George Graham

What Happened to the Movies? They Used to Be Entertaining

I subscribe to one of those channels that offer movies on TV, but I haven’t watched a film all the way through in a long time. It’s not just that they’re boring. Most of them are positively sickening.

A few minutes into the movie, I am sure to be treated to some repulsive scene that makes me involuntarily click the remote. If the film is described as a “drama”  or “adventure” or something else that means you’re supposed to take it seriously, expect the most gut wrenching violence, depicted in sadistic detail, or a series of ear-splitting “special effects” that will send the cats scurrying for cover.

So I tend to favor films described as “comedy” or “comedy romance.” Silly me!

Apparently, today’s audiences laugh at excruciatingly embarrassing situations, references to bodily functions or some private and disgusting physical malfunction, and unmitigated cruelty. Some people must also laugh at prat falls and sight gags that were far funnier when Charlie Chaplin or W. C. Fields performed them decades ago.

I was beginning to think I’d lived too long, that I’d seen everything worth seeing and I would never enjoy another movie. And then I read an op-ed piece by John Pilger in Truthout this morning. The opening paragraph poses this question:

Why are so many films so bad? 

oscarPilger’s complaint is specifically with the political tone of today’s movies. He objects to the way they assume that America has a “divine right to invade other societies, steal their history and occupy our memory.” He wants to know “when will directors and writers behave like artists and not pimps for a world view devoted to control and destruction?”

Appraising the films nominated for Oscars this year, Pilger describes them as “a parade of propaganda, stereotypes and downright dishonesty.”

Here’s an excerpt from his rant:

I grew up on the movie myth of the Wild West, which was harmless enough unless you happened to be a Native American. The formula is unchanged. Self-regarding distortions present the nobility of the American colonial aggressor as a cover for massacre, from the Philippines to Iraq. I only fully understood the power of the con when I was sent to Vietnam as a war reporter. The Vietnamese were “gooks” and “Indians,” whose industrial murder was preordained in John Wayne movies and sent back to Hollywood to glamorize or redeem.

I use the word murder advisedly, because what Hollywood does brilliantly is suppress the truth about America’s assaults. These are not wars, but the export of a gun-addicted, homicidal “culture.” And when the notion of psychopaths as heroes wears thin, the bloodbath becomes an “American tragedy” with a soundtrack of pure angst.  

I think Pilger gives the film makers too much credit. He assumes they are capable of scheming to manipulate American public opinion. But I suspect they are interested only in making money.

Making a movie has become so expensive that investors shrink from risk. They want a sure-fire box office success, and they rely on the themes that have worked in the past. The directors, meanwhile, want to win awards – or at least acclaim. So they insert “new” gimmicks and “controversial” scenes to attract publicity. Without much imagination, they tend to resort to the “shock jock” approach.

This produces movies that are both offensive and boring.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for