I have a message for both the mainstream film industry and its film critics: You have both lost all connection with film audiences.
Hollywood has seemingly decided that “quality” now equates with dark, violent and depressing; consequently, 2007 was one of the bleakest years ever for film distribution. To make matters worse, and to illustrate anew the fable of the emperor’s new clothes, film critics have fallen into lockstep with film distributors.
As I write this column on January 1, 2008, the film that has garnered almost every film critic group’s nod as the best film of 2007 is “No Country for Old Men,” which centers around one of the nastiest, most vicious and soulless serial killers ever depicted on screen. In the first 10 minutes of the film, a man is graphically strangled while the killer looks positively orgasmic and then another innocent man is cold-bloodedly shot between the eyes. And then it gets worse … much worse. Nevertheless, the film critic for the Portland Oregonian said this about the film: “exact, spare, bloody, dark, and unrelenting, it’s superb.”
While I respect everyone’s right to say whatever they believe, I also reserve the right to ask, “What are you folks smoking?”
“Best film” means the one film every year that is represented to the world as the premier achievement in the American film industry. Focusing on the craft itself is fine for categories like sound editing, costume design or cinematography. But when you’re talking about the “best film,” content itself should be of paramount importance.
For studios and critics, “superb” and “bloody, dark, and unrelenting” may belong in the same sentence but, fortunately, we in the audience don’t agree. The fall season of 2007 produced the weakest box office results for that period of time in the last 10 years. The film industry is quite literally awash in red ink. According to a November 26, 2007 article in Video Business Weekly, the film industry lost a staggering $6 billion dollars in 2006.
In short, the business model of the film industry is broken. Creatively, it’s even worse. The chasm between the insular, dark, violent and cynical tastes of most studios and film critics and the desire of audiences to have other choices is now deeper than the Grand Canyon.
Next time: My five favorite films of 2007.