|Akira Kurosawa and Satyajit Ray at the Venice Film Festival, 1982|
In combing through various years in film as I set about doing these alternate Oscar posts, I noticed a not-so-surprising trend. As the years progressed, the quality of films receded. This can potentially be blamed on several factors: the absence of the visionary studio heads, the increasing over-reliance on technology and the invention of the Summer tent-pole blockbuster are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
The fact is, the majority of our mainstream films have lost touch with the prime directive of the art of film-making: human relationships. Yes, it's always been a business, and not everyone can be a Renoir, Ray or Kurosawa, but when you look at a random year (such as the one below) it becomes relatively clear that the bulk of populist cinema was at one glorious time more concerned with character and story, and less about spectacle, sequels, reboots and remakes.
It's a cop out to say that we've simply run out of ideas. We've run out of artists. Lenny Bruce once told a very prescient bit about how a shy, introspective screenwriter sits for hours in his basement, laboriously creating unseen works of art, but in order for his work to be seen, he first has to pass through a gauntlet of rejection and hurdles from simple-minded automatons (and a broken system that is set up to crush the spirit of the artist) that he finally just gives up.
Our film-makers today, for the most part, remain in place by default. Most of them are frauds. There are still a few true artists at the forefront (Paul Thomas Anderson for one) but once the uncreative types (as Kris Kristofferson called them) took over, things were never the same. John Waters once prophesied that the future of film would come out of YouTube, from the novice director, too shy (or much too smart) to play the Hollywood game.
To think how we once took for granted the golden age of such artists as Robert Altman, Hal Ashby and Sidney Lumet. Artists whose first commitment was to their craft, and the exploration of the human condition. Sure, we still get some of that today, but remember a time when it seemed nearly every film in general release was a work of art? Oh, how we were spoiled.
1973 Academy Award for Best Director
the actual nominees:
George Roy Hill for The Sting (winner)
George Lucas for American Graffiti
Ingmar Bergman for Cries and Whispers
William Friedkin for The Exorcist
Bernardo Bertolucci for Last Tango in Paris
the alternate universe nominees:
Peter Bogdanovich for Paper Moon
Federico Fellini for Amarcord
Terrence Malick for Badlands
Sam Peckinpah for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
|Robert Altman for The Long Goodbye|
Paul Mazursky for Blume in Love; Don Siegel for Charley Varrick; Mark Rydell for Cinderella Liberty; François Truffaut for Day For Night; Fred Zinnemann for The Day of the Jackal; Joseph Losey for A Doll's House; Nicolas Roeg for Don't Look Now; Peter Yates for The Friends of Eddie Coyle; Alan Bridges for The Hireling; Alejandro Jodorowsky for Holy Mountain; Hal Ashby for The Last Detail; Lina Wertmüller for Love and Anarchy; Martin Scorsese for Mean Streets; Lindsay Anderson for O Lucky Man!; James Bridges for The Paper Chase; Jerry Schatzberg for Scarecrow; Ingmar Bergman for Scenes from a Marriage; Sidney Lumet for Serpico; Brian De Palma for Sisters; Woody Allen for Sleeper; Victor Erice for The Spirit of the Beehive; Robin Hardy for The Wicker Man