How To Get Better Movies

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It’s Oscar time and with the awards comes the complaining about Hollywood’s output. Kevin Smokler has this Perspective on how consumers can get better movies.

The state of a nearly 140-year-old art form in a moment of great transition requires a long lens. Yet The annual ritual of deeming movies "not what they used to be" , often while and immediately after Hollywood hands the Oscars, feels as unshakable as thanking the academy. And while it's easy to tear holes in that logic--"not what they used to be" as a unit of measurement is about as accurate as a wild guess. Let's go with that feeling. Okay, movies are not what they used to be." Now what?

An old answer to a new(ish) problem. Movies are an art designed to be watched in public with strangers. They’re ubiquity -- on televisions, laptops and smartphones -- blinds us to the essential nature all artistic forms have. Symphonies are longer than songs. Stand-up comedy works better indoors at night than in the park on Tuesday afternoon. And movies have higher built-in costs than painting or writing or composing. And though it is changing rapidly, commercial film still recoups most of those costs on its first weekend in theaters. That 3-5 day window of success, as much as anything, determines what movies get made next.

That is where we the audience have power. If you believe movies need to be less loud and forgettable, more diverse and challenging, start by seeing the ones that are opening this weekend. I can happily report that here in the Bay Area we are lucky to have more than enough email lists, websites and, whew!, theaters to say current on when the kind of movies we dream of are available and where to see them. The tools to mobilize friends and community to play along were probably invented here too.

Doing so is expensive and inconvenient. If "waiting for Netflix" is all you can afford, do it. But If this year's Oscars has you saying, "I wish the nominated and awarded were more like _____, ask yourself if you saw _____ at first chance, to give them and more movies like them a chance yet to come.


With a Perspective, I'm Kevin Smokler.

Kevin Smokler writes about pop culture from San Francisco.