All her life she’s adored the silver screen. But now in a lament that’ll strike a chord with millions, JOAN COLLINS asks… Why are today’s movies so depressing, confusing, preachy – and interminably long and boring?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have adored going to the cinema.
My parents took me to see a Shirley Temple film and I totally fell in love with her cheeky charm and cherubic curls.
From then on, I was hooked not only on Shirley, but on the Shirley Temple doll my parents gave me for company, which I cherished until the Nazis blew her up in an air raid.
We went to the movies at least two or three times a week, and I became fascinated by the stars of what is now known as the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood, and how magnetic and charismatic every one of them was.
From Errol Flynn to Carmen Miranda, Betty Grable to Clark Gable, Danny Kaye to Gene Kelly, all were total originals. And there were hundreds more stars to pick from according to our mood and desire. Oh, how I miss them!
Since those early days, I’ve loved the whole experience of cinemagoing, from handing over the tickets and finding your seat to the anticipation and excitement of watching the adverts for forthcoming attractions
The Banshees Of Inisherin, meanwhile, is so graphic and slow that I almost felt like cutting off my own fingers — and head
Since those early days, I’ve loved the whole experience of cinemagoing, from handing over the tickets and finding your seat to the anticipation and excitement of watching the adverts for forthcoming attractions.
Recently, though, I’ve noticed that films seem to fall into a few rather predictable camps.
First, the plot-free, like those in the trailers I saw on a recent outing to the movie house. They were mostly science fiction: futuristic, computer-generated potboilers.
Even though none probably cost less than £50 million to make, they mostly left me cold, not to mention deaf.
I had to stuff tissue in my ears to allay the sounds of shattering explosions, booms and bangs that were so exhausting I couldn’t wait for the main feature.
In the second camp are the dismal movies that make you feel totally despairing, like many of those nominated for this year’s Oscars.
Although there are many fabulous actors working right now, too often today’s films don’t reflect the high standard of the thespian talent within them. They are too long, too boring, too bleak.
For example, Oscars frontrunner Cate Blanchett gives a tour de force in Tar as a composer.
Yet it was in a film that, frankly, had me nodding off halfway through. Ana de Armas surely deserved her nomination for Best Actress for playing Marilyn Monroe in the film Blonde, but I couldn’t cope with the bizarre talking foetus.
Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh turns out a peerless performance in Everything Everywhere All At Once, but the film is frenetic, switching between languages to such a degree that it gave me a headache from furiously reading the subtitles, never mind trying to take in the acting.
Joan’s Top Ten Films
- The Fabulous Baker Boys
- The Birdcage
- Some Like It Hot
- Midnight Run
- All About Eve
- American Beauty
- Green Book
- As Good As It Gets
As for Michelle Williams, who immersed herself fully as Mrs Fabelman in Steven Spielberg’s biopic, she deserves her nod for Best Actress.
But The Fabelmans, although a sweet coming-of-age story, clocks in at an interminable two and a half hours.
Andrea Riseborough has attracted controversy for her nomination for Best Actress.
Aside from this, while her depiction of a hopeless alcoholic in the film To Leslie rings painfully true, even this film, at a mere two hours, cries out desperately for an editor.
Best Actor nominee Brendan Fraser, for whom I will always have a soft spot since we clung together during a coast-to-coast flight that was buffeted through a storm, was magnificent in The Whale. But the film itself was dark and depressing.
The Banshees Of Inisherin, meanwhile, is so graphic and slow that I almost felt like cutting off my own fingers — and head.
Lastly, first-time Oscar nominee Bill Nighy, whom I will always adore, may have been subtly superb in Living, but the film made me feel like dying.
Why do so many films need to be so dismal? I yearn for light, brightness; I crave escapism, entertainment and distraction.
Movies are meant to take you away from your daily troubles. To exalt your mood or move you in some way, to make you feel good or, if not, at least reflective or educated. Not suicidal.
Today’s Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice-winning films are generally depressing, confusing and interminably long and boring.
Although there is much trumpeting about how inspiring and brilliant they are, largely by critics and trade papers such as Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, the consensus from people I know and respect is that they’re unwatchable.
They cut back and forth prematurely between scenes, overuse flashbacks and even insert double flashbacks (eight weeks back, two weeks forward, three years back, somewhere in a galaxy far, far away . . .) and light them so sparsely that often all you can see is a black screen, while the dialogue is incomprehensible due to the ear-splitting soundtrack.
Michelle Williams, who immersed herself fully as Mrs Fabelman in Steven Spielberg’s biopic, deserves her nod for Best Actress
Oscars frontrunner Cate Blanchett gives a tour de force in Tar as a composer. Yet it was in a film that, frankly, had me nodding off halfway through
I well remember the outcry when they re-edited Gone With The Wind from three hours, 42 minutes to almost four hours.
But the action never stopped and the story was compelling. Even the slower moments were full of anguish and drama, which kept one’s attention rapt.
Some of the best movies in cinematic history ran for two-and-a-half hours or even more than three: Ben Hur, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Schindler’s List.
Few can be accused of being self-indulgently long and, more unforgivably, of causing rigor mortis.
I have heard that film production has become very disjointed, with many editors and directors working from home and conferring by Zoom in a socially distanced way, so the films and storylines become disconnected. Perhaps that is why today’s movies feel so bewildering.
I also hear that the younger generation tend to multi-task while watching films, constantly on their devices, perhaps having conversations with each other, arranging their social calendars or booking an Uber to get them the hell out.
A theory put forward by a young friend whose opinion I respect is that Millennials’ attention span is so short because the array of entertainment options they have at hand is vast, so movies have to compete with a ‘shock and awe’ value to retain their interest.
I also concur with the theory that we have become anaesthetised by the real horrors to which we are exposed, in graphic detail, via 24/7 newsfeeds and social media.
Michelle Yeoh turns out a peerless performance in Everything Everywhere All At Once, but the film is frenetic
Mass murder, shootings and brutality are mourned deeply by some but largely dispensed with as ‘the way things are’. Scandals are met with a shrug of the shoulders.
The subject matter of films reflects such attitudes. Movies revolve around anger, fear, resentment, angst, loneliness and alienation, not individualism.
In short, films today seem to cater either to a small group of like-minded individuals who respond to the egalitarian ‘woke-ism’ so prevalent among today’s so-called intelligentsia; or, at the other end of the spectrum, to the very young, with superhero franchises, man-eating zombies, infantile and scatological humour or blood-spattering horror.
Indeed, the Top Ten streamers during the Covid lockdown, as revealed by The New York Times, were either zombie or horror offerings. No longer do we have the ‘tales of love and glory’ and a universal message we can aspire to.
Romanticism is trite, humour sadly lacking. To shock and to delve into the most foul matters seems highly valued.
Is any movie today complete without a vomiting scene or the portrayal of internal organs? As for sex, my scenes in The Stud are practically chaste.
How different are today’s crop of films from those in 1989, when George Hamilton and I hosted the Golden Globes.
Here are some of the entertaining and brilliant films that were nominated: Rain Man, Mississippi Burning, A Fish Called Wanda, Working Girl and, one of mine and my husband’s shared favourites, Midnight Run.
Ana de Armas surely deserved her nomination for Best Actress for playing Marilyn Monroe in the film Blonde, but I couldn’t cope with the bizarre talking foetus
All these were supremely entertaining, and brilliantly written, directed and acted — and of them, only Rain Man and Mississippi Burning were just over two hours long, both deservedly so.
The subject matters were lofty, educational and difficult, yet the stories with a message were simple, the film-making, editing and dialogue clear.
Critic Deborah Ross, reviewing one of this year’s contenders, Empire Of Light, could not have put it better when she wrote: ‘The magic of film-going is the theme, but there is almost no film-going in it and what there is isn’t magic.’
I, too, was expecting a movie about the inspirational and transportive medium of cinema but walked out perplexed after being confronted with sordid sexual acts, schizophrenia and the deplorability of the 1980s skinhead movement. Where was the light?
The public seem to be responding by simply not going to the movies — attendance is way down.
Case in point, the much-heralded drama about decadent 1920s Hollywood, Babylon, has taken a measly £34 million while costing £124 million.
As for the Oscar nominees, Tar cost £28 million and has so far grossed £7.4 million, and The Fabelmans cost £30 million and has grossed £19 million.
My bet for this year’s Best Movie and Best Actor is Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis and Austin Butler as the eponymous hero, which has been both a critical and a commercial success. It’s highly entertaining.
And for the actual movie I went to the cinema to watch, it was a terrific action thriller called Plane, starring Gerard Butler, with excellent performances and a barely believable but tense narrative.
There were no flashbacks that I can recall, each scene was resolved before cutting to its coincident scene, and violence was kept to a minimum — and thus used to maximum effect.
It’s not an Oscar-winner by any stretch of the imagination, mostly because it was watchable, satisfying and mercifully brief. But it has been No. 1 in the worldwide box-office returns since it opened.
This article will likely guarantee I will never work in Hollywood again!
However, may I give a message to film-makers — lighten up both your content and, if possible, the actual lighting of the actors on screen. Try to be more entertaining and less woke. Help us aspire, not expire.
But whatever you do, keep the movies coming — I love them no matter what. I’ll keep complaining until you get it right.
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