It depends on what you mean by “old” films. If you’re talking about black-and-white, a lot of younger people do not like them, for several reasons:
Black-and-white can be distracting for people who are used to viewing films in color. It emphasises the unrealistic aspect of movies. You cannot lose yourself in the film as if you’re watching the action “live” because of the lack of color.
The acting styles were much different. Many early film actors were also stage actors, and were taught an overly-dramatic acting technique, whereas today, actors strive to be as “real” and “natural” as possible.
Clothing and hairstyle can also be slightly distracting, especially if you find the “look” of the era to be silly, or strange.
Poor or non-existant special effects. We have high expectations in this area of film today. We expect a car crash, or explosion to be visually spectacular, and are critical and irritated if the effects don’t stand up to our scrutiny. In the past, people were more willing to make allowances for the limited technology of the era. King Kong did not have to move smoothly in order for it to be an entertaining film, whereas we would be amused by his jerky claymation movements, and this would distract from our enjoyment.
The films were more subtle. Rather than seeing a bloody murder, you may only see the shadows of the actors in the scene. Instead of sex, you may only see the actors kiss, and then the film fades out. Sex was hinted at, rather than shown. (The Hays Code restricted what was permissable in films. For example, Marlene Dietrich was irritated when her script had to be changed because the original scene had called for her to speak to another actor standing in the doorway of a bedroom set. The Hays Code censors objected to the scene because a bed could be seen in the background when Marlene spoke to the male actor, even though she was fully clothed.)
Moralism. The Hays Code, which I mentioned in #4 required that the “bad guy” or “bad girl” be punished in the end of the movie for their evil deeds. They were not to be allowed to get away with their crimes, or immoral behavior, which is why a lot of endings to older films don’t seem to “fit.” When the Hays Office put their foot down, often the ending had to be rewritten. Sometimes the bad person was simply killed off to satisfy the orders. Kisses were supposed to be “modest.” Actors were required to keep their mouths closed while kissing, and kisses were not to be too long in duration. Unmarried characters were not supposed to share the same house or bedroom, and even married characters were rarely shown in the same bed. Strong language was forbidden. * Gone With the Wind* had a struggle on its hands when it wanted to keep a line which used the word “damn.” They actually had to pay a fine for using this word.
Older films are more dialogue-intensive. Today, the vocus is all on visual impact, and less on speech. The shorter attention spans of the modern viewer has led to many car chases, but fewer verbal exchanges. Many of these films have very clever dialogue. * Double Indemnity, * for example, has a rapid fire back-and-forth exchange between characters which can be very entertaining. Scenes also tended to be longer, which younger viewers, used to rapid action can find tedious.
Older films are an acquired taste, I will admit, but I enjoy them very much. Because of all of the restrictions, writers and directors had to be much more clever than they are today, and the resulting films, I think, are better for it. Black-and-white films are beautifully lit, and in some cases the costumes are much better. (They had fashion designers in those days who would labor for weeks over one dress which might only be seen for a few moments.)
Try to watch and enjoy them as a cultural record. Compare the differences in the films of today, and try to appreciate the careful artistry. The more of them that you watch, I think, the more likely you will be to learn to like them.
Nearly all of what you say rings true Lissa. I think maybe I will print out your answer to show my step-dad next time we have the conversation.
(that sounds sarcastic. It was not meant to)
It is not restricted to B/W films though, many films from the same era, that happen to be in colour, also don’t grab my attention. If I had no choice but to watch one, I’d find myself waiting for things to start happening.
Odd, since many B&W films of the 30s are much more fast paced than current films. One of the reasons they use less “realistic” performaces is so a character could be portrayed in two or three lines of dialogue, plus a look. And since the films were shot on sets indoors, you didn’t have long establishing shots showing the scenery; the scenes came one upon the other.
There’s also plenty of action in those films, though it’s more oblique and less bloody.
Older films believed in story and character. Too many modern films believe in flashy special effects. I prefer the former, even in modern films.
I also prefer story and character in modern films. Don’t assume I like modern films because of the special effects. I love the realism, acting, humour, and other elements that I can’t quite put my finger on.
I like good films. Some of them were made in 1918; some in 1932; some in 2002.
I don’t understand how the you can dislike (or like) everything from a particular era. I like Baroque music; pop songs of the 1910s, and the Beach Boys. For goodness sake, why must you–and your stepfather–limit yourself to one era? You are both missing a lot.
CK it is hard to give names - as it is most (all but one in fact) old fims that I cannot ‘get into’.
The one exception being - The Great Escape. I loved that film.
But if I must. there is a war film (normandy landings etc…) that had John Wayne in it. I wasn’t remotely interested in that. But I loved the modern ‘similar’ film - Saving Private Ryan.
It tends to be westerns that I dislike more than other old films. (but I like some modern westerns - such as Wyatt Earp )
The Longest Day. SPR spends has more gore and is a lot flashier, a lot more exciting, but the TLD is more historically accurate, IIRC, and a far more complete feel of the entire invasion, instead of one little beach. TLD actually gives you a sense of what’s going on, as opposed to SPR, where you’d pretty much have little idea as to what’s happening off-camera if you don’t know anything about D-Day (and a lot of people don’t).
It had a lot of build up to the actual invasion, whereas SPR starts right at the invasion and then it drops off a bit before the final climax.
I personally plan to get both for my collection someday, and on June 6, watch both.
“Well, you know those 2,000 ships the allies haven’t got? They’re shelling me!” -German soldier with brown trousers on D-day.
I agree with you. I generally like good movies(and even some bad ones) from any era, and I do get rather puzzled when someone won’t watch a movie for the sole reason it’s in “Black and White”. It seems you miss a lot of good movies that way (not that I’m accusing anyone in this thread of being that shallow).
Funny, one thing my mom and I have in common is an “overlap” in movie tastes. She loves old films. Fortunately, so do I, and I always have. However, some are stale and dull, others are fantastic. You do have to get past the “differences” that Lissa points out so eloquently.
Personally, I just think you need to give the old movies some more time. And pick ones that sound like they’ll appeal to you. There are plenty of dorky and dull old movies, and if you see too many of them you’ll assume that they’re all like that. They are not.
Recently I went through a major Burt Lancaster marathon. (My mom’s always been a fan of his so we watched a lot of these movies together.) I found that I liked many of them. “Unforgiven” with Audrey Hepburn and Lancaster is a very powerful film (in color, too!). It is directed by John Huston and with an incredible performace by Lillian Gish. Man—what a great film. “Birdman of Alcatraz” is a little slow, but what a wonderful, uplifing movie. And based on a real-life person. And then there’s “The Train”. Tense WWII movie. Lancaster and Paul Scofield—wow. John Frankenheimer directed this good film. And then there’s “The Rose Tattoo”, based on a Tennessee Williams’ play. Pretty freakin’ hilarious, in an understated way. And I was most surprised by “Valdez is Coming”, a somewhat cheezy '70s western. It was pretty good, actually. And then we can get into Burt Lancaster in the '80s with “Atlantic City” and “Local Hero”. (Though I wouldn’t call those “old” movies, exactly…).
And that was just the work of one actor! I’ve enjoyed many films with Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, John Garfield, Bette Davis, and on and on. I particularly like TCM (Turner Classic Movies—cable TV station) because they focus on one actor each month and really let you see their work. This month is John Garfield Month. I didn’t know how wonderful he was. Now I am a John Garfield fan.
See? It sounds kinda cool, doesn’t it? Well, I think it is.
Oh, and regarding B&W—a great deal of artistry often goes into B&W cinemetography. I always enjoy seeing really good “film noir” B&W movies. (“Double Indemnity” was a good example.) It’s a whole artform. Another thing to admire and enjoy.
I am assuming you mean your age, not how old the films are.
When you are young, all new films are bigger and better and more wonderful - that’s why God made studio marketing executives.
In reality, most new films are the best film on earth for about a weekend. Shortly afterwards, you find them for sale for about 5 bucks in the Blockbuster bin.
I used to teach filmmaking to younger students and I still do not understand why they just simply hate any film that is in Black and White. I suppose a case could be made for even older people who hate silent films.
But to answer your question, if you really like films - even crap like Jackass the Movie, at some point your taste will change. You will start to discover plot, you will start to discover acting, you might even start to discover cinematography…at that point, you will start watching a few classics. Until that time, Hollywood loves you. You will watch excatly what the marketing executives dictate you want to see.
Perhaps it’s John Wayne you don’t like. The two movies you refer to are both from the early sixties, and you will rarely see a western that was made in that era without “the Duke” (not that there weren’t others made; they just aren’t seen often, any more).
More likely, it’s the 60’s you don’t like. I, too, find this to be a pretty barren decade, movie-wise. Although, personally, I consider John Wayne’s movies to be among the only worthwhile movies from the 60’s. I’d guess you probably are uncomfortable with the simplistic “good vs evil” morality of many of the westerns. To those of us who grew up watching them, there’s the comfort of familiarity and the appeal of “simpler times”, however unrealistic that idea may be. To those who didn’t, it’s probably annoying, in the “that’s just not realistic” sense. If that’s the case, you’d probably enjoy the earlier “film noir” movies of the 40’s and 50’s more than the “sweetness and light” movies of the 60’s. They featured more complex, realistic characters. How do you feel about, say, The Maltese Falcon?
Another thing you may not like about earlier movies (And, just for the record, movies from the 60’s don’t really count as “old”, in my book, just older. If I could walk at the time they were released, they aren’t old. ), that I don’t think anyone has addressed, is the music. A movie’s score/soundtrack has a huge impact on the viewer, even when they aren’t conscious of it. If you find the music annoying, even at a subconscious level, you won’t like the movie. The late sixties and seventies were the worst, on this count, but the early sixties movies tended to have “sappy” scores. They could definitely grate on the nerves of a die-hard “house music” or rap fan. One reason I think the music may be a factor is that The Great Escape has one of the all-time great scores, and you like that movie.
PS: If you like Wyatt Earp, try Tombstone and Eatwood’s The Unforgiven, if you haven’t seen them.
Hi, Lobsang, I remember having a somewhat similar experience with ‘older’ (meaning roughly pre-seventies) movies. Since I’m quite a culture snob myself, I am, last year I resolved checking out more classic movies. I duly visited a couple of retrospectives in the theatre.* To my (partial) surprise I happened to like it very much. I noticed that the problem for me mostly is that when I see an older (especially B/W) movie on television I have troube concentrating, while when being seated in the theater I find myself being engrossed in the more than life-size spectacle in front of me. I still find it hard to sit through an older movie on television (just tried completing Mr. Smith goes to Washington without fast-forwarding).
So, are your experiences mainly with television or in movie theatres?
(*) I should add that these were Polanski and Truffaut, both directors who know how to film an accessible story. Still when viewing Cul de Sac I remember noticing at one point a slight flagging of interest, not so much though that I could not continue. If I’d seen it on video I might have skipped it, being in a comfy chair in the theatre kept me in place.
I agree further with Lissa’s remarks, to which I would like to add the following.
I get the impression that older movies were cut differently than modern ones. Nowadays most movies are rather fast-paced, even romantic comedies: quick changes of scenery and often things like huge explosions or large vehicles rapidly moving around. Older movies have had rapid-fire dialogue, but that toggles different mental ‘muscles’. When you look at an older movie the view is more leisurely, which to a younger viewer may translate as ‘boring’.** Once you adapt your expectations accordingly, such movies may actually prove more gratifying.
You can see this when viewing modern non-Hollywood (artsy) movies, which mostly still show the aforementioned characteristics. Hence it is not so much age as style that sets them apart.
** I noticed this especially when seeing La Règle du jeu (Rules of the Game): lots of talking and moving around, but not much happening otherwise, in particular in the sense of camera-movement. About half of the audience left before the end.
I think the main reason I enjoy older films so much is the dialogue. I agree with Lissa’s statement of these films usually being more dialogue intensive. I’d add to it that, not only do they tend to have more dialogue, the dialogue seems to be a lot wittier for the most part as well.
I can think of a few modern films with a witty female lead, but I can think of a lot more older films with one. I recently watched Charade, and though I doubt the film was supposed to be anything but fun, even being silly the characters seemed more intelligent with their humor. I especially like Lauren Bacall for this reason, she zings 'em out as fast as she gets 'em.
I thought the remake The Fugitive with Harrison Ford was okay, but I don’t think it comes close to being as good as Dark Passage. The special effects and color to me, don’t make up for the lack of character development and dialogue. I’d compare it to the original, but haven’t seen it yet. They seemed comparable in reviews on the IMDb, and deal with the same subject matter. There’s some hokey special effects in Dark Passage I suppose, but there’s also the inventive idea of not showing the lead for quite a bit into the show.
Some of the things touted in modern films like Memento (amazing plot twist) and Quentin Tarantino films (dialogue), are common in older films, too. Hitchcock comes to mind first. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy modern films, I just think I went the long way around in explaining what Eve said. Watching only one era of films, you’re bound to miss out on some good stuff.