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Did movies get better or worse in 2010?

December 30, 2010 |  2:04 pm


The end of the year tends to prompt reflection on all things on God's green earth, including on what for film buffs is perhaps the most important thing of all -- the state of our  movie culture.

So that subject was already much on people's minds when this New York Times article about studios' willingness to gamble on original ideas began kicking up some dust, eliciting both scoffs and nods of agreement. And it made everyone, including us at 24 Frames, wonder if movies as a whole got better  or worse in 2010.

Is it possible to say both?

There's no objective truth on any of this -- one man's mess is another man's masterpiece -- but a lot of us have had the sense that 2010 was a tale of two seasons.

The summer brought more than its typical share of live-action critical clunkers --  for every "Inception" there was an "A-Team," a "Last Airbender," or a "Grown-Ups" -- while the fall seemed to yield an unusually large number of gems.

The summer and the fall have long had a quality gap, but this year it seemed wider than usual. "The Last Airbender" and "Grown-Ups," for instance, each failed to top a 10% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  (The lowest Rotten Tomatoes rating for a big-budget extravaganza last summer was 20%, for "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.")  And while "Grown-Ups" got an overall CinemaScore of B from audiences, that was inflated by under-18 viewers, who gave it an A-; most adults gave it far below a B.

But it all turned around after Labor Day once the smaller guys took the stage. Reviewers and audiences began embracing a wide range of movies: "The Fighter," "The King's Speech," "Black Swan," "The Social Network,""True Grit." (You can also toss "The Kids Are All Right" and "Winter's Bone" into the mix -- they were technically released in the summer but both were indie films through and through.)

Last fall yielded some well-regarded movies too -- including "Avatar" and "Precious" -- but the list of the roundly loved was decidedly thinner. It was a season, after all, of "Brothers," "Invictus" and "The Lovely Bones." (None of this, incidentally, applies to animated films, which somehow continue to get better no matter the season.)

The widening in quality between summer and fall films is hardly an accident. As studios continue to go for sequels and brand-driven movies, some big-budget summer releases inevitably find themselves in a creative rut. Meanwhile, the independent-film world, still reeling from a shakeout, is experiencing a cream-rising-to-the-top effect. It's possible movies like "Black Swan" or "The Fighter" would have been made five years ago, when financing flowed more freely. But they probably wouldn't have been made as rigorously, and they might have been diluted in a sea of lesser films.

Given how studios remain focused on remakes while the indie world finds itself in a state of semi-recession, we can probably expect more of the same in '11. That's the bad news -- and the good news too.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "The Last Airbender." Credit: Paramount Pictures

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2010 is worse than 2009 and that is remarkable considering how bad 2009 was. I don't see any improvement, foreign or domestic. Just an endless run of gimmicks and sequels. Thank goodness the quality of television has improved to the point where I don't miss movies. Breaking Bad, Fringe, Community, Parks&Recreation, Mad Men, etc. I always argue with film snobs about how television is kicking their behinds.

Look to long form TV. It is miles better than any feature offering.

Much worse !....Hollywood is great at sfx...but creatively bankrupt......I could make better movies asleep !

You forgot a few excellent animated films.

Perhaps 2011 will be the year movies will no longer have the ugly blue tint effect. Attn: directors; it's been done, enough already. Assuming you have the skill level to do so, try shooting a movie in full color for a change.

The problem came in when the big studios bought up the bulk of the little guys. For the big guy, its all about the numbers for Wall Street. Not that little guys didn't have to worry about the numbers, but Wall Street's mentality is insane. Its not enough to make money, but it has to make more than last year at this time on this weekend. So everything gets dumbed down, no one takes a chance, and if you can do a remake on the cheap that is garbage but will still get people in on the name alone, its worth it.

Yes...movies did get worst in 2010, and I for one am glad they were majority of studio releases.

Big budget, non actor / star - driven, hack written and directed, nepotistic-underlying movies. I'd throw the agents under the bus as well, but Ari Gold does enough of that already.

Thank God for the digital age and all the better cameras and editing systems coming out and improving on a 6 month basis. What this means to an indie movie maker like myself?

It means I can make just as good as a 90 minute movie with good actors and a small crew...for under 1 mil. budget and make it look like I spent 10 mil, as any hack job the Hollywood studio puts out and will continue to put out...until the Hollywood studio model finally crashes and burns. Which isn't far away.

The audience is global. Right into their home based tv systems.

Interestingly, I just finished a review of log lines for the most popular films of 2010 vs. 2009 - just to see how the depth of the stories compared. The difference was shocking. Those of 2009 were as shallow and worthless as those of any year I can remember. Those filmed in 2010 were, generally, of substantially greater depth.

To be sure, the quality of film fare is a direct function of how many indies are produced. The more, the better.

Thanks to the celluloid gods and a man named Stieg Larsson for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. We have a movie that was both strong enough to carry 2009 and 2010 at the movies and a book that makes me want to read again.

Worse than last year, I don't know. I wait for films to come out on DVD or streamed. So I haven't seen many of the year end contenders fo 2010. But I would say movies haven't been as good as they used to make them for many years now.

All I want is a good story with interesting characters. Most of the movies that i've seen promoted recently are non original or rehashed ideas that are dependent on state of the art special effects. I suppose that in the coming year we might look forward to something like "Gilligan's Island 2011" in 3D or maybe 4D. Some theaters might be equipped with virtual reality suits. For a $30 ticket price we can feel like we are really running in a tropical island jungle after Ginger and Maryann. This of course will be tied in with the movie themed collector edition Happy Meals at McDonalds or the special edition supersize soft drink cups at Burger King.

I watch all the "Oldies Movies" on TV....so good, so dramatic all in black and white! Of course, other stations have good movies now and then also to watch.
Last movies in theater I really liked: Saturday Night Fever with Travolta! Made my mother swoon! And Westside Story..great. I can't remember any real good movies produced for theatre for years except animated ones. They are great!! Shreik and Nemo etc. Now I will buy a used DVD if it is of any interest, so I have a huge collection of some good ones, but many that are terrible. I love good musical with a PLOT. LOVE a great mystery wit some romance included. Love a good Center Political movie or a good CIA or FBI movie with some romance ongoing. There is nothing in the theatres to get me to go and spend $30.00 bucks and up..buying popcorn that is marked up 600% and a crap movie to top it off. Just no fun anymore to walk out of a theatre and say "Gosh, that was good". I know from reading few books, that there is good writers out there...producers should pay attention!

On top of all my previous comment, forgot to say that I am so sick of skinny little celebs that flash their fake boobs, fake butts, gobs of makeup, gemstones in their belly buttons and men with shaved chests and backs and look like they been on way too many steroids. There really isn't any such thing as a real'
"Movie Star" anymore that has been trained by a studio to be a STAR. Just a bunch of boobs that can't act, can't do anything but jump in a bed and get it on for all to watch. That isn't acting, that isn't entertaining and certainly, I do not walk out of a theater and say "Geez, that was a good movie."

Some movies were superior stories, with great scripts. Like "Winter's Bone", and then some were barf bags without a shred of anything remotely resembling an interesting plot. Like "Going the Distance". The writing in this yawner was the worse script since "The Muppet Movie", and coincidently: they both starred Miss Piggy.

Hollywood movies have been pretty bad for a while now. Only during an era of bad content could there be an emphasis on 3D.

Mostly all of the movies are for teenagers. I have never seen Avatar, any of the transformer movies or any of the garbage out there. I saw the movie conviction and it was along my taste. Would really like to see the Tillman movie but it was not shown here.

We all know that after Lord of the Rings, the stakes would be higher then ever. Although a couple of good movies were released between then and now, the majority of productions went down so many levels that people are now frustrated, and unwilling to drop the money to go watch a movie that will just be crap and end by leaving them feeling cheated. The movie industry needs new blood, new ideas and new direction. If this trend continues, 2011 will be even worse. Maybe the new World of Warcraft movie will shake it, which i doubt it, but other then that, i do not see anything "new" happening. I havent been to the theaters for years nor do i see myself going in the near future.

The ONLY films of 2010 worth mentioning are Inception (in my opinion, one of the most brilliant concepts EVER put on screen) and Toy Story 3! Hollywood is completely bankrupt when it comes to original stories that move the 'soul' to ANY degree or measure! The constancy of remakes from every film from the 80's and 90's is evidence of this. And even worse are the TV shows from the 80's and 90's turned into film! I mean are you kidding me! And then there's the 3D craze. Talk about turning a technology into a whore! I cannot count how many times I have left a movie theater musing how I could have written a better story, dialogue, etc. while recovering in post op from an appendectomy!

2010 was very significantly worse than 2009 across the board for live-action filmmaking. Little to nothing emerged all year that captured my interest or envigorated my filmgoing spirit to the level that high-quality works like Avatar, The Hurt Locker, The Soloist, Julie & Julia, The Last Station, and The Young Victoria (among my picks for English-language films) did, and when considering that range of subject matter, there was a lot to choose from comparatively. There were also a number of good documentaries last year, although I don't think many people saw most of them (Walt & El Grupo being the best). The only area where 2009 and 2010 have been equal is in the release of another excellent Harry Potter film, one of the very few reliable things I've left to look forward to (and even that is on the verge of coming to an end). Just for the sake of comparison, my recommended movie list (which I have for friends and family and such) for 2009 had 15 films on it; 2010 had 13, of which only 3 were live-action Hollywood releases.

The single area that has made 2010 a good year for movies is the truly extraordinary work being done in animation around the world. Six of my recommended movies for 2010 are animation, and I'm not even including Toy Story 3 (which I'm not as positive on as some). While a lot of my favorites aren't out in the US yet (chalk it up to time in Japan), there's an amazing amount of great stuff out there that'll be hitting American theaters in 2011 to keep an eye out for. If it wasn't for all the great animation, though, I'd have had a really miserable time in theaters during 2010, and frankly, 2011 doesn't look much better if I take out the animation.

Didn't see a single movie in a theater this past year. There wasn't one thing that made me feel the desire not to wait until the dvd came out. Even then, I didn't rent too many dvd's either. Hollywood is a pathetic pit hole. Nothing original, nothing exciting, nothing fresh.

Please, the article should read "Did movies get BAD or WORSE in 2010? The word "better" imply that Hollywood is still trying to be a cultural thriving machine when in fact is just another "sweatshop" exploiting the weakness of a bunch of individuals whom sustained, in some cases, irreversible brain damage after been exposed to countless and meaningless hours in front of the catatonic state inducing cable controlled TV.

Let's face it, the magic's gone.

2010 was the WORST year in movies. EVER. I LOVE going to the movies. I'm an Arclight member and nothing can beat opening night of a hugely anticipated movie. Besides, as an Angelino, what more can we do for out local economy than by buying a movie ticket?

But I won't be had, and I haven't been to a theatre since August 2009.

Don't get me wrong. Overhyped, over adrenalined movies (can we say Inception, boys and girls?) keep me OUT of the theatre, not in.

The movies are quickly becoming a wasteland unto themselves. I don't need Citizen Kane, just a good story, good acting, and a MINIMUM of special effects. It seems like all Hollywood is interested in these days is making everything a projectile to toss at you in 3-D.

And all they wind up with is a very basic human projectile: Vomit.

I suggest that people head over to criticstop10.com. It will show the consensus top 40 films of the years for any of the last 10 years. (also, it is not my site) Compare and see how you feel about each year.


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