Admit it, film fans: As much great work in film and television that has been coming down the pike in the last three-five years, something just feels off about the greater whole of the moviemaking industry. Perhaps it’s the abundance of superhero flicks which, to be fair, has been a nonstop fact of pop culture life for the last decade or so (so get over it, right?); or maybe it’s some of the studio mandated “prestige pictures” which feels a bit like reverting back to five years old and being forced to eat your broccoli or spinach because it’s “good for you.” Maybe it’s not the broccoli at all, but rather the studio stalwarts serving it to us all the while sermonizing on why exactly we need to eat it. Whatever. But one might be forgiven for feeling that the days of catching true cinematic gems like The Godfather, Boyz n the Hood, Born on the Fourth of July, Easy Rider, She’s Gotta Have It and The Conversation are a long gone thing of the past. Of course, it’s one thing for this pop culture pundit to venture out from beneath his proverbial rock and utter such a pronouncement, but it’s another matter entirely when a respected thespian gives public voice to such private concerns. Such is the case with actor Stephen Dorff (Backbeat, The Power of One, Somewhere, S.F.W.), who in delightful Movieline-style, unloaded on the current day Hollyweird scene according to our always P.C. minded associates over at The Hollywood Reporter.
In an interview with the U.K. periodical Independent, Dorff took an overabundance of superhero flicks to task, saying that the box-office glut of spandex and CGI are what is partially to blame with the current state of cinema: “I still hunt out the good shit because I don’t want to be in Black Widow,” says Dorff, himself a veteran of a Marvel comic book property, New Line’s 1998 effort Blade. “It looks like garbage to me. It looks like a bad video game. I’m embarrassed for those people. I’m embarrassed for Scarlett! I’m sure she got paid five, seven million bucks, but I’m embarrassed for her. I don’t want to be in those movies. I really don’t. I’ll find that kid director that’s gonna be the next Kubrick and I’ll act for him instead.”
Dorff’s bafflement about his peers penchant for doing superhero movies resounds for this onetime subscriber to the lamented Premiere Magazine: Robert Downey, Jr. was, at one point, one of the bright lights in acting of his generation, giving roundhouse right uppercut performances in fare like Less Than Zero, Chaplin, Wonder Boys, Good Night and Good Luck, Zodiac and Two Girls and a Guy. Looking at that roster of great performances, it’s suddenly easy to understand Dorff’s frustration with Downey’s efforts in Avengers: Infinity War or Doolittle, or Don Cheadle’s work in Iron Man II. Still – counterargument here – tons of people around the globe are flocking to see those so-called paycheck movies, so mayhap they know something Stephen Dorff and I do not?
Stephen Dorff concluded his drop-the-mic interview with something I think almost all of us can agree on: The Oscars this year were a hot dumpster fire, three simmering hours of enforced “feel good” that made everyone feel anything but. Foregoing an emcee to anchor the proceedings together (Ricky Gervais would have been a welcome host, as would someone along the lines of Chris Rock or Steve Martin), the ceremony fell apart faster than my ninth grade romance with a girl from a different home room. “This year’s Oscars were the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen,” said the actor who traded barbs with Emilio Estevez in perhaps the second most embarrassing thing anyone has ever seen, the 1993 trash fiesta known as Judgment Night. “My business is becoming a big game show. You have actors that don’t have a clue what they’re doing. You have filmmakers that don’t have a clue what they’re doing. We’re all in these little boxes on these streamers. TV, film – it’s all one big clusterfuck of content now.”
Some salient points from Stephen Dorff, an actor I’ve enjoyed watching ever since he hit the big screen in the horror film The Gate. And while I don’t agree with him on every little point he makes in his interview, I think it’s safe to say that his assessment of the film business is closer to right than not. Here’s hoping that the move industry can do a course correction at this late date and bring us material that’s a little less self-conscious and that feels less like an After-School Special and more like a new and exciting chapter in the history of film.