August 10, 2013

Why is TV cooler than movies these days?

There are a lot of reasons for the decline in Cool Factor of movies relative to television, but this new Wall Street Journal article updates the numbers behind a big contributor that I identified in Taki's Magazine four years ago. From the WSJ:
Hollywood Takes Spanish Lessons As Latinos Stream to the Movies 
In the past few years, Hispanics have become some of Hollywood's best customers. Though 15% of Americans over the age of 12 are Latino, they accounted for 25% of all movie tickets sold in the U.S. in 2012, according to a Nielsen Co. study. The average Hispanic moviegoer went to nearly 10 films in the year, compared with just over six for whites, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans. 
... The new industry focus comes at a critical time for the movie business, which is desperate for good news in the domestic market. Attendance at theaters has declined 10% in the past decade, according to industry data, while home entertainment spending is off more than 17% from its 2004 peak.

"The U.S. is a mature theatrical market," says John Fithian, chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners trade group. "But unlike any other, we have a growing population and the fastest-growing part of that population, Hispanics, also happen to be the most enthusiastic moviegoers. That's good news for the future of our business."

The impact upon the quality of films and the quantity of quality films influenced by the Mexicanization of the American audience is rather like the widely discussed effect of globalization: famously, explosions translate into any language, witty dialogue less so. But, as Hispanics become a massive pillar in the domestic audience, explosions play better here, too.

For example, the Academy Awards gave the latest Best Picture to Ben Affleck's "Argo" largely to encourage the production of more mid-budget flicks aimed at middle-aged, educated, white Americans (like the Academy voters). "Argo" was a fine movie, but it's hard to imagine it winning Best Picture in past eras when Hollywood made a similar quality movie for grown-ups about once a month rather than as a once a year exception that proves the rules.

In contrast, television, especially subscription channels, can rope in smaller but highly articulate predominantly white audiences for shows like Downton Abbey and Mad Men.

Let me point out the peculiar aspect of white flight from increasingly Mexicanized things: it's seldom talked about as much as white flight from black things. The media is constantly full of discussions of whether or not whites are listening to enough black music or giving blacks enough Academy Awards. This kind of thing strikes white people as fun to argue over.

In contrast, white people's declining interest in all things Mexican or even Mexican-influenced is almost never mentioned. It's not a conspiracy of silence, however. It's a conspiracy of boredom.

65 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The media is constantly full of discussions of whether or not whites are listening to enough black music or giving blacks enough Academy Awards. This kind of thing strikes white people as fun to argue over.

Fun? The only kind of fun had by anyone here is the sort that a school bully experiences putting snakes in nerds' closets or dropping spiders down girls' shirts. The greater the ick factor, the more fun for the bully.

Anonymous said...

Big wide screen TV with clear images made home feel more like a theater.

Anonymous said...

From this, I would expect Hollywood executives to be pro-immigration (i.e. let's invite the population of Mexico into the USA - they will have more money to see movies than they did in Mexico and like to watch more movies than Americans do). If anything, there might be a backlash from the more cerebral actors and directors who are seeing the work they like to do dry up. That's if a pro-immigration stance wasn't a core tenet of the PC religion, and the Ellis island mythology wasn't a venerated chapter of many family histories in Hollywood.

Anonymous said...

My media viewing over the last couple years is : pre-code/golden-age movies followed distantly by torrented tv shows.

I don't think i've watched a movie made after 1970 for 2 years now.

ScarletNumber said...

"Young people" don't know how to behave in movie theatres, which scares away the more desirable demographics.

Education Realist said...

"Argo" was a fine movie, but it's hard to imagine it winning Best Picture in past eras when Hollywood made a similar quality movie for grown-ups about once a month rather than as a once a year exception that proves the rules.

This isn't right. First, Argo was one of many quality movies, and arguably not even the best, made in just one year. Second, the Oscars have been more about quality for the past 20 years than at any point in their history; for most of the last 90 years, they only occasionally rewarded anything approaching the best pictures of the year with a nomination.

In the late 60s, early 70s, studios routinely ignored Joe Sixpack in favor of the audience you describe, and it nearly destroyed the studios. They figured out the blockbuster to save themselves.

The problem is, they are still after the blockbuster because that's what the margins demand. And educated whites aren't too interested in mainstream blockbusters anymore, when they have the much more intellectual tv fare you mention. Plus, theaters are a pretty crappy experience and whites are more likely to have big ass TVs, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix.

Studios have to figure out the margins. They should also try to figure out how to own theaters again, getting around a couple supreme court decisions.

But they are definitely making more quirky intellectual films appealing to educated whites than at any other point in their history--except maybe the 70s.

Anonymous said...

It's not about Mexicans but about youth, and it goes back to Jaws and Star Wars and blockbuster movies of summertime.
Even if there were no Mexicans in the US, we would have much the same kind of movies since young people mostly go to movies and they want big loud stupid stuff. It could be more Hispanics go to the movies because they are more brown youths.
Also, maybe Hispanics still have something like a family thing, i.e. they go to movies together as a family, and they're aren't as atomized as some other groups.

Hong Kong has no Mexicans but produces lots of loud and fast kung fu movies, and they were considered very cool with white SWPL audiences.
Anime has the same kind of appeal for a segment of young audience in America, and most anime fans are white or Asian--though there are Hispanics too.
And look at the box office numbers in Europe and Asia. Hollywood movies dominate even though Europeans and Asians are far better educated than Mexicans or Mexican-Americans.

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/intl/

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/intl/germany/?yr=2013&wk=31&p=.htm

Also, John Lasseter and Pixar were considered way cool, but his movies were sped up and fast and furious compared to the more leisurely paced traditional Disney movies.

It's not the 'cool' factor but the 'sophisticated' factor when it comes to movies vs tv, but the joke is really on the whites because so-called mature TV shows aren't all that special. I saw one episode of Breaking Bad. Enough. Lost? Eeeek. Deadwood? It had lots of F words, so that made it art or smart, I guess. GIRLS is total garbage. Sopranos? Crap.

Yet, we have people in the media telling us that this stuff is really art! I mean gimme a break. BREAKING BAD might have made a decent three part movie or maybe a mini-series. But when these things are stretched out over several seasons, they end up with lots of filler material since there isn't enough original material in the story to sustain such long storytelling. It's like using a bowl of dough to make a bread 20 ft long. You gotta stretch it real long, and it gets pretty thin. You might add a lot of cream on top to make it look more substantial, but there isn't much bread in every foot.

With sitcoms, it doesn't matter since each episode is reset as if everything is starting from scratch, which is it's funny all over again for Ralph Kramden to have forgotten all his lessons and is back to being a loudmouth again.
But drama series have a developing narrative, and every story should begin, progress, and end when it has said everything it needs to say. But shows like LOST or BREAKING BAD wanna keep the viewers watching for a long stretch, and so the storytelling gets larded and gunked up with so much side stories, trivialities, diversions, and etc. that really don't amount to a plate of beans.
Even a great material for a story like CITIZEN KANE or PSYCHO would become pointless if turned into a series that went on for 5 seasons.

The ridiculous high praise of TV is proof that a lot of culture critics are a really a bunch of philistines. Matt Zoller Seitz is their pied piper.

https://www.facebook.com/matt.z.seitz?fref=browse_search

http://www.rogerebert.com/chazs-blog/meet-the-new-editor-of-rogerebertcom-matt-zoller-seitz

Anonymous said...

Children and youths see the most movies. Aren't Mexicans seeing more movies because there are more Mexican children?

Anonymous said...

Steve,

I find your observations over Mexican influence in the USA to be remarkable and the results are obvious. It is a curse to read this stuff, because I cannot change any of it, and is so damning. My liberal family just cannot understand why the USA is faltering. They simple do not buy that demography is destiny. What is interesting though is how, as you have observed, ignorance is the new cool thing to be. For in every other aspect of life, they are capable of fairly deep intellectual analysis and rigor, yet on social issues they cannot manage any semblance of a multi-factorial analysis.

countenance said...

Most movies today are basically an annoying combination of CGI and loud noise. Now that you mention this, I now know why: It's the fotonovelaization of movies.

When I go see Elysium next weekend to test my theory of whether it's really an allegory about elitist hypocrisy, it will be the first theater movie I'll see in 2013.

Anonymous said...

Movies today have been ruined by the need to appeal to children.

It may be that the 1970s were a golden age of American filmmaking precisely because there were fewer children during that decade than there had been in years.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who believes this also has to do with the fact that less white people would want to go to the cinema where there are more loud mouth Mexicans ? Whites are overwhelmingly cowardly when it comes to confronting non whites (despite how Hollywood likes to portray it as the other way round), so they would rather stay at home and avoid awkward situation of asking a Mexican to shut up.

2Degrees said...

Completely off topic, but the gay rights lobby in England and new Zealand is pushing for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics. Is this the case in the US as well?

Whiskey said...

Steve, I think you're wrong here. You're making the assumption that domestic box office = movie studio profits. And that's not the case.

The FT and WSJ both did a fairly extensive review of movie studio finances, most revenues come from ancillary things like toys, games, licensing, etc. Basically movies that make money do so by being two hour commercials for toys and characters. Pacific Rim is a good example -- its basically designed to give the rights holders lots and lots of toys to sell.

Most movies do not make money. The money came in basically from first Video Tapes and then DVDs, and then fell off the cliff around 2007, intensified during 2008. But clearly pre-Recession/Depression.

Your typical Argo class movie will get within shouting distance of $100 million when marketing costs are figured in. Not even with (fairly miniscule) foreign theatrical revenues will a movie like Argo break even. A few raunch comedies made dirt-cheap will make a small profit. But the big money is in big epics that generate foreign 3-D/IMAX revenue (as opposed to nothing for pirated DVDs) and toys, games, etc.

TV, on the other hand, can be done cheap. Financing is usually not a problem because it can be done in-house by a production studio. A typical series might cost $3 million an episode, for 22 episodes that $66 million, against which you can sell ads immediately (assuming the series is made in house with the network's production company) or use to boost cable carriage rates and subscriptions.

IMHO the best TV series are not the ones getting the ink. Person of Interest is amazing, for the most part, considering the themes of a surveillance state, individuals versus big government and corporations, honor vs. safety, some amazing writing and acting particularly by Michael Emerson.

Anonymous said...


This isn't right. First, Argo was one of many quality movies, and arguably not even the best, made in just one year. Second, the Oscars have been more about quality for the past 20 years than at any point in their history; for most of the last 90 years, they only occasionally rewarded anything approaching the best pictures of the year with a nomination.


QUESTION: who is truly an expert to determine and decide what is and is not a great or best picture of a given year? ANSWER: NO ONE, because it is all subjective.

Only objective FACTS that we have is the box office.

"Movies must be run like a business or they won't survive as an art."


In the late 60s, early 70s, studios routinely ignored Joe Sixpack in favor of the audience you describe, and it nearly destroyed the studios. They figured out the blockbuster to save themselves.


DISTORTION: Blockbusters weren't consciously decided upon. The first ones were accidentally considered one after the fact. Blockbusters go back to the 50s. They were the direct result of losing movie numbers to the "idiot box" "boob tube" Television. The blockbuster is a band-aid to cover over a larger problem. Technology, television, reduced motion pictures from its peek of 100million per wk to around 50, which it stayed between the fifties and most of the sixties. The 60s lost even more because of other events in society that now competed for the entertainment dollars (pop music, NFL and other sports rising etc) also society in general was changing.





But to say that this is the greatest era for filmmaking or the 60s was the greatest ever is self-serving lie. What kind of elitist crap is that? The 1930-1960 studio era was one of the best in history bar none regarding subject matter as well as adult themes. At their best, they stand the test of time as well as any era.

It's difficult to say which era really can ultimately be considered "the best" since that is subjective and not rooted in science.

Then as now, the Academy Awards are full of politics and other factors are considered when nominating in a given year. Every film criticism has a subset of anointed scribes to tell the faithful (mostly of the middle aged educated white populace) that yes, this this and this and certainly these films as well were either "left off" or "ignored" and must be "rediscovered". Who else but white educated middle aged would give a crap to even bother to read film criticism of various films? Does it really make these critics "experts" on how to make a great film?

Pauline Kael wasnt all that when she actually was working in Hollywood. Couldn't cut it and went back to NY to lecture others on what is and what is not a "great" "masterful" work of art film over the decades.

She oughta know....just ask her. If real life were only that so simple.

Those who can...DO. Those who can't...criticize.

But again, which films are "not" considered great from artistic point of view?

The 60s-70s weren't all that. They clearly are to that demographic who grew up with them but really, every single generation will claim the same. That "their" generation was the only true real work of art produced in massive numbers out of hollywood.

Anonymous said...

Some Out-of-His-Mind Person said:

"I saw one episode of Breaking Bad. Enough. Lost? Eeeek. Deadwood? It had lots of F words, so that made it art or smart, I guess. GIRLS is total garbage. Sopranos? Crap. "

––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Vizzini: I can't compete with you physically, and you're no match for my brains.

Man in Black: You're that smart?

Vizzini: Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?

Man in Black: Yes.

Vizzini: Morons.

Anonymous said...

Also, maybe Hispanics still have something like a family thing, i.e. they go to movies together as a family, and they're aren't as atomized as some other groups.


That's not it at all. The hispanic out of wedlock rate is higher than whites and approaches African-Americans. This myth of the "intact" family is merely a fable not rooted in stats and facts.

Steve's point seems to be, most Americans dont think about Mexicans cause they're not all that. Plus, theyre really not....all that. Are they?
We sorta have to care about blacks, just ask them. Maybe if Mexicans or other hispanics made a bigger stink in English we'd have to care. Or maybe not.


Anonymous said...

One significant difference between television and studio-backed movies is, in television, it's comparatively a writers medium because there's not a lot of time for committee decisions regarding the story. In movies, the opposite is true. They have all the time in the world prior to production to make a nice piece of committee-written crap.

If you look at the list of writers for many hopeful blockbusters, it's a looong line of credits. Even for Children's movies. Look at the writing credits for the first "Toy Story," then notice how the list expands wildly in the following sequels.

In television production, there's no time to appease everyone who has a voice, beyond the writer. An actor can't threaten to walk away from the project if things don't go his/her way in the script. If they're in the middle of a season run, for the most part, they just have to deal with not dominating the story-line, just because they can intimidate people.

Anonymous said...

The ridiculous high praise of TV is proof that a lot of culture critics are a really a bunch of philistines. Matt Zoller Seitz is their pied piper.



Exactly. In an earlier age it was Pauline Kael? What the f did she know? Who made her God? Oh, yeah, the NYTimes forgot.


Ever notice that NY elitists whenever they write about hollywood write as if they're coming from a reference of a bit jealousy (of So Cal's dominance over the entertainment field) and look upon Hollywood as a rival for what America should truly consume and think about. THEY give their special dispensation and blessing from afar (metaphorically as well as literally)

That's one reason I think that the elites tend to tell the proles and their fellow educated elites what is the acceptable entertainment to view at any given time. Even though most of what they tend to recommend is just as much substandard crap as the worst stereotypical melodrama.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

Big wide screen TV with clear images made home feel more like a theater."

And unlike every movie-multiplex these days, there isn't a police car permanently parked in front of my house.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

It's not about Mexicans but about youth, and it goes back to Jaws and Star Wars and blockbuster movies of summertime. "

You are right tht it isn't just about mexicans, but it is about the increasing infantalization and/or cretinization of movie audiences. JAWS is "Citizen Kane" compared to most of the dreck made these days.

Mr. Anon said...

"But shows like LOST or BREAKING BAD wanna keep the viewers watching for a long stretch, and so the storytelling gets larded and gunked up with so much side stories, trivialities, diversions, and etc. that really don't amount to a plate of beans."

Actually, many great novels of the 19th century were written and presented in installments, much as cable TV series are today. I would agree that many of these TV shows are long on style, and short on substance. I do find Breaking Bad to be quite good though, heterodox as it is. It is the one such series I would actually bother to watch in its entirety.

Jake S. said...

I actively avoid going to nearly all movies, even ones that I have at least some interest in, out of principle.

Why provide that level of support for Hollywood, when they're one arm of the beast that is cudgeling traditional America to death? Most of what comes out, I have no interest in seeing and some I outright boycott, but if it is one I think I might want to see, I'll wait my time and see it for free or nearly free in the secondary markets.

Randall K. said...

" ScarletNumber said...

"Young people" don't know how to behave in movie theatres, which scares away the more desirable demographics."

Ah yes, those same demographic-less 'teens' which cause so much mayhem in so many other areas of life. Well, movies at least serve one good purpose, they work like babysitters to keep them sedated once they've started, and out of the public for a few hours... longer if a 'bitch you betta recognize' dispute breaks out afterwards.

rob said...

The 'foreign' market likes explosions and farts more than plot, acting... because cultural nuances are lost. Maybe. Does Mexico make very many small or mid-budget plot or character-driven movies? Do nth generation Mexicans and sundries in the US break highbrow? As far as I can tell, the nuances of anything besides fightin' and fartin' are over their heads.

Anonymous said...

Well. This answers a few questions. I'm always sceptical of any claims that films are getting worse simply because I've seen some of the classics, and eh.

But hot Dah-Yum, what's coming out of H'Wood recently is bad. I used to go to the cinema most weekends. Then it was a few times a year, partly because of other commitments, but also quality. And then Les Miz broke me. I haven't been since, and I can't even look at my library's DVD racks because it makes me feel stabby.

The closest thing to a good H'Wood film I've seen recently was Stoker on DVD, and that had the advantage of (1) I hadn't paid €10 plus fuel and parking to see it and (2) terrible competition. And even then, the sub Lifetime Channel story lagged behind the performances, set designs etc.

Anonymous said...

The boorish behavior of others drove me away from movie theaters. I bought a big screen TV and enjoy watching movies now in the comfort, quiet and privacy of my home.

Luke Lea said...

I'll second pre-code/golden-age movies. The Divorcee (1932) with Norma Shearer, Chester Morris, Cnrad Nagel, and Robert Montgomery is a good example.

Luke Lea said...

Ignorance is cool. Total reality defying ignorance is the coolest of all.

jody said...

the main reason is movie studios almost always go for the PG-13 rating now, to maximize ticket sales, to maximize profits.

they avoid R, which reduces ticket sales, but also reduces the opportunities the writer and director have to put together something very sophisticated or interesting to jaded adults. interesting, even great things can still be done within the framework of PG-13, but PG-13 eliminates lots of things from the script.

terminator is R material. die hard is R material. aliens is R material. robocop is R material. making PG-13 versions of those makes them much weaker. a lot of original R movie remakes are being done in PG-13 with dollars in mind.

i once saw an interview with danny boyle where he lamented the adult movie era (not porn, you pervs) of the 70s and 80s having come and gone, never to return. well, those movies were all R. and would probably not be made today. few studios would lay out the 100 million dollars it would take to produce an original property with a guaranteed R rating. too much risk. they're much more interested in PG-13 level projects based on existing properties with a built-in audience.

a lot of R movies are still made, even "serious" ones, but these days most of the Rs you get are:
1) comedies where they say fuck a lot
2) horror movies where they say fuck a lot. usually not scary, but hey, they said fuck 17 times. you only get 1 f bomb in PG-13.

the industry has not totally given up on "serious" R movies, but they are few and far between. it's hard to attach talent to these projects, when they'd rather go for the bigger dollar PG-13 projects. i don't think an R has been the top selling movie since 1998, saving private ryan, and before that, 1991, terminator 2. and those only made 200 million. if the top selling movie today only made 200 million it would be considered a really down year, even factoring in inflation.

john marzan said...

"The impact upon the quality of films and the quantity of quality films influenced by the Mexicanization of the American audience is rather like the widely discussed effect of globalization: famously, explosions translate into any language, witty dialogue less so. But, as Hispanics become a massive pillar in the domestic audience, explosions play better here, too."

You are confusing the cause and effect. It was the 56kmodem aka internet that killed the newspapers and music industry. Now, highspeed broadband internet/film piracy is killing the Hollywood movie industry, ESPECIALLY outside the USA.

hollywood now makes movies for young people. the small movies steve likes to watch doesnt sell well outside the states. the only movies that are somewhat immune to piracy's effects are superhero films and reliable franchises like Star Wars because apparently many people are willing to pay overpriced tickets (even outside the USA) so they can be first in line to watch the movie on opening week. OTOH, the small films, by the time it comes out in the philippines, the screener copy is already available on the net.

so why are mexicans the most prolific moviegoers? because they are young (and growing) and not because they are hispanic or mexican. if we are to believe that hollywood wants to mexicanize their films--wouldnt they be making more spanish films or movies about mexicans?

jody said...

there's a converse effect which steve didn't mention: television programming in general is getting dumber.

this is not a mistake. america is getting dumber, and television is programmed for the average viewer. it has to be - it is, again like movies, a matter of maximizing viewers, ad revenues, and so forth. so, much television is programmed for the widest appeal and broadest audience. not every program on every channel, but this is the general principle. when the new, dumber americans turn on the television, they have to find what they see interesting, or they'll turn it off. it has to hold their attention.

as america gets dumber, by maybe 1 IQ point per decade on average, so too must the average network television programming. anybody over 30 years old can plainly see this has happened, let alone people who are 50 or 60.

network television is well dumbed down, but even on cable television, dumbing down has occurred in places.

and now, the big news:

http://www.dailyfinance.com/on/univision-number-one-nielsen-tv-ratings-july/

http://variety.com/2013/tv/news/univision-to-end-july-sweeps-in-top-spot-1200566685/

http://www.deadline.com/2013/07/univision-set-to-finish-july-sweep-in-first-place-in-demos/

care to guess what the average intelligence level the programming on the new number 1 network is designed for? perhaps we are not at "Ow! My Balls!" level yet, but we're getting there.

Udolpho.com said...

It's not just about Hispanics but Steve makes a great point. Content has been dumbed down on the margins for a global audience.

john marzan said...

"he only movies that are somewhat immune to piracy's effects are superhero films and reliable franchises like Star Wars because apparently many people are willing to pay overpriced tickets (even outside the USA) so they can be first in line to watch the movie on opening week."

many blockbuster movies (unlike "small films") have simultaneous opening day worldwide. sometimes, other countries get to see the movie 1 week ahead of the USA.

Udolpho.com said...

As for unruly audiences, I have always spoken up but increasingly theater managers don't give a shit. I switched from AMC theaters to Cinemark here in Dallas because the former shows no interest in maintaining standards. (And actually some of the worst audiences in my experience have been college students.)

Auntie Analogue said...

Mr. Anon, your spot-on comment, "You are right tht it isn't just about mexicans, but it is about the increasing infantalization and/or cretinization of movie audiences. JAWS is 'Citizen Kane' compared to most of the dreck made these days" cracked me up. You nailed it (which is why I commend to all Diana West's book 'Death Of The Grownup').

TV is now "cooler than movies" because technological advances keep splintering the entire mass media spectrum. Used to be you had radio, newspapers, books, cinema, and TV. Now you have a bewildering array of platforms, and the trend toward individualized media consumption is well advanced. Who wants to go to a cinema and have to pay a small fortune to sit there among a mob of boors when one can sit in front of one's own widescreen HDTV and watch Blue Ray with sound delivered through a sophisticated theatrical-grade stack of speakers?- or just watch the "content" of one's choosing on one's cell phone or what have you? (Plus, you watch media at home and you can stop/pause it to hit the head, or to fetch snacks, answer the phone, watch the rest tomorrow, &c.)

Cinema used to depend on an audience united by culture. Culture has, since the advent of the telegraph and Telstar, become increasingly globalized and thus also infantilized (read the late Neil Postman's prescient book 'Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse In The Age of Show Business'; and his 1993 work, 'Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology). Together with the death of the grownup, mass communications have had a colossal impact on the destruction of unified cultures that were once cultivated by a unified people living within srictly delimited nation-state borders. So that now cinema has reduced its content to a dumbed-down visual and narrative which need no culturally unified audience, so that audiences all over the world pay to see whatever is marketed at them, increasingly devoid of cultural content (except to praise all cultures except White, Christian, European culture), and thus also devoid of cultural ideals which are - according to mass media mavens and all "progressives" - for dinosaurs, for reactionaries who still believe a nation-state should be composed of a culturally distinct and unified people. "Progressives" are levellers, and most of them are nothing more than useful idiots to the super-rich globalist elite who use the levelling to get what they want: a global cheap labor pool.

Myself, I haven't gone to a cinema in ages. I refuse to give my money to people who won't let me smoke my beloved ciggies - which I now make for myself, since the Nanny State forced all store-bought cigarettes to be the vile-tasting, so-called "Fire-Safe Cigarettes." The last movie I got to enjoy smoking in was 'Chinatown,' for cryin; out loud!

slices and slices said...

The change in the cinematic biz is a multifactored phenomenon, but makes sense commercial interests chasing affluent white people's $ would glom onto premium cable and subscription web sites

Anonymous said...

"they avoid R, which reduces ticket sales, but also reduces the opportunities the writer and director have to put together something very sophisticated or interesting to jaded adults."

But keep in mind that today's PG-13 would have been an R in the 60s and 70s.

When I saw THE WILD BUNCH on network TV for the first time in 1984, ABC cut out all the graphic violence.

I caught it on network TV--not cable--in the late 90s and it showed everything, even the throat slitting.

And stuff like FAMILY GUY would not have aired even late night in the 70s and most of 80s. But the filthy garbage is prime time material today.

And who says you need lots of gore and trashy talk to make an intelligent film for adults?

MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, VERTIGO, REAR WINDOW, PSYCHO, TOUCH OF EVIL, IN COLD BLOOD, MAJOR DUNDEE, THRONE OF BLOOD, KNIFE IN THE WATER, JULES AND JIM, and many others have plenty that is twisted and dark, but none would have garnered an R.

More often not, violence and foul lingo are just a cheap short cut to be 'edgy' and 'daring'.

Anonymous said...

"The 'foreign' market likes explosions and farts more than plot, acting... because cultural nuances are lost."

No, even with the home product, most people around the world want the stupid stuff. Asian Indians mostly like dumb action licks and stupid comedies/musicals from bollywood.
Ans so much Japanese pop culture is so mindless and dumb.
People like pop culture whether from abroad or from home industry.
Before KFC and Macdonalds conquered the world, they conquered America... and Mexicans had nothing to do with it.

Of course, a new SWPL sensibility has developed that wants pop culture wrapped in hipster-smart packaging, and art tv or artv is their wet dream for they get both the pop fun and the 'serious' stimulation.

Anonymous said...

"You are right tht it isn't just about mexicans, but it is about the increasing infantalization and/or cretinization of movie audiences. JAWS is "Citizen Kane" compared to most of the dreck made these days."


JAWS is great fun but most movies back in 1975 were dreck too. Though last few yrs weren't so great, TRON LEGACY and LIFE OF PI are landmark works, so there will always be surprises.

Inkraven said...

Movies don't have to try hard to keep you interested. They've already got your money before you sit down to watch.

TV shows, on the other hand, have to keep you interested, otherwise you'll change the channel, and won't see the commercials.

not securely anchored said...

Age. Transportation to distant theaters is a hassle, crowds are rude, prices are high for people on a limited budget. If we're paying for cable and computer at home already, why bother? Also, being old, we're schooled in patience -- we don't have to see the latest blockbuster right now.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...

JAWS is great fun but most movies back in 1975 were dreck too."

Sure, a lot of movies released then were crap, but there were a lot of really good movies too. Herewith, a short list of movies released in 1975 (courtesy of IMDB, sorted by IMDB votes):

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
JAWS
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Dog Day Afternoon
Barry Lyndon
The Man Who Would be King
Three Days of the Condor
Love and Death
Nashville
Rollerball
Tommy
The Stepford Wives
The Wind and The Lion
The Great Waldo Pepper
The Day of the Locust

What recent year has produced that many movies of comparable worth? And I'm not even including any foreign films in 1975, or worthy B movies that were released that year, like "Hard Times", "The Land That Time Forgot", and "The Eiger Sanction", or even entertaining schlock like "Rocky Horror Picture Show" or "The Devil's Rain".


Anti-Democracy Activist said...

"jody said...

there's a converse effect which steve didn't mention: television programming in general is getting dumber."


This is perfectly true. With some time on my hands lately, I spent some time watching Antenna TV, one of those new "between the channels" digital OTA TV stations, which caters to the nostalgia market. I was shocked how much better the shows - many of which I hadn't seen an episode of in 30 years - were than what's on today (premium cable such as HBO/SHO/AMC excepted, of course). Even the sitcoms were more intelligent - shows like Soap, WKRP, and Barney Miller. I remember that back in the late 70s/early 80s people used to make fun of Threes Company as the height of brainlessness - watching it today, it may still not exactly be Shakespeare, but at least it's genuinely funny (something that in itself is not easy).

Does anyone think a show as deliberately paced or clever as Mission: Impossible or Suspense would last three weeks on TV today? Especially on a "major" network?

Definitely not an encouraging sign.

smoke filled rooms said...

"The last movie I got to enjoy smoking in was 'Chinatown,' for cryin; out loud!"

You smoked cigarettes in a movie theatre? I am no spring chicken, and I have always thought no smoking signs dated back to the earliest days of theatre. You've got darkness and fabric coated seating, fcol. And even then, a lot of people didn't like breathing second-hand smoke in closed environments. whew. This definition of right & wrong in culture really does get down to very personal obsessions.

limits said...

"MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, VERTIGO, REAR WINDOW, PSYCHO, TOUCH OF EVIL, IN COLD BLOOD, MAJOR DUNDEE, THRONE OF BLOOD, KNIFE IN THE WATER, JULES AND JIM, and many others have plenty that is twisted and dark, but none would have garnered an R.

More often not, violence and foul lingo are just a cheap short cut to be 'edgy' and 'daring'. "

I tend to agree. So much dialog requiring thought and strategic articulation before utterance can be replaced with emotion-laden curse words that number, at most, half a dozen. Why people think this is "adult", edgy, meaningful, cool, etc., has puzzled me since adolescence. I wasn't so much shocked or impressed by George Carlin's dirty word skit, as sort of embarrassed that anyone would think being able to constantly use such language was some sort of progress, or freedom. After all, once you can use them all the time, what does one do for the quick, shocking, cool, edgy, blasphemous, etc. phraseology? One has to re-start thinking, and that's difficult.
I always thought one reason Seinfeld was good and still interesting, is because they could not use a lot of the language the real people might have, and had to express what they were trying to mean. W.C. Fields was the master of the curse words that weren't curse words, and he was brialliantly funny.

Also, the gore factor. My eyes glaze over when the blood and body parts start flying. Some of the most haunting and frightening films ever were from the 50s and 60s when you really could't do much real gore and had to depend on psychological horror, filling in the blanks with imagination. Much more effective.

Miss Carnivorous said...

Illegitimate births among most hispanics are still conducted amongst strong family units. A young woman living with grandma, mama and brothers and sisters will get pregnant by a boyfriend who may or may not move in during the pregnancy or after the baby is born. If he is illegal he probably will move in. Or, the father of the children may be an uncle of the young lady.

In fact, the least healthy situations for children arise after a divorce in which a woman has left her extended family household to live with her husband who has now moved on and left her with all the financial responsibililties for her children.

My friend is a good friend of a mexican closeted gay guy who lives with his multi-generational family and all of them, from granny to the toddlers, love to watch gruesome horror movies together. The family that watches horror movies together, stays together! How many white families watch movies together this way anymore?

peterike said...

Are you suggesting that the reason Mestizos aren't sitting at home watching "Girls" is because they have some sort of cultural or intellectual gap?

That's racist.

Anonymous said...

" Maybe if Mexicans or other hispanics made a bigger stink in English we'd have to care. Or maybe not." - no one will ever feel guilty about someone who made the choice to come here for a better life(tm)*.

*at your expense.

Anonymous said...

Love the pre-code! 1920's & 30's flicks are the best for DVD watching in our house. However, the Telemundo & Caracol coproduction of the telenovela- "Lord of the Skies" was far more enjoyable than most USA productions. Yes, the sub-titles were missing at times, but one got the gist anyway. An interesting look into the drug operations & political corruption in Mexico. The gram that is sniffed by the trendies in NYC was a minuscule fraction of the TONS these cartels deliver to America. Along with copious amounts of bloodshed involved naturally. But hey, no need to consider lopped off heads when you're trying to cop a buzz, right? Gracias to Joshua Mintz for this 20 - 30 million dollar budgeted novela!

Liz said...

This is very much about Mexicans for me. It is the hunkering down in our own homes. The last movie my family and I went out to was Argo. For years we have gone to a movie on Thanksgiving night so whatever happens to be the best pick of the day is what we see. I avoid any shopping that I can because of the Mexicanization. I've been to our one mall twice over the last year and then I waited until a weeknight just before closing time when it's pretty much deserted. Grocery shopping is the one thing that has to be done and it is a dreadful experience. Most other shopping is done online or in small boutiques. My sister had to cut her vacation short this year at South Padre Island because of the Mexicans; a vacation spot that just 15 years ago was lovely.
Every action I take is determined by how to avoid the saintly brown ones. How's that for this fair land of freedom?

pat said...

Steve - some more free advice.

I read your movie reviews from time to time but most of them are bland and safe. Sometimes they have real intellectual points to make. But who watches movies for ideas? Movie are entertainment. And so should be your movie reviews.

My favorite movie reviewer when I was a child was Pauline Kael. Bitter, opinionated and often silly - but entertaining. When I grew up my favorite reviewer was Billy Bob Thornton. He's gone now and that leaves a huge hole in the Critiqueosphere.

Right now there is a new movie out called 'Sharknado'. This is the kind of film that Billy Bob would have loved and I would have loved to read about.

I fell asleep trying to watch 'Argo'. I wouldn't even try to stay awake while reading a review of it.

The real cultural insights come from the cheesy 'B' movies like 'Idiocracy' not the sanctimonious and preachy films that are created to be Oscar winners.

Albertosaurus

Truth said...

"As for unruly audiences, I have always spoken up but increasingly theater managers don't give a shit. I switched from AMC theaters to Cinemark here in Dallas because the former shows no interest in maintaining standards. (And actually some of the worst audiences in my experience have been college students.)"

Nobody forced your faux German butt to leave South Dakota.

Anonymous said...

"In contrast, television, especially subscription channels, can rope in smaller but highly articulate predominantly white audiences for shows like Downton Abbey and Mad Men."

I just saw the British TV remake of Murder on the Orient Express with David Suchet. It towers above anything that appears in the movies these days -- it even rivaled the 70's movie version with Albert Finney playing Hercule Poirot. The devastating final scene brought me to tears.

Anonymous said...

How to make cool 'quality' television show that SWPLs will rave about:

1. Take normal TV show
2. Add a lot of swearing
3. Add boobs (but make the sex gritty and unconventional so people don't feel like they're watching for the boobs)
4. Add graphic violence
5. Sneer at anyone who might like to watch a well-written TV drama without graphic rape scenes and faces getting ripped off.

Best example? True Blood. The exact SWPL types who had seizures over the popularity of the 'Twilight' books and movies will watch endless seasons of a show with pretty much the EXACT SAME PLOT (ordinary Mary Sue girl inexplicably pursued by gorgeous supernatural men who fight over her). Because this one has people who say the c-word, so it must be quality.

Anonymous said...

I have some good news and some bad news.

Good news Billy Bob is still alive.

Bad news he says as far as he can remember he has never reviewed any movies

Steve Sailer said...

Joe Bob Briggs

Silver said...

"It may be that the 1970s were a golden age of American filmmaking precisely because there were fewer children during that decade than there had been in years. "

There were even fewer in the 1980s and 1990s.

jody said...

"Ad who says you need lots of gore and trashy talk to make an intelligent film for adults?"

well, i didn't. i said you can still do a lot in PG-13 format.

what does matter is that if you say fuck more than once, it's automatically R. no ifs, ands, or buts about it. 2 or more fucks gets you an automatic R no matter what. it could be animated movie about fluffy rabbits filled with 100% G rated material, but have 2 of the rabbits sing a little "fuckity fuck song", and it's instantly R. it could be a nature documentary about penguins, but if the narrator says somewhere in the middle "these fucking sea lions eating the fucking penguins", whoops, there goes the PG-13.

what i pointed out is a lot of average movies are made with a couple fucks in the dialogue and those are all Rs. they are not 'serious' R movies, but average action movie, average horror movies, average drama movies.

"JAWS is great fun but most movies back in 1975 were dreck too."

most people remember the masterpieces and leave out the rest. the average movie in the 70s was shit. the consumer today would consider them completely unacceptable and they would never get a wide release. the average movie in wide release today is A LOT better, in EVERY way.

in a way, i think steve has this exactly backwards. television was tightly controlled back then and there was almost no pure shit, schlock, or IQ 85 mouth breather braindead garbage on television. that stuff started to show up in the 80s, in small doses, and got more common through the 90s until reality television began around 2000.

this is because, back in the day, network television, which was the only television, was controlled and monitored by the high IQ crowd, regulated by the FCC, and mostly restricted to high brow material. there was some stuff for the common man like sports and game shows and soaps, but no garbage programming. it was the advent of cable television which offered the purveyors of lowbrow shit to bring that into american homes. now television is mostly filled with lowbrow shit, especially 'reality television' which is mostly just stupid people talking. it has a very low production cost, which is good for the producers, but also a very low entertainment value - which would have been bad in the past, but now that america is getting dumber, that is also good.

breaking bad only gets like 3 million viewers. that's really low. basically what this means is few people are watching it. that's about what the NHL gets for a good playoff game or what the ATP gets for a good, djokovic versus federer US open final. do you run into many people talking about ice hockey or tennis? on AMC alone, the walking dead gets about 9 million viewers, and on network television, humorless drek like two and a half men gets 15 million viewers per episode - i've never met a person who claimed to watch this show, yet it gets 5 times as many views as breaking bad.

Mr. Anon said...

"jody said...

most people remember the masterpieces and leave out the rest. the average movie in the 70s was shit. the consumer today would consider them completely unacceptable and they would never get a wide release. the average movie in wide release today is A LOT better, in EVERY way."

Nonsense. Movies are not better, and they are not better in every way. The writing is hackneyed, the acting is childish, and the direction is indifferent or just bad. Half of all movies today are expressly written for 12 year-olds, and feature little but loud noises and video-game quality CGI. Sure, a lot of movies in the 70s were trash, but there were still lots of good ones. Now, it is virtually all trash. Look at the list I posted above. When in recent memory have that many movies of comparable quality been released in one year?

Your point about television is inapt too. Quality was higher in the 70s? Really? "Welcome Back Kotter" was a quality product? "ChiPs"? "Three's Company"? They were shit. Though in many ways, things are worse today, as you point out. Reality TV is pure prole-feed. TV has always been mostly crap. As Ernie Kovacs said: television is called a medium because it is neither rare nor well done.

Matra said...

breaking bad only gets like 3 million viewers

But that's just on AMC, right? Surely more people watch it on Netflix these days. For the last ten years pretty much everybody I know of all ages now watches entire seasons either on DVD or Netflix over a few days or a week. Maybe my social circle isn't typical but waiting a week for each episode to air on some network doesn't seem very common these days.

David said...

>The boorish behavior of others drove me away from movie theaters.<

Ditto. That and the loud, assaultive trailers and the stupid, assaultive movies. Why pay money to feel almost raped emotionally?

The dumber and more numb the public is, the more and worse stimulation it needs.

Another factor is that I don't feel a part of American culture anymore, its attitudes, values, expectations. Movies naturally make a "we're on the same page," "we're all in this together" assumption. I'm not in this together.

Hollywood can get along without me, I reckon.

The Serbian director Srdjan Karanovic once told me that one of his elderly relatives, not a sophisticate, disliked cinema because he couldn't get used to shot changes. Seeing a cut from a wide shot to a close up startled him, made him jump a little in his seat. He rather rapidly lost interest in seeing movies.

Anonymous said...

"Welcome Back Kotter" was a quality product? "ChiPs"? "Three's Company"? They were shit.

---------

A joke in middle school. What do you call two black guys on motorcycles? Chocolate Chips.

'Welcome Back Kotter' had some dumb funny jokes. "Have you heard of Chinese Jews?" "No, I've heard of orange juice, grape juice, but no Chinese Juice."

THREE'S COMPANY is absolutely my favorite TV show of all time. Only SANFORD AND SON comes close. The stuff with Jack acting gay in front of Roper and Ferley were priceless. The good ole days.

"Sure, a lot of movies in the 70s were trash, but there were still lots of good ones. Now, it is virtually all trash."

You aint looking in the right places. The 90s were pretty good, 2000s produced their share of fine movies.

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2009/12/top-movies-of-yeardecade.html

Mr. Anon said...

"You aint looking in the right places. The 90s were pretty good, 2000s produced their share of fine movies."

I've been looking in movie theaters. Where ought I look? Sure, there have been a few good movies made this century. Off hand, I can think of nine or ten movies I thought were quite good over the last thirteen years, fewer than the number of movies of comparable worth that were released in that one year, 1975.

Anonymous said...

"terminator 2...those only made 200 million"

Wrong. That's only the US release. Terminator 2 made $519,843,345 at the box office worldwide and likely made as much in VHS sales and rentals. Added to the money paid for television broadcasts, merchandise (including toys) and adjusted for inflation, the movie was a massive blockbuster - the highest grossing film of 1991.