The first of a four-part series
In his new collection of essays addressing the art and the business of the entertainment world, New Yorker film critic David Denby expresses a deep concern about the decline of the artistic preeminence of films in the face of new technology and a new Golden Age of television. He covers too much fascinating ground to do justice to here; but at the heart of his book is an intriguing question: Do the Movies Have a Future?
Denby laments the waning vigor of a cinema that matters – movies like There Will Be Blood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and The Tree of Life. That vigor is threatened by “the way the business structure of movies is now constricting the art of movies.” Sure, Hollywood studios halfheartedly get behind the usual rom-coms, horror flicks, and thrillers; but for the most part, their business model depends on massively-budgeted but shallow spectacles. The problem is that the big profits from those blockbusters don’t get steered toward more adventurous projects; they go instead into the next sequel or franchise.
As an example, he notes that 2010’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which he calls “a thundering farrago of verbal and visual gibberish,” grossed $1 billion worldwide in a month: “Nothing is going to stop such success from laying waste to the movies as an art form.”