The state of cinema

By By John Fitzgerald

By John Fitzgerald

“The Dark Knight” is one of, if not the best movie of all time. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest let me try and demonstrate the source for such a bold statement.

After asking myself what the current state of cinema is these days I quickly found the question to be more complicated than I had anticipated. Once the question was posed, a flood of many different criteria for answering began popping into my head. There was, “well, it just depends on who you ask.” Or, “quality cinema goes through stages of ups and downs.” Also, “it depends on how much money is made.” Or “some really good movies just came out in the last month, so things are great!”

With all these possibilities, what truly determines the state of cinema? I cautiously suggest that a little of all of these things combined make up the answer. My feeling is that the current state of cinema is unbelievably incredible. There have been not just one, but two so-called “masterpieces”-a seldom-used description to recount the relatively few “near-perfect films”-released within the last month. Anytime one can justifiably discuss whether a film is a masterpiece or not, the cinema is doing great!

On June 27, “WALL-E” was released and people (for reasons unknown to me) seemed to think that what they’d seen was by far the best movie ever made-or at least that’s how they rated it when they got home to their computers. It’s kind of like when a friend gets home from a concert and tells you, “It was the best show I’ve ever been to!”

While I take most of these statements with a grain of salt, it’s hard not to dig deeper when so many people are in agreement.

Not too soon after “WALL-E” had been given the title of “masterpiece” (rated as high as No. 3 on the chart), and before I had a chance to get digging, “The Dark Knight” comes out and BAM! It is rated one of the best movies ever. As I type this, 69,135 people have voted that “The Dark Knight” is the best movie of all time. It’s sitting comfortably in the No. 1 spot, 47 ahead of “Chinatown,” 33 ahead of “Se7en,” 19 ahead of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” and, most emphatically, one very big spot ahead of “The Godfather.” Sorry Coppola fans.

So are the 69,135 people who voted for the latest installment of Batman as the No. 1 movie of all time (a mere four days after its release) just like the friends who think every Red Hot Chili Peppers concert is the best they’ve ever seen? I would say no-but in the end it does boil down to personal preference. That means that all of the aforementioned films are arguably the greatest movies ever made-as is “The Dark Knight.”

“The Dark Knight,” which is truly a popular anomaly by personal preference standards, is one of the best we have right now, and the only reason I can find to disagree with this is that it has not yet stood the test of time.

Believe me when I say that with all the Batman hype, my inclination was to avoid the bandwagon at all costs. In my mind, there was no way this movie could be as good as its No. 1 spot suggests. But why not? Do the passing of years make a movie any better? Time, both in terms of how recently a movie came out and how many years since it was made, seem to affect how people both judge and remember a film. Is “Casablanca” any better a film because it’s 66 years old?

I’m hard-pressed to find a reason why “The Dark Knight” is not just as good as, if not better than, any other movie out there. There are movies that are milestones, and people often refer to a time period by stating that a movie is pre- or post-“The Godfather,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Raging Bull,” “Chinatown,” etc.

Movies can now be discussed in terms of pre- or post-“The Dark Knight.” It’s that good, and it has changed the rules that much. I have a mechanism inside me that often blocks out this crazy talk, but I can admit it now. And that makes this a fabulously exciting time for cinema. The bar has effectively been raised.

Obviously there are many who will read this who will feel genuine disgust when they’re told that “The Dark Knight” is better than their particular favorite movie.

When I first read how many people liked the new Batman I got a little defensive. “Better than ‘The Shawshank Redemption’? No freakin’ way,” I thought to myself.

Maybe neither is truly better than the other. Does there need to be a “best movie of all time”? I don’t know. However-and I am emphatic when stating this-if someone tries to convince me that “The Dark Knight” is indeed the masterpiece of masterpieces, they won’t have to argue very hard.

And because of that, I know cinema is doing just fine.

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