1998 - 2005: The Golden Age of Genre Films?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Michael Martin, Mar 14, 2005.

  1. Michael Martin

    Michael Martin Screenwriter

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    First, a couple of disclaimers:

    1. Any setting of a time frame as the "golden age" is arbitrary. I know it. Let's move on.

    2. My knowledge of movie release dates is not exhaustive or infallible. I realize there will be some who disagree and will be able to cite titles and release dates to bolster their argument. I look forward to reading those posts and expanding my knowledge of filmic history.

    ~~~

    This is an idea that's been lurking in my mind for a while. Are we living in the "best" time for genre films? Are we experiencing an incredible surge of great and good films that feature fantastic elements, F/X, and aren't always aiming to be high drama or culture?

    When I think about the movies released between January 1998 and December of 2005 (jumping the gun, I understand):
    • [*]Dark City[*]Matrix Trilogy[*]Lord of the Rings trilogy[*]Star Wars Prequel Trilogy[*]Peter Jackson's King Kong[*]Batman Begins[*]The Mummy[*]Moulin Rouge[*]Brotherhood of the Wolf[*]Kill Bill, Vols. 1 &2[*]The Fifth Element[*]Spider-man (1 and 2)[*]X-Men (both films)[*]The Sixth Sense[*]Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow


    This is obviously a partial list at best, and subject to taste. Also note that I'm aware that at least 3 films on this list are yet to be released. What can I say - I'm hopeful! At the very least, I could argue that the current "golden age" closes or ends with the release of Episode III, regardless of its quality. Its popularity and impact on the culture are, in some ways, more important than how good the film actually is.

    During the same span of time ('98 - '05), DVD became the de facto home video format, opening the floodgates for a ton of digitally remastered films, special editions, and more.

    I tend to think we'll look back at this 7-8 year period and view it as a high-water mark for genre films, much as the late 70s and early 80s were (and much of that was due to the success and impact of Spielberg and Lucas).
     
  2. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Hmm...in some ways I'd agree with you. However, I don't want to turn this into a "old" films vs. "new" films so I'll stick to the past 30 years.

    I personally thought 2004 was a wonderful year for films, outside the Hollywood stuff. There were many great genre films that would make me say this is a very good "golden age" but I think this is mainly due to (IMO) the 80's and 90's being pretty poor. That's not to say those two decades put out bad films but I really don't think they were anything special. To me, if I took the Top 10 from each of those decades, they'd come pretty low to previous decades but I feel some personal films are coming back into play over the past 7-8 years, which could be a good thing for the future.

    I think the most important times were the 1910's with Griffith and DeMille, the 1930's when the Golden Age really hit with the invent of sound and the 1970's when young director's were able to push the limits of anything we had seen before. I think the 1980's brought on a safe period and we got many great films but for every great film it seemed we got five bad rip offs. In the 90's for every great film we got at least ten bad rip offs. There are certainly some rips today but for the most part, there are many great films out there.
     
  3. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    OK I'll ask the dumb question please don't shoot me:

    What's a "genre film"?

    I thought genres were subdivisions, like Western, Horror etc... but your list seems to equate "genre" with "SF/Fantasy".

    --
    H
     
  4. Michael Martin

    Michael Martin Screenwriter

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    Holadem, you caught me being lazy. :b

    I meant, mainly, sci-fi/fantasy films, but I also am trying to be as inclusive as possible. A "pure" or straight Western wouldn't fit into the kinds of films I'm talking about, but something like Sam Raimi's "The Quick and the Dead" might, except it was released too early. "Bridget Jones" wouldn't fit (at least by my reckoning), but "Amelie" probably would.

    I'm also not try to get into a "vs" argument with regards to time periods. I know it's all subjective, and there have been extremely fecund periods before now for great genre films. It just seems to me that the last 8 calendar years have given us an unprecedented amount of quality films that don't fit within categories of drama, action, or romantic comedy.
     
  5. Craig S

    Craig S Producer

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    Holadem, within the industry you often see the term "genre film" used not in the generic sense you mention, but specifically in reference to SF, fantasy & horror films.

    Yeah, it's stupid (every film is part of some genre), but somehow it's become common usage.
     
  6. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    If that's the meaning, I would suggest that a mod retitle the thread, cause I'm with Holadem, this is very misleading.

    Now, this may be a golden age of sorts for fantasy films, but not sci-fi or horror IMO. Not when the late 60s to early 80s had sci-fi flims like 2001, Star Wars, Blade Runner, Planet of the Apes, Close Encounters, The Terminator, Silent Running, Time After Time, E.T., Back to the Future, Soylent Green, The Andromeda Strain, Westworld, The Final Countdown, Logan's Run, Fantastic Voyage, etc.

    I'll leave the discussion of horror films to someone else, except to say that 1960 would qualify as a better golden age all by itself based solely on the inclusion of Psycho. [​IMG]
     
  7. PaulP

    PaulP Producer

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    I was about to pose the same question. Every film has a genre. Comedy is a genre. There is no "genre" genre...
     
  8. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

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    The advent of computer technology has brought about a renaissance in just about every aspect of filmmaking. CGI has brought the freedom of animation into the live-action arena, hence properties that were once thought to be too expensive and difficult to produce are now finding their way to the big screen, thanks to animation. It's possible now to do Spider-Man and the Lord of the Rings in live action, it's possible now to see the mighty armada of ships sailing for Troy, its possible now to do the X-Men and a number of other properties in live-action, without compromise.
     
  9. Chris Atkins

    Chris Atkins Producer

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    I would add the Harry Potter movies to your list, and I agree that it's been a great period for sci-fi/fantasy movies.
     
  10. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Yes, but there are different methods of genre catogorizing, some are content, some are setting, some are structure, some are ending.

    Comedy does not have any relationship or exclusitivity to Sci-Fi, for example. And I don't mean in terms of crossing genres like Outland or Westworld, westerns in a SF setting.

    I mean that there is NOTHING in the definition of either genre that excludes it from the other, nor relates it to the other.

    It's a bit like saying we have all sorts of colors, yellow, sad, medium, green, tall, dry. Great categories, but WTF do they mean to each other? [​IMG]


    In terms of GENRE film, I consider them to be strong tied to a style, setting and plot-type, so comedy and drama would not be genre films, neither would human interest.

    Genre films could be "mobsters", which might be separated from "gangsters" to indicate prohibition gangsters as different from godfather style mob families. Westerns, Sci-Fi, Fantasy (dragons and such), Horror (now broken into monster, slasher and a few others), Spy/Bond film.

    In the case of these genres you are talking first off about very high concept (which means clear, basic, strong idea). It's the Old West, its cowboys, there might be indians fighting, some showdown quick draws, lots of horse riding, and so on. The deeper content doesn't matter. You can have an anti-hero, or an attack of Expansionism, or a metaphor for the modern family. Those parts are just piggy-backed into the genre via the story, none of them need to be there.

    Sci-Fi - future techs, aliens, spaceships, robots.

    Fantasy - wizards, magic, dragons, maybe knights.

    Comic hero - superpowers, crime fighting, costumes, supervillans to fight.


    These are genres that you know exactly what the basic setting and characters will be as soon as you hear it. There might be more to it, it might involve a twist on some genre traditions or a new way of looking at them, but the fundamentals are there.


    And I don't think that this is the biggest era of genre work. I think the 30's and 40's, especially with B pictures, were the biggest time. Gangsters, Westerns, Dectective Whodunnit, then the WW2 films and finally Film Noir Detectives (not the broader version that would also include Mildred Pierce) - FN Det being hard-edged tough-guy heros quick with a gun, double crossing dames, etc vs Det Who being the Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes, Thin Man where the audience races the hero to solve the crime as clues are discovered.

    B-pix especially relied on just a basic hook, no time nor talent for subtle writing. Here's some cowboys, here's the same old setup or objective, here's the same old solution. The kind of thing that if you like Westerns you know what you are going to get and you like it.

    Prestige flicks could use the genre too, but they would often carry a story that went well beyond the conventions (while still using them as a foundation), such as The Searchers or Shane.


    Currently though Fantasy and Comic Hero are enjoying a successful stretch both in production and box office.
     

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