THE FILM INDUSTRY IS DEAD; FILM ITSELF IS NOT

LIAM EASLEY, TRUMPET ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

There are no more good ideas in film anymore. This sounds agreeable, yes? I used to think so as well and it took a quarantine to make me realize how wrong I was. 

Usually people claim that filmmakers are devoid of originality after seeing film trailers pop up on Facebook or YouTube. You see, when it comes to mainstream movies that are being spewed forth by large production companies, the answer is typically, “Yes, there are no more fresh ideas in film anymore.” 

This realization also comes after seeing the many “Look at these cool new films planned for this year! Can’t wait!” posts on social media, which oftentimes come with a long thread of movie posters advertising titles like “Matrix 4,” “Jurassic World 3,” *insert Marvel movie here*, etc. At this point, it is appropriate to assume that there are no more fresh ideas in film. 

In a way, it all makes sense. American capitalism thrives and feeds on the escapism possessed by almost every member of its society, and offering “Pirates of the Caribbean 72: Dead Monkey Flag” or whatever does the trick every time, whether or not it’s good and whether or not it stars Johnny Depp. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a remake of the Marvel franchise at least once in my lifetime. 

On top of that, every remake deserves a cameo, which passes as a fun gimmick, but in the grand picture it’s just a marketing strategy. When Mark Hamill wore 30 tons of CGI in the latest “Mandalorian” season, everyone lost it. Was it a good season? Let’s be honest, it was not. However, there was Hamill, and then everyone was talking about “The Mandalorian.” When the Marvel franchise is remade, Robert Downey Jr. will be there (or whoever is alive to see it happen). 

MARK HAMILL IN “THE MANDALORIAN.” PHOTO COURTESY OF IMDB.

The mentality is that every story needs to be remade to better suit the new generation, another  marketing strategy that justifies blowing large budgets on movies that don’t need to exist. In fact, it’s very counter-productive, as the progression of society comes with the progression of culture, not the regurgitation of it, but we cannot create new culture while we are too busy trying to sustain peripheral, insignificant corporations, so we’ll just settle for the regurgitation. 

But what about all of the movies that are actually good and original? Where are they? 

Before we get there, here are a few things you need to learn about watching movies. First, become aware of directors, since the quality of the film typically boils down to how good the director is. Usually people pick films based off of the actors – do not do this. Tom Hanks might be amazing in both “A League of Their Own” and “Turner & Hooch,” but only one of these films is actually good. Learn directors, pick a few you like, and go from there. 

That being said, even your favorite directors will have a few bad movies, but there’s still a higher chance of finding better films by looking at a good director’s filmography rather than an excellent actor’s career. 

Second, understand that film is an art form, and that there are many ways of executing it. Just like there are different ways to paint a painting, there are different ways to film a movie, and it oftentimes depends on the director/filmmaker. For example, Lav Diaz uses the power of a very drawn-out shot, causing his films to be up to nine hours long. Other filmmakers, like Dario Argento, choose to experiment with lighting to give their films more dimension. 

It is often the case that we have been exposed throughout our life to films that fit a formula, causing us to think there are only a few ways to tell a story. While this may seem mostly true, it is not. There are infinitely many ways to tell a story, and this can be proven just by watching one of the earliest documentaries from 1929, “Man With a Movie Camera,” which seems to tell a different story with each shot. 

With these tips in mind, I hope you are more ready to tackle film and maybe even go a little out of your comfort zone. Now, here are some places to start looking for new films and filmmakers. 

The most accessible and well-known place to access new films from new directors is Netflix. This streaming platform often sprinkles ads around social media sites all the time, but they do not often regurgitate old ideas. Here are some unique titles to watch on Netflix exclusively: “The 40-Year-Old Version,” “Roma,” “Beasts of No Nation,” “First They Killed My Father” and many more. 

Not attracted by Netflix originals? Try Kanopy, a free streaming service with no ads that can be accessed with your Wartburg student credentials. This has a wider selection of old and new cinema from around the world, including excellent titles such as “November,” “Buoyancy,” “Bacurau,” “Midsommar,” “Ixcanul,” “Driveways” and many more. 

Hulu is the next best option (especially being at $1.99 a month for college students, with ads), containing titles like “Babyteeth,” “The Painted Bird,” “Parasite” and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” 

In fact, there are plenty of great new films at Wartburg’s own Vogel Library, including “The Revenant,” “Birds of Passage,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Monuments Men,” “Parasite” and more. Some of these titles were released by large production companies because sometimes they do take a chance on new ideas. 

Film is an art form, not an industry. Do not let any production company tell you otherwise. It often seems as if every film being shown in theaters is either a number in a franchise or some really bad comedy, but theaters are no longer the only place to go. Your home can be the cinematic Library of Congress if you do it right, and you can find fresh, new, exciting ideas from filmmakers all over the world. 

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