Wednesday, May 26, 2010

People Will Talk VII – The Decline and Fall of the Movies (?)

For the unfamiliar, a "reveal" in screenwriting parlance is the placement of key, revelatory information in a story. Most times, the last reveal is the most important revelation of all.


When people ask me why I prefer older films to what’s coming out today, I always feel like I become this curmudgeonly old guy with no teeth on a porch somewhere who always rants about things “back in my day.”

But consider this comment by Lem Dobbs on the subject, paying particular attention to his points about both quality and quantity and how “they always used to be” that way:

If only the Jews still controlled Hollywood.  In the late 60s/early 70s you could get a movie made starring Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand, James Caan, Elliott Gould, George Segal, George Burns, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Walter Matthau, Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, Richard Dreyfuss, Dustin Hoffman, Mel Brooks, Barbara Hershey, Henry Winkler, Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas, Robby Benson, Alan Arkin, Dyan Cannon, Barry Newman, Jerry Lewis, Peter Falk, Harvey Keitel, Laurence Harvey, Charles Grodin, Gene Wilder, Elaine May, Jill Clayburgh, Ali MacGraw, Joan Collins, Anthony Newley, Goldie Hawn, Marty Feldman -- and Topol.
Today?  Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Sasha Baron Cohen, Shia LaBeouf, Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Connelly, Sean Penn -- and at least three of them are the progeny of older Hollywood.  Notice the slight drop-off in quantity and quality?  Screenwriters and directors and composers and studio executives -- same story.
On a one-week visit to New York in the early 70s when my father had an exhibition there, I went to see THE EXORCIST (Friedkin), SERPICO (Lumet), PAPILLON (Schaffner), with Dustin Hoffman, MEAN STREETS, with Harvey Keitel, THE GETAWAY, a Foster-Brower production, WESTWORLD, with Brynner and Benjamin, and Woody Allen’s SLEEPER.
Wanna see what’s playing in New York this week?  Yeah, it’s a head-scratcher why movies aren’t as good as they always used to be.
---Lem Dobbs, Interviewed by Dan Schneider (

‘nuff said.

But it does call into question the observations made by so many that “we haven’t even scratched the surface” of the potential of filmed narrative, movie stories. Have we? Have narrative films as we know them peaked? Are they now in decline? #


Lee A. Matthias

Quote of the Post:

It’s like movies have lost a limb. (as to the lack of great film scores today)
---Lem Dobbs, Screenwriter

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