Thursday, December 01, 2005

Movies New and Old

Today I’ll be watching a black and white movie on DVD by my favorite director, Ernst Lubitsch. It’s an obscure movie called “The Love Parade” (1929). In this movie Lubitsch invented the musical. I’ll report on it later.

I can’t get any of my family to watch black and white movies with me. They have a mental block about them. Black and white doesn’t mean entertainment to them, it means boredom. Work. Kind of like what classical music means to most rockers. I’m the opposite – to me, modern blockbusters are idiotic, whereas old movies are art. I’m hopelessly out of step with modern movies.

The best thing I ever read about movies was an essay by Leslie Halliwell that explained how there was a sea change in the ‘70s with the rise of the blockbuster. In the old days, A movies were for adults and B movies were for kids. A movies had the big budgets. With the rise of the blockbuster, Hollywood began making B movies with big budgets and the A movie died. In the old days movies such as “Jaws,” “Star Wars” and “Superman” would have been B movies, if not Saturday matinee serials.

The death of the A movie has been devastating to actresses. In the 1930’s, Garbo commanded the biggest salary. Today it’s the moronic action heroes who make the biggest bucks. Actresses are lucky to make an occasional movie of the week once they get too old to play the action hero’s sex kitten.

What killed the A movie? Halliwell doesn’t go into it, but the answer is naturalism. In the ‘30s, they made adult movies with plots. With the rise of naturalism in our culture, movies broke into two streams: you could have a movie with plot but no thought (blockbuster action pic) or a movie with thought but no plot (adult story). Hollywood has forgotten how to integrate plot and thought.

A strange side effect of the dumbing down of Hollywood is that moviemakers are now raiding Marvel and DC for stories and characters. This is happening at the same time that kids have stopped reading comics. Go into a comic shop and you’ll see nostalgic guys in their 30s, 40s and 50s, but you won’t see children. If it were not for Hollywood money, Marvel and DC would be memories.