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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

question of the day: Has the nature of the modern movie geek changed?

Devin Fararci at CHUD.com posted a provocative essay recently decrying the dreary mainstream tastes of those who call themselves movie geeks these days:

For the last couple of years I’ve been trying to wrap my head around an increasingly vocal segment of our readership – people who seem to hate weird, offbeat, unique and difficult movies. They came out in force lately for Splice, but they’ve been around for a while. I still get emails and comments from people who are angry with me for recommending Observe and Report to them; I’m baffled by that because I always thought that our readership was tuned in to dark, edgy, odd and downright bizarre stuff. Especially genre stuff.

I’m not saying everybody has to like the same things – that would be boring – but it’s been weird seeing so many people utterly turned off by anything that wasn’t safe and mainstream.

I disagree, obviously, that Splice is “unique” or “difficult,” but Faraci’s point is taken: even geek tastes tend to have gotten watered down, in seems. More from Fararci:

I wonder what it would be like if Evil Dead 2 were released today. Would it get relentlessly run down on the internet for being too silly and for the performances and production value? Have we become a world of film fans who can only accept movies that look like they cost a hundred million dollars, that have no tonal variances, and that adhere to Robert McKee-style rules of structure? I wonder how Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi would have fared if there had been an internet when they were making their first films.

Faraci is probably right. On the other hand, Evil Dead II was not a wide-release mainstream studio film: it was an indie that never played on more than 310 screens. It wasn’t meant to appeal to mainstream audiences.

I think the issue is more one of how Hollywood has coopted geek-favorite genres (Faraci touches on this too): it’s not that geek tastes have gotten watered down, it’s that mainstream audiences — who will likely never have the patience or inclination for films that are “unique” or “difficult” — have learned to like the trappings of geek genres.

It’s an interesting coincidence that in my review of Observe and Report — which Faraci considers a milestone in this change-of-geekitude — I wrote about how the doesn’t entirely succeed precisely because it is afraid alienating unthoughtful mainstream viewers:

[A] more forcefully satirical version Observe and Report simply wouldn’t have been a movie marketable to mainstream audiences.

It bothers me deeply that I can’t help but suspect that Hill held back from making what could have been a brilliant, sour work of acidic genius in favor of a movie that was focus-group approved and preascertained by studio accountants to earn a certain acceptable number of millions.

I think the people we would have called movie geeks 25 years ago are still around, but in the same small numbers we were then. It just seems like there’s more of us because it’s much easier to talk about movies today (online) and increasingly easier to revisit movies (on DVD and now on-demand).

What do you think: Has the nature of the modern movie geek changed?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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