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Posts Tagged ‘American New Wave’

Last night I visited the cinema to watch two perfect movies; Nerve and The Shallows.  When I say perfect, you may think they were instant classic movies that will contend all the awards and will rank amongst the greatest ever made.  Sadly this is not true, they are flawed movies that are average at best.  However, they are exactly what they are supposed to be,  they are disposable fun B movies.Nerve and The Shallows

The B movie started life in the early days of cinema using sets and stages from major pictures to make cheep films in an effort to maximise studios return on investment.  They were also a useful way of breaking new contract players into movie making.  The major studios were full of potential leading men and ladies, ingénue’s straight of the bus, a small number of whom would become stars.

Many of the B pictures became series, or followed a formula that would make you think they were a series.  Away from the eight major studios, the so called Poverty Row studios made nothing but B movies.  In the last days of the silent era and the early days of the talkies into the Golden Age of Hollywood, the B movie evolved into second features.  Throughout the 30’s and 40’s B movies were often genre pictures and usually clocked in at between 60 and 70 minutes for the poverty row studios and up to 90 minutes for the majors. As antitrust rules killed off second features, B movies evolved.  They continued to focus of genres; monsters, gangsters and cowboys were joined by the post war explosion in Sci-Fi.  The 60’s saw the birth of Exploitation movies.  Many of the directors credited as visionaries of American New Wave got their break in 60’s exploitation and B movies.

So back to last night’s double feature: Nerve is a teen (although most actors haven’t been teens this decade) satire on social media dressed up as an adventure thriller.  The plot isn’t as good as the concept and loses its way as it develops but is helped by engaging performances from Emma Roberts and Dave Franco.Nerve

The Shallows is an effective horror thriller about a young surfer who is stranded on rocks 200 yards from shore by a killer shark.  The surf scenes are well shot and Blake Lively manages to hold the viewers interest in a largely solo performance.  The plot is full of clichés and goofs but does feature a main character who doesn’t make the stupid decisions you usually associate with the genre.the shallows

So what is so good about the movies? They are 106 and 96 minutes long respectively.  If Scorsese or Nolan want to make a three hour masterpiece, great, they have proved they can do it, but do popcorn B pictures need to be two plus hours long? Simply NO!  Many two hour movies could be dramatically improved by being trimmed down to sub 100 minutes.  A perfect example of this:King Kong

If you watch the original, and still the best version of King Kong (1933) staring Fay Wray and directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (both uncredited) and run it alongside Peter Jackson’s 2005 version, you may be surprised at what happens.  The older film runs for around 96 minutes, and is ending at about the same time as Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody arrive at Skull Island.  In fact, you could watch the old film twice in the time it takes to watch the new one once.  Did beauty kill the beast, or was it boredom?

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Where were you in ‘62? This is the question George Lucas asked of us on the poster for American Graffiti in 1973. As previously mentioned American Graffiti is possibly George Lucas’ best film, but more importantly it’s the best example of a filmmakers nostalgic look at his teenage years. A decade later Kevin Reynolds had similar idea looking back to 1971 in Fandango (1985). But, a decade after that, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993) looked back nearly two decades to 1976. But if we go back to the 60’s and 70’s we may see the reason; John Milius’ classic surf movie Big Wednesday (1978) chronicles the lives of a group of friends against the backdrop of the Vietnam War (one day people will come to realise it is better than The Deer Hunter from the same year). And that may be the crux of it, the Vietnam War loomed large in the lives and minds of film makers in the 70’s.American-Graffiti-poster

But then there is another issue. New Hollywood or the American New Wave of the 60’s and 70’s saw the ideas and ideals of the independent, European and Asian cinema. Possibly by the 90’s and certainly the 00’s the spirit of the New Wave was dead (thanks Michael Cimino!) and we had to look to burgeoning independent cinema to give us what we had seen from the studios in the past. But does it go deeper than that? In the time from when American Graffiti was set and when it was made, the world looked very different. The first US combat troops were sent to Vietnam and the ceasefire was signed. The Beatles released their first single conquered the world and split up. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. The Summer of Love was followed by Woodstock and culminated in The Altamont Speedway Free Festival. John Fitzgerald Kennedy had overseen a peaceful end to the Cuban missile crisis and possibly averted world war III, and was assassinated. The Apollo 11 program had put the first man on the moon.fandango

How has the world changed since 2003? The same wars are still going on that were a decade ago. Mobile phones got smaller and smaller, then started getting bigger and bigger. The airways are filled by boy bands manufactured by crappy TV shows. To quote Pete Townshend: “But the world looks just the same, And history ain’t changed” . to put it simply the world really hasn’t changed. We are seeing movies about the wars and conflicts in the middle east, and the infantile crisis, but these are contemporary social commentaries not nostalgic movies. It just leaves the question, will filmmakers in the 2020’s be making nostalgic movies about this decade?

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