If video killed the radio star, what’s streaming doing to the movie classics? “Watch It!” columnist NICK OVERALL has a theory.
EARLIER this year a tweet from “New York Times” journalist Rick Rojas erupted when he said: “I broke a long-standing rule of mine to not watch movies made before 1975 so I could finally see ‘Citizen Kane’. It taught me a valuable lesson: the rule exists for a reason.”
Rojas was lambasted by other users, flaming his “ignorance” and insulting him, his opinion and his intelligence. And on Twitter of all places, who would have thought?
His commentary reflects something interesting though, and something a lot of people might be afraid to admit.
A majority of modern movie watchers, especially of my generation, aren’t interested in older films.
In the face of modern streaming, where there is a seemingly infinite amount of new movies and TV popping up, the next modern blockbuster is just a scroll away.
It begs the question, is streaming killing the classics?
To answer, we have to rewind a bit.
In 1975 “Jaws” terrified people into staying away from beaches, stirring up buzz about a sea monster that had to be seen to be believed.
Two years later, “Star Wars” launched viewers into a bombastic space adventure, offering an experience never seen before.
Following that, Ridley Scott did some sly mental arithmetic and figured out “Jaws” plus space would equal big success and released “Alien” in 1979 to a huge reception.
These films spawned the age of the blockbuster, a new era where the visual spectacle of the silver screen became the main draw card for audiences and that new era of filmmaking got one group of viewers particularly excited: teenagers.
Today the blockbuster continues to be the winner, with cashed up streaming services able to produce high-budget content that can tick the box of almost any user.
“But what about the classics that the youth are going to miss out on?” one often hears, what about “Casablanca” or “Gone with the Wind”?
Rojas’ tweet brought such questions to the fore, leading to many articles bemoaning the loss of older films in favour of the endless modern ones being generated.
When looking a little closer though, I don’t think all hope is lost for the classics.
As much as the new stuff is always the most popular, at the same time, streaming platforms have made classic films more accessible to a modern audience than ever before.
Most streaming sites include a “classics” section for people browsing by genre which contain dozens of great titles.
They also often have “collections” of classic films that users can come across in their scrolling. It’ll be something like “films to see before you die” or “must-watch classics” or some hoo-ha like that.
Also take “Mubi”, certainly one of the more obscure streaming sites, but one that’s built on the premise of “film discovery”, handpicking classic films and more artful cinema for those interested.
Then there’s the work of Quentin Tarantino, a name that most people will recognise whether they’re a film buff or not.
Although Tarantino has certainly made a style of his own, his films are dripping with influence from classics. Take his most recent work “Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood”, a direct love letter to a different era of cinema and one that unlocked a renewed interest in filmmaking from the ‘60s.
Recently the director has been teasing an upcoming podcast called “The Video Archives Show” which will dive into a new classic film each week and attempt to sell it to a guest ‘“customer” they have on the show.
The question shouldn’t be “why don’t people watch the classics?” but rather “why should people watch the classics?”
“The Graduate” (1967) on Binge remains one of the most raw, relatable and hilarious coming-of-age films ever made.
“12 Angry Men” (1957) may be all black and white and take place in a single room, but the biting legal thriller offers political commentary of remarkable relevance today.
It’s available on Stan as well as “Jaws” and on Disney+ is the original “Star Wars” along with “Alien” which all hold up today, if you can push past wonky special effects here and there.
For me and many of my millennial friends, who admittedly can take a bit of roping into watching some of these older flicks, we’ve taken as much enjoyment from movies such as these as we would from one released today.
Although I can’t exactly see us in 40 years’ time lamenting why the next generation isn’t experiencing the profundity of “Fast and Furious 9”.
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Ian Meikle, editor