Perhaps more navels were being gazed at but at least less cities weren't being destroyed...in 3D.
For better or worse, things are different these days.
I know I'm about to sound like the grumpy old film dork of yesteryear with all these historical references but allow this rant, please.
For many decades, the movie theater, while often an escapist refuge, was still considered serious and often high-brow, with a film like McCabe & Mrs. Miller not being that unusual a summer release. Conventional television, meanwhile, was cast as the "idiot box".
As far as "big" films went, I've always thought of All The President's Men as an example of the way so many movies used to be. You had a quality offering meant for "serious" viewing and featuring an important topic...which also happened to be great showbiz - two mega movie stars of their time and line ups around the block. Ah, I love the smell of popcorn in the morning...to me it smells like...popular quality entertainment!
But now, we seem to have what I call the "ping-pong" match. As with so many things in our 21st century world, the "middle" seems to be vanishing. (Where do you shop these days? High-end boutiques one day and dollar stores the next? Haven't been in a traditional department store much lately, huh?)
In ping-pong cinema, Brad Pitt is running to one side of the table to appear in an Ocean's Eleven flic to be released in 120,000,000 multiplexes one week, then running to the other side to appear in Babel (not box office poison but not a mass-market effort either) down the road. Mr. Pitt wants to stay popular but wants to be respected as an actor doing exceptional work as well. Seems harder to do that in the same project nowadays. Directors too...Steven Soderbergh took more than a few laps around that table, as well.
Another example of the way it used to be was Chinatown - it afforded Jack Nicholson the chance to deliver a great acting performance as well as a great movie star turn at the same time.
But now, with the cable/pay tv explosion at one end and the "tentpole" and 3D mega-budget mentality of major Hollywood studios at the other, much of the finest quality in linear narrative storytelling can be found on the small (but getting bigger by the day) screen - an arena that actually supports and respects the writers. Go figure!
That's not to say there are no motion pictures made that emphasize quality over box office boffo - and in today's more fragmented world, many releases are aimed at niche markets. But in an environment like this current one, the chances of even more targeted offerings getting "lost" are in some ways greater than ever, even if there are more distribution channels and more voluminous (and better) independent films all the time. And with all the noise out there - a world filled with many publishers but no editors - the need to curate becomes greater than ever.
There are many bloggers and sites that do a tremendous job of analyzing the well-known films that everyone talks about. Other movies deserve to be discussed as well...once people know they exist.
So that leads me, as they say in marketing, to this "call for action"...
If you have a favorite film that you feel has "flown under the radar"
and deserves finding an audience, please leave a comment below or drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I might try to get a hold of it and
have a look for myself. Pretty much all genres are cool with me.
Let's share the good stuff, shall we?