Thoughts inspired by this depressing but accurate look at the movies:
In retrospect, I'm grateful to my parents for the experience of going to see movies in the theater, and the care that went in to choosing those movies: the summer blockbusters with the highest production value and the most substantial stories, whether action, suspense, or comedy. Making a point, if haphazardly followed, of seeing at least one of the films nominated for Best Picture. Sprinkling in Merchant/Ivory and Jane Austen adaptations, and most particularly not treating it as a girly thing to do. These provided me with the realization, even if I wasn't always interested in it, that there was something more worthwhile and enduring than the crap I would consistently choose to watch it allowed--Home Alone, Ace Ventura, that movie where Arnold Schwartzenegger has a baby. That experience was, in some way, cultural literacy, or its origins. I plotted a conventional-but-interested course in high school and the first part of college, classics and indie films, nothing very substantial. Then I woke up one morning in college and realized I had no vocabulary in film at all, had the proper response to this (mild shame), and subscribed to Netflix.
Now, of course, we don't go to movies. We will see the random comic book adaptation or similar (Snow White and the Huntsman killed us of that habit), or the random prestige film, but two of the last three things we went to see in a theater were Richard Linklatter movies (both excellent). The third was American Hustle. We contemplate, but do not attend, the old films that the Carolina Theatre screens... and that's it. We can watch our favorites at home and branch out a bit with the help of Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu. Film is not unlike the novel at this point: a person can choose to live entirely in the past, and do so happily; living in the past is entirely compatible with one's tastes changing, even changing radically.
Looking into the future is depressing: an endless march of slight variations on things you have already seen if you've been in a theater in the last 15 years. 'Good' and 'bad' are such relative terms now. No one would dispute that the X-Men movies tend to be, on the whole, better than the average comic book movie; the best of them (X2) could be described as 'fairly good," and the rest are ideas executed at various degrees of hamhandedness. If the argument for Days of Future Past is that it's more like the good parts of First Class than The Last Stand, how could anyone see that as more than a guarantee the movie is not a trainwreck? I liked The Lego Movie--who didn't?--but the prospect of four more fills me with dread. Is there the slightest chance that these are not all slight variations on each other? People once thought Pirates of the Caribbean was original, before the second film destroyed all that goodwill. And then they made two more. This is true even outside the realm of comic book movies: Anchorman 2 proves only that it was a miracle the first one was good at all. The key to the old system was choice, the ability to select from amongst a (relatively) diverse slate of genres and themes, and choice is the one thing that doesn't much exist now.
The lover of reading in me is moderately pleased by this state of things: if there's nothing worth watching, then there's nothing I'm missing, so let's all go read a book.