Movie fans spend a decent amount of time bemoaning the types of movies that don’t get made anymore. The mid-budget film for grown-ups and genre fare that isn’t attached to old intellectual properties – basically anything that isn’t a “four-quadrant” picture – are such common grumbles around these parts they barely need reiterating (and just the fact that “four-quadrant” is part of the film discussion lexicon is dispiriting). In other eras you can find op-eds or Dick Cavett guests lamenting the demise of the studio musical or the trashy drive-in cheapie. Heck, one of the all-time classics is in part about how movies started to suck when they added sound.
I’ve been thinking lately about beloved contributor pico‘s pushback on a description of Best Picture favorite (and eventual winner) Nomadland as traditional Oscar bait. Opinions on the film itself may I think he’s right to point out how much of a departure the film is from the biography/social issues/epic spectacle the designation “Oscar Winner” used to connote. The use of amateurs alongside pros isn’t new, but it’s new territory for Oscar. And aside from last year’s Kim family in Parasite, what was the last BP winner set among the working poor? Slumdog Millionaire? Oliver?
Some of it demonstrates how quickly we adapt to (and bemoan) new “normals.” After cleaning up most everywhere throughout awards season, Nomadland and director Chloe Zhao’s Oscar win became inevitable. Never mind it was the first Best Director win for a woman of color – by the time the moment came, it was boringly predictable. And which is more surprising, that a film made by a person of color outside Hollywood on a budget of less than $5 million won the big prize? Or that this is the second time it’s happened in four years? Considering the spectrum of the last decade of Best Picture winners – everything from the first win for a foreign language film to a romantic monster movie – what even is Oscar bait anymore? Some of these are films hard to imagine getting made let alone celebrated ten years ago.
This in turn got me considering the full part of the glass, about the films we have now that fill niches and accomplish things undreamed of a generation ago. There’s always room for the “they don’t make them like they used to” discussion, but how about some time for “they didn’t make them like they do now.” Streaming services have their own issues, but they’re also making out checks without strings to Charlie Kaufman, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese. The old man revenge genre has never felt more alive, including an annual appointment for beatdowns with Liam Neeson. Promising Young Woman feels like it could have been made in the exploitation heydays of the 70s or 80s, but the approach to its third rail ideas would have been different.
It’s up to you, Solutors! What are the movies made in the last ten years that you love that would never have gotten attention – maybe never been made – in the decades prior?