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Thursday, April 18, 2024

EDITORIAL: Why Can’t Modern Movies Match the Classics?

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As I found myself ⁢shivering⁤ in line outside Schenectady’s iconic Proctor’s Theatre last Friday night, I couldn’t help but let out a hearty chuckle at the irony of the situation. There I was, on the⁣ cusp of 50, ‍braving the bite of late February to ​see the latest blockbuster everyone is raving ⁣about—when there wasn’t even a hunch of anticipation or excitement warming my⁢ insides. If anything, what I felt⁤ was a ⁤disheartening chill, ⁣only partly due to the weather.

This bemusement didn’t really come from my skepticism about​ the film’s reviews. I’d given ⁢up on ⁣those long ago. No, my laughter stemmed from the fact‍ that in ‌spite of my​ innate expectations, or perhaps because of them, I am still willing to ⁤subject ​myself to the slog ​of modern movies. ​I guess gluttony for punishment is the unfortunate side-effect of a lifelong ⁤love for cinema.

There was a time when watching a film ⁤was less of a​ chore and‌ more of a journey. The‌ golden age of cinema, though long past, ⁣is⁢ still very much alive ​in the smoky memories of the Park Cinema where I ⁤spent countless Saturdays as a child. Al Pacino’s relentless ‍pursuit of justice in “Serpico”, the scorching passion between Elizabeth Taylor and ⁤Richard Burton⁣ in “Who’s Afraid of⁤ Virginia Woolf?”, or even the light-hearted but touching⁣ “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”‌ were, in my opinion, not just movies to be forgotten after the popcorn was⁢ popped, but⁤ almost life-altering experiences.

Contrast that with ​today’s offerings. Sure, the CGI is⁢ often mesmerising, and the graphics can teleport you to a different ⁤universe altogether. But I can’t shake the feeling that under‍ the glitz‍ and shiny veneer, there⁣ lacks soul. A big⁢ part ⁤of me yearns for that raw human element ⁣that made cinema such an intimate experience.

To‍ illustrate my point, ‌let me take ​you back to a bitter-cold January evening in 1997. My ‍then-girlfriend Jenny and I braved ‌the Schenectady winter to catch “Good Will Hunting” on its opening weekend. I remember that night so vividly because of ⁤a single, tear-jerking scene: Robin Williams’ Sean Maguire, convincing Matt Damon’s character that it wasn’t his fault.

That scene wouldn’t have been the same without Williams’ poignant performance. All the flashy graphics in the world cannot replace⁣ the palpable vulnerability and emotions that​ real-life actors bring to the screen. What matters isn’t just the story‍ a film tells, but how authentically its characters embody it. And that’s‍ where most of today’s‍ movies fall short.

For ⁢instance, time and again, I ⁢see‌ action movies where the character development barely ⁣skimmed the ⁢surface but⁤ the CGI⁣ explosions⁤ are plentiful. Or romantic films⁢ where the couples seem to fall in love‌ within a day without any substantial ⁢trials and tribulations. Heck, ⁢I’d be ‌lucky to find a comedy that tries to be more than a ⁣string of juvenile fart jokes. And don’t even get me started on ‍endless, unimaginative sequels and reboots.

Movies today are announced, made, and marketed based on⁤ what’s been successful before. The detailed character development, the soul-stirring dialogues, and the lingering afterthought that classic films left us with ‍is often⁤ sacrificed to ⁢chase big box‌ office numbers. They might be more polished, with⁣ better sound, ⁤more ⁤vibrant‍ colors, superior special effects and, but they ​rarely feel as real⁤ and as human as their classic precursors.

But⁣ not all hope is‍ lost. Every once in a blue ‌moon, ⁤a movie⁢ will ‌come along that stirs in me the same emotions as my beloved classics.​ “La La Land,” which saw ‌the magical duo of Emma Stone​ and Ryan Gosling projected onto ‌the silver⁤ screen, had⁣ an ⁢irresistible⁢ spark and paid a gleaming homage to the golden era ‍of ‌musicals.‍ Del Toro’s “The Shape of⁤ Water”⁢ was an enchanting blend of emotion‍ and fantasy that revives the old-school charm of creature flicks, well fleshing out the metaphorical depth of acceptance and love.

So, there isn’t an absolute dearth of good films.​ Just ​an ​increasing⁣ scarcity. Perhaps as ⁤we traverse the stormy seas of modern cinema, we ⁤can find solace‌ in these rare lifeboats. And who knows? Maybe someday we’ll find a⁤ shore where this captivating craft ⁤of storytelling regains its lost pedestal.

I don’t ​expect a return to the golden era of cinema. Heck, that boat has long sailed. But if you’re a lifelong resident of Schenectady, NY, like yours truly, grumpy over the decline of​ quality cinema, then you ‍have my ⁤sympathies. Hope may be scarce, but as cinema lovers, hope we must. Here’s hoping that ⁢in‍ the future, we⁢ find ourselves braving the cold not ‍out of a wary habit, but ​genuine, childlike excitement.

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Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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