4:25 am: Forget whatever impressions the trailer for Alexander Payne‘s The Holdovers (Focus Features, 10.27) may have instilled. That was an attempt to charmingly compress and whittle down a 133-minute movie that needs to breathe and unfurl on its own step-by-step, line-by-line terms. For in actual, bottom-line terms this is a high-end, whipsmart, skillfully seasoned, middle-class gourmet movie par excellence — the kind of brainy heart-and-soul flick, I was reminding myself over and over last night, that “they” refuse to make these days.

They’ve literally hung up a sign on their storefront windows that says “all right, yes, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away we used to be in the business of at least trying to make movies this good — smart, wisely constructed, finely crafted in every department, carefully finessed, character-rich dramadies.

“But that was back in the 20th Century, and for the 67th time you guys really need to absorb the ground-level fact that we’re literally no longer no longer in this business. Seriously — we’re not even trying to crank out films of this calibre so please stop complaining about their absence in theatres.”

Not to sound overly scolding, they’re saying, but what is it about the words “the film industry that you used to know and at least occasionally tried to make this kind of film no longer exists“…what is it about this blunt, straight-from-the-shoulder statement that you don’t understand?

The industry that every so often would hit triples or whack it out of the park in this fashion, back when character-driven movies like The Last Detail would at least occasionally surface…forget all that and shake it off and adapt to the way things are and have pretty much been since the Marvel/D.C. plague and Covid and the streaming of couch-potato product re-ordered the basic terms.

In fact to organically (i.e., not conspiratorially) enforce and regulate the present system, nature or God or the system of natural selection has created a whole strain of hugely annoying critics like David Ehrlich who will say stuff like “hmm, not bad as it gets some things right here and there but at the same time it’s too Scent of a Woman-ish and too thin according to my own grading system…not audacious or envelope-pushy enough,” blah blah.