great movie"?

Anybody remember Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite or rushing to rent Gladiator or The Artist?  

I rest my case.


Anonymous said...

I just saw 2001: A Space Odyssey again. Filmed in 1968 (before Apollo 11), I just fell in love with it again. Kubrick won for directing but the movie wasn't nominated. This is a classic and on everyone's top 100 movies list.

I heard someone say that we should wait 5 years (like the football Hall of Fame)to see if these movies and actors etc. are really worthy. Interesting?

Well, anyway, my vote tonight goes to NPH-may this be YOUR night.

J. said...

@Anonymous, I like the idea of waiting five years, but don't think it will fly in Hollywood, where (with the exception of Boyhood) instant gratification seems to be the name of the game.

And yes, probably the best thing about tonight will be Neil Patrick Harris's opening the show -- and the red carpet.