Do the Movies Have a Future?
by David Denby
Recommended Ages: 13+
That is to say, it is killing their ability to bring audiences together as a community, to communicate with them meaningfully, to create emotional experiences for them, to leave an impression on them that they will think about and talk about later, to tell stories and depict images that come to life in their imagination. The film business is doing this, he argues, by devoting all its large-scale investments to crappily made blockbuster franchise/genre flicks full of meaningless fantasy spectacle, investing only meager crumbs in a few "art-house" movies, and omitting the whole middle range of quality entertainment - including whole genres that are sadly fading away. The blockbusters bemuse the eye with movement and the ear with noise, while seldom showing anything real.
I thought he was wrong about a couple of movies. I agreed with his opinion about at least one film, but not with his reason for arriving at it. I thought his views about the work of at least one director, one film, and one whole school of film-making were half-baked. Criticism is, after all, opinion; everyone has one and is welcome to it. But in this book I also learned a lot about the history of film and how to watch them and evaluate them. Will I tell you which bits I most enjoyed learning about? No. You go ahead and read this book, or don't read it, and learn what you like. What I will say is that a writer who can express himself as well as Denby deserves some credit, a reasonable doubt at least, for having the ability to think clearly and, when he applies that ability to something worth thinking about, his opinion is worth reading. This book, for what its moment in film history is worth (and it's still recent enough to apply today, for the most part), is still out there, searching for readers who have the clarity of mind to consider Denby's opinion about the movie business - its past, present, and future. Perhaps by helping train those minds to see and understand what is and isn't happening on the silver screen, this book will affect the answer to the question opened by its title.