It is common to hear critics on the more self-consciously “serious” edges of film journalism accuse modern cinema of being, creatively, on its knees. Usually this is argued by citing the box office Top 10 populated, as it generally is, with CGI heavy Hollywood fare. “Where are the great artists of the1970s?” they have asked repeatedly to the point that it has become a kind of accepted truth: that movies are just not as good as they used to be and there is no longer an audience for creatively interesting filmmaking.
Yet, when looking back at film in 2011, one is struck by just how many brilliant and brilliantly creative movies were released and how many of them broke through at the box office. Think of things like Black Swan, True Grit, 127 Hours, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
– all praised by critics, all true expr
essions of their directors' artistic visions and all, crucially, box office hits. None of them looked in anyway compromised by commercial concerns nor “dumbed down” to appeal to the lowest common denominator.
A glance at the more definitively arty end of the spectrum in the last year also reveals a great richness in the vision of today's filmmakers – We Need To Talk About Kevin, La Quattro Volte, Kill List, Animal Kingdom and Cave of Forgotten Dreams are just a few examples of the truly maverick nature of so much that came from cinema's periphery in the last year.
And then look at the box office Top Ten itself, the list that we are so often told represents all that is wrong with modern filmmaking. With, The King's Speech, The Inbetweeners' Movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Bridesmaids on the list it can hardly be considered lacking creative merit. Plus, the fact that the top 5 of last year all took more than 50 million in the UK alone is further testament to just how healthy and thriving the industry is.
So, huge audiences in the multiplexes, big name directors taking massive risks on interesting, popular movies and a thriving art house scene.
Rather than the death of creativity it seems more like cinema is entering a true Golden age.