Friday, September 05, 2014

Not Enough Hooch

Before I start, I suppose you were expecting a post on Joan Rivers. I don't have much to say about her.  She wasn't exactly my cup of tea, but she was a talented and hardworking standup comedian who had a lengthy, significant and even trailblazing career.

Anyway, over at Bloomberg, Megan McArdle writes about the state of popular cinema.  Apparently, after watching the 1989 comedy crime film Turner And Hooch*, she wonders why the Hollywood formula has gotten so dull. According to McCardle, even a relatively minor film like TAH, compared to the tentpole summer films of today, had room to breathe, even explore its characters.

She has a point, but it's hardly the first time it's been made. I quite agree that most blockbusters today are tired, and special effects (especially in the age of the CGI) have become too important, all too often trumping the things that actually matter, which are story and character.  But that's what people were saying at the beginning of the modern blockbuster era (and before then, actually).  Since the days of Jaws and Star Wars in the 70s, critics have been complaining that Spielberg and Lucas ruined Hollywood, turning the focus toward blockbusters filled with spectacle. (An excellent book on this, somewhat sympathetic at least to the early films of this style, is Tom Shone's Blockbuster.) Certainly by 1989, the year of Turner And Hooch, it was a critical convention to say films had lost their feeling.

And they may be right.  You watch an "action" film from, say, the late 60s and it'll look like My Dinner With Andre compared to the non-stop stuff we have today. Some blame Joel Silver, producer of the Lethal Weapon series and so many other action epics, who helped solidify the plot where there's an explosion every ten minutes.  But the point is the golden age is always in the past.  If you had said in the 1980s this is a time when Hollywood really knew how to make films about people, the Megan McArdles of the day (were there Megan McArdles then, or is she a recent invention like today's blockbusters?) would probably have thought you were nuts.  And no doubt some future Megan McArdle will be looking back fondly on the great stuff we had in the 2010s.

*I haven't seen Turner And Hooch since it was released.  The only thing I can say about it is it was better than that year's similarly-themed K-9.

web page hit counter