Sunday, 7 April 2013

Fast & Pointless

Watching the recent remake of Total Recall last night confirmed my belief that the quality of movies peaked some years ago and now seems to be in terminal freefall.
The key issue appears to be the reliance on computer generated effects to wow the audience, and although they have their place they shouldn't be used to shore up the foundations of what is basically a crap film.
So here goes with yet another diatribe on why things were better in the good old days - in this case a time when a movie needed to rely on acting and a good story.
Now I'm not saying that all movies since 1980 are awful or anything silly like that, and I'm aware that there are films still being made that do not fall into the category I'm whinging about. 'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower', for example, was very good indeed, even though I admit I'd sit through a Labour party political broadcast if it featured lingering shots of Emma Watson. And the 1992 version of 'Of Mice And Men' with John Malkovich and Gary Sinise was absolutely superb.
Even the high levels of CG effects in films like Avatar are justifiable because otherwise all the characters would have looked like Andy Pipkin in his smurf outfit in Little Britain, running around in Thetford forest battling errant badgers, and somehow I don't think that would have been quite the same.
The old horror movies featured early attempts at special effects that make us fall off our chair with laughter these days but we forget how quickly things move on. Go back and watch the first Terminator film again and check out the final fight scene when Arnie has lost his skin, and you'll see just how dodgy the animation was, even though at the time it seemed amazing. Now it looks almost as bad as the fighting skeletons in the original 'Jason And The Argonauts'.
There's no doubt that without computer graphics, films like 'Harry Potter', 'Lord Of The Rings', or 'District 9' couldn't really have been made, and Shrek just wouldn't have been the same in cell animation.
The problem comes though when things are taken so far beyond belief that the whole thing just becomes silly and annoying. 'Total Recall' and 'Expendables 2' are just a couple of examples, and the other day I saw the trailer for 'Fast and Furious 6'. I've enjoyed these movies so far (apart from the rather lame fourth installment), but it's now become so ridiculous and over-the-top that it's impossible to suspend disbelief. I'm aware that the fifth one contained many silly bits but as entertaining nonsense it managed to avoid crossing the line too far. The new one appears to be nothing short of an attempt to see what is the most stupidly unbelievable thing that can be created on screen while still getting the movie-going public to part with substantial amounts of their hard-earned cash.
By contrast, the 1972 film 'Sleuth' starring Michael Caine and Lawrence Olivier contained no special effects whatsoever, and comprised of nothing more than two men talking in a house, but it had me glued to my seat for two and a quarter hours. That was achieved purely by quality acting and a good script.
I'm now at the point where I'd rather watch older films like 'White Heat' or 'Ice Cold In Alex' because they come from a time when a movie was made primarily with a passion for the art rather than for the box office profits.

Sleuth, The 51st State, Ice Cold In Alex, Amelie, White Heat.
Great films, no CG.