Youth-pandering summer movies have been a cultural sludge pit for a long time. Not so much over their emphasis on brute sensation and animal hormones leading to a degradation and devaluation of whatever sensitivity and spirituality may be in the air (although that’s always been a problem), as much as the levels of talent and inspiration being too often lacking. There just aren’t enough Superbads or Dark Knights or Indy 4‘s to go around.
As much as this trend has pained me over the years, I was mostly amused when I read L.A. Times critic Kenneth Turan complaining about this because the fall-of-the-Roman-empire, mongrel-celebrating aspect of mainstream American movie culture seems to be just hitting him
“The reality is that, except for the ghettoized adult window in the fall, this dumber-is-better attitude is threatening to take over all of the major studios’ output,” he writes. “Not to put too fine a point on it, but the summer is killing American movie culture.
“With corporate owners demanding predictable profits, the studios have understandably narrowed their focus to the kinds of undemanding entertainments favored by the 25-and-younger audience that dominates theatrical attendance. And they are not just doing it during the summer, they’re doing it almost year-round.
“In all likelihood that tendency is even contributing to the nationwide loss of film-critic jobs that’s been so commented on of late. With so many films coming out that don’t really demand serious examination, and an aging readership that is going to fewer and fewer movies, newspaper editors in cities where (unlike Los Angeles, New York and a few other places) films are not an intrinsic part of local culture are probably figuring that it’s not worth the expense of paying anyone to examine them.
“And if critics go, the mechanism for encouraging audiences to go to good small films, for creating a demand for alternatives to what critic Richard Schickel has called Hollywood’s ‘big clanking machines’ goes with them. Is there any way out?”
Answer: Critics aren’t “going.” The power is simply migrating away from old-media critics with cushy salaries and abundant perks who dispense lordly judgments as if from a pulpit. Readers are more and more into conversing and arguing online (like they do on this site) than the practice of receiving wisdom from on-high print poobahs. Simple.