Why Danny Boyle is wrong about the pixarification of movies
Danny Boyle is one of my favourite film makers and I love to listen to him in interviews. But sometimes you find yourself disagreeing with the best of people, and this happened recently when I came across a YouTube clip.
In this interview Boyle sets a new term, “pixarification” of movies. He claims that movies were better in the 70s. Back then they made adult films with adult themes, adult sexuality and adult dilemmas. This has been lost since then and it all started with Star Wars. Nowadays movies are supposed to be “family friendly”. The action movies contain violence that doesn’t hurt. And “adult movie” nowadays is according to Boyle only referring to porn.
I don’t know where Danny Boyle lives, but it must be a very small place indeed if he only has access to family friendly movies and never get the chance to see films with adult themes. I live in a city with 200 000 inhabitants and while I complain sometimes that it takes a long time for foreign movies to open here, I would lie if I said that I never got to watch movies with adult themes.
Yes, the multiplex theatre in my city shows Iron Man 3, Warm Bodies, Olympus Has Fallen and Oblivion. Actually I loved two of those: Warm Bodies and Oblivion. But I guess you could argue that they’re all primarily aiming for a younger audience rather than for those who are 40+.
However there’s no shortage of alternatives for those who want movies with more depth, movies that only get better the more experience you have of life. This week I could watch The Place Beyond the Pines, The Hunt, The Turin Horse and Amour, just to mention a few examples. I agree that those movies don’t top the box office charts, but they’re certainly not helped out by people like Danny Boyle pretending that they don’t exist.
There are movies that aim for and can be enjoyed by an older audience, movies that aren’t anywhere near being “pixarified”. So let’s talk about them, rather than spreading the usual doom and gloom message around!
As to the question if movies were more adult back in the old days, I doubt it. I don’t have any hard facts and statistics to back up my case, but my gut feeling tells me that there always have been different target groups for different movies. A Tarzan matinée could be enjoyable for youngsters as well as their parents, while you probably wanted to leave your kids at home if you went to see a Bergman movie. Are the movies we watch now really that different?
A rant at Quora
Danny Boyle isn’t the only one to make claims that they don’t make movies for adults. Recently someone published a similar question at Quora (thanks to Sean Hood for bringing it to my attention):
Why doesn’t Hollywood make ambitious films for adults anymore?
As always at Quora, the question got a number of good answers. But there was one that really got to me, written by Ken Miyamoto, who is a working screenwriter.
It starts off as an angry rant, inspired by a scene from the movie Adaptation:
They don’t make ambitious films for adults anymore? Are you out of your f***ing mind? People are making great films every year. There’s Zero Dark Thirty, There Will Be Blood, Life of Pi. Every f***ing year, somewhere in the world, somebody is pushing the envelope and risking their careers to bring ambitious films to you. Every f***ing day, someone, somewhere is making the next Avatar, Titanic, Troy, or Inception. People take risks, like with The Master, and lose because audiences aren’t showing up. For Christ’s sake, a director makes the epic The Impossible and barely anyone goes to see it. Someone produces Silver Linings Playbook or Beasts of the Southern Wild, and yet people still say that great films aren’t being made. Steven Spielberg makes Lincoln! If you can’t find that stuff in the cinemas, then you, my friend, don’t know crap about films! And why the F*** are you wasting my two precious minutes with your question? I don’t have any use for it! I don’t have any bloody use for it!
He then moves on and talks about various aspects, ending with a great point about the responsibility of the audience:
Besides the differing business modules, cinema as a whole is much the same as it was back in the “glory days”, only more people are getting a chance to make great films (and yes, bad ones too).
What cynics see are the multiplexes. They see television marketing. They see posters and magazine covers. All focused on the big ticket event films that audiences go to see in droves.
There are great producers out there. I don’t even need to name them. Go find them yourself. They are out there. And go see them in the theater because every time the audience doesn’t show up, it makes it all the more harder for such great producers and filmmakers to make great original films.
And don’t worry, the epics are out there and they are being developed and made as we speak. Take a look at the time spans between the great films you mentioned, and the many more you didn’t. Such films take time. Some fail. Some succeed. Others are lightning captured in a bottle, groundbreaking, amazing, and decade defining.”
Basically Ken Miyamoto says what I’d like to say to Danny Boyle, but in a much more eloquent way. (I wouldn’t expect anything less considering he’s a professional screenwriter.)
Go and read the whole Quora article! And then stop saying that Hollywood doesn’t make movies for adults anymore (except from porn).
Those movies do exist. And you can help them to make better in the box office, which will lead to more movies with adult themes being made in the future.
Don’t waste any more media space obsessing over the top selling films, complaining about their pixarification. Be constructive. Use your energy to talk about the good movies that still are made, even if they only rarely make the headlines.
Danny Boyle seem to have given up a bit on the chances of quality cinema to survive. The bigger reason that bloggers and other vocal film fans don’t.