New Yorker film critic’s book essays the tenuous future of movies
Does watching a feature-length motion picture on a tiny Smartphone screen constitute a genuine movie-going experience? Or does it presage the end of movies as America’s national theater and its preeminent popular art form?
In the provocative “Do Movies Have a Future?” (Simon & Schuster, $27), The New Yorker magazine film critic David Denby offers a passionate, finely reasoned and highly articulate examination of that issue and of several others concerning the state of cinema at the beginning of the 21st century.
This collection of essays and reviews, mostly drawn and expanded from Denby’s work for the magazine, serves as a rousing wake-up call for movie lovers troubled by several recent trends in American multiplexes – blockbuster economics that discourage modest, character-driven stories; the predominance of mega-budgeted, CGI-driven action franchises; the obsession with comic-book heroes in cinema storytelling; the deterioration of film grammar that speaks to adult audiences and much more.
Denby, once a protégé of the great Pauline Kael (whom he profiles here with bittersweet regard and regret), blends an exuberant film buff’s enthusiasm with an academic’s incisive and skeptical analysis as he writes about such wide-ranging topics as “chick flicks,” the shifting nature of star worship and the career of Joan Crawford, and the ups and downs of hip auteurs such as Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodovar, David Fincher and the Coen brothers.
In a splendid think piece titled “Pirates on the iPod,” Denby expresses special concern for what he calls “platform agnosticism,” in which young viewers blithely eschew the old communal model of watching movies on a giant screen in a darkened, crowded theater and seem perfectly content with seeing epic-sized films solo on tiny screens (laptops, tablets and even cell phones).
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