Am I the only one who feels like Hollywood is in terminal decline?
It’s not immediately clear why exactly the Golden Globes will not be televised, but one would assume it’s because the ratings have tanked. This is all the NY Post article really provided as far as a reason:
The controversy-riddled event was already cancelled from network TV after the association was exposed for its lack of diversity. And on Tuesday, the association announced that the show would not include a red carpet, audience, celebrity presenters or press.
The announcement comes just days before the show’s scheduled date, Jan. 9, 2022.
The Golden Globes usually air on NBC each year, however, last May the network decided not to go through with this year’s broadcast.
“We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right,” the network said in a statement at the time. “As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes. Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”
Riiiiiight. All of the sudden, the lack of diversity is a Major Issue that must be addressed.
I’m sure it has nothing to do with this:
A 63% fall in ratings.
And it’s not just the Golden Globes. The Oscars, Grammys and Emmys have all seen their ratings plummet in recent years:
The Oscars used to routinely attract over 40 million viewers, now they barely pull in 10 million. It’s astonishing how rapidly Americans have turned their backs on Hollywood—and how many Americans have done so.
There are many reasons for this, and together they amount to what I think you have to consider the great decline of Hollywood:
Starting in 2017, everyone became aware that Hollywood is a cesspit of sex predators and rapists. It’s always been that way due to the power dynamic (one powerful studio head, thousands of young starlets desperate for fame). But now everyone knows it, and it has made the American public deeply cynical toward Hollywood.
CGI has somehow gotten worse
I know I’m not the only one who has noticed this. Maybe it’s because movies use way more CGI nowadays than they used to, but the CGI today just looks awful. My whole life I assumed CGI would only get better and more realistic over time but now it feels like it’s getting worse and less realistic. Bad CGI breaks your immersion in a movie and can ruin the whole experience.
There’s a raging debate taking place online over the past 5-6 years or so about whether or not CGI is actually getting worse. There’s a lot of compelling evidence that it is actually getting worse, and that it’s because CGI is so much more prevalent nowadays:
But there’s also a more nuanced argument. For instance, the whole point of most CGI is that you don’t actually notice it. That’s good CGI. We don’t notice good CGI because it’s so realistic. We only notice bad CGI. And because there’s so much more CGI nowadays, it’s impossible for all the CGI to be high-quality.
Obviously there are some scenes in movies where completely impossible/fantastical things are taking place where CGI is the only option–in fact there are entire movies that have to be CGI because they’re pure fantasy.
This video does a great job of explaining why CGI seems worse nowadays, but perhaps that’s not entirely true:
The takeaway here is that if we feel like CGI is getting worse, it’s probably because the movies themselves are getting worse–not as well-written, not as well-acted, not as well-directed, etc.–and so we use CGI as a scapegoat instead of focusing on the real problem, which is that a lot of movies today just suck.
Whatever the reason, the apparent regression in CGI–or perhaps the over-reliance on CGI–is ruining the experience.
Rise of “non-Hollywood” studios
Netflix and Amazon are in the movie business, and they’re pretty good at it, too. So the big Hollywood studios that have dominated the industry for 90+ years are being disrupted big time.
Plus, you’ve got South Korean movies and TV shows that are absolutely eating Hollywood’s lunch these days, too. Squid Game was very good (if a bit underwhelming towards the end). Parasite won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2019 and it was entirely in Korean. It was an awesome movie, too. There’s another Korean show called Kingdom that’s on Netflix and it’s really good as well.
If you’re looking for fresh, original content, increasingly you’re not going to find it coming out of Hollywood. South Korea is absolutely killing it when it comes to coming up with great, new ideas for shows and movies. South Korea’s movie scene is creative, energized and on the rise, America’s feels exhausted, shallow and on the decline.
Corporate & Political Agendas
Most movies today are either nostalgia bait (new Spider-Man! New Matrix! Fast and the Furious 10! Something else with The Rock in it! Yet another Star Wars spinoff! MARVEL SOMETHING!!!!!!!!!!) or sanctimonious liberal propaganda. You win an Oscar if your movie is about racism or homosexuality, not if the movie is actually good. There is very little substance to Hollywood movies anymore. It’s no longer art; it’s overly commercialized crap or overly preachy liberal propaganda—and usually a combination of the two. It’s not about life lessons or insights or the human spirit; it’s about promoting a political agenda.
The larger problem is that movies today are simply too corporatized and dollar-driven. It’s not about creativity, innovation or experimentation anymore; it’s about doing what is proven to work and what is proven to make money. There’s simply too much money at stake to take risks nowadays. This is why there are so many sequels: because it’s less risky to make a sequel to a movie that has already proven to be a big hit than it is to make a new movie that audiences might hate.
The original Star Wars, back in 1977, was a risk. A bunch of people flying through space, moving objects with their minds, using colored light swords, with a bad guy called “Darth Vader” who looked like he was wearing a bucket on his head? And the main character is called “Luke Skywalker.” It probably sounded ridiculous when the idea was first pitched to the studios. It was a risk to believe the film would succeed. And in order for Star Wars to ever get made, the studio had to take a leap of faith, and believe in the director, George Lucas, that he had a vision and that he could execute it and make it work.
Chris Gore talks about this in an interview:
Around the 7:15 mark, he makes a great point:
“I just saw a documentary called “Laddi,” about Allan Ladd, the visionary studio executive who basically green-lit Star Wars, and protected George Lucas.
I’m just afraid we’re never going to see another George Lucas; we’re never going to see another creative visionary that changes the industry. Because everything is so corporate, you know? What did Francis Ford Coppola say? ‘Factory filmmaking.’ That’s the age in which we live. There’s factory filmmaking, which is a product and content, and then there’s up-and-coming indie filmmakers…
A lot of it is, ‘is [a movie being considered for production] going to appeal internationally?’ Let’s be honest: the box office internationally, especially in China, is much bigger than the United States–that market, those dollars. So you can’t make a movie for the United States anymore. You have to make a movie for the world. Which is fine, but I think in a way, that’s sort of diluting our identity as a people, as Americans, as we become more fractured. And it’s distressing to see.”
Movies for many years used to be major drivers and shapers of American culture. The things we believed, the clothes we wore, the jokes we told, the words we used and the way we behaved–so much of it used to be driven by movies.
Movies used to broaden our horizons, inspire us, and teach us about who we are, not only as Americans but as human beings.
No longer. Movies today are entertainment and little more. Movies are no longer experiences. The only boxes movies have to check nowadays are whether they’ll make money, or whether they’ll promote the liberal agenda. Preferably both.
This shift in priorities has utterly ruined the movie industry.
The Decline of Celebrities
Another part of the decline of Hollywood is that celebrities have lost a lot of their mystique and cultural stature. This has a lot to do with #MeToo, I think, but then again, I feel like #MeToo mostly went after the studio heads and bigwigs of Hollywood, not the actors themselves. Certainly some actors were exposed (Kevin Spacey, for instance), but the overwhelming majority of movie stars were not.
There has to be some other reason that celebrities have lost their luster and aura these days.
Maybe it’s because after #MeToo, we now look at celebrities and wonder: “I wonder what skeletons are in their closet,” even if most celebrities have never had allegations leveled against them. They’re guilty by association with the industry.
Or we look at celebrities and just roll our eyes after seeing their latest unhinged liberal rants on social media. Hyperexposure enabled by modern media and technology has in many ways destroyed the facade that celebrities are some sort of superior race of gods among us. They’ve been brought back down to earth.
Also, when you politicize a non-partisan institution, you corrupt it. People don’t want to know the political views of their favorite actors and celebrities. It cheapens the celebrity image when you learn they’re just like that idiot you went to high school with that’s constantly shrieking about politics on social media. Plus, a lot of these celebrities are outright alienating fans nowadays; their political ranting has gone so far now that they’re often seen angrily denouncing half the country as irredeemable bigots and Nazis. Naturally people are going to resent being treated like garbage by Hollywood.
I think it’s a bit of both–Hollywood becoming generally recognized as immoral and depraved, as well as the increasing outward liberalism of the industry.
But the fundamental problem is that movies simply don’t impact us the way they used to. I think it it goes back to the fact that movies just aren’t “hitting us in the feels” and making lasting impressions on us anymore.
Maybe it’s just me and I don’t pay attention to TMZ or read the supermarket tabloids, but I feel like there just aren’t as many big time movies stars anymore.
Who are the biggest names nowadays? I feel like it’s still the names that were big 10-15 years ago: Leo, Will Smith, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Seth Rogan, Brad Pitt, Matthew McConaughey, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Downey Jr., Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughan, Owen Wilson, Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds, George Clooney—these guys have all been big names for at least a decade, and some more than 2 decades.
Who is the new, modern-day Denzel Washington? Are there any new actors today as good as Denzel? What about Christian Bale? Tom Cruise? Ryan Gosling?
I feel like no actors these days even come close to the biggest stars of the 2000s and the 1990s.
Tom Holland? I like him, but he’s not a superstar. If he was, why’d they have to bring back Tobey MacGuire for the new Spider-Man movie? I don’t think Tom Holland is good enough to carry it himself.
There were tons of huge names in the MCU but the one who always stole the show and carried the whole franchise was Robert Downey Jr. He was the superstar; the lynchpin of the entire MCU. Now that he’s done playing Iron Man, the MCU is nowhere near as interesting.
Imagine if they tried to remake Ocean’s 11 with the biggest actors of today: it would not hold a candle to the 2001 version. It would not have anywhere near the star power.
It feels like Hollywood as a whole peaked a long time ago quite honestly.
To be fair, I went ahead and Googled “biggest celebrities 2022”. Maybe I’m just out of touch and not hip anymore.
But guess what: all the biggest names that popped up are in music, not movies.
I went to the link, and I had to scroll all the way down to #19 before I found my first movie star, and it was Zendaya. I don’t know much about her other than she’s in the new Spider-Man movies and she’s in the new Dune movie (which I haven’t seen and quite honestly probably won’t, because a friend of mine who watches virtually every movie that comes out and who I trust for reviews said he didn’t like it).
It feels like Hollywood is no longer the center of gravity of the American entertainment industry. The music industry is now the center of gravity it feels like.
I think this is because, while, sure, music is heavily commercialized and diminished compared to the past, music still moves us. It still speaks to the soul.
Movies largely don’t anymore. Movies are fundamentally shallow experiences nowadays.
Hollywood is now so corporatized that movies have lost their soul–and as a result, in many ways, America itself has lost a part of its soul.
Lack of High-Quality Movies
Despite all the problems we’ve gone over thus far, all of them can be overcome if Hollywood simply makes lots of good movies. But they no longer do, and thus all the problems the American public has with Hollywood are magnified.
It’s more than that, though: the problems we have gone over thus far are also largely the reasons why Hollywood can no longer make great movies. For example, Americans don’t like the fact that Hollywood is too corporatized nowadays; but the fact that Hollywood is too corporatized is a major part of the reason Hollywood no longer makes movies that Americans love.
The last movie I saw in theaters was, I believe, Avengers Endgame in 2019. I hated it, I thought it was terrible (although I loved Infinity War). I haven’t been back to the theaters since. Now part of this has to do with the lockdowns, but I don’t think I’ve watched more than 5 new releases that went straight to streaming services over these past 2 Covid years. I watched Many Saints of Newark because I’m a Sopranos fanatic (I was underwhelmed by the movie, but the nostalgia factor was for me enough to redeem it).
I watched Jungle Cruise while on vacation over the summer but didn’t finish it.
I’m trying to think of some movies that have come out in the past few years that I really, genuinely enjoyed and here’s what comes to mind:
- Paraiste– Loved it even though I had to read subtitles the whole time. An original and creative idea executed perfectly. Highly recommended.
- Infinity War– For the most part I like the MCU movies, although I thought Endgame was horrible. Infinity War was really enjoyable though.
- The Gentlemen– Really liked this one. Great cast, great story. Guy Ritchie always makes great movies.
- Uncut Gems– I had high hopes for this one. It was decent, not great. It’s basically 2 hours of anxiety though.
- Pokémon Detective Pikachu– Wasn’t blown away or anything but it was a nice little movie.
- Once Upon a Time in a Hollywood– Loved it. I’m a big Tarantino guy though. I thought this was one of the few bright spots from Hollywood the past 5 years.
- Crazy Rich Asians: I’m a sucker for romcoms, and they don’t really make too many good ones anymore. This is an exception. Great movie.
I’ve heard Knives Out (2019) was good but haven’t seen it. Ditto “1917,” which I want to see.
I saw the Freddie Mercury movie. It was decent at first but then the last half was all about him being gay. Didn’t hate it though.
I like going to movies. At least I used to. If I thought there was a movie that looked really promising, I’d go see it in theaters. I don’t care about Covid. But there just hasn’t been anything lately that has made me want to go to the theaters.
Maybe I’m overreacting because of the past two years, which have been really rough for the entertainment industry. When I started looking back at movies from 2019, 2018 and 2017, it jogged my memory a bit and I started to think that maybe I was overstating how bad the entertainment industry has gotten lately. There were some pretty good movies that came out in the years preferring Covid-2019 to be fully honest. Not a lot, but a few.
But then again, it’s hard to remember the last time a truly great movie came out. I want to say Parasite, but Hollywood doesn’t get credit for that one. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was really good but Tarantino has other movies that are better—Pulp Fiction, True Romance, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, etc. The Gentlemen I really liked a lot but as with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I wouldn’t say it’s Guy Ritchie’s best movie. Snatch was better.
And despite the fact that there have been some really good movies to come out in the past 5 years, none of them ever really had a lasting impact on the culture; none of them were cultural phenomenons. None of them really were really transcendent; that is, none of them were able to become more than just movies; more than just entertainment. None have really stuck with me and moved me.
I just have an unshakable feeling that best days of American cinema are in the past.
The Disappearance of American Comedy
Another major problem for Hollywood is that the comedy genre is all but dead. The 2000s was like the golden age for comedy movies—Anchorman, Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers, Zoolander, Superbad, the Hangover, Step Brothers, and so much more. Now, we don’t have any real comedy movies anymore. They just don’t make them anymore.
Comedy movies used to represent around 20% of the movie industry’s total box office draw back in 2008:
Basically from the mid-1990s to the late 2008s, comedy movies were between 15-20% of the movie industry, depending on the movies that came out in a given year. By 2019, the year before the pandemic, comedy was just 6% of the movie industry. In 2021, comedy was about 8%. That is a remarkable decline.
Of the 25 highest-grossing comedy movies since 1995, the most recent one was 22 Jump Street, which came out in 2014. It ranks 24 out of 25.
The peak of American comedy movies, in terms of total comedy movies released in a calendar year, was 2007, when 135 comedy movies were made. In terms of peak market share, the best year for comedy was 2003, when comedy movies represented 21.5% of the industry.
In 2019, only 61 comedy movies were made. Comedy has been in massive decline over the past decade. Undeniably.
What happened? From the 1970s with Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles; also Animal House. Into the 80s with Caddyshack and Airplane, National Lampoon’s, The Naked Gun.
Then the 1990s had tons of hilarious movies; Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler were the two biggest names in comedy. Plus you had incredibly funny shows on TV: Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier, Full House (RIP Bob Saget), Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Married With Children, Home Improvement, etc.
And personally, I think the 2000s was the pinnacle of American comedy. Beyond just the dozens of classic comedy movies that came out during those years, there was tons of great TV comedy: The Office, South Park, Family Guy, Always Sunny, Curb, the Simpsons, Arrested Development, Chappelle’s Show, Entourage, How I Met Your Mother–it really was the golden age of comedy.
They were still making some funny movies into the early 2010s like 21 Jump Street and Horrible Bosses, Bridesmaids (Is Grand Budapest Hotel a comedy? Whatever it is, I loved that movie). The best comedy was generally found on TV during the 2010s–The League, Parks & Rec, Community, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Nathan For You, etc. The 2010s wasn’t as great as the 2000s or the 1990s in terms of comedy, but it was still respectable.
But within the past 6-8 years the comedy genre just disappeared.
Maybe it’s because of cancel culture and Wokeness, you can’t make comedy because someone will be offended—I don’t know. But our country and our culture lost something significant when we stopped making funny movies.
Where do you get funny content nowadays? SNL isn’t even funny anymore. I guess South Park is the only show still doing comedy out there, it seems. The Simpsons is still on I think, but does anyone really watch the Simpsons anymore?
It feels like most of the funny content out there is on social media–short skits and impressionists on Instagram. Basically anything Barstool does is generally hilarious. It’s not like comedy has completely died in American society. In fact it feels like during the pandemic a lot of small, independent sketch comedians have sprung up, and many of them are quite funny.
But comedy movies and TV shows are basically gone now. Comedy has had to go “underground” to social media because it’s no longer commercially viable. And I really do feel like the disappearance of the comedy genre has left a void in our society and we’re worse off for it.
What passes for mainstream “comedy” these days is the unhinged liberal rantings of Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert on the Late Night “Comedy” shows, but those guys are so partisan and angry they hardly even qualify as comedians anymore.
When people share a laugh over something, it’s a bonding experience. Laughter is the universal language, and laughter brings people closer together. We as a country used to bond over funny movies and TV shows. For the most part, that’s no longer the case.
And that’s a terrible thing.
Without comedy, it feels like Hollywood–and America at large– has just become too self-serious and self-important.
Or maybe it’s because Hollywood–and the broader American cultural/ political/ corporate establishment–has become too self-serious and self-important that they stopped making comedy movies.
Political correctness isn’t funny. Therefore in a country where everything is politically correct, there can be no comedy. By definition.
And when the increasingly tyrannical politicians believe themselves to be above satirize and criticism, comedy simply has to be outlawed.
You know comedy is in a terrible state when even Howard Stern has gone politically correct. Howard Stern! He’s been completely neutered these days. This is what Howard Stern has been reduced to:
He’s a garden-variety liberal now—the only difference is that he swears.
When even Howard Stern has been cowed into submission, you know that what’s happened to comedy is no accident.
Originally, when I started this post, I only intended to write about the Golden Globes. But it ended up snowballing into an assessment of the state of the American movie industry.
I’ve been wanting to write about and explore this topic for a while now, and while I think I could’ve done a bit more here, I think I touched on all of the areas that I think have contributed to the decline of Hollywood these days.
So where does this leave us? What does the future hold? Can Hollywood ever come back?
I’m sure this isn’t the death of Hollywood and American movies. That’s why I entitled this post “The Decline of Hollywood,” not “The Death of Hollywood.” Hollywood can and will make a comeback because there will always be a demand for movies and shows.
It might not look the same as it has for many decades, but when there’s a fundamental demand for something, and that demand is no longer being met by the major players in the industry, it creates an opportunity for others to step in and fill the void.
If Hollywood is too corporate, too politicized, too depraved and too self-serious, then that creates a demand for a movie industry that isn’t plagued by all those things.
It creates an opportunity for someone to start making movies for people who are disillusioned by the current state of Hollywood. Judging by the cratering numbers of the big Hollywood awards shows, it seems as if that’s a sizable number of Americans.
I think it’ll get worse before it gets better, though. I think Hollywood has to hit full rock bottom before it can ever be reborn.