Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Are Modern Films Really Worse than Classic Films? A Blog Series Introduction

On the 24th of June, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that Academy members would vote for Best Picture from a selection of 10 films rather than the 5 that had become standard. They assert that this is a return to an older Academy tradition and are pitching the change by doing a bi-coastal screening of the 10 films nominated in 1939 -- an amazing year for movies.

In response to the announcement, Anne Thompson shared the contents of an email a film historian sent her which listed an "imaginary" additional five nominees for the years 1967 through 1979 as a demonstration of films that had been overlooked by the Academy in years past. It's a fun read, filled with some pretty keen analysis.

In her introduction to the email, Thompson asserts, "Bottom line though, the Academy had more quality films to choose from then than they do now."

Such a statement immediately begs the question, "Really?! The Academy had more quality films to choose from then than they do now?" I find the statement to be on the face incredible -- traditional definition -- and a bit knee-jerk in the certitude of the statement. Certainly, my own reaction to the statement is knee-jerk as well. My assumption is that Thompson is wrong, but is she? The only way to find out is to do a year to year comparison continuing from a date after 1979 and comparing it to past years. One could easily write a book on the subject if one wanted to do an in depth analysis, one could probably write a book merely on what the best methodology to use for comparison.

I have neither the will, nor the luxury of time to do that. So I offer the following. I will create my own "nominee+5" lists for each year starting in 1987 and compare that year to the year twenty years prior. Thus 1987 will be compared to 1967. Each list will be done in a single blog post. After I have completed the first set, I will begin again in 1997 and compare to a year 30 years prior. The +5 "best of year x" list will be one of my own choosing, and thus will hopefully spark conversation as you may believe that some other films deserve to be in the +5. The merit of a given year won't merely rest on my own +5, but include those anyone else can think of as well. After all, we are measuring whether the "now" holds a candle to the "then." That, and not whether my specific choices are the best, is the question that should be discussed.

Stay tuned to this blog for 1987 vs. 1967, the first in a series of posts.

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