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Why are old movies so much better?


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#1 of 107 Wendy_L

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Posted March 27 2006 - 02:51 AM

Ok, so I have been on this board for almost a year now and I have noticed that a lot of the members can write a review for a movie like it's their college thesis. It's quite amazing. Unfortunately I'm not that articulate. My idea of a movie review is:

"It was good, I liked it" or "I found it sort of boring and dind't really care for it". That's the extent of my reviews.

With that being said, this past weekend I watched "The Innocents" which I hear is considered a "classic thriller" by some people. My question is, why? Why is that movie, and other movies like it, so great?

Now, I'm not saying I didn't like the movie because I did. I found it interesting because it was sort of neat to see what was considered "scary" in 1961. But it's not a movie that totally "wow"ed me and I won't be talking about it for years to come.

So, what are your thoughts on this movie? I have no doubt that some of you will be more than happy to provide me with a 10 page composition with footnotes and such on what I'm missing. And what was up with the ending?

Ok, let all the big words fly... Posted Image
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#2 of 107 Jason Seaver

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Posted March 27 2006 - 03:47 AM

Old movies aren't better; it's just that, by and large, we set the crap and mediocrities aside over the years while the good stuff gets released on video, shows up on TCM, plays rep theaters, etc.

Also, I think a lot of people give older movies points for degree of difficulty - it's more of an accomplishment to provoke the same reaction with fewer tools to choose from. Eliminate the use of profanity, graphic violence, nudity, color, location shooting, digital effects, and the same end result is more impressive.
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#3 of 107 Russell G

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Posted March 27 2006 - 03:51 AM

To answer the thread question, I don't think they are.

The main interest in classic films that I have is an appreciation of seeing individual ideas of the film makers coming out of rigorous studio controlled films. That said, film to me is ultimately about story. I like alot of the older films, as they are really story based, with any special effects processess utilized to tell the story. We could argue all day if this is cause and effect of the fact that special effect were not capable of being the driveing force of the movies in the classic era, but I find now that too many movies are driven by effects, as opposed to effects helping the story.

I haven't seen the film you talk about. I have seen and enjoyed many classic thrillers and horrors. I don't think you really have to look at them from the era they were made to appreciate them, although doing so may make you appreciate them more, that the craftmanship of them make them hold their own.

Ultimately I see movies as movies, I either like them or I don't irregardless of when they were made.

#4 of 107 Holadem

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Posted March 27 2006 - 04:04 AM

The thing is, before 1975-77, movies were perfect and moviegoers were all really smart.

Then Jaws and Star Wars came out, proving that shitty movies could make a boatload of loot. Then MTV said you didn't need shots longer than .5 secs. This combination, in addition to generating $$$, robbed moviegoers of their collective intelligence.

So now all movies suck.

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#5 of 107 Wendy_L

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Posted March 27 2006 - 04:12 AM

Quote:
Also, I think a lot of people give older movies points for degree of difficulty - it's more of an accomplishment to provoke the same reaction with fewer tools to choose from.


I guess there is something to be said for a movie that can do that. I'm not sure "The Innocents" totally did that for me though. I didn't find myself thinking, "oh boy, this is really creeping." I just found it mildly interesting.

I enjoy movies, all sorts of movies. As long as I'm entertained and found something interesting about the movie then I'm happy. And "The Innocents" was able to do that for me. But I'm still a little confused by the ending.
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#6 of 107 Haggai

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Posted March 27 2006 - 04:20 AM

LOL, Holadem. I think I've heard almost that exact train of thought expressed completely seriously a whole bunch of times, and in only slightly less exaggerated tones.

#7 of 107 TravisR

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Posted March 27 2006 - 04:21 AM

Movies are just as good (or bad) as they've always been. There's always been crap and there's always been quality and there always be. When people look back, they don't remember the crap but they remember the quality and that leads to the false impression that everything was good way back when...

#8 of 107 Walter Kittel

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Posted March 27 2006 - 04:32 AM

If anyone thinks that what passes for writing in most mainstream films today can hold a candle to the work of the '40s and '50s then we will just have to disagree.

Also, like it or not, the blockbusters of the late '70s and early '80s changed the way films were approached. I won't dismiss the positive qualities of any of the big money makers that changed the business (The Exorcist, The Godfather (I and II), Jaws, or Star Wars), but to pretend that films didn't change after the advent of the blockbuster is ignoring reality. You can argue quality all day long as a matter of personal preference, but change did take place.

IMHO, and not coincidentally, the 80s are simply the weakest decade ever in terms of overall quality. Good films are made every year, but in terms of larger trends there are up and down cycles.

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#9 of 107 RobertR

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Posted March 27 2006 - 04:53 AM

"B" movies used to be just that--movies made with lower budgets (sometimes MUCH lower), such that they didn't use topnotch (or "A") talent. What's changed is that "B" movies are being made on an "A" budget. That is, they COULD afford to hire topnotch writing, directing, and acting talent, but they don't bother. Instead, the money is spent on visual and sound effects, marketing, and paying enormous star salaries (which is an aspect of marketing).

#10 of 107 Andy Sheets

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Posted March 27 2006 - 05:11 AM

Quote:
I guess there is something to be said for a movie that can do that. I'm not sure "The Innocents" totally did that for me though. I didn't find myself thinking, "oh boy, this is really creeping." I just found it mildly interesting.

IIRC, the most interesting thing about The Innocents isn't whether it's scary or not (almost no horror movies in any era are scary) but that it has some interesting things going on in the subtext. Unfortunately, it's been a long time since I saw it, so I can't remember what that was Posted Image

I think movies from the past tended to target adults a bit more often than today, at least as far as major releases were concerned. I've read in multiple places that Hollywood considers its primary target audience today to be 14 year old boys.

#11 of 107 JediFonger

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Posted March 27 2006 - 06:33 AM

wendy, that's a loaded question (as you can tell already).

it's both difficult and easy to answer. difficult because everyone has different definitions of "better". easy because once you've seen enough old films, you can spot a pattern of why the old films were "better". but that means you have to watch thousands of old films.

robert, the definition of "b" movies have changed socially. try showing ANY black and white films to a teenager and they will *ALL* think it is a B movie. they'll laugh @it, point out the "mistakes" and dismiss it all altogether. whereas, back then, teenagers revered the halls of cinema. it was a palace of dreams, a similar phrase you hear again and again from people who grew up in that era. just go and read memoirs of ANYone growing up during the golden age and you'll read the phrases (again and again) about a place of dreams, dream factory, and variations of that.

my take? honestly, i haven't seen ehough. i can answer only on the silent film era (1900-1927ish) because i've watched most of it on DVD. there's an equal amount of crap back then as there are now, but the batting average of classics are definitely higher (as i alluded to in another thread about classic films).

#12 of 107 Jeff Gatie

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Posted March 27 2006 - 07:21 AM

What Walter said. Posted Image

Combined with the fact that there were many, many more movies released in the "classics era" (which I would define as many, many years before 1961:b), most of them being not so noteworthy. However, the best of the era certainly has staying power, and IMHO the quality of the writing, acting and craftsmanship in those "bests" is only rarely approached by the blockbusters of today. Hear the unequaled dialog of Casablanca; see the perfect craftsmanship of Ctizen Kane, the epic granduer of Lawrence of Arabia or the acting tour de force of On The Waterfront and you can truly see why they say "they don't make them like they used to." It's because aside from very, very few movies - They really don't make them like they used to.

P.S. In my humble opinion, Jaws and Star Wars are two films that approach what movies used to be. It's just that in the years afterwards, nobody realized what made them special was the way in which they resembled the old films (acting, dialog - Jaws; adventure, wonderment, traditional hero story - Star Wars), rather than the way they differed from the old films (special effects, Burger King cup quotes, marketing with toys, etc.).

I watched Jaws again the other day. The shark looks completely fake, but Shaw's "USS Indianapolis" speech is stil one of the greatest pieces of cinema writing and acting ever. Special effects can improve, but no one can improve on Robert Shaw's performance in that film.

#13 of 107 RobertR

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Posted March 27 2006 - 07:28 AM

Quote:
robert, the definition of "b" movies have changed socially. try showing ANY black and white films to a teenager and they will *ALL* think it is a B movie.
That's part of the problem, though. Too many movies are being made for teen sensibilities, not adult ones, and a lot of money is being spent to do so. People like Roger Corman discovered there was this big teen market, and that's what drives much of Hollywood. LOUD and FX filled are what impresses, not acting and writing craft. Plenty of teens would laugh at classic literature, art, and music, too.

#14 of 107 Adam_S

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Posted March 27 2006 - 08:12 AM

<< cranky geezer voice >> Why, when I was a kid we didn't have all these fancy explosions, or pretty actors, we didn't even have plays! ole william shakespeare sure is shaking things up catering to all those horrid unwashed idiots who can't possibly be as smart as I was in my younger days. why when I was a kid we didn't have any of this fancy dancy stuff, if we wanted to have fun we'd throw rocks at our little brothers... and they liked it! << / voice >>
 

#15 of 107 Jeff Gatie

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Posted March 27 2006 - 08:30 AM

By the way Wendy, thank you for a perfectly worded inquiry (you deserve more credit than you think for your writing prowess). Usually this type of conversation is prompted by a newbie posting "I just saw Citizen Kane and I thought it sucked!" Your question was a breath of fresh air compared to that. Posted Image

#16 of 107 Mark-P

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Posted March 27 2006 - 08:42 AM

Well, Wendy, I have seen "The Innocents" recently on DVD and I'll try my best to answer your question.

The reason "The Innocents" doesn't impress you as anything special is simply because you are in the wrong mindset. Suspense and horror have changed a lot since the days of Hitchcock, but that doesn't render all classic horror as obsolete. The pulsating soundtracks and visceral effects and fast editing of modern horror has desensitized you to the styles of classic horror. You have to go into it accepting it as a different style of picture, relax and empathize with the characters on the screen. If you can make that connection, a Hitchcock classic or even "The Innocents" (a good though not great movie) can still send shivers down your spine!

#17 of 107 TravisR

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Posted March 27 2006 - 09:26 AM

Quote:
<< cranky geezer voice >> Why, when I was a kid we didn't have all these fancy explosions, or pretty actors, we didn't even have plays! ole william shakespeare sure is shaking things up catering to all those horrid unwashed idiots who can't possibly be as smart as I was in my younger days. why when I was a kid we didn't have any of this fancy dancy stuff, if we wanted to have fun we'd throw rocks at our little brothers... and they liked it! << / voice >>
That's pretty accurate. Posted Image

#18 of 107 Inspector Hammer!

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Posted March 27 2006 - 11:19 AM

Good points expressed already, but I also believe that part of this phenominon that Wendy is asking about has to do with selective memory to a certain degree as well as the passage of time to gain perspective.

Since so much time has past since those older films were released, we are now able to have perspective on what was bad from certain era's as well as what was good or better...the bad tends to be forgotten giving the collective illusion that everything was better then as compared to now.

The same thing is happening right now, too, it's a constant process that never stops, films like Brokeback Mountain for instance will probably be remembered 20 years from now as being one of this decades great one's while a film like Freddy Got Fingered will be all but a memory.

The point is, every era needs time to sort out what are good and bad films in a given decade, the good become classics and are remembered, the bad are forgotten, or become cult classics by a minority of fans.

Take the 80's for example, what do we remember from that decade? Raiders of the Lost Ark and it's sequels, E.T., Rain Man, Back to the Future and Tootsie, all considered by many to be classics now, but there were also bad films like Ishtar, Staying Alive, Breakin' and it's sequel, but those films tend to get filed away in our memories because they weren't all that memorable in the first place.

Passage of time is what defines an era of films and how they're remembered, as well as they're impact on the medium, culture and the extent of their ultimate impact on film fans in the long term, that's just my take on this matter.
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#19 of 107 Mary M S

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Posted March 27 2006 - 07:13 PM

I don't think your missing anything Posted Image ..its all subjective, but I agree with above posters regarding classic less gory (and I add) non-colorized representation of horror. Pyscho would not have half made it with me except for the fact it was B&W. Old horror flicks relied heavily on the viewers imagination. Part of the reason Stephen King and like normally do not transfer well is that even today the 'style' of some writers in the reactions they evoke via words are almost impossible to film. It's a feeling more than special effects. I admire the best of the old horror flicks for the dread they illicit without buckets of blood in lurid tecnicolor.
Most of my classic picks are black & white. I also trend towards artists who use less color focusing on content ie: Andrew Wyeth.

In no particular order:
Mrs. Miniver -The Ghost and Mrs Muir -The Day the Earth Stood Still -To Kill A Mockingbird - Scrooge - It's a Wonderful Life - Casablanca - The Birds - Goodby Mr Chips - Grapes of Wrath - Harvy - Inherit the Wind - It Happened One Night - Night of the Hunter - Queen Christina - Rasin in the Sun - Roman Holiday - Weissmuller's Tarzan - William Powell and Myrna Loy, notibly "The Thin Man" Series - The Olivier version of Wuthering Heights.

For me, many of my classic choices are squarely from the black & white era. The whole look of monochrome image raises these to a eternal level, in the same manner that Ansel Adams has a different appeal contrasted to countless incredibly colored images of National Parks.
Can you imagine Michelangelo sculptures colorized cluttering up the sheer beauty of his work which magically makes cold marble apear living flesh. I think M's timeless appeal is that basic whitish medium and his bedrock grasp and interpretation of human anatomy.

Director's who work in color have a multiplicity of problems to deal but it seems to me the classic black & whites strips a film to a basic composed simply of angle and framing, shadow, contrast and dialogue. Great care has to be taken in sculpting the feel of a B&W. I feel it is a lost art and the modern versions ie: "Pleasantville" & Woody Allen films will always lack the elegance of the past in the way that Pixer and Dream Works have evolved wonderful detail in Animation, yet cannot match the muted charms of a handpainted Bambi or SnowWhite. I think my feelings are similar to the Tube Vs Solid State Amp debate: you may like them both, but a whole old fashioned warmth/range surrounds Tube that the digital 'teeth' reproduction of Solid State cannot currently own.

There is a starkness in B&W film that tends to show up in the color films I count as classic. Lawrence of Arabia would not be in my picks without its vast composition of dessert backdrop.

I guess I feel life is hectic, cluttered, and loud and there is a relief to watching the beautiful bones many of the classics display.

Sometimes trying to view classics can be a little more rewarding if you know the concept/history behind the storyline.
The Innocents: We might conclude that the governess's fear of the children's corruption represents her projection of her own fears and desires regarding sex onto her charges. "Sparknotes"

This movie is based on Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, and much is made in novel and movie of Victorian eras avowed tendency towards sexual repression. James supposedly had his own hang-ups on that topic so I'm not sure what his intent was. Maybe Frustration Posted Image You have the sexual Innocents (governess/children) who are all displaying a desire to know more (in the case of the Wards] very inappropriately. You have the Experienced: ghostly Quint and Jessel and the absent but titillating world traveling Uncle, who have by strict societal boundaries an excess of sexual drive. There is no middle ground between these two groups and when extremes interact destruction is the consequence.

On a more basic level, I think the suspense lies in how the tale unfolds. It is left to the viewer to decide if the governess has been slowly going insane or evil does stalk the children. I concluded the ghosts were real, and drove Kerr mad during the battle, but she added to the escalation of danger reacting from her own oppressed desires.
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#20 of 107 JediFonger

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Posted March 28 2006 - 12:40 AM

that's true mary, you should check out 20's version of dr. jeykl&hyde and phantom of the opera or any of FW Murnau's works =). fairly scary.


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