Ask a Movie Critic
This week: why are the movies so bad?
CP: So even though the downfall of American movies can be traced to the rise of corporations, the problem isn't principally one of corporate control?
Thomson: I don't think it is. If you look at television, you see that it has some advantages over film--in that television production is ridiculously fast compared with movies. And if you've got a hit show, you really do turn it over to the people responsible--the writers, the directors, the producers, the actors. And their ingenuity has a kind of freedom that I think once existed in B pictures. A producer in the '40s and '50s would've said to an Edgar Ulmer [Detour] or someone directing a B picture, "Well, look, if you can do it in 12 days for $120,000, go do it." And that operation wouldn't have gotten nearly as much scrutiny or interference as a big picture. The idea was that a B picture is a thing unto its own, a race against time that requires a terrific degree of expertise and inventiveness--so it's better to just let the guys do it.
CP: The most interesting "B movies" now go straight to video and TV, while Hollywood makes only "A pictures" with B content--or C content. It used to be that the summer blockbuster epitomized Hollywood and now that season has stretched to 12 months.
Thomson: The "A movies" are childish in content. A lot of the best writers these days are drawn to television rather than to the movies. Because if you write for the movies, you are, more than ever, in this dreadful committee structure where you get rewritten and rewritten and rewritten. Certainly there are corporate structures in television. But the volume of production is the distinguishing factor. Television has to produce a great deal just to fill the air, whereas the movies are always going for the smash hit. There was a time when the studios were very happy with a film if it made a modest profit. Now no one ever dreams of making a modest profit. They may end up making a loss, but what they're aiming at is a huge profit. It's a version of gambling, in other words.
CP: And it's not unique to Hollywood, either.
Thomson: It's there all through the culture.
[also via A&L Daily