“The movie industry has been in the business of big — big stars, big stories, big productions, big screens and big returns — about as long as it’s been a business,” writes N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis in her Sunday piece called “Defending Goliath: Hollywood and the Art of the Blockbuster.” And, she adds, “as long as the movies have told stories, they have used spectacle to sell those stories.”

Dargis’s point is that there’s not a whole lot of difference between emotionally primitive ’50s style spectacles like The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur and the current assortment as represented by 300 and Spider-man 3. She chooses not to mention a crucial difference, though. Today’s blockbusters (which are of a much, much lower gene-pool order than ’90s blockbusters like, say, Titanic or Terminator 2) are far more emotionally primitive and at least five times dumber than any primitive-attitude mega-budget costume flick of 40 or 50 years ago.

To put it simply and bluntly, the culture has seriously devolved since the days of the Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and the quality and mentality of current blockbusters simply reflect that process.