Sep 4, 2009
I recently had a wonderful experience that I'd like to share. Such an experience used to be commonplace in my life, but as of late this type of thing has been quite rare. Hold on now, the experience that I'm referring to isn't explicit or illegal, and not necessarily that interesting really. It is however quite telling. Ok, here it is, I went to see a film and actually enjoyed it. What?! That's my rare experience; seeing a good flick.
As someone whose place of business just so happens to be the #1 film school in the world, you would think that seeing good flicks is a regular part of my professional routine. And it is, it's just that the good flicks seem to have already been made; many years ago, in most cases.
I was thoroughly captivated by the German film The Baader-Meinhof Complex.
This is a film about historical subject matter rendered in captivating detail. Baader-Meinhof takes up some serious issues and gives the issues at hand the best cinematic treatment, making the events themselves seem larger than life, as they were for the Germans living through this era in the 1970s. Yes indeed, what for one person might be considered left wing terrorists are for another person considered to be revolutionaries. The activities of the Baader-Meinhof group in the 1970s might be thought of as one of the early examples of what would come to be known as terrorism in the West. So watching this film in a post 9/11 world adds another layer to the film's significance.
This was not a film based on a comic book or an old television show. Nor was it based on aliens or robots. It was not fantasy, nor was it an animated morality tale. The film was not meant to be seen by "the whole family." It was an adult film about real people and real events, done in an intelligent and highly cinematic way. The Baader-Meinhof Complex is the kind of film that I was raised on in the 70s; political, artistic, and most importantly, relevant. It is cinema; a film, as opposed to simply being a movie. And there is a difference.
Hollywood has most recently being selling its soul to the devil of trendiness. As the economics of the industry have changed, the suits have been green-lighting child's fare and expecting adults to go along for the ride. I refuse.
Such an issue is confounded by the Academy's recent decision to expand the field of Best Picture nominees to 10, from its previous limit of 5. Such a decision is based on the sagging rating numbers of the yearly Oscar broadcast. It seems a bit curious that the Academy would rely on television rating numbers to determine how they decide what constitutes the best film offerings of the year. It's not like there were always 5 reliable choices up for Best Picture anyway. Now that the field has been expanded to 10, you can expect an even more diluted competition, with even less worthy contenders than ever before.
As we all go through the changes rocking our individual and collective worlds lately, Hollywood should take stock of itself. Old habits die hard, but the days of everyone watching the Oscars simply because it was pretty much the only thing on have longed passed. As box office numbers decline, so too do television ratings as it pertains to the Hollywood product. Don't panic and throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. This is not the answer. The answer is not to expand the Best Picture offerings. The answer is fairly simple actually, make better pictures!
I know I'm fighting a losing battle. The forces of mediocrity have long dominated the world of Hollywood. At least in the past though, you could count on something good coming out between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. Not any more. You have to take the good ones when you can get them. That being said, I'll wait for the occasional substantive offering from Hollywood, but won't hold my breath. I'll be on the lookout for other foreign gems like Baader-Meinhof while keeping my Netflix queue stocked with classics and engaging documentaries. In the meantime, I'll leave the cartoons, aliens, superheros, and the robots to the kids, 'cause I'm a grown-ass man!