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January 2, 2007

The Future of Movies

Via David Carr's Carpetbagger blog, David Denby's brilliant and occasionally frustrating New Yorker essay on the potential changes in cinematic production and distribution, "Big Pictures: Hollywood Looks For a Future." I want to return to Denby's essay later, perhaps in another blog entry and certainly in my book, but for now, I'll mention a few immediate reactions:

While I don't agree with Denby's essay in its entirety (I see far more potential in the video iPod than he does, for example), it's a valuable read and worth discussing in some detail.

Update: Just wanted to point to some of the other responses Denby's essay has been getting. Bright Lights After Dark briefly mentions the essay, and Ryan at Cinematical favorably discusses Denby's treatment of the state of cinema in 2007, although I don't think Denby believes it's quite as bad as Ryan implies.

Finally, Eugene David, the One-Minute Pundit, is far more critical of Denby, in part because of his complicity with the industry in offering favorable reviews to mediocre Holywood product and because Denby favorably describes the new art house theater renovations by National Amusements, a theater chain owned by entertainment conglomerate Viacom. To be fair to Denby, he hardly seems like the worst offender in ad-blurbism (at least compared to certain other critics who are all thumbs), but I think the bigger problem here is David's dismissal of all things Hollywood. My read of Denby's piece doesn't leave me with the impression that movies are necessarily getting worse (Denby praises Million Dollar Baby and Brokeback Mountain among others) but that economic, technological, and social factors are changing the kinds of movies that get made as well as changing how we watch them, a far different kind of argument than the jeremiad David describes (even if Denby doesn't like the video iPod). Some of those changes, including teh reliance on tentpole blockbusters, are negative, of course, but I think Denby leaves a lot of room for showing how the "specialty" wings of the major studios can produce some interesting and innovative work.

David also implies that "the principal accomplishments" of the Web are The Blair Witch Project, Ain't it Cool News, and the Snakes on a Plane hype, but I think that overlooks a lot of the truly independent porductions that are promoted and distributed via the internet, including services such as Green Cine and Netflix that allow folks who live in cities and towns without an independent video store or art house theater access to far more film titles than they might otherwise have.

One more note: John Podhoretz also favorably cites Denby's article, echoing the observation that the internet is contributing to the decline of American movies.

Update 2: Annie Frisbie also discusses Denby's article in relationship to a rather unpleasant experience at a Dreamgirls screening.

Update 3: Did I say "brilliant?" I meant "obvious." David at Green Cine links to Anne Thompson's far more critical take on Denby's piece.

Posted by chuck at January 2, 2007 11:52 AM

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Posted by: zp at January 2, 2007 1:36 PM

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