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Why Have Movies Been So Bad Lately? 664

Posted by Cliff
from the hollywood-is-bankrupt-of-original-ideas dept.
mikesd81 asks: "Why have movies and shows been so bad lately? I find myself looking on my Video on Demand service from my cable company or flipping channels and just nothing seems to have any depth any more. But on the other hand, I happened to watch Stargate Atlantis and there was an incredible scene that just caught the emotion and emergency. So is it the directing? The writing? The acting? It seems more and more movies just aren't worth anything. Let alone paying $20 to go to a movie." Let's not forget the recent number of Hollywood remakes and the amount of "reality TV" being pumped out by the networks.
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Why Have Movies Been So Bad Lately?

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  • by Spazntwich (208070) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:14PM (#15808852)
    where I asked this exact question.

    About Slashdot stories.
    • American movies (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rs79 (71822) <hostmaster@open-rsc.org> on Sunday July 30, 2006 @03:40AM (#15810069) Homepage
      You know, other countries make movies too... having just finished watching _The Longest Engagement_ I can't say I really care that hollywood makes shite these days.
    • by Thomas Miconi (85282) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @10:55AM (#15811446)
      Question: Why Have Movies Been So Bad Lately?

      Answer: Because you've grown up.

      Duh!

  • by amrust (686727) <marcrust @ g m a i l . c om> on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:14PM (#15808854) Homepage
    Sorry. Someone had to say it.

    Seriously, though. I think the constant deluge of remake-after-remake of classic TV series and older movies has killed my interest in going to the movie theater. Why go out, when I can pull 1/2 of the "new" movies off my own DVD rack, or watch the original on late-night TV.

    But I guess someone is watching these rehashes, because Hollywood keeps making them.
    • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis&gmail,com> on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:27PM (#15808926) Homepage
      The last few movies I've seen have been an excuse to get out of the house. That's about it.

      They could show a futurama marathon on the big screen and I'd still go see it. Just for the excuse to get out.

      Movies and music in general suck because like any other corrupt practice, they has been heavily marketed. I'm sorry, but at what point is Paris Hilton a properly trained singer?

      Why is collin farrel [sp?] playing american hero cops? He's FUCKING IRISH!!!!

      Tom
      • Hey, yeah, and why did the Australian Mel Gibson play an American cop all those times, too?
      • by Scooter (8281) <owenNO@SPAMannicnova.force9.net> on Sunday July 30, 2006 @01:09PM (#15812203)
        Hehe I think Id have less of a problem believing Farrel as an American cop - after all, don't 30% of New York inhabitants think they're Irish (at least on St Paddy's day :P). I did have the misfortune to watch a real pile of old boots called "Alexander" the other night though. I thought "nothing much on, Sky Movies is showing this thing, loads of big names in it.. worth a punt". Oh dear. There's 3 hours of my life I'd rather have back. It should have been sub-titled "how the Irish took over the world". Very strange hearing ancient greeks and Macedonians saying things like "roight den, I tink we'll be off over dem ills and be invadin' the Hindu Kush - hows aboutcha?"

        Absolute train wreck of a movie that droned on in no particular direction for 3 feckin' hours. I swear, 2 or 3 times I thought it was over and went to make coffee, only to find they were invading some other place when I got back, our hero was still eyeing up his best mate (but, following the advice of his adopted father, and unlike many of his ancestors, hadn't shagged his mother).

        There's absolutely no excuse for Hollywood "running out of ideas" and making all these half-arsed re-makes: my bookshelves are crammed with excellent plots, many of which would make a hal;f decent screenplay. Let's face it, if Peter Jackson, could make a series of nicely paced action packed movies from the Lord Of The Rings, surely something could be done with say - half of the PK Dick stories still unfilmed, Magician, The Stainless Steel Rat series, Tad Williams epic, not to mention all the "classic" fantasy fare from Ursula Le Guin (I'm not counting that tripe someone knocked up a couple of years ago), Michael Moorcock (about the only thing Elric hasn't been in is a movie...), EE Smith, Asimov etc.

        Put down the red underpants and Step away from the Superman plot. FFS. And Batman - that's been done to death now surely. Makes me laugh when I see the actors in these remakes being interviewed, and explaining their character, his background and his motivation - like we didn't already know.
    • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:57PM (#15809087) Homepage Journal
      No, their idea that "people are teh st00p3d" is what's out.

      Movies with: actual plots, decent acting, and good taste will always be in fashion.

      actual plots means that it's OK to require the viewer to pay attention. Tired, formulaic vehicles are exactly that.

      decent acting probably means load-shedding the big names and going for some undiscovered talent.

      good taste means that, while we require a hint of the human capacity for evil to understand why the villian is the villian, we aren't really interested in wallowing in the evil. Lynch/Tarentino will always have their fan base, and I'm not advocating censorship here, just letting you know that "less is more". Expanding on that, less emphasis on potty mouth and hormones would also enhance their dramatic value. Finally, stories rooted in sexual confusion are of no interest whatsoever.

      Summarizing: movies with some didactic value, not just "chewing gum for the mind", are what is needed.
      • Far too many people in the movie industry are like the music industry...they all want a #1 hit, rather than a good product/art that sells reasonably well. Both used to have a bread & butter business of "B" level releases which were rarely blockbusters, but just sold and sold and sold and sold. An artists/studios/directors catalog of releases were as important, sometimes more so, than any one mega hit.

        Since Big Media Business has a hardon for mega hits, rather than catalog, they go with things that were
      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @04:37AM (#15810220)
        good taste

        Good luck with that one. Taste is purely in the mind of the beholder. What you think is good taste is unlikely to be what any significant majority of the population thinks it is. Your implications about David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino and your outright dismissal of any stories based on sexual confusion is glaring proof of the subjectivity of taste.

        For example, while vast numbers of Americans clearly think "Passion" was in good taste, there are more than a few who saw it as exploitive, crude and excessively violent. Similarly with "The DaVinci Code" - I even got email from some people I know who thought it worthy of boycotting because its blasphemy was in such poor taste.

        I'll even go out on a limb and say that no movie can rise above the level of passable but forgettably simple entertainment unless it challenges some of the widely held perceptions of what is acceptable in society. Any movie that makes such a challenge is certain, almost by definition, to conflict with what a large number of people in that same society would consider "tasteful."
        • I'll even go out on a limb and say that no movie can rise above the level of passable but forgettably simple entertainment unless it challenges some of the widely held perceptions of what is acceptable in society. Any movie that makes such a challenge is certain, almost by definition, to conflict with what a large number of people in that same society would consider "tasteful."

          Bring on the challenges.
          Your next set of blockbuster flicks:

          • Simple farming community successfully fends off big-money developer
      • > No, their idea that "people are teh st00p3d" is what's out.

        That's pretty much it.
        A big problem of our "modern" societies is that people's attention spans get shorter and shorter. From this side of the Atlantic Ocean I would guess that this is worse in the US than in Europe, but we're on the same track as you are, you just have a head-start.
        This means that any message you want a significant number of people to actually notice has to
        - be very short
        - use very very big letters

        Style is always easier to adve
    • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @11:02PM (#15809116)
      I suppose Hollywood makes rehashes because no one in the organizations wants to stick their neck out and take a chance. So then, they figure, why not make a remake - it's better than even a proven forumula where you would have to put some thought into reinventing it.

      Looking at the latest releases of the intellectually barren void that is the entertainment industry, I'm beginning to wonder if the people making entertainment have just run out of ideas. They've been drinking their own koolaid for so long, they can't really think "different", let alone anything revolutionary.

      The 2 movies I went to this year (one was Scary Movie 4 which I expected to enjoy at least superficially, but not even that) didn't give me a good ROI. The last decent movie I was at was probably Batman last year.

      In 30-40 years, I suspect ultra sized movie theatres will be a thing of the past (note I said ultra sized). It seems the Hollywood Blockbuster is dying out slowly and this summer has been thoroughly disgraceful. I think entertainment will slowly settle more and more into happy niches more specific and targetted than they are now.

      Or the current disillusionment with movies could be that many /.er, including myself, are at an age where we have seen it all before. Perhaps it is something every generation has gone through, but it is coming at an unprecedented young age since we are such an media addicted generation, and that video games, internet has raised our expectations (and the bar) to an unprecendented amount that even though the schlock coming out was the same basic crap it always was, we are demanding more. It would make sense, as every single generation eventually talks about a downward spiral in the quality of the entertainment for the next generation. (But I'm already bitching in my 20's here, which does not bode well:/ )
      • "I suppose Hollywood makes rehashes because no one in the organizations wants to stick their neck out and take a chance. So then, they figure, why not make a remake - it's better than even a proven forumula where you would have to put some thought into reinventing it."

        In all fairness, mass-audiences are fickle. Different can often mean easy-to-lose-lots-of-people. I imagine if you put your mind to it, you could call up a good-sized list of movies you liked that lots of people didn't. Think even harder, a
    • by Metrol (147060) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @03:38AM (#15810061) Homepage
      I had a chat with some friends about this very subject not too horribly long ago, which I came up with a theory of my own. I don't think the problem here is that Hollywood is out of ideas. The problem may very well be too many!

      Consider how the original Star Wars got to be the highest grossing movie of it's time. It spent over a year in theaters. Heck, the ads for it weren't much more than the movie's logo and some of the music. This movie had the time to let it be judged by the movie goers, who convinced others they needed to see this thing.

      Today, there are so many new movies coming out that they're barely in the major theaters for more than a couple of weeks. Even a reasonably successful film may only see a month out there.

      This is a huge shift in how movies are marketed, which is coming back to your point about all these remakes, sequels, and TV series. Today, if a movie doesn't produce big time within a couple of weeks, the studios lose money. There's no time for word of mouth, or generating interest in a good movie. If you were a movie executive whose primary concern is making sure everyone gets paid (especially yourself) what would you do?

      Heck, we're already seeing what they'd do. Generate movies based on subjects that are already established household names which your marketing department has identified a certain demographic for. Let's toss together a "Bewitched" movie with some notable names and put it out there! Lots of folks over 30 at least saw reruns, and it should have a predictable attendance.

      Even as of a few weeks ago I was reading an article concerning a debate over how much time after a movie leaves the theater should the DVD come out. If this shortens up even further (as it likely will) you can expect the remakes and the like to get even worse. 1 year for marketing, 2 weeks in distribution, 3 weeks later the DVD. Sounds like a recipe for even worse film making.
    • by Skreems (598317) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @04:54AM (#15810270) Homepage
      You and the story poster just aren't watching the right movies. I live in Seattle, and just got done watching 52 films in 3 weeks at the local film festival. All but about 5 were absolutely fantastic... well worth seeing, and certainly much better than the dreck pumped out as the "must see blockbuster" of the summer.

      And hell, even in mainstream cinema there's some great stuff coming out. Look at anything directed by Chris Nolan (The Prestige is coming out shortly), and anything written by Charlie Kaufman or Aaron Sorkin. In the last couple years we've had fantastic work from Sofia Copola, Tim Burton, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Quentin Tarentino, and Tommy Lee Jones (The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada was just in theaters this spring).

      Go see "A Scanner Darkly". Catch Aronofsky's "The Fountain" when it hits theaters. See Ed Norton in "The Illusionist". Keep an eye out for Lynch's "Inland Empire". There have always been crap films coming out, but if you know what to look for, there's some really exciting things coming out right now. Ignore the remakes-of-remakes, and look around a bit. You'll find plenty of new ideas out there.
    • Ideas? No. I dare say there are literally thousands, tens of thousands of people in California, exploding with creative genius, who would love to make seriously challenging, interesting, unusual, original movies. What Hollywood lacks is guts. It is safer, financially, to put out a movie which is a lot like lots of previous movies. A movie which is based on a franchise which people are already familiar with. A movie which appeals to well-established movie-going demographics. Hollywood cares too much about mo

  • You. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mnemonic_ (164550) <<ude.hcimu> <ta> <cemaj>> on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:15PM (#15808857) Homepage Journal
    "I happened to watch Stargate Atlantis and there was an incredible scene that just caught the emotion and emergency."

    After reading that, I must seriously question your ability to judge any film or video work.
    • True about Stargate Atlantis. I think the show is OK, but has yet to find it's footing. Battlestar Galactica has had some great episodes. Edward James Olmos can really make you want to cry.
  • by middlemen (765373) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:15PM (#15808858) Homepage
    It is simple, the art and passion which existed in making movies and entertaining people has been replaced by hunger for making money by thrusting whatever junk they create, called "art and entertainment", into people's throats. That is why some independent movies do well, not all but some, because only some people decide to make a movie because either they want to entertain people or just tell a story for the sake of telling a story and not "selling" a story. That is why sequels suck and will always suck.
    • That is why sequels suck and will always suck.
      Except for "Clerks II".
    • by bcat24 (914105) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:35PM (#15808966) Homepage Journal
      Sequels suck and will always suck.
      Umm, what about Back to the Future?
    • That is why sequels suck and will always suck.

      For me it doesn't matter if a sequel - or a remake, or a filmatization of a tv-series - sucks or not. A sequel can be fully as good as the original and I'll still not go see it anymore.

      My problem is, sequels are dedicated to give me "more of the same" - which I don't want anymore. I saw the original already, I liked it - but why would I want to spend my limited time and money seeing the same stuff again? It's like going to a restaurant and always ordering the sa
      • Frankly, I'm tired of the form that is a feature movie. Maybe it's me getting old or whatever, but I'm unable to build any enthusiasm even for movies I should really like. I think it started with Lord of The Rings, actually, which I saw and enjoyed - they're everything a movie should be for me - but to my own surprise I never felt I actually cared about it. I saw the first two, then really just forgot about seeing the third. I finally did see it on DVD, but out of a sense of duty, of finishing off something I started, more than anything else. It was great, it was absorbing, it was magnificient - and I would not have missed it at all had I simply skipped the whole thing.

        We've had the 2-hour feature for a century or so; perhaps it's time for the form to reinvent itself?
        This is one of the most interesting comments I've read in this discussion so far.

        I'd argue that the market is proving you right, as we speak. I think the new format of choice is not the two-hour movie, but the 45-minute serial. In the past few years we've seen the demise of the "story arc" sitcom (where each episode was basically self-contained and usually returned the situation to wherever it began, for the next episode), long a staple of American television, and replaced it with plot-driven series TV shows. I think the epitome of the genre is "24," just because it's really the antithesis of the sitcom format, but there are many other shows that have popped up that are basically the same thing.

        On one hand, people seem to like the shorter plotlines of series shows: you can get your 'dose' of entertainment in 45 minutes if you skip the commercials, rather than in two hours; but on the other hand the sales of DVD sets and my personal experience watching them indicates that people aren't adverse to watching two or three hours of serial episodes in a sitting.

        In some ways the whole thing reminds me of another change, which went in the opposite direction: the transition in the 19th century from serial fiction literature, to bound novels. It seems as though today we're going from movies, to series shows where each season has a basically 'cinematic' plot (pretty much any one season of most new dramas could have been a movie, although whether a good or bad one I won't say), and then where that one plot is broken into hourlong sub-plots that are delivered to the viewer in chunks.

        If I was cynical I'd say that this is further evidence of the ADD-ization of this country and of our society in general, but I won't pass judgement. I think I'll go watch another episode of Nip/Tuck, instead.
    • the art and passion which existed in making movies and entertaining people has been replaced by hunger for making money

      I totally agree with you.

      I also find it interesting you say this, especially since, when the studios are talking about piracy, they always insist that, if we don't pay for their material, quality will suffer. I'm not trying to condone piracy, or anything, but I think we all know that's a bunch of BS.

      Every so often, you hear about some actor who made a big deal (walked off a set, etc.) about
  • by Jherico (39763) <`gro.saerdnatnias' `ta' `sivadb'> on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:16PM (#15808864) Homepage
    Producers and studios are more intereasted in making one generic sure fire hit than in investing in small interesting movies. The very beauracracy that makes these huge movies and hypes them to no end in an effort to make money ends up turning them into crap.

    Also, Bryan Singer was a total dick to leave the X-Men series to die a painful death and go direct a sub-par Superman movie. What an asshole.

  • Simple answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakusha (441986) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:16PM (#15808866)
    The reason why movies suck is very simple.

    In the "golden age" of movies (whenever you consider that to be) movies were made by writers, directors, and actors who considered it an art form. Today, the studios are run by people who consider it a profit-oriented business.

    Sure, the studios always wanted to make money. But technology has improved and now it is extremely expensive to produce a movie to modern technological standards, so budgets have skyrocketed. No studio will take risks when they're spending $100 million MINIMUM to make a movie. Unfortunately, art is all about taking risks.

    • Re:Simple answer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by soupforare (542403) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:49PM (#15809041)
      Not to be facetious but what's "modern technological standards"?
      We went decades upon decades without digital editing, let alone recording.

      $100M minimum?
      You can make a film, *film* now, for a fraction of that. You could shoot on video and make it a fraction of that fraction.

      It seems to me that the amazingly high cost of movie making comes from ridiculous CGI, over-inflated talent payrolls, and marketing blitzes that start a year before the movie's even done shooting.

      Clerks was ~$40k
      pi was ~$60k
      cube was ~$250k

      I'm not trying to pull some bullshit romanticism faggotry. I'm just saying that pandering to the masses with shineys and pretty faces that we all know and love isn't going to promote cinema as an art.

      There's nothing wrong with either but there should be room for both.
      • Re:Simple answer (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sakusha (441986) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @11:19PM (#15809188)
        Movies have completely changed technologically over the past 25 years. Look at mainstream movies from the early 1970s and compare them with what they make today. I don't mean look at them on a DVD or TV, look at them in a theater. Everything has changed. Lenses and cameras are sharper, film stock is lower grain, sound production has gone from simple stereo to surround sound, even the lighting is better. Go look at a film from the 1970s, some film about filmmaking, like Truffaut's "Day for Night." Compare what they use to the kind of equipment is used on today's films. A typical modern film spends more renting ONE camera than they used to spend on their whole equipment budget.

        I watched all this stuff change when I worked in Hollywood in the 1980s. Everyone talked about how the "bean counters" were taking over Hollywood, and how expensive productions were. I think the breaking point was the big Writer's Strike in 1988, the writers saw how much money producers, directors, and actors were getting, and they wanted a piece of the pie. Of course they didn't get squat.

        Yeah, there's always the exception of some ultra-low budget movie that breaks big, but those never come from Hollywood, they're always from outsiders. The Studio system produces BIG movies because they believe that's the way to make big money. That's what pandering to the masses is all about.
      • Re:Simple answer (Score:3, Interesting)

        by John Meacham (1112)
        Don't forget 'Primer' http://imdb.com/title/tt0390384/ [imdb.com] made for $7,000 and is excellent. The only movie I ever immediatly rewound and watched again. Also one of the few good time travel movies out there that doesn't gloss over the messy details of causality, but rather revels in them.
  • by DavidinAla (639952) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:16PM (#15808868)
    I'm just getting into filmmaking right now. (I've only made one short film, which has been in 11 film festivals so far.) The problem that I see with most films (both Hollywood and indie) is the writing. In general, the technical work in movies is the best it's ever been. Acting is competent, at worst. The problems are in story construction and other aspects of writing. If you have a bad script, it doesn't matter how good your actors or photography or special effects are. Writing has been getting steadily worse for about 40 years. It has to do, IMO, with movie execs who are ignorant and illiterate. They don't know good writing -- as the great producers of the past did.

    David
    • by imperious_rex (845595) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:59PM (#15809100)
      You're absolutely right, but not in quite the way that you think. Remember the Hollywood writer's strike in the late 80's? If you don't, I guarantee you the studios certainly do. That strike thrust Hollywood into major turmoil, and the studios weren't going to let that happen again anytime soon. Why did the television industry latch onto "reality" shows so enthusaiastically? No real scripts and no writers required (not to mention low wage non-SAG "talent" in front of the camera). For more about the writer's strike (and a little insight into the machinery of Hollywood), check out this article [findarticles.com].
    • The reason for this is that writers are shit on by the Hollywood system. Honestly. Alex Garland was given 1m to write the Halo script. I guarantee you that the director, stars, hell - even some producers will make more on that film than the writer. Writers in general have no real incentive to make a script good after getting "in the door," simply because they a) are paid the lowest of any creative professional in tinseltown, and b) don't see an extra dime if the film does well.

      It's bullshit, especially beca

    • You are right, it's about the scripts. BUT, screenwriters are not the guilty ones, the producers who pick bad screenwriters are.

      Other problems of todays movies:

      1) Emphasis on money rather than artistic values (unlike in the 60s and 70s and even in 80s).

      2) Emphasis on good-looking teenage and under-25 actors (because teenagers are the majority of cinema goers). This brings in shallow themes and shallow characters (by the way, I'm 29).

      3) Emphasis on the visual FX. This again brings in shallow themes.

      4) Someth
  • Sturgeon's Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrumpySimon (707671) <email@sim o n . n et.nz> on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:17PM (#15808879) Homepage
    Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap.

    I don't think movies are getting worse - they're just as crap as they always have been.
    • Re:Sturgeon's Law (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:28PM (#15808931) Homepage Journal
      they're just as crap as they always have been.

      The older we get the more crap we have seen and the less tolerant we are of new crap. Hence the question: why is there so much crap around these days?

      Things which I thought were pretty good when I was 20 now look like crap to be 20 years later. Maybe the absolute level of crap today is the same as is was in the past.

    • Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap.
      I don't think movies are getting worse - they're just as crap as they
      always have been.

      Yup. There have *always* been a lot of terrible movies out there. We just forget about them. ('cause they're forgettable.) And there are still some great movies being produced today.

      The only difference is that the rise of consolidated suburban multiplexes and the erosion of small locally owned theaters has made it rather harder to se

    • Re:Sturgeon's Law (Score:3, Interesting)

      by umbrellasd (876984)
      The more abundant the resources, the less effective the selection process. Put another way: as the cost of production falls, volume rises, because peoples' ability to be bored remains a constant.

      Compare these extremes: Pixar Studios and youtube.com. In the former case you have a company that has staked its success on a small number of expensive to produce products and consequently the selection process is very stringent before anything reaches distribution. In the latter case, the cost of production

  • "Lately"...? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bscott (460706) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:18PM (#15808884)
    TV is, by and large, advertiser funded. Advertisers like to aim at youthful people who are thought to be more easily influenced by their messages. Advertisers therefore gravitate towards shows aimed for the 18-34 segment. And mmost movies are aimed at younger audiences who have the spare time and money and freedom to actually go to them.

    If you find yourself saying "Gee, TV sure is bad these days" then there's a fair chance you celebrated your 35th birthday recently... TV is the same as it's always been, you've just outgrown a lot of it.

    Also see Sturgeon's law.
    • Don't forget that many large companies are pulling back advertising to older generations. Pepsi, for instance, realizes no matter how much promotion they do, they will not convert the older generation away from "Coke". So instead, Pepsi's newer advertisements target very young demographics when individuals can learn brand loyalty. Coke will likely face the same problem as Pepsi in about 20-25 years, at least in the US.

      And back to the topic: crap is easier and cheaper to produce. The younger generations have
  • by imemyself (757318) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:19PM (#15808886)
    I don't think I really agree with you about the movies. Yeah, there are a lot of movies with no depth, but there have been several in the past year or so that I've really liked. (The Inside Man, Lord of War, V is for Vendetta, Syriana, and a few others IIRC). I think it might be more of you just not liking the genre's of films that are being put out (not as many sci-fi). That doesn't mean that the quality of movies is necessarily going down.

    TV generally sucks, but I don't think that's anything new. I rarely watch TV other than the news (and I get most of that off the Internet anyway), and occasionally a sitcom or two while I'm eating dinner.
    • I think there may be some selective memory going on here too, especially when comparing to movies of the past. I mean, Casablanca was just one of about fifty movies made by one studio that year. How many people go to the effort to watch any of those other fifty movies to see if they were any good? I'm not saying they were bad, but I personally haven't seen them. It's not a good idea to compare the best of the past against today's average.
    • I watched V for Vendetta and for as long as the movie was I would have thought more character depth and plot would be there.....perhaps it is due to the fact I never read the comic.
  • Dear Slashdot (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Why were things always so much better in my day?
    • In your day?! You think "your day" was bad? In my day, we had to walk to the movie theaters, uphill both ways, and half the time the fake butter started a fire and the show ended early. And we liked it!
  • by vandelais (164490) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:22PM (#15808901)
    Increasing seasonality.

    Summertime 'popcorn' movies are usually the least fulfilling for intellectual people.

    The best original stories are increasingly backended towards the time of year when studios and tabloids focus on awards.
    Hollywood doesn't squeeze any new decent TV out this time of year when people are taking their kids on vacation and stuff.

    In the meantime, start with the IMDB top 250 and see what you haven't.

  • It's the "hacktors" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ericdano (113424) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:23PM (#15808907) Homepage
    It's the actors. You get the same bunch of losers doing all the films. Colin Farrell, Tom Cruise, Linsey Lohan, etc. It's boring to see them do film after film, especially when they can't act (Tom did, once upon a time).

    Oh, and the films. A remake of Dukes of Hazard? Miami Vice? What is next, Married with Children? A Dallas movie? T.J. Hooker? Come on guys, there are great books out there that could be made into films. How about a version of "I, Robot" that actually follows Asimov's book? The last Superman movie. Terrible. They should have waited another year or two and did the film with the cast of Smallville. I mean, seriously, Lex from Smallville vs. the latest Superman's? No comparison.

    I can see why great actors like James Spader turn to T.V. now rather than film. Unless you land a Harry Potter film, or are a voice actor in a Pixar film, or are in a Spiderman or Pirates sequel, it probably not going to do well at all.
    • I, Robot following Asimov's book would be really dull. But you should read the Harlan Ellison script that he put together for I, Robot. It's excellent, and much better than the CGI-fest that is the Will Smith version. (not actually as bad as I was expecting, but then again, expectations were rather low) Both realized that you had to have some sort of human-interest story as the core, rather than what was in Asimov's books. Ellison focused on Calvin and drew in some elements of the early Robot-Empire-Fo
  • Trust me, after the third or fourth emotional/dramatic speech from Dr. Weir, you will be taking back those words.
    • Yeah. She needs to be "Wraithed". The show is still finding it's footing. Maybe the third season will make things right.
    • Really? Weir is your pet peeve? She's a bit breathy, but at least she's not quite as constantly pointlessly melodramatic as Tayla. She bothers you more than the fact that all primitive characters in the Stargate universe talk like Data, but with way less personality?
  • it's that there's been greater public attention to documentaries (and hopefully more docs will be funded in the future). For example, I wonder if An Inconvenient Truth [climatecrisis.net] would be receiving so much attention if it wasn't for such a dearth of quality Hollywood movies.

    That being said, have you been outside lately?! [cnn.com]
  • by kawika (87069) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:33PM (#15808957)
    Solution: Snakes on a Plane!
  • Maybe you're just missing them?

    There's a lot of good material out there if you're willing to look for it. Since you mentioned shows, let's use TV as an example. It's easy to stumble upon shows like According to Jim, Hope and Faith, The King of Queens, or Joey (which has been cancelled, thank god) and assume that the sitcom has been left to die a slow and painful death.

    If you stop looking there, though, then you miss some of the gems that are out there. Arrested Development never seemed to get the push fr
  • Independent Film Channel (IFC) and the Sundance Channel.

    You will see movies that put the story first. The big studios are too cautious, too conservative, too often. Ever wonder what happened to Henry Rollins? He's on IFC.

    Oh yeah, greg the bunny. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_the_bunny [wikipedia.org]

    The sundance has some ass kicking movies too. google the sundance channel and look at the schedule.
  • by sielwolf (246764)
    Well ask a subjective question, get a subjective answer. You could say that the state of the movie is as good as its ever been and there's nothing quantitative we could say about it. I wouldn't usually consider my On Demand to be a good cross-section of movies. Most are just the biggest sellers that they can get and classics that haven't either been earmarked by networks or other cable stations (say if TNT decided to get exclusive rights to Shawshank you might not see it on your On Demand). But then it
  • Things were always better in the past. One things about the year that Godfather came out and suddenly all the movies that came out in '77 (or whatever year) were awesome. Plus as we improve at filmmaking, the audience's standards increase. A lot more shit used to get past in..the past...without anyone noticing.
  • by apflwr3 (974301) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:38PM (#15808985)
    When do you think movies were good? The 90's? The 80's? Look at the top ten list from just about any week from any year. There'll be one classic, maybe two, and one movie that's so bad it's good, and the rest is mediocre and forgettable. Most mainstream movies have always been aimed at the lowest common demoninator and if you think movies from the past were better you're just applying selective memory. Yes, there were times (e.g. in the 70's) when the bar was raised a little higher, but even then most movies were still dreck.

    That said, there are great independant movies being made every day and even an occasional a big-budget flick that gets everything right. Some of it's foreign, some of them are documentaries, most will require a little more effort to locate (like browsing new areas of Netflix. It's not like the great movies from the past have disappeared, either-- if you can't find anything new to watch, why not try a classic you've never seen?

    By the way, there's one more factor to take into account-- maybe you're just getting old. Look at some movies you used to think were great 10 or 20 years ago (I have no idea how old you are...) and see if they're as good as you remember.
    • I wholeheartedly agree - especially with the selective memory and the age. I think much of this is the "when I was your age, things were better" syndrome. Everything starts to seem worth less in comparison to idealized memories of things you love, and when you add inflation on top of it, people who are accustomed to movies costing a dollar think that 10 is outrageous. I'm still young by most anyone's standards, and I think 10 is outrageous. But ask a 12 or 13 year old who is just starting to go see movies,
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:40PM (#15808993)
    there's always been shitty movies, and moviemaking has ALWAYS been an explicitly for-profit venture. hence the beginnings of hollywood, which was little more than a way to avoid licensing technology developed by Thomas Edision by virtue of being out of his reach.

    the reason older movies seem so great, and new movies seem so the suck, is because you're only remembering the Metropolises, the Battleship Potemkins, the Citizen Kanes, the 8 1/2s, the Mon Oncles, the Dr. Strangeloves, the 2001s, the Apocalypse Nows, and so on. you're talking about over a HUNDRED years of filmmaking, and gotta tell you, they certainly wasn't ALL winners. Plenty of chaff in there to pad down the wheat. And seriously, in about 20 years there will definitely be a handful of films that absolutely stand up as classics of the early 21st century.

    can't say much about stargate or whatever the fuck, cause that shit's retarded.
  • by eliot1785 (987810) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:41PM (#15808994)
    Movie productions are actually investor-led enterprises, despite the fact that they are also an art form. While there are a lot of movies whose directors and actors really care about communicating an important vision or message, there are also a lot of movies that are designed solely to appeal to as many people as possible. They fill the movie with cliches and implications designed to please as many people as possible, but in appealing to everybody enough to get them to see the movie, they appeal to very few people enough to get them to actually like it.

    Superman Returns is a case in point. Did you notice how that was simultaneously marketed to evangelicals with "Superman as Jesus figure" and gays with that article "Is Superman Gay?" and liberals with Lex Luthor's "bring it on" statement in the trailers? In reality the movie was none of these things, they just wanted to intrigue as many people as possible to bring them to the theaters.

    Bottom line: For people trying to make the "summer blockbuster," it doesn't matter if the movie is good, as long as it sells. You make more money increasing expectations than delivering on those expectations.

    This is why niche and indie movies are often better, because the primary goal of the writers, directors and actors is to present their vision. Now, I actually like a fair number of mainstream movies, but certainly not most of them.
  • Simple Answer... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BTWR (540147) <americangibor3@P ... om minus painter> on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:41PM (#15808995) Homepage Journal
    Q: Why are movies so bad lately?

    A: Because it's a tired, cliched question/statement.


    This year, like every year, has had some great movies and some bad ones. In the past year, we've had Superman Returns, Pirates of the Carribean 2, United 93, Munich, Millions, Crash, Capote, Match Point, Hustle & Flow, Batman Begins, Sin City, Walk the Line, Murderball, The Constant Gardener, A History of Violence, March of the Penguins, Wallace & Grommit...

    And that's just to name a few. Is this any better than other year? No, not really. It's just that every year, there's always a lot more trashy art than good art. Any nostalgia for "back then" being better than now is just smoke and mirrors. For every Schindler's List, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Godfather Part II, you got Police Academy 6, Halloween 3, and Monster a Go-Go in those years (or shortly around it, that was just off the top of my head).

    I'm sick of all these "movies/books/music/crime rates/teenagers were all better back then" arguments. Baloney. We only remember the best, and today, when every friday we get 3 new mediocre movies and every few weeks a decent one, we forget that there were also new movies every week in the 90s and 80s, and countless 8-track trash music from the 70s, and romance novels have been around since the 40s.

  • by bersl2 (689221) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:44PM (#15809015) Journal
    For as long as people have told stories, storytellers have had the tendency to put their own touch on the stories they received from those before them. I see the rash of remakes as a manifestation of this, as reinterpretations.

    Now, the suckage is a completely different matter.
  • by NereusRen (811533) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:48PM (#15809039)
    Have you ever heard someone say the following: "Look at this really old [thing]! It's still in great condition, whereas my new [thing] broke already! They sure don't make things like they used to..."

    When you look at all the old things you have that have lasted 30 years and work great, compared to the things that break easily, you're comparing the worksmanship of the set {things that were built 30+ years ago and are still working} to {things that were built a few years ago}... of course all the older things you see around you are better-made, even if the worksmanship standards haven't actually changed over the years, because of the natural filter that they're still working, or else they wouldn't be around for you to compare.

    Similarly, the set {movies I remember from more than a few years ago} will clearly be better than {movies from this year}, simply by virtue of the fact that you remember the better ones and forget the worse. Comparing today's Hollywood crap to yesterday's cream of the crop is unintentional, but it's exactly what's going on everytime someone rehashes this "story" every few months.
  • There are many reasons, some of them explained above: The writing is crap, the acting is terrible, the producers are PHB's, and the biz just wants to justify paying the technical expense of doing these movies as well as the huge salaries of the actors.

    There's also other reasons, however they lie in the major theaters that show the movies:
    • Take Spirited Away. A local theater I worked at (note former, of course) carried it. However, they handled it badly. It was shoved into a small theater, always sold out
  • It has occurer to me there's a problem with sequels. They are difficult to do well. For instance the Matrix was awesome but its two sequels were crap. Why? The tension was all resolved in the first film. Few loose ends were left. When the sequel came it had to invent all new tension but constrained by the bounds of the original plot. When the Wachowski finally finished raking in big bags of money form those, they produced the excellect V for Vendetta. What could they have written if they had left th
  • Lack of Competition (Score:3, Interesting)

    by intrico (100334) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:58PM (#15809092) Homepage
    In the movie theather market for major motion picture releases, there is very little competition. Here in the very large central region of california - an area encompassing a few large counties, there are dozens of movie theaters - but they are all owned by one company - Regal Cinemas (Regal bought out many chains, including United Artist and Edwards). When one chain has a monopoly over regional markets like this, they can afford to take a major hit in revenue and still remain very profitable. Also, major theater chains have exclusive deals with the major studios.

    Since there are less than ten major studios like Sony, Paramount, etc. (which is VERY FEW when you consider the overall demand for movies) with massive marketing power, there is plenty of consumer money to be divvy'd up between the studios. Indie film producers and studios have a hard time getting their films into these major chains due to the fact that the (few) major studios have good relationships with the few major chains and effectively shut them out.

    These factors along with the fact that big companies do not like to take "creative risks", leave the major studios with little incentive to change from "tried & true" formulas in film creation. This leads to less overall creativity in the long run, and although ticket numbers are down, these companies are still VERY profitable.
     
    Of course, the Internet can change this and one can argue that the Internet has in fact contributed to the growing popularity of Indie films, which can be quite a refreshing change from the formulaic, predictable Major Releases.
     
    This can also be tied to Net neutrality... one of the reasons the major Telcos oppose net neutrality is because they see the potential for lucrative relationships with the Few Big Motion Picture Distributors to deliver their movies at high speed to their customers, while the speed of other content is capped (i.e. really good, creative, cutting-edge Indie Films that have the potential to be hits and compete with the major studios, but obviously lack the $$$ to share with the Telcos).
  • Im going to take a different approach and say that if you honestly think good movies arent coming out anymore, you arent looking particularly hard.

    First of all, video on demand is not the place to begin your search, oh I know its convenient, but chances are you'll only find last years crap that couldn't make back production costs. Best of luck finding something good.

    Check out some movie review sites before judging whether a movie is worth your time or not http://www.rottentomatoes.com/ [rottentomatoes.com] has a pretty good t

  • by ewg (158266) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @11:11PM (#15809160)
    Did you just turn 35? It seems like movies are pitched at the demographic from teenagers to mid-thirties. By 35, you've seen every trick in the Hollywood book, so nothing seems fresh. Everything strikes you as a copy of something you've already seen.

    I submit it's not that the movies have been so bad lately, but rather that your sensibilities have changed.
  • by wtansill (576643) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @11:25PM (#15809210)
    Passion does not scale well. The greatest restaurants are all one-offs where the staff is passionate about serving good food and giving the customer a quality experience. Programs that we love to use (Linux, say) are put together by people who are passionate about what they do to the point of evangelism. Art house movies are made by people who are passionate about using cinematic techniques to tell stories that are compelling both visually and in terms of their plotlines. But passion takes time, is monetarilly intensive, and, let's face it, is a crapshoot; there are many folks who are passionate about their beer can collections or what have you (I knew a woman who was fascinated by bricks or all things), but they aren't ever going to make money from it.

    Enter the financial folks. They are absolutely necessary any time a business moves beyond being an expensive hobby, but they will strive for efficieny. Efficiency is best gained by homogenizing operations, but that also weeds out the things that tended to make the enterprise truly great in the first place. On top of that, some things (movies in this case) are enormously expensive to make (someone has to pay Industrial Light and Magic for all those special effects), and once the expense goes up, the natural tendency is to minimize risk. But again, minimizing risk keeps you from taking that fresh view and going out on a limb.

    Sometimes this isn't really all that bad. If I swing by the supermarket to pick up a gallon of milk I want commodity pricing, and the bean counters excell at building the sort of enterprise that can deliver those commodity prices. You want really good creative stuff? Stay far away from the big guys and shell out extra for the starving artists who live for this sort of thing.
  • by Brian_Ellenberger (308720) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @11:45PM (#15809282)
    Why do you think the crap/good ratio has changed? Do you have any idea of the sheer number of bad B-type movies that were created in the previous decades that noone remembers or cares about?

    The reason that it just seems like there is a high ratio of crap is because you only remember the GREAT movies of yesteryear. You don't remember the 1000+ cowboy/indian westerns or melodramatic romances because you most likely have never heard of them. You just remember Casablanca/Citizen Kane/etc.

  • Face it (Score:5, Funny)

    by tsa (15680) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @11:47PM (#15809289) Homepage
    You're getting older man.
  • Writing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fm6 (162816) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @11:53PM (#15809315) Homepage Journal

    Well, I'm not a big fan of the Stargate franchise, but I think you've sort of answered your own question by mentioning them. You like a good story, and Stargate relies mostly on stories to hold its audience. They have to, because, by entertainment industry standards, they're a shoestring operation. Yeah, they do have some fancy special effects. But its cheap stuff. I can't be bothered to look up the figures, but I know that Stargate and Battlestar spend less for a whole season's SFX than a lot of movies (including some non-SF movies!) spend for a couple of hours.

    Movies, by contrast, have huge budgets. Even so-called Indies cost tens of millions. And the kind of movie most people go to see costs at least $100 million to make. When you're risking that much money, you don't take chances. You put those millions into name stars, fancy effects, epic scenes — things people can see. You're so busy with that stuff, and with all the politics and ego-soothing, you don't worry about coming up with a good script. And you don't need to — a script doesn't sell a movie. Except, of course, to a tiny few like you and me.

  • by MagicAlex84 (991508) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @12:28AM (#15809469)
    Having just watched Serenity and all the episodes of Firefly I've come to the conclusion that nobody cares about entertainment that's meaningful, because if the opposite were true then Firefly would still be on TV and nobody would give a shit about American Idol.
  • by mcgroarty (633843) * <brian.mcgroarty@gmaiLIONl.com minus cat> on Sunday July 30, 2006 @12:33AM (#15809492) Homepage
    Movies used to inspire. They were about characters who you admired or wanted to emulate, and there wasn't any ambiguity about right and wrong.

    Bring back the heroic guy - we've had enough wishy-washy characters who always have a major personal flaw. Bring back the fantastic dame who hangs off his arm -- she can be superhuman too, but that doesn't mean she has to take him down a peg at every chance. Bring back the strident and brave adventure, be it action, discovery, business, or voyage -- let the hero make the movie happen instead of being passively bounced about by heavy-handed plot devices. Bring back the unquestionably evil villain and don't fret about whether we understand his horrible childhood. Bring back the black-and-white morality - we like to see bad squashed and good heralded. If the film's going to go deep, don't go deep into the thousandth iteration of Hollywood feel-good stay-between-the-lines PC pop psych preaching... we go to the theater for a momentary escape from that. And for the love of christ, quit talking down to the audience.. It's okay to challenge the viewer once in a while.
  • by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @01:15AM (#15809629)
    I used to wonder just what you are asking. Then I saw MST3K. Once you realize the sheer number of abysmally bad movies from the past, you begin to understand that movies haven't gotten worse at all. If anything, they have gotten far better. Name one major movie released this year that has bad audio, bad camerawork, or incompetent editing? You can't do it. No matter how awful today's movies are, they still look and sound amazingly better than movies of the past.

    Today's movies fail in terms of writing, acting, directing, or, in some cases, all of the above. Implausible plots, paper acting, horrible cinematography - none of this is new. But we don't remember "Monster a Go Go" or "Manos: The Hands of Fate". We do remember "Back to the Future".

    That said, this year has been particularly weak. There's no Matrix, no Star Wars, no Harry Potter, and no Lord of the Rings. This year seems weak because 2001-2004 were so astoundingly strong. Whether or not you liked "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", seeing the franchise come to the big screen was a huge deal for many, many people. The "Lord of the Rings" series was one of the most anticipated film adaptations ever. And although the "Star Wars" prequels were generally regarded as weak, the special effects were amazing.

    I can name tons of movies that I enjoyed over the past 10 years, from Pixar's films (Incredibles / Nemo / Monsters / Toy Story) to the superhero films that worked (X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman Begins) to the unique and bizzare films (GATTACA, Fight Club, Memento) to great action/suspense films (The Matrix, Collateral) and a lot more.
  • What bad movies? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zhe Mappel (607548) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @02:25AM (#15809854)
    Bad movies?! My friend, what are you complaining about? Armed with the IMDb and a little thing called taste, I haven't seen a bad movie in ages.

    In just the last few months, I've been dazzled by cool stuff by Michael Haneke (*the* coolest end-of-the-world movie ever made, "Hour of the Wolf," the creepy "Hidden," and the revoltingly subversive "Funny Games") and Takashi Miike (the icy "Black Society" trilogy), the awesome 1976 black comedy "Network," and a pair of superb recent documentaries, "New York Doll" (70s glam rock) and "Why We Fight" (Eisenhower's warning against the military industrial complex). I can't also forget "The Servant," a sinister 60s-era British flick (made by Joseph Losey, the immensely talented film industry outcast from Wisconsin) about a manservant slowly taking over his master's life which has the additional gift of having been adapted by our recent Nobel Laureate in literature, Harold Pinter. Oh, yeah, and two really different, fantastic dramas about the boxing life: "Fat City" (1972) and "The Set-Up" (1949). Hell, I'd watch more, but the week's only so long and I have to make room for possibly the best serial drama ever made, Deadwood--a masterpiece in our time!

    See, it's too late in the day to complain about Hollywood. Disappointment and boredom will await you if you depend on the idiot factory. Happily, the rest of the planet hasn't lost its touch. The library of international film is so full of good and even astonishing work that you need a lifetime to watch it all.

    Like any subject, you won't get very far without some guidance. The little paragraph in the On Demand section? That isn't going to cut it. Get hold of a good film companion like Halliwell's, and read some of the great movie critics like Andrew Sarris or Pauline Kael. Or if you want to start this instant, then peruse the reliable Roger Ebert's short odes to great films. Start at random, you can hardly go wrong with anything here:

    http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/secti on?category=REVIEWS08 [suntimes.com]

  • by MemoryDragon (544441) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @04:43AM (#15810236)
    I recently went to a film festival of young european directors, and what I saw there blew lots of professional stuff easily away. One of the movies which gave me one of the biggest impressions was Zamedi/13, one of the best movies I have seen in the recent past (partially thriller/horror themed), you really have to look outside of the box, there is lots of talent there probably never to be discovered blowing most of the plastic garbage from hollywood away easily.
  • by Stumbles (602007) on Sunday July 30, 2006 @07:56AM (#15810659)
    Movies have been bad longer than "lately".

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