By Caesar Martini, Jess Skinner, Eva Bowering, Sam Linton
Edited by Jess Skinner
Editor’s note: What follows is my attempt to bring independent and unique writers together under a common subject. Each contributor was asked the general question: what does the future look like for the film medium? What technological and cultural trends are ruling and/or influencing our popular movie entertainment? I would like to extend a thanks to all of you who contributed to this piece! Enjoy.
I think that there are typically two main sides of cinema. These two sides go hand in hand when it comes to recruiting different kinds of viewers, but in a sense they are also in conflict with one another, since they are complete opposites. On one side of the cinematic coin, you have the big, loud, action/comedy/romance blockbusters — films that sacrifice a certain degree of substance (e.g. quality acting or directing) for a level of broad-market mass appeal. Concerned with quantity, these are the movies that rake in tonnes of money at the box office and keep the lifeblood of movie-making (ie. money) flowing through Hollywood. These are the movies that keep the industry healthy and successful.
On the other side of the coin are original, thoughtful, artistic films. Films that more often than not feature risky subject matter, unique presentations, incredibly skilled actors and directors, and that defy the conventional formula for raking in wads of cash upon theatrical release. This type of film catches the of audience that is typically disgusted with the more mindless fare of blockbuster films — viewers of these movies are tired of movies with big action and stupid dialouge, and see the latter as a sign of the imminent downfall of humanity. Thankfully, the production of these artistic films renews faith in the value of cinema as a creative medium.
These opposite sides of the coin need each other. As much as the artistic moviegoer hates them, big blockbuster movies keep Hollywood in business. It would be nice if artistic films shovelled in profit by the truckload, but they don’t and they never will; the average person just isn’t compelled to pay money for films like that on the same scale that they are for blockbusters. For example, No Country For Old Men — one of the most critically-acclaimed movies EVER — has only pulled in a worldwide total of 70 million dollars since November, which is a relatively modest sum compared to Spider Man 3’s 890 million.
A studio can have a succession of horribly unprofitable bombs, but one Transformers later, and they’ve made 700 million dollars. The studio can use this revenue to stay in business; and the same studio that pumps out a mindless, testosterone-filled orgy of a film can be the one that produces thoughtful and mind-blowing cinema. Several actors have even admitted that they do big, dumb blockbuster films so that they can make the money they want or need in order to make their own smaller, more thoughtful films.
The point in all this is that this year, both sides of the cinema coin have been moving along quite nicely. The future of cinema is looking fairly bright at the moment on both fronts. More people than ever have been motivated by word of mouth to check out truly amazing films like No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood. The artistic, quality-driven side is flourishing, but it is a monumental time for blockbusters as well. The quantity side of the coin have had money-makers Shrek the 3rd and Transformers. The top eleven box office gross films of 2007 each have made over 200 million dollars and well over 27 billion dollars combined — and that’s not including overseas totals. It’s been a banner year.
As long as both sides of cinema can thrive like this, filmmaking as an industry will continue to prosper.
— Caesar Martini
Novelty is always welcome but talking pictures are just a fad.
— Irving Thalberg (1929)
Predictions are bullcrap. In particular, calling the shot before the play in technology and media is liable to make your predictor look like a world-class fool — and in the future, young people will see your fool quote and wonder how, with such incorrect foresight, anyone thought it was a good idea to ask you anything about anything. Sorry, Mr. Thalberg: maybe you were qualified to do whatever it is that you did, but according to the above epigraph, you didn’t know jack. And neither do I, truthfully; being one very aware of the shortcomings of predicting the future, shall I go about it anyway?
The first movie I saw this decade was probably Magnolia — which, in perspective, is as important an element to the outcome of my cinematic brainwashing as any. At the time, I took it very seriously, but only now does it more or less resemble a neo-Biblical farce, with all morals and values skidded off into a thousand differing directions. What Paul Thomas Anderson was trying to say with this movie I have not the foggiest inclination. Much more important is its position as the boot that kicked the door open into the aughts, the decade in which I have existed, and will continue to exist, submerged in an art form.
One of the last movies I saw in 2007 was Anderson’s There Will Be Blood — just as farcical and over-the-top, just as infectious. Its destiny was never to be considered the year’s best picture in the immediate sense, just to provoke attention for its perverse style, and perhaps be seen years later as a turning point. The point is that patterns are emerging. Those who follow this medium of entertainment may be inclined to agree with me (or not), but the emerging new talents must, to stay relevant, have an awareness of their own age and how it can be contrasted with the years past. I focus on Anderson because I believe he has a particular understanding of how modern cinema should appear. Contrast There Will Be Blood and its maker with obvious predecessors like Orson Welles or John Huston; our’s is an age where violence rules and defines, often in very interesting ways. However, I don’t want to spoil the ending.
In terms of technology, what have we seen so far? On February 19th, 2008, HD-DVD manufacturers Toshiba laid down their arms in the battle of the high-definition formats, effectively finalising one of the more amusing technological trials of the 21st century. The amusing angle, to me, is that the standoff was over a piece of equipment that I do not think anyone cared much about, least of all me. When the VCR/Betamax rumble went down back in the ’80s, the market did not have an acceptable videocassette player for public consumption. The battle between technologies was, how do you say, essential in transforming the following 18 years or so of film entertainment. Call me a cynic, but is it indicative of the aughts that this new confrontation was between two superfluous formats? I have understood the necessity of high-definition technology only in regards to massively visual films, your Die Hards, Matrix’s, etc. I understand HD from that perspective, like piling sugar in your coffee, but I doubt Citizen Kane could become a superior viewing experience if Orson Welles’ face was made enormous and unbelievably detailed. I have always said that I would love a video player that actually made the movies better, not just more realistic-looking. At what point does the realism stop? Do I want it to seem as though Bruce Willis is actually shooting motherfuckers in my living room? High-Definition, like IMAX, is one of those things you notice for about five minutes before you are caught up in the material of what you are watching, and size, realism, and so on are forgotten.
My point is that either emphasis is being put in the wrong place, or the emergent new technologies that will actually transform entertainment are hidden below view.
What I believe to be the most important emergence of the new age is pirating, and it is being fought off by the industry with torches and pointy sticks. What the young people of our time see that the generation in charge does not, is this: unless a single governing body takes over the internet (which will not happen for a long time, if at all), pirating is not going to go away. Once one pathway, such as Napster, is closed, another adaptation, like Torrents, is going to open. This will continue ad nauseum, the truth being that the supremely computer- and internet-savvy are not running the RIAA, et al. and thus will always be one step ahead in the bootlegging war.
My supreme prediction is that at the present moment, expensive technological formats are irrelevant, a distraction from the truth. The truth is that more and more people are learning how easy it is to obtain copy-written material for free. Is my echoing of this a support of the idea? Not necessarily, I just believe that no other change in the medium deserves as much attention and analysis — because believe it or not, internet pirating of material is not going to go away. Pirating will, I hope, allow the overwhelming influx of repetitive trash to be weeded out of the multiplex. My favourite victim thus far has got to be Hostel 2, which rode atop a wave of fanboy anticipation and hype only to be squashed by a work-print (pre-final) leak into the torrent community. After millions of viewers got to see how shitty it was without paying a dime, a sixth place box-office opening became fate. The internet got the best of the studio, as it is going to again, and again.
— J. Skinner
I hope that in the future of film there will be a focus on independent or unique films. I believe the popularity of these films is growing, as can be seen with the hype that has surrounded films such as Juno. As cliché as it sounds, I would like to see more low-budget films receive the recognition and acclaim that they deserve. As well, I hope that the general public will come to open their eyes to that genre more often, instead of to the typical blockbusters that continue to dominate the industry.
If the fate of film lay in my hands, I would happily eliminate the popularity of so-called comedies like Meet The Spartans, and Epic Movie. Or anything that comes from the writers of Scary Movie 3. I truly believe these are the types of films that tend to cripple the industry, yet they remain popular. I suppose I wish they’d go away, but do I think that they truly will? Most likely not. If anything, there will probably be a billion more of them made to satire comedy after comedy, with pop culture references after pop culture references.
I believe that actors such as Michael Cera and Ryan Gosling will continue to rise in the coming years. These two actors increasingly amaze me in the films they are involved in, and they are among the first names that came to mind when thinking about personalities that will be prevalent in the future of film. What doesn’t hurt is the fact that they are also Canadian. I think the film industry manages to balance art and low art in a way where it’s necessarily on it’s way out. Much like other media surrounding it, film has it’s typical stories and genres that are made and reproduced in every shape and form which appeals to a grand audience. Then you also have those hidden gems, the films that lie just below the radar that people seek out; I don’t believe there will be much change in that for the future. Certain genres that I think will become more prevalent in film are live action, like in Spike Jones’ upcoming adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are, as well as comedies, based on the continued success of Judd Apatow. Remakes of past films will probably also continue, for better or for worse — as will sequels, prequels, and so on and so forth. Though even now, some might say that this trend is wearing thin. We’ll see.
— Eva Bowering
I was initially hesitant to give my input into this film discussion. After all, I’m no filmmaker; what business do I have trying to predict trends in this alien medium? Then again, I’ve written my fair share of movie reviews, and lord knows I’ve posted on enough of those God-awful IMDb forums (side note: I will defend Maggie Gyllenhaal to the death against all detractors; she just has the misfortune of having a brother who’s prettier than her, is all) to offer my input on a place where everyone isn’t a complete dick. (By the way, shouts out to the MONDO staff and readership for not being complete dicks!) Bearing that in mind, take what I say with a grain of salt, as I may well be wrong.
There’s no doubt in my mind that cinema is in a state of transition. Time was, you’d turn to the cinema for your epics: your Godfathers, your Star Wars and (depending upon how you want to stretch the term “epic”) your Matrix’s. However, the rise of TVD (or “TV on DVD”, if we must be crass) has changed all of this. The increased availability of show seasons at a time of television has changed the entire mediascape, and now television has come to be the dominant medium for all our truly epic productions. The Sopranos, Dexter, Dr. Who; hell, even The Venture Brothers — everything I’ve truly invested time and money in recently, has been on TVD, and that’s because of the sheer amount of time one can spend in their worlds. There is simply more of a connection forged to the characters, to the story lines, and to the overall sensibility of the shows.
In the face of this increasing serialization and availability of television — and they DO go hand in hand — film simply has trouble keeping up. Where it used to be that television would provide us with the more ephemeral bits of pop culture while film gave us the more “weighty” material that would stick with us after we were finished watching, it almost seems as though these two poles are beginning to reverse themselves. Rest assured, film still has the potential to resonate in the imagination; it’s been at least a month since I saw it, and I’m still talking about There Will Be Blood. But the same thing held true for Deadwood, Battlestar Galactica and even Arrested Development.
The fact is that, in terms of visual media, film no longer holds a monopoly on epic-scale narratives, and it is going to have to explore new territory in order to compete with serialized television. Because of this, my predictions for the future are those of clashing: the clash of adventurous directors and conservative studios, competing to decide on the coming face of film in an epic battle for tomorrow. As the saying goes, may we live in Interesting Times.
— Sam Linton, Lifestyle Editor