Many people pine for a previous golden age of cinema, but I reckon we’re right in the middle of a golden age of media – television and film included.
(You should go see Fantastic Mr. Fox… unless you are a young child – they didn’t seem to like it much…)
I think that we’re seeing an increase in quality due to digital technology being integrated into all stages of the production process. Special effects aside – computers give us the ability to quickly capture, test, mix, match, present, and evaluate ideas, imagery, and audio in ways that were previously too costly or simply not possible. Plus the finish and polish are amazing.
I also feel that better communications technology allows for the propagation of more ideas more rapidly, and this results in more confronting and more adventurous media.
Back to the main point, I’ve been very impressed with a number of mainstream films recently:
- Fantastic Mr. Fox: Awesome… like a Fox. Quick-paced with witty dialogue, expressive characters, and excellent comic timing. I love Wes Anderson and this felt like the latest pinnacle of his craft.
- Avatar: Spectacular, captivating, and exciting (especially considering the length of the film). By completely embracing of 3D as more than a gimmick, James Cameron establishes a new grammar for use of depth and focus in guiding the audience and evoking emotional responses.
- District 9: A natural expansion upon the ideas Neill Blomkamp established in Alive in Jo’burg. The special effects didn’t stand out, and this allowed the underlying story and theme to come through unobstructed.
I also saw Where the Wild Things Are. It was good, but not great. Although the production values were high and the presentation seamless and well-crafted. I feel that a common aspect of all films listed here is that their special effects are convincing or subtle enough that don’t distract from the main story.