Dustin Hoffman says film is in its worst state ever

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The movie industry is not in great shape. Yes, you can point to the blockbusters and that 2015, despite some major flops, may produce several of the industry’s highest-grossing films yet.

But it is clear that this is the only real action happening on the big screen any more. Even though ever year produces its share of awards bait and high-brow cinema, those numbers appear to be shrinking. We live in an era where a Christopher Nolan production is regarded the height of intellectual movie-making. Not that Nolan is not a cerebral director, but the industry has moved far away from the edgy days of the Seventies, when the works of Martin Scorcese, Francis Coppola and their peers defined the benchmark for cinematic philosophy.

It’s not entirely the fault of the industry – the truth is that audiences have are being stolen by television and the Internet. The idea of going to a cinema for anything other than a bombastic spectacle has faded. At the same time 3D technology and digital screens have made it even better to view something like Jurassic World or Mad Max on the big screen. Meanwhile the more in-depth projects have shifted to television productions.

Kevin Spacey lamented this in the past, calling this TV’s golden age and bemoaning cinema’s fall as a thinking person’s platform. Now we can add Dustin Hoffman to that club as well.

The veteran actor, who remains busy in film, has gone as far as to say this is the worst he’s seen the movie industry in his 50 year career. While promoting his new film Choir, Hoffman did not mince his words:

“I think right now television is the best that it’s ever been and I think that it’s the worst that film has ever been – in the 50 years that I’ve been doing it, it’s the worst.”

Hoffman even made a brief foray into television with Luck, the brilliant but tragically short-lived Michael Mann-produced drama about horse racing. It was shut down after too many horses were injured and died during filming. The experience seems to have soured Hoffman from doing another TV project soon. But it did galvanise his views:

Hoffman has an ocean of experience to compare the industry of today with yesteryear. “It’s hard to believe you can do good work for the little amount of money these days. We did The Graduate and that film still sustains, it had a wonderful script that they spent three years on, and an exceptional director with an exceptional cast and crew, but it was a small movie, four walls and actors, that is all, and yet it was 100 days of shooting.”

Most films today, away from the comic strip or robot adaptations, are made in around 20 days. Part of the reason is that digital technology enables filmmakers to shoot more scenes in a day than they used to, but mostly it’s to do with the downsizing of budgets as more and more films get made. The films that have been squeezed the most by this development have been the quality dramas, a genre that has a habit of calling on Hoffman’s inimitable services.

But the interview is not just about his point of view on movies or to promote his latest project. It is also a feast to read if you are interested in Hoffman. For example, his first love is music and he is trained to play the piano. But Hoffman admits he never had the talent to carry that as a career:

“I love it more than anything,” he says. “But I can’t play well enough to make a living out of it. If God tapped me on the shoulder right now and said ‘no more acting, no more directing, but you can be a decent jazz pianist’… I could never read music gracefully. I don’t have a good ear. I still want to do it. I would love to do it.”

Still, to get back to his original point, the majority of film making is being squeezed out and forced to go elsewhere. Is the result a world where the only things on the big screen are Baysplotions and Marvel characters?

 

Last Updated: July 9, 2015

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