We Failed Film and Film Failed Us

josh hadley | the shadows of pop culture | feb. 2018

I have somewhat of a reputation for not liking newer films and 2017 did nothing to dissuade anyone of this. In fact, my disillusionment with film may even be growing.

There is something about modern films that is a turn-off and it's hard to quantify but it's most definitely there. The overuse of CGI for every damn thing, the super clean digital outlook, the massive amount of postproduction color correcting, somehow movies come off as more fake today than they ever did before. Even the garbage films of the 1970s and the 1980s had a quality to them that was enduring. Today everything looks like it could very easily be a youtube video with nary a change to the product.

Let's face it; as movie fans, we got old. We don't have a place in this new world of film. Our time has passed. We are dinosaurs just riding out the meteor.

I grew up on sharp, innovative filmmakers the likes of John Carpenter, George Romero, Don Coscarelli, Terry Gilliam, Sam Raimi, Tobe Hooper, Stuart Gordon and an untold number of others. Prior to that, unusual people such as Orson Welles, Sam Peckinpah and Sidney Lumet broke out of every single stranglehold Hollywood had the industry in. Their progeny — William Friedkin, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and the like, further kept those restraints off. Who is there today like this? Judd Apatow? James Franco? Rob Zombie? Tarantino? Kevin Smith? Who is there today that is redefining film? Modern film is a dying art and only very rarely does a filmmaker come and prove themselves an artist.

These filmmakers who took all of the risks and they are gone, as are their ideals and the genuine art they made. Sure, some of them are still making movies but can anyone honestly say that one of them has made a good movie since the late '90s?

How did this happen? "Progress" has set everything back. As bad as the 2011 Thing pre-make was, it was a benchmark that displayed just how dead the old films really are. That film was made with a bulk of the FX being practicals, which were to be smoothed over with CGI. The studio hated it.

The studio said, "It looks too much like an '80s movie," and gave the director an additional $3-million to redo all the FX shots with CGI. Take a guess how that looked. Like sh*t. It looked fake and felt like a video game cut-scene. CGI is a menace to film when things that could be done for real are done with CGI out of ease and laziness. I hate CGI so much its pervasiveness is starting to make me hate film.

The marketplace also had changed and not for better. This market can no longer sustain a Cannon or a New World. Gone are studios like DEG and American Cinema Releasing. All of these either were gutted and left for dead or swallowed whole by the rampaging, mutated, beast known as film progression.

The rift between the independents and the studios widened while the changes demanded by the advancement of film led to a creative wasteland unimagined by even the best Italian Road Warrior knock-off.

This is not simply a plague of the studios but also of the filmgoers. Film fans stopped caring about the why's and how's and only wanted the money shots. The audience wanted faster, flasher and dumber films, so the system was forced to accommodate and in effect, the entire organism was tainted.

Today's audiences care little for the directors that revolutionized film and those explorers who pushed film to its limit were simply left behind by the ones who could yell louder. What chance would an Orson Welles have today against someone who believes Michael Bay movies are deep and meaningful? How can a John Carpenter expect to stay fresh when the generation following him co-opts his style and, in effect, dilutes it to the point of uselessness?

Those of us who revel in seeing George Eastman arm wrestle Daniel Greene over a scorpion or cheer when Franco Nero chews scenery are a dying breed. I genuinely love film, warts and all. The films of today are viewed as a kind of kitschy goof — "bad" films there to be made fun of. The entire idea of something such as "The Room" being mainstream and it's satire winning awards is just another example of how out of touch film and people such as myself truly are. That is why the filmmakers I grew up on have lost their touch; they are competing in a rigged game, one where the stakes, players and battlefields have all changed.

It would be naive to have expected Romero, Carpenter and Raimi not to evolve with their mediums, but the output from them proves they were unable to adapt given the roadblocks in front of them.

This is our fault. As fans, we failed film.

There used to be this idea that under the superficial sheen of the big-budget film there was this other Hollywood, just as vibrant and just as meaningful. The ever-widening gap between the film worlds continues to grow. Today there are either big-budget studio films or low budget trash. There is no longer any in-between. Blue-collar filmmaking is dead, bought out and sold off by the studio system piece by piece without even an autopsy.

Back in the early 1990s this wasn't a foregone conclusion. There was a new wave of innovators that rose up from the ashes and held fast the ideals of those who had come before them. Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh and David Fincher looked like they were honestly and proudly carrying the torch of their forebears.

Soon enough, though, these filmmakers were summarily consumed as their predecessors had been. They lost touch with what they stood for and merely joined the party they once so happily stood against. These men are also still working today and just as before they have not made a film worth seeing in some great time.

They let themselves be co-opted and we, in turn, became complacent. Instead of championing an ingenious or radical new film or talent we hid in our caves and yelled that the sun was too hot, all the while never venturing out into it.

I am just as guilty of these transgressions the same as anyone, but at least I see my culpability in this and I own that.

Today there is no such respect for the films of the past. 1970s movies are laughed at for the afros and the slang, 1980s movies are derided for their sheer eighties-ness.

Cult films are a dying art form and we should have protected them.


A fiercely confrontational and arrogant critic whose stubborn nature makes him immanently readable and equally angering, Josh Hadley is a writer for magazines such as Hustler, Fangoria, Paracinema, Shadowland, Grindhouse Purgatory and Cashers du Cinemart, as well as a radio host on Jackalope Radio. Find more from him at 1201beyond.com, a website that only the most anti-social personalities would engage.

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