Rest in peace cinema, 1894-2016. Cause of death: Martin Scorsese said so. In an interview with the Associated Press last month, Scorsese, the illustrious director of Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and 2017 Oscar contender Silence, said movies just ain’t what they used to be. “Cinema is gone,” Scorsese said. “The cinema I grew up with and…
In my early teens, I wanted to be the next big screenplay-director of movies of great stories with the merit of a true artist.This revelation took place during a private HBO viewing of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, one of the most influential movies of my lifetime.
I spent the next year watching classic movies and reading both plays and screenplays. I fell in love with Coppola’s The Godfather and later The Godfather Part 2 and Apocalypse Now.
I found some of the best movies in the silent Era: Un Chien Andalou, The General, Metropolis and The Battleship Potemkin. And I fell in love again with Foreign Masterpieces like Seven Samurai, Satyricon and The Seventh Seal.
But I will never forget the impact of Hollywood greats like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Magnificent Ambersons and The Treasure of the Serra Madre.
Now Hollywood always had its problems. Orson Welles wanted to adapt The Heart of Darkness as his first project. The Studio foreseeing a Apocalypse Now level budget crises demanded he start with a cheaper pet project. He chose Citizen Kane. A choice that marked the end of a promising career as a Hollywood director. He jab at the stories Newspaper anti Hero left a lasting impact.
However, Classic Hollywood also saw a purpose in prestige. The studios made enough profit on B movies to let a gold nugget through the soot from time to time. We wouldn’t have movies like Citizen Kane, or even Gone With the Wind for that matter.
But I soon fell out of interest in wanting to become a Filmmaker. I came across a book years latter written by a Canadian Film Critic who dates this transition to the late seventies when the Age of the Blockbuster was born with Jaws- and two years later with- Star Wars.
Let it be known that for how great these two movies are- neither one of them is original to the world of cinema. Jaws is a kind of horror spin on the Moby Dick story- and Star Wars- is a kind of Sci Fi Fantasy of Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese period drama Hidden Fortress.
But this transition shows the change of film makings path from a studio craft into a corporate money making machine. The big franchises today are still the ones that worked in the past: horror movies that include big monsters, vampires and psychopaths are still big in the capital market. The fantasy of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Super Hero Spin offs and even to an extant, the James Bond fantasy; all remain popular in the movie making world because of their money making prospects.
Movies now days are pretty limited. I recently watched: Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter, Tom Hanks in Clint Eastwood’s Sully and the modern bank robbing classic, Hell and High Water. I finished this movie spree off with the thriller Don’t Breath.
All are good movies. But none are “original”. When Martin Scorsese directed Raging Bull back in 1980, we already had movies like Rocky. The genre goes back as far as Thomas Edison. The Fighter is good, but not original. Raging Bull, too, wasn’t original, unlike Taxi Driver, a kind of social film noir, but both Rocky and Raging Bull brought new flavor to the tradition. This is general opinion of all the movies I’ve watched recently from Sully- through- High and High Water.
I believe this is what Scorsese and Ripley Scott are talking about in the article above.They belonged to the last Golden Age of the film studio, where experimentation with story, character, etc was more prominent. And the people were hungry for new forms and genres. But even the early brilliance of Scorsese’s street dramas like Mean Streets and Taxi Driver are later over shadowed by crime dramas and bio pics.
This changed happened during the course of Scorsese’s career, after the studios sold out to the corporations and art became second too big box office entertainment; and the days of movies hitting us by surprise was taken over by profit margins. The people are still hungry, always, but the corporations are more reluctant to take on anything “new”, a word used to describe “anything which hasn’t proven marketable, or that which hasn’t yet proven itself marketable”.
This is what motivated me to focus on music and later on, writing fiction and online articles. I crave a voice that is sovereign of the corporate bandwagon and from the corporate double think. I want to write from a voice that is free of these restraints. I want to be independent in a world that is becoming increasingly corporate dependent.
Granted, not the best career move in a world where big money still spends as much on creating roadblocks for the little guy as it does on innovation. It becomes a numbers game, and who controls the numbers wins. It becomes a form of bullying, even dangerous, when you’ve got to create toll booths on the natural expansion of growth online. I talk about this frequently, check my funny Podcast How the Internet Boned Me without Buying me Dinner
Now I’m not anti-corporation, I’m simply pro individual growth where entertainment doesn’t trump art because of our basic human need for creative, intellectual and spiritual growth. The modern corporate world has shown time and time again how it would rather gather the crops and salt the fields; than plant a new seed for future generations. If it can change this progress into something more balanced, I’d be more adamant on working for the corporations instead of trying to working with them.
And yet, I have faith in my conviction that it is in the realm of creative growth, where one finds the gold within themselves, helping to change and shape the world we live in. Film began with experimentation and the adaptation of good literature; and Film will die with innovation and the adaptation of good literature.
In retrospect, film has brought great understanding of the art of the moving image, and how movement, emotional reaction and image can evoke certain reactions in the audience on deep emotional and sometimes even, deep intellectual and spiritual levels. But it is through the art of the written word that their movie counterparts themselves are usually created- and rarely in vice versa.
The days of men like Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock and Federico Fellini are dead; buried next to John Ford, John Huston and Howard Hawks. And Scorsese knows he too will soon join these greats, and is deeply saddened by the few like Tarantino and the Cohen Brothers who are trying to keep the tradition alive. And alive they will.
And others too, will rise up and create great films; think of a future where a Rowling develops an eye for the camera, and a new golden age of cinema lifts off! Or a world where the next Ripley Scott creates the next Blade Runner, changing the literary landscape.
We may never know where the next big new idea will come from. But in today’s corporate tech savoy world. We’re gonna need to find it ourselves. And the need for word of mouth becomes all that more important in a world ruled by corporate algorithms .
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