The Plight of the Motion Picture: Can Those in Power Turn Back from the Dark Path of Oblivion?

The character of the motion picture has changed drastically within the last 10 years, and the results of this shift has been both dramatic and devastating to the industry. No longer does the industry throw its marketing weight behind creativity (did they ever?), or endorse in any way the “well-written film.” Instead, they promote movies that cater to the lowest common denominator, sacrificing style and grace for the shoot-em-up, action film.

This pattern of decadence and disarray began in the mid-90’s, and continues to this day. In fact, one can almost pinpoint the exact moment when motion pictures turned from creative, thought-provoking masterpieces to what they have become today: all too loud, all too awful behemoths of creative desolation and waste.

In the year 1994, the five motion pictures nominated for “Best Picture” were: “Forrest Gump”, “Pulp Fiction”, “Quiz Show”, “The Shawshank Redemption”, and “Red”. All of these films in truth were veritable watershed films for their genres. “Forrest Gump” illustrated how to simply tell a great story using, in truth, very few characters. “Pulp Fiction” was a gritty, active story with not just good, but GREAT dialogue harkening back to the days of Film Noir that perseveres to this day. “Red” was the first foreign film ever nominated for best picture, and paved the way for “Life is Beautiful”, a foreign film, to win the prize only 4 years later. “Quiz Show” embrace the free-flowing storytelling that comes with a movie which is based in reality, which “Quiz Show” was. And “The Shawshank Redemption” re-introduced the voice-over tactic of film making, creating a movie that is allegedly shown somewhere in the world every week.

From this moment on, film making has been much more about making money, and much less about making great film. Gone forever are the days of “Citizen Kane”, “The Wizard of Oz”, or even “Mean Streets” and “Raging Bull”. Instead, the industry has awarded brutally flawed movies such as “Gladiator”, “Shakespeare in Love”, and the coup de gras of awful cinema, “Titanic”. For all the wrong reasons, these movies somehow have shared the stage with greatness while being anything but.

For a time, the general public tolerated this shameful display of creativity because, once in a while, the industry gave us a gem, either with its writing (“American Beauty”), or its storytelling and action(“Lord of the Rings” trilogy). But now, at long last, the vehicle has run out of gas, and there is not a station to be found for hundreds of miles.

At long last, the theatre-going public has awoken from it slumber and have whole-heartedly rejected what Hollywood has belched out, refusing to sacrifice what little leisure time they have to overpay for tickets as the industry underpays for effort. Instead, the DVD has taken hold, allowing those who have chosen to skip the movie in the theatre to recover that loss in the comfort of their own homes. Indeed, the film industry has created a monster in the DVD in that anyone who knows anything is aware that a movie in the theatre will be out on DVD within, literally, several weeks.

Interestingly, the answer is simple. Make better movies. Write them better, cast them better, and begin to treat the public as if they are your professors, and you are the English student trying desperately to make a good impression. Wow us, dazzle us, show innovation with your creations, and everyone will begin to flock back to the place Hollywood is dying for you to go: to the movies.