Not you too, George!

Yesterday I responded to an article by A.O. Scott about the supposed decline of the romantic comedy that I think is a blatant bit of revisionist film history. Basically, I think that it’s ridiculous to argue that movies of the past are better than those of the present, because we typically choose only to preserve and revisit the good films and forget the bad. (This, of course, could be said for any type of art.) I was therefore unhappy to come across this BBC article in which George Clooney is quoted as saying today’s films don’t live up to those of the past. He highlights the period from 1964-76, when “you could see 10 films a year that were masterpieces.”

George, no! You were three years old in 1964! Of course you’ve only seen the good stuff from then! Please tell me these quotes were taken out of context, because coming off of 2007, a particularly strong year for quality and innovation in film, this attitude is just depressing me. Here’s what Roger Ebert has to say about 2007: “It was a time of wonders, an autumn of miracles, one of the best years in recent movie history. One great film after another opened, and movie lovers found there were two or three, sometimes more, must-see films opening on a weekend. I gave up rationing my four-star ratings and went with the flow.”

You just can’t tell me that if you took the 10 best reviewed (or 10 most award-winning, or even some random dude’s 10 favorite) movies from a period in the 1960s or 1970s (or any other decade) and compared them to the best movies of the recent past, the older movies would always be the better crop. They’ve had more time to be regarded as classics, and more opportunity to influence other films, but those facts shouldn’t automatically discount the accomplishments of contemporary filmmakers. Of course someone is free to have a personal preference for the style of a certain era, but let’s get over this idea that the art of filmmaking is suffering a decline. That’s a particularly harmful kind of nostalgia.


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