• glorbes

    The Golden Age to many is the age in which they felt the most connected to the zeitgeist, like they mattered, and they see the past through that lens. Schraeder’s moment was the seventies, and therefore it’s HIS Golden Age.

    • Then what’s with all the guys my age mythologizing it?

      • glorbes

        They all had the same Golden Age I guess, or have bought into the myth themselves. It’s stupid to label something as such, because of how reductive it is of everything else around a time period. There is always quality and always garbage, and it comes back to what “it'” happens to be . This is a golden age for comic book movies and fans of comic book movies, but it was a dreadful time for that in previous decades. Same with the Western, or the Detective story, or the swords and sandals epic. Schraeder is making the claim that what HE sees as important is what IS important. We all fall into this trap in one way or another, and sometimes these arguments for a ‘golden age” take on a cultural force that makes them seem more authentic than they really are. I mean, I could argue that the Eighties were a Golden Age for fantasy films, (and I have done as much in the past), but I don’t really have any empirical evidence to back that up. But it sure does FEEL right to me, even if its probably a load of bullshit.

        • The Ploughman

          I think that’s the thing. It’s neigh impossible to have perspective on the era you’re in. I have a friend who’s been a lover of comic books and movies his whole life. He never gets tired of it paying off now. Like it or not in the moment, comic book movies are way better than they used to be. Whether they can hold their own as a standalone genre, the way westerns and gangster pictures got to be, seems to be the issue of debate.

          • Balthazar Bee

            Maybe it’s just part of getting old, but as socially evolved as young people are today, I feel like the one area that has blossomed into a titanic blind spot is empathizing with those who lived in the past. Could be a symptom of the social/technological juggernaut we’ve created — and the impossibility of imagining life without it — or I could be imagining it; either way, it feels like a new development to me, dammit.

            Obviously this is anecdotal, and classrooms are highly charged places that don’t always lend themselves to broad generational generalizations, but — being there now and having been there then — I don’t remember the collective-shrug-at-things-gone-by as having been quite so profoundly final twenty years ago. Yesterday’s history, and history is fucking ancient history.

            But then, to trot out one of exactly two Conrad quotations I know, “it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence–that which makes its truth, its meaning–its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream–alone.”

      • The easiest age to mythologize is the one you just missed. (Everyone my age mythologizes the 1960s.) You get to hear all the stories about how I was there, man and you don’t have to hear any contradictory evidence about it. I hear Kids These Days talk about the 1990s the same way.

        • Babalugats

          People should mythologize the 90s. It’s the only decade of peace as prosperity that anybody in America is old enough to remember.

          • glorbes

            The fashion and blockbuster movies left much to be desired though.

          • Babalugats

            I actually think the 90s are a very underrated time for blockbusters. The less said about the fashion, the better.

          • glorbes

            I’ll concede that there were some interesting experiments with giving big budgets to strange directors, but for every Alien Resurrection, you’d also get stuff like Volcano or Independence Day. Also, the Batman films are all pretty terrible. I like quite a few of the failures, but I’d say that we are getting some decent big movies regularly every year nowadays.

          • Babalugats

            I think Independence Day is better than any of the blockbusters (that I’ve seen) from that 2016 list. I’d take The Fugitive over virtually any superhero film. We can compare high points, Jurassic Park, T2, The Matrix, to Fury Road, Inception. But I also think the bad films tended to be ridiculous and misguided, instead of uninspired and ineptly filmed. I can’t tell you what I’d give to get a Con Air or a Face Off every year again. Starting with a script and a star instead of an IP and a release date, leads to films that are always (well, almost always) engaging. Air Force One is 100% schlock, but dammit the movie works. And there’s a decent bench of movies quietly waiting for their critical enshrinement. The Mask of Zorro is a perfect film. Men in Black deserves to be considered right next to Ghostbusters. I think we are in a really weak period of blockbuster filmmaking. I find myself getting excited anytime a movie has coherent action, or a satisfying climax, and that stuff used to be the bare minimum that the genre required. Everybody went nuts for John Wick, but I felt like we should be getting one of those every month or so. Edge of Tomorrow is one of my favorite blockbusters from the last 15 years, even though the third act is a mess. I keep defending Specter on the grounds of a couple of action scenes and good cinematography, but every piece of plotting in that movie is awful and the whole thing is 40 minutes longer than it should be. And is the stuff coming from Michael Bay or Zack Snyder any better than the stuff we got from Joel Schumacher?

            Some of this is probably nostalgia, and some of it is genre preference, but I think that’s a stronger era of filmmaking than it’s given credit for. Although, I agree that Batman is in a better place these days.

          • I like superhero movies. I did not like Face/Off. I don’t like Ghostbusters.

          • Miller

            “Starting with a script and a star instead of an IP and a release date, leads to films that are always (well, almost always) engaging. …The Mask of Zorro is a perfect film.”

            Martin Campbell directed Mask of Zorro, which I agree is perfection. He also directed Goldeneye. These are two of the best blockbusters of the 90s. He directed Casino Royale, an outstanding blockbuster. Then he directed Green Lantern. I think your IP vs script theory may well be confirmed here.

          • And I mean, those are all preexisting IPs?

          • Miller

            I think there’s a difference between owning a character, like a Zorro or a Bond or a Green Lantern and deciding to make money off of him and cramming that character, because he is recognizable, into a schedule whether he and his script are ready or not. GL feels like the latter to me but I don’t know for sure, and of course the Bonds can be scheduled (I don’t think Goldeneye or Casino, as starts of new versions of Bond, were scheduled as subsequent ones were, i. e. James Bond will return in “Octoball”).

          • To be fair, I don’t like Bond much and haven’t seen Green Lantern because I don’t like Ryan Reynolds much.

          • I’d say Batman Returns is still the best Batman movie too.

          • glorbes

            I can’t get on this wavelength. I recently re-watched it, with its re-evaluation in mind, and I still think it’s sort of terrible. To me, those four Batman films are essential to film history for how they represented and shaped the time in which they were released, but I can’t stand any one of them.

          • Miller

            Batman Returns is a great Expressionist movie about freaks. It is not a great Batman movie.

          • glorbes

            An impassioned argument, and I don’t disagree with your points about the generic action you see in films these days. I was thinking more of 2017 being a year that contained Logan and War For the Planet of the Apes, and I could probably isolate one or two films for every year or two of that calibre. But I could probably pull out the same ratio from the 90s.

            And sorry, I hated Independence Day so very much. I saw it opening weekend, and could not believe how much I hated that movie.

            Schumacher’s films are probably more competently made than Bay or Snyder, but they are still on the whole NOT good films, but for different reasons.

          • John Bruni

            I had students one semester choose what disaster films we’d watch for a course on technology and the humanities. One of the films they chose was Independence Day. I watched it with them, and found it rather dour and hateful, especially in the way it depicted people from LA.

          • Drunk Napoleon

            The mixture of the gradually increasing indifference to the MCU and the rapturous responses to Mad Max: Fury Road and Logan seems to bubbling up to Hollywood, and while I can’t put my finger down on any one thing (much as glorbes says below about Golden Ages coming down to a gut feeling), it certainly feels like Hollywood is starting to take steps to improve quality control – see Marvel letting a talented, experienced director do his thing to Thor: Ragnorak and the fact that Abrams, as much as I’m not a personal fan, is being brought back to keep Star Wars running.

          • Don’t you dare say anything negative about the camp classic that is Volcano. *glower*

          • This is literally true–the first time I watched it, the mom of the friend with whom I was watching it had to come out and tell us to quiet down, because we were laughing too loudly.

          • Miller

            Fact: Volcano was released in 1997.
            Fact: Volcano contains a scene where everyone in LA is covered in ash, making them not black or white but gray. This is helpfully pointed out by a toddler.
            Fact: Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.
            Fact: An entire generation had grown up in between the release of Volcano and the election of Donald Trump, without being exposed to Volcano’s racism-curing message.
            Conclusion: America needs a new Volcano.

          • We need Volcano 2: Hotlanta.

          • Miller

            I nominate Reg E. Cathey for 2017 Black Tommy Lee Jones.

          • All I want is Donald Glover as his son.

          • glorbes

            I can feel the heat from that glare all the way on the East Coast.

          • glorbes

            And as a point of interest,Volcano was the first movie my wife and I saw in the theatre together. It has fond memories attached, but it is decidedly NOT a good movie as far as I’m concerned.

          • “Hey can this Mick Jackson make a disaster movie or what! Has he done anything else like this?”
            “Well, there’s something called Threads.”
            “Never heard of it! Should be just as fun. Let’s check it out!”

          • glorbes

            And here I am falling into the same trap of simplifying a decade by my non-empirical feelings and impressions.

          • Babalugats


          • Miller

            I cannot claim a head for fashion at all, my clothing sense is based on utilitarianism and being able to recognize that whatever Edith Head was up to in Rear Window is genius, but 90s fashion stands out in my mind as appallingly bad, without the panache in its ridiculousness of 80s fashion or the genuine lazy flow of dying hippie 70s fashion (let alone the horniness of disco 70s fashion) — an insecure combination of lack of trying and lots of it.

  • I grew up in the seventies, and no, people didn’t take film more seriously. We went to more movies because there wasn’t much else to do!! I saw Dog Day Afternoon in a theater so full that I had to sit alone while the rest of my family found seats apart from each other. Who takes an eleven year old to a movie like that? I saw Rosemary’s Baby in a drive-in because it was raining.

    People take serious movies seriously. If the studios keep cranking out Big Silly Movies then that’s what they will be known for. So, yeah, he has it backwards, at best.

  • Could Won Ton Ton still save Hollywood today? If Won Ton Ton saves Hollywood and nobody watches, did it really happen? These are the questions I’m writing down here in case Paul Schrader stumbles past.

    (Excellent article, btw!)

  • Anthony Pizzo

    We *have* remade Taxi Driver today. Off the top of my head Observe And Report (2009) was basically Taxi Driver with a few more jokes peppered in. (Also: “jokes” depending on how you feel about the movie)


      Jody Hill explicitly said he was going for Taxi Driver with Observe and Report, yes.

      • glorbes

        I hear the clear ringing of silver trumpets, the Lord of Pizzo has returned.

        • Clearly, I need to pester him with questions about my articles more often. This morning was, “Is this comparison in the last line too petty?”

      • Anthony Pizzo

        It’s so busy in real life. So… busy…

      • Anthony Pizzo

        It just occurred to me that, since you’re not on Facebook (or twitter or Instagram), you haven’t seen any of the Sketch-A-Day drawings. That’s been a huge chunk of time.

        • glorbes

          Glad to hear you’re still doing those. What series are you sketching now? The X-Files ones were a treat.

          • Anthony Pizzo

            I am currently wrapping up Gilmore Girls.

            In the interim I have done…
            My So-Called Life
            Due South
            Fawlty Towers

  • John Bruni

    Yeah, Paul I sure do wish I could go see tonight a violent male revenge fantasy … Oh, look, American Assassin.

    Seriously, while a fan of 70s males in crisis films, I never understood the canonization of Taxi Driver, which felt like a dumbed-down take on Antonioni.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      I dunno its an existential masterpiece?

  • jroberts548

    The real golden age of film was the era of Weimar silent movies.

    • glorbes

      I thought the REAL real Golden Age was the height of the American studio system.

    • HypercubeVillain

      We didn’t need dialogue; we had FACES.

  • Babalugats

    Moonlight may have done well at the oscars, but it was the 92nd highest grossing movie of the year. And while I wouldn’t say that the 70s were a particularly good time for gay cinema, you did have Rocky Horror Picture Show as the #2 film behind Jaws in 75, and Cabaret winning an Oscar as the #7 film in 72.

    And the box office for 1976 is pretty strong. I won’t argue that every film is a classic, but among the top 25 are Rocky(1), All The President’s Men(6), Taxi Driver(14), Marathon Man(15), and Network(19).

    In 2016:
    Rogue One
    Finding Dory
    Captain America
    The Secret Life Of Pets
    The Jungle Book
    Batman V Superman
    Suicide Squad
    Fantastic Beasts
    Dr Strange
    Hidden Figures
    Jason Bourne
    Star Trek
    La La Land
    Kung Fu Panda
    Central Intelligence
    Bad Moms

    Now I like a few of those movies, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that audiences aren’t supporting interesting and challenging films the way they did in the 70s. And although representation has improved, I don’t think it’s kept pace with social progress.

    • I think it has less to do with audiences and more to do with distribution models and studio advertising. But I don’t have any evidence to back that up–just a hunch.

      • Babalugats

        I would agree with this. And add constantly improvements in home viewing as another factor that distorts box office.

        But I do think some of it is changing audiences. I think people feel less pressure to move past their childish tastes, than earlier generations felt. I think there’s a desire to separate entertainment from serious political things, that’s been very pronounced over the last decade and a half. I think people are consuming a much wider range of media, and a lot of what they used to get from film they’re getting from other mediums. Television in particular. There are other things that are difficult to have a perspective on, but anecdotally, I feel like my generation has been resistant to growing up and that there’s a steadily growing anti-intellectualism that is dragging the culture down.

        But regardless of the causes, I think the point Schrader is making it that audiences are getting the kinds of movies they’re willing to pay for, and they aren’t getting the kinds of movies they aren’t willing to pay for.

        • CineGain

          Yeah, Schrader does make a adjustable point on the climate of the moviegoing audience. It’s a talking point that gets beaten around, you rarely see films that geared to adult audiences except in the fall season. Television has filled that gap for many adults but Hollywood has to take blame in trying to make the lowest common denominator the priority of all audiences. As I commented on Friday on the seventies mythology, smart adult films were never the big money-makers, however, it seems we’ve reached a point where the mid-budget adult-targeted film could be a pop culture sensation.

        • Miller

          “I think people feel less pressure to move past their childish tastes than earlier generations felt.”

          Here’s a question someone more knowledgeable than me should answer — what childish tastes were there to cling to? Especially for people who were in the old eighteen to thirty five demo in the seventies, the era under question? Kids in the fifties had monster movies and sitcoms, the former evolved and the latter wasn’t being mined for film the way stuff is now, to my knowledge. Disney movies, especially live action, remained stagnant as kiddie flicks for decades, right? An uncool constant no adult would want to hold on to. Nostalgia is always around, witness Happy Days and Grease in this timeframe, but those are looking back to a vibe as opposed to a specific prior entertainment. My guess would be without the nostalgia industrial complex we have today, people would be more open to “new” stuff, whether new is actually new or tired versions of prior movies that are at least new to the viewer.

          • Expect a piece on this for next Wednesday.

          • Miller

            Cool — and like I said, I wasn’t around then so this is all speculatin’ on a hypothesis.

          • On my part as well, but I have some ideas.

        • I do agree that audiences have changed. But I think when you’re looking purely at box office numbers, studio infrastructure and distribution plays a much more central role.

          Regarding people not moving beyond the media they consumed as kids–the internet seems to have played a huge role in this, since it gives people the ability to remember the ephemera from their childhood and find like-minded nostalgia patrons. In decades past, you’d just have your memories to go on; now, you can actually go back and watch those old episodes of Street Sharks if you want.

          • Which also, has the effect of making you realize that, in some cases, your nostalgia was for a kinda shitty movie.

            Case in point: Magic Trolls and the Troll Warriors (1991). It was the shovelware of toy-based movies. Even just reading the summary from IMDB makes me cringe. The joy-hating villain is named Nolaf. Warrior Trolls are weak against tickling. There is a talking bird character who makes Batty from Fern Gully look quiet and unassuming by comparison.

            There is, and I’m in no way exaggerating here, a point at which King Nolaf sees the imprisoned princess crying and says, “Good. I like it when you’re sad.”

            People rip on Care Bears, but at least “The Land Without Feelings” was a pretty good exploration of depression and why it’s not good to bottle up your feelings or pretend you don’t have any emotions. (Plus, it taught 2-year-old me about sarcasm.)

    • I would hold it with the Rocky Horror was number 2 at the box office. I do believe that’s a LIFETIME box office after 40 years of midnight screenings, not an annual one as we traditionally know it.

      • Babalugats

        That makes more sense

      • Would this be true for others in this list, too? Like, say, All the President’s Men?

        • No. Box-office details pre-1980 tend to be murky but All the President’s Men must have made its money the typical way, just slowly collecting it over months and months (with maybe a reissue or two soon after release, perhaps around Oscar time). Rocky Horror playing for years and years and years and only in midnight screenings is a notable unique case.

        • I love cosplaying as Deep Throat.

          • glorbes

            Wearing a trench coat and standing in the shadows?

          • It’s the only way to “see” All The President’s Men at midnight.

    • I think several of those movies are more challenging than they’re given credit for. I admit I haven’t actually seen Hidden Figures, but surely it’s closer to the truth than Search For Noah’s Ark, as established #6 in the box office for 1976. Probably has better production value, too.

  • Miller

    ” Now today, a great number of younger people, my children for example, do not think that movies are important”

    He’s right! But irrelevant. The bums lost, Mr. Schrader. Deal with it.

    I do think 70s movies are a golden age for cinematography and general filming though — there’s an earthiness and texture to the way people look that has dripped away. But preferring that (and there’s nothing wrong with some crisp black and white noir either) is just an opinion.

  • Son of Griff

    While I agree with some of the main points of this article, I think the issue as to why the period between 1966 and 1980s is considered a “golden age” needs further discussion.

    First, the official lifting of the Hays Code restrictions on content not only allowed for a franker depiction of sexuality, language, and aggression, it ended an era where the prescribed morality that every bad deed gets punished was a de facto norm. Movies could observe particularly unsavory aspects of human behavior in a less predictably judgemental context, and this opened the door for more creative aspects of storytelling, much of which seemed relevant to the news coming out of Vietnam and Washington.

    This was also an era in which taste hierarchies between prestige dramas, art house movies, and genre films became more fluid. In MEAN STREETS, Fellini-esque ruminations of teenage alienation merged with the environs of the Warner Brothers gangster film. Camus-like existentialism met the urban Western in TAXI DRIVER, The film noir newspaper drama merged into the meticulous paranoid naturalism of ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN etc. Drive-in double features could incongrously pair the shits-and -giggles nihilism of DIRTY MARY, CRAZY LARRY with the zen sublime of VANISHING POINT. There was a transformational potency in the shifting boundaries of how one perceived what a film was about based on how it was promoted. This hadn’t really happened since the 1930s, and it really hasn’t occurred in such a broad manner since.

    The osmosis of taste categories, I think, challenged notions that the audiences preferences in films should conform to fixed conditions of race, gender, and class. A good share of American independent films since the 1990s in fact, assumes that spectatorship, the history of desire as expressed through movie watching, is a particularly important historical phenomenon that can be used to replace naturalism as the fallback position for representing social conditions. The notion that we sustain a conception of selfhood through a shifting habitation of bodies and forms seems, to me at least, preconditioned by the fact that movies themselves refused to behave in normal ways in the New Hollywood era.

    For this reason ,I’m not necessarily convinced that gender representation is as fundamentally important to criticism of the era, as it implies a particularly narrow set of norms for spectatorial engagement. As for gender equity behind and in front of the camera, this problem exists in every era. Horrible things were done to women in the New Hollywood, as at other times, but in the industry’s defense, one began to see female executives, from Dawn Steele to Sherry Lansing, to producers such as Julia Phillips and Gloria Katz, pave the path for equality.

    • John Bruni

      I’ll be taking some of these issues up in a book manuscript based on some of my series I’ve written for The Solute, such as “Hear Me Roar,” which addresses feminist readings of films. I plan to work on this manuscript and the Cassavetes book-length project this fall.

      • Son of Griff

        Look forward to reading it. To reiterate, I think that much of the basis for celebrating the films of the 70s is myth, but the era is hugely influential in shaping our contemporary ideas of how movies work nonetheless.

  • John Bruni

    I recently read a film review of FACES, written by Schrader. He missed the point then, just like he’s missing it now.