I grew up in the 1970s, a decade that saw a blossoming of American cinema between the end of the studio system and the tyranny of the modern box office-obsessed blockbuster mentality.
Star Wars and ET have a lot to answer for, but of course at the time those movies – along with the bi-annual James Bond adventure and Disney’s increasingly erratic output – were staples of my film diet.
I was too young to see classics like The Godfather, The Long Goodbye, Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Network and the rest first time around. These were the classics that drew critical acclaim, Oscars and respectable box office. Even the odd flick that missed its audience in those more innocent times was covered in excellent works of reference like Danny Peary’s Cult Movies books, which offered a detailed appreciation of their many qualities.
In time, as film buffery took hold, I caught up with these films through eagerly sought TV viewings. This was not only a pre-
internet and pre-DVD age but a time before home video was commonly available and there were only three TV channels to choose from. Yet, conversely, it meant weekends and holidays offered a feast of fine movies to enjoy.
Now everything is available, and Amazon is an all too easy resource to plunder for those well regarded films of yore. And watching them again on the unfeasibly large widescreen television that Barclaycard kindly paid for, one is reminded not only how young and vital Elliott Gould and Jack Nicholson look, but how the films themselves combine great craft with thrilling, grown up stories that expect some degree of intelligence and engagement from their audience.
It’s unfashionable now of course, when so much of that which is released is aimed at the Bieber generation. The King’s Speech is a reminder that adults still like watching good movies. If only Hollywood could rediscover the seeds of its 70s flowering that would be something else to raise a cheer for.
They say a woman’s place is in the home. I am not going to risk the wrath of feminist readers by even remotely agreeing with that hoary old adage.
What I will proclaim, though, with unswerving conviction is that the feature documentary belongs strictly on the small screen.
I blame Michael Moore, that smug fat git in the baseball cap, for opening if not floodgates then at least a sizeable sluice for earnest doco filmmakers to practice their prejudices in public.
Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 were undeniably strong meat but certainly didn’t suffer when they subsequently enjoyed a primetime slot – and millions more viewers – on the telly.
Moore subsequently blew himself and his ego out with the likes of Sicko and Capitalism: A Love Story but by then the flame was lit for every other Tom, Dick or Harriet documentarist to assail us with grim reality tales from the frontier of life.
Everything from global warming (An Inconvenient Truth) to financial meltdown (Inside Job) via celebrity excess (Starsuckers) and Third Worldism (Mugabe and the White African) has been thrown at audiences who would far prefer a familiar sequel with their popcorn and Coke.
And this well-meaning bid to extract ‘guilt’ coin from cinemagoers shows no sign of abating, with the likes of The Peddler (about a DIY filmmaker in Argentina Countdown to Zero (nuclear weapons doom) and Breath Made Visible (arty dance).
Hats off then to the likes of TT3D: Closer to the Edge, an eye-boggling doco about perilous bike racing on the Isle of Man which at least quite literally added another dimension to a world that like most of the others conjured up in traditional film reportage would normally have better suited your cosy front room and judicious use of the Pause or Fast Forward button.