Strong opinions, weakly held

Movies are getting dumber

As movie studios rely more and more on international markets to bring in revenue, movies are getting simpler and more universal. That explains what has struck me as the diminishing quality of major movie studio releases in recent years. I draw my general impression of what the studios are putting out by keeping track of the new movie HBO shows each Saturday night. Most weeks I’m not interested, and when I do bother to watch, I’m almost universally disappointed. This effort to make movies more broadly popular not just among Americans but across the world can probably be blamed for the sad state of movies today.

Of course, there are still plenty of good movies being released, you just have to look harder to find them. This weekend I went to see Juno at The Rialto, and enjoyed it thoroughly. For about the first two thirds of it, I thought, “This is a really good movie.” By the end, I had decided it was great. A couple of things I really liked:

  1. The cast includes Jason Bateman and Michael Cera from Arrested Development. At one point in the movie, there’s a subtle but unambiguous reference to that show that doesn’t involve either of them.
  2. A paint-spattered “Alice in Chains” t-shirt is subtly used in a highly symbolic way.

I’d hate to spoil the movie so I won’t say any more. See it if you get a chance.


  1. I saw Juno and didn’t think it was a movie as much as it was 90 minutes of vaguely amusing one-liners. It was good but nothing special.

  2. I thought the plot of the movie was better than the one-liners, which I agree were not incredibly amusing. I did laugh hard a few times, though the specific jokes escape me.

  3. I won’t go into specifics because I don’t want to spoil this for anyone (although if you want to take this to email, I’d be happy to) but I found the plot to be extraordinarily thin, so I just shrugged it off and focused on the stuff that I liked.

  4. Hollywood’s output has been seen as “International” since the late 70s/early 80s. People like Paul Schrader were talking about this cultural shift a while ago. The idea of an international movie being universal and therefore simple or dumb is tepid excuse for a shoddy “product”. Here, in France, some of the highest grossing movies are “No Country for Old Men”, “Into the Wild” and “Sweeney Todd”. The films are shown in the original version with french subtitles in many cinemas. There were unique visual cultural references to America in some scenes that worked, and the translation of the dialogue did a good job to make sure “aural” cultural references were well understood.

    Now, having lived in the U.S. and seen its footprint across the world; I used to wonder why Americans don’t watch more foreign films until I heard one person remark, “shit, this thing has subtitles… I’m leaving”, whilst I was watching “In the Mood for Love”. Good foreign film, did well internationally.

  5. Having just seen “Rambo”, I can definitely agree with the theory that movies are getting dumber.

  6. I really liked Juno. While I’m fine with the idea that the plot was thin, it was a compelling thin plot, with great acting, and honest in a way that I can’t remember recent movies rivaling. While I’m 32, I can still remember High School sucking, and having kids who were pregnant, and all the immature shit you say when the person you really want to go to prom with goes with someone else. And honestly, a movie with good one-liners is still far above most movies being made, so I don’t count that against it.

  7. Good one liners are definitely a bonus for me, regardless of whether the movie is a comedy, drama, or something else.

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