Thanks to Netflix, I used to watch two or three feature films a week. I was able to sustain that pace for years because of a backlog of highly rated but yet-unwatched films, and the frequent release of new films of merit. The backlog has almost vanished, as has the offering of meritorious new films.
Take 2013, please! I have thus far seen only four of the films emitted in that year: American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Captain Phillips, and Now You See Me. Viewers who rate films at IMDb (Internet Movie Database) have given the films average ratings of 7.5, 7.4, 8.0, and 7.3 out of 10, respectively, as against my own ratings of 4, 1, 7, and 7.*
Admittedly, a sample of four may seem inadequate to the task of judging a year’s worth of filmic output, but my assessment of that output would be even less glowing had I not rejected most of it sight unseen. Take American Hustle (please!), which I watched last night. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, despite the fact that it’s too long, too loud, too crude, and rarely funny where it’s meant to be funny. Thus my rating of 4. Blue Jasmine, to which I gave a 1, turned out to be another of Woody Allen’s series of kvetches — boring as hell unless you are fascinated by neurotic, yuppie Manhattanites. Captain Phillips and Now You See Me are good but not great films.
I’m content to call 2013 a bad year at the moves — perhaps the worst year — because of two trends. The first is an accelerating downward trend (with respect to year of release) in the percentage of movies that I have called a “favorite,” that is, a movie that I’ve rated 8, 9, or 10:
What about overall ratings? Here are my ratings of movies, relative to the ratings given the same movies by IMDb users; note the steep decline after 1995:
Is it just me? Perhaps. But it’s more likely that movie-goers’ tastes have coarsened in the past two decades. Witness the popularity of American Hustle; witness the unremitting stream of sex, violence, and general depravity that emanates from movies and over the electromagnetic spectrum.
I conclude that movies are getting worse than ever, in keeping with popular culture.
* * *
The Movies: (Not) Better Than Ever
At the Movies: The Best and Worst Years
My Year at the Movies (2007)
The Movies: Not Better than Ever (II)
Here’s a guide to my ratings:
1 – unwatchable
2 – watched all the way through, to my regret
3, 4, 5 – varying degrees of entertainment value, but altogether a waste of time
6 – generally engaging, but noticeably flawed in some way (e.g., a weak performance in a major role, trite story, a contrived ending, insufficient resolution of plot or sub-plot)
7 – well done in all respects, with only a few weak spots; enjoyable but not scintillating
8 – a thoroughly engaging movie; its weak spots (e.g., a corny plot), if any, are overwhelmed by scintillating performances (e.g., the spectacular dancing of Astaire and Rogers), sustained hilarity, a compelling plot, a witty script, etc. (a rating that I’ve given to 30 percent of the more than 2,000 feature films that I’ve seen)
9 – an “8” that is so good it bears re-watching (a rating that I’ve given to only 3 percent of the films I’ve seen)
10 – a movie that I didn’t want to end; a masterpiece of film-making (a rating that I’ve given to only 5 films — 0.2 percent)