Get Off My Lawn You Goddamn Kids!

The following is a rebuttal to my last post “Hollywood, the bunk movie dealers.” These are not my words and have not been edited in anyway (except for this intro). if you would like to join the discussion comment below. –Matt
By Stephen Wolthuis

Matt and I have spent hours, and I mean HOURS, discussing every imaginable topic, mostly while drinking of course. What I love most is that we don’t argue, nor do we just agree with each other for the sake of it, we discuss; it’s quite nice to be honest. So, when he sent me a link to his newest article, I happily set about reading it, expecting to agree with most and disagree with parts, but generally enjoying it. However, this was different. While I still enjoyed reading it, I found myself wholeheartedly disagreeing. I messaged him requesting the opportunity for a rebuttal to which he more than enthusiastically agreed to post. So here it is. Let the discussion commence!
Matt and I are close in age, about a year apart, so we grew up with the same cultural touchstones; Star Wars, Transformers, Goonies, Saturday morning cartoons, Reaganomics, etc. I am an unabashed nostalgia junky; I wear it on my sleeve and make no apologies. But nostalgia can be dangerous, it can cut you off from truly great things right in front of you and, even worse, it can create a belief that there existed this great time when all was perfect (MAGA anyone?). So, when Matt stated that 1999 was the last year movies were good, I shook my head and thought “nostalgia just took another one”.
I love the movies I grew up with! I make my daughter watch Goonies. I still think fondly of spending an entire summer in my high school years watching every classic I could get my hands on. Spielberg, Zemeckis, and Lucas defined my childhood and Kubrick, Scorsese, and Coppola brought me into adulthood. Most importantly, I remember the great year of movies from 1999. I also remember, as Matt pointed out, how it also featured the steaming pile of garbage that was the Phantom Menace (I saw it 9 times, convinced it would magically become great….it didn’t). But where Matt and I diverge is in the twenty years since.
Let go back to 2010. Christopher Nolan had come become a big name through his clever work on Memento and his fantastic take on comic book movies with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. But in 2010 he headed back to original works with Inception. I still remember seeing it for the first time. I was absolutely blown away with the concept of the movie. Visually dazzling, a story that grabs you, and writing that pops (“you mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling”). I hadn’t left a theater that thrilled since I was a preteen staring at the screen while velociraptors chased children around a kitchen in Jurassic Park. And the soundtrack, I encourage everyone to listen to Hans Zimmer’s “Time”. I agree with Matt on the power of the music of movies; John Williams is always my number one played artist on Spotify. Inception became a huge financial and critical success; and it holds up great nearly ten years on.
I want to talk about another film, dramatically different but no less incredible. Richard Linklater spend twelve years making Boyhood. He systematically filmed briefly each year to capture the coming of age story of Mason. This movie left me a bit breathless when I finished. As my wife likes to say, “it gave me all the feels”. It’s easy enough to try a new “trick” in filmmaking, but Linklater created a movie that would not have been the same without the use of the same actor. I left looking back on so many moments from growing up that I was almost afraid to watch it again. The soundtrack too should be mentioned, featuring great tracks from Wilco, Arcade Fire, The Black Keys.
I bring these two movies up for a reason, they are originals works that are distinctly modern and I believe both will stand the test of time. There are countless others I could mention, from Lord of the Rings or the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to The Departed or John Wick. In the same hand I could mention that every E.T. has a Mac and Me, or every The Deerhunter has Heaven’s Gate. When we dismiss an entire two decades outright and anything going forward, we miss the opportunity to truly see the great work out there or allow ourselves to simply enjoy what’s in front of us. Is the market overly diluted? Absolutely! Is there an emphasis on rehashing the same old crap? Yep! But greatness is sitting write in front of us, and it isn’t hard to find. I refuse to be the guy screaming at kids to get off my lawn, and instead give the new stuff a try……. but do actually stay off my goddamn lawn!


Hollywood, the bunk movie dealers

I shouldn’t be surprised by the negative reviews coming out about the latest Star Wars movie, The Rise of Skywalker, if you can call it that. It would appear that the lobotomized prostitution of everything I enjoyed about my childhood is complete and that there is nothing else left to ruin, that I can think of anyway. Star Trek was rebooted with the same old characters brought to a long, slow, painful death in a world that I don’t recognize. Star Wars had the shit fest of bringing back characters who wanted to stay dead and didn’t bother creating any new ones we would give crap about. GI Joe, hell, I don’t know if that one is worth mentioning. I think it all started with Transformers, that was where this all started. It all started with a douchebag named Michael Bay.
There was a time when movies were good, when you could go to a theater and spend a couple bucks and not hate yourself after you left wondering “what the hell am I doing with my life?” or “how can I get my money back?” The world has changed in the last twenty years and for some reason Hollywood has no interest in investing in anything that is new or imaginative. Its like they have given up because they know we, the public, will continue to dish out cash on whatever shitshow they put on the big screen. It’s as if they are counting on us being too dumb to care.
There is substance that is missing from movies today. We traded classic culture for modern trivial trash hoping it would connect better with the new generation. Instead of having the mood of the movie brought out by classical music they resort to bad hip hop and pop music trash that will not stand up to the test of time. I grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy, Indiana Jones, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, hell I can’t list all the great movies from then but I can tell you it all stopped around 1999.
In my old age of 40 years old, I have grown fond of classical music. There isn’t a message being pushed, no stupid repeating lyrics that run through my head over and over again. There are moments when I hear sounds, the rise to a crescendo, the roar of trumpets with cannons in the background, a piano telling a story, and sometimes a flute taking me to a wooded forest far away with creatures I will never meet. Sometimes when I listen to that music, I hear bits and pieces of the movies I loved growing up.
George Lucas listened to classical music when he was writing the original scripts for Star Wars and when he had the movies in production, he told John Williams the pieces he was listening to for certain scenes. They didn’t steal the music from composers, they used the feelings that they gave the audience. To watch a movie these days is to feel like you have driven through traffic at the five o’clock rush hour and almost got into an accident a half dozen times. There is no rhyme or reason to it, the plot usually doesn’t make any sense. Keep the audience watching and don’t give them time to think.
The worse offense that Hollywood is guilty of these days is pushing a political agenda that the majority of the population is tired of. It leaves these movies to be quickly forgotten and no longer standing the test of time. Instead of touching on a subject that all generations go through at some point they instead concentrate on subjects that nobody will be talking about a year or two from now. A New Hope was based on Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, a mythical story telling model that worked for thousands of years, one that everyone can connect with. Now we have… nothing. It’s hard to tell what writers are working with, things seem to happen for no reason and when the going gets tough they throw something in that just keeps the story going.
When Spielberg worked on Jaws he had trouble getting the lighting of the water and sky just right so the scenes matched. Every installment of Star Wars were three years apart with enough time in between to get things right. Hollywood has become lazy, unwilling to put forth the effort to gain the audience respect expecting them to fork over their money just because you made something. That’s not how this works, you have to give us something we want to see, where we say “thank you” in the end and want more.
I watched the Phantom Menace three times in the first week it came out because I couldn’t believe how bad it was. “It seriously can’t be that bad, can it?” It was. I viewed Attack of the Clones once to figure out it was trash and I never saw Revenge of the Sith in the theater. My money wasting habit was over. I would not be fooled again. I did eventually try to see Revenge of the Sith, picking up a copy for $1 used at a second hand store. I put it in the DVD player and fell asleep the three times it tried to watch it, always waking up to some guy screaming and crying with his legs missing and his body on fire. By that point I didn’t care.
This pattern has repeated over and over again especially after 1999. I don’t know what it was about that year for movies but it appeared to the last movement of hope for Hollywood. We saw the likes of The Matrix, Fight Club, American Beauty, and American Psycho. Somehow these movies had stayed in our minds for two decades now while others that have come along are laughed at, snickered, sneered, and some people won’t even admit they watched. I had hopes over the years. Ready Player One could have been something special, but what should have been a long mini series on a platform like Netflix was instead butchered to be a two-hour movie losing much of the world created by the book.
Technology has taken away the creative effort it takes to make something truly great. Why figure out how to make a creature pop out of somebody’s chest when you can do it with a computer. When Sam Raimi made Drag me to Hell I thought it was going to be something special, bringing back those funny creative special effects that takes a crew to pull off. Instead, it was all done on computers losing the magic he had created thirty years before. There was no single frame animation, puppets, or bucket of fake blood. Drag me to Hell didn’t describe the movie, it described what the audience felt like when they watched it in the theater.
The majority of films Hollywood has released in the last twenty years deserve to find themselves at the bottom of a Walmart 10 for $10 barrel. The most horrible offender of recent years has been Netflix and their low budget garbage that doesn’t even pull off being entertaining. Bloodsport was a low budget movie that didn’t have much going for it but it told a story and everyone from the crew to the actors at least tried their best. These days you’re lucky if one person doesn’t look like they have been medicated on Xanax for half of their life.
Film makers of recent years are the worse of the millennial generation, not taking time to learn, thinking they already know how to do everything, and expecting to be paid even when they deliver a pile of burning dogshit to the screen. The great movies of the past had culture behind it, something that would connect to the audience for reasons that even the audience wouldn’t understand at the time. There is something in our DNA, a hidden code, a message that resonates with all of us to a point that can be unlocked when it is done right. That has been lost in this industry and I don’t know if we will ever get it back. Maybe that time has come and gone and it is our moment to move onto something else. I’m burned out of trying to find something good on Netflix, I can’t remember the last movie I watched in a theater, and the last DVD I viewed I popped out after twenty minutes realizing it was just another 90 minutes I was never going to get back of my life. I’m not sure where to go from here, if I should keep hope alive only to require medication later to fight the depression Hollywood has forced upon me or just give up all together and call it quits. The Last Jedi is making more sense to me now and I don’t know if I should be concerned. Luke drinking the blue milk from the lactating walrus and being a grumpy old codger makes sense all of the sudden. As someone who used to love movies, I feel betrayed and let down too much to care anymore. People try to tell me why the new Star Wars, Star Trek, and Marvel movies are good but I can’t listen anymore. It shouldn’t have to be explained, I should be able to walk out of the theater and feel excited about what I saw and want to see it again. Instead I feel my wallet lighter, less time to do something meaningful with my day, and horribly depressed.
As the Critical Thinker said on his recent YouTube review for the Rise of Skywalker “movies are not to push a political or social agenda. They are meant as a form of escape from the world we live in. It’s why we desire to go to a galaxy far, far, away. It is a form of escape.” There is no escape these days. There is no getting away. Everything is propaganda. Everything is simple minded trash. Maybe the punk rockers were decades ahead of their time and had the right idea. Smash your television. Free yourself from the man. Reagan, Trump, the devil is always that man in a suit who tells lies and pushes an agenda. I found these things called books. Maybe it’s a way out, a portal to another world that I have been seeking. They might not cure all of my desires but it’s a start. David Foster Wallace warned us of this, the horrible desire of Infinite Jest, a movie that doesn’t exist and if it did it would slowly kill us all. If Hollywood was a drug dealer it would be that kid on the corner always selling Oregano as hydro weed. Eventually, you stop buying.

letters to Harrison

Letters to Harrison: 7

Your movie Wolf was about cocaine, right? I haven’t read the book of the same name but I have to assume that with your discontent for Hollywood and the drug seen that the reason Jack Nicholson is running around feeling good, able to smell everything, have a boost in unwarranted confidence, and sleeps for 20 hours after a bender isn’t a coincidence. I have never taken the drug myself but know a few who have. The last man I ran into had just received his disability check and snorted the funds up his nose in one day. All of the Narcan training that people had been given was useless, his heart had stopped from the opposite of heroin. The woods visited me last night, a giant two-hundred-pound deer with a rack that would have made Dolly Parton jealous was standing in the neighbor’s yard when I came home.

We exchanged some snorts and he didn’t seem to care about my presence. It wasn’t until a few trucks drove by that he decided to leave. Before entering the swamp across the street, he turned at me and grunted one last time reminding me that he was the boss. I’m surprised that the neighborhood cats haven’t tried to take him down but it would be like the democratic party trying to take down a republican president. Cats do not form an army well and a liberal party with thirty agendas doesn’t accomplish much. When my non-disclosure agreement expired with my old Hollywood job, I wrote a book called Golden. Maybe it was to burn some bridges and not become caught up in the glitz and glory of a false god. Things must have been different back in your day because if I tried to live off of what I was paid I would have been homeless eating an endless supply of Top Ramen noodles. The last two days have been good except for the endless assault of my daughter who doesn’t have an off switch. The terrible twos is a horrible name for this disease. Maybe it should be called the traumatic twos or the terrifying twos, or the Trumpian twos. the last one might be considered a low blow but there isn’t too much to aim for down there from what I have been told. How is a writer supposed to make a living in a world where people don’t read anymore? Even I have been guilty of this, pulling out my voluntary bugging device and looking at the latest mind-numbing content on the internet. Before we clean up Washington, we should do a thorough flushing enema of the internet first. We can start with rotten tomatoes first who gave your movie between a 62 and 43% rating. I guess the audience didn’t see the point. I will have to grab Wolf from the self sooner than later and see for myself what your first novel was all about. These days good literature doesn’t get publish because nobody reads it and if you want to make a buck these days you have to conform to one or several options for prostitution that are available to be exploded by. I’m tired of getting screwed these days. You spend your time and effort trying to create something real and in the end all you end up with is a bill, lost time, and a sore ass in the end. That reminds me, I need to pick up a new cushion for my chair.


So much to watch and nothing on

I watched Jaws for the first time in years, possibly decades, because I wanted something different from the rest of the catalog on Netflix. I wanted to watch something good. I have been diving back into the classics these days, the types of films that influenced directors and changed movies for years to come. A few weeks ago, I watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A few days later it was Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I heard a story today about the director for Roma going on stage at the Oscars and making an acceptance speech. Jaws was the first movie he had seen that made him want to become a film maker. The audience laughed and he looked around wondering what part of his statement was a joke. People do not understand what great films are anymore. This is how we ended up with Michael Bay, J. J. Abrams, and a long list of wannabe film makers who try to fix everything with CGI and don’t have an original bone in their bodies.
I watched Overlord the other day. I should have known better picking up a J. J. Abrams movie well known for lens flares and bad acting. His movies lack direction and like his hit TV show Lost they are poorly written and leave more plot twist left unexplained than the entire series of Unsolved Mysteries. What I had read about Overlord was that it took place on D-Day and followed a group of soldiers sent to destroy a tower with a radar system. It was the typical WWII movie. Only a few minutes into the film I noticed that it was a lot like Band of Brothers, except for all the good stuff you enjoyed in Band of Brothers. The characters were horrible, the acting lacking, the plot thin, and the usual twist that are no longer twist and leave nothing to the imagination. This is what I hate about todays movies. Everything is CGI to the point where nobody is creative with shots or how to make things look real for the camera. No need for blood splatter these days we can use a computer to add it in? why use makeup when you can digitally create the look you want? Hollywood has become lazy. Was that a damn lens flare in the middle of the night inside a burning plane? If I see one more damn lens flare I’m throwing my television in the trash.