Tuesday, July 28, 2009

There Is No "Golden Age" of Film (Or, "Why Movies Now Are As Good As They Ever Were")

Last week, Erik and I were discussing a set of posts we're planning for the end of the year that offer our top albums, movies, and other "bests" of the decade. As should always be the case with pointless list-making, I have given it way more thought than the subject should ever have merited, and, looking back at the last 10 years, there have been some remarkably great movies (but I'm not going to say which ones - that's what the year-end list will be for, so you'll just have to wait). And I was thinking, "you know, for all the proclamations of great film-making in other decades, this decade arguably has been as good as any previous decade."

Apparently, I'm not alone in thinking this. While I certainly wouldn't go so far as to call the 2000s a "golden age" of cinema, it's not because I think other decades have been "better," but rather because any notion of a "golden age," contemporarily or in the past, just reinforces false nostalgia that tends to lead to people overlooking what's great presently. And I certainly wouldn't call Joel Schumacher a "popmeister" - "shitmeister" seems far more appropriate for his dreck. Movies can be silly and fun and popular and Hollywood driven, but still be excellent - just ask Sam Raimi or Judd Apatow.

All that notwithstanding, though, this decade has just reminded me why I hate when people look back to the 60s or 70s (or 40s) as when cinema was "really good." The only reason we've forgotten the "Transformers 2" of those eras was because, like any lowest-common-denominator crap, it has been flushed away over time. And when people harken to movies by Scorcese, Altman, Kubrick, Coppola, etc., fine - yes, they directed amazing, artistic, all-time great movies. But look at the last 10 years - Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Fernando Meirelles, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, Wes Anderson, Ang Lee, P.T. Anderson, Charlie Kaufman......and I'm undoubtedly forgetting many others, or haven't yet seen some movies that are almost certainly artistic masterpieces ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" springs immediately to mind).

All of this is to basically say, I wish people would acknowledge how great current cinema not only can be, but is. Among the many minor aggravations in life, the canonization of previous decades or eras at the expense of current artistic production, be it musical, film, photographic, literary, etc., is garbage. Thinking about how many all-time great films have come out of the last 10 years only reinforces that.