“Drive” vs. the Predictable Cinema Conundrum
Recently, Hollywood has been struggling to produce films of much note at all. Sure there are a few good films out there, but most seem to be rather predictable stories, which make for predictable films working to established structures that lack originality. These films can be somewhat satisfying and even enjoyable but they are also often forgettable… and innovative? Rarely. The seemingly relentless number of adaptations and re-makes confirms this.
I blame the economy and associated fears. Few Producers and Studios seem interested in risk-taking during this time of economic instability. Like everyone else these days Hollywood is watching its pennies and going for safe bets, both in production and in what it chooses to honour.
These days, Hollywood execs are more often than not choosing to invest in what they believe are sure-fire concepts for films rather than new, unique, and innovative ideas. The recent Oscar/Academy Award nominations are evidence of this attitude of “playing it safe and predictable”.
Hollywood seems to be content to wrap itself in comfort and predictability. This rarely makes for exciting cinema. More often than not it seems special effects and pre-established concepts win out over great original storytelling; this is unfortunate.
Great, exciting, memorable cinema comes from unexpected performances, nuanced scripts, surprising camera work, and creative risks.
In 2011, a film called Drive was released. This film had all of the above and more. It broke conventions while firmly planting itself within the unexpected. From the first opening scene right through the final moments the film gets its hooks in you. It takes hold of you and lures you into the dark and hypnotic world of a mysterious driver in L.A.
Drive is effortlessly beautiful and mesmerizing even in its brutally violent moments. It is subtle, restrained. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn creates exquisite moments that hang in the air, showing an innate understanding of human emotion and character.
Each and every shot is extremely well thought out to evoke specific emotions about each character. Meanwhile the score moves us through each moment giving us space to breathe and feel the interactions between characters, the building sense of dread and the horror through the eyes of a man as his life unravels before our eyes. The simplicity of the script is magical. It allows room to let the characters live and the emotional arc do its magic.
But what makes Drive so incredibly wonderful is that it flawlessly embodies the structures of a western film, only supplanted on modern circumstances. Our character is ever the cowboy, coming in to save the day only to have his life turned upside down.
As someone who has studied film (from a scripting/storytelling, theoretical, and production perspective) it baffles me that this film has been so underrated by the Academy and cinema awards in general. I wonder if perhaps the predictability of cinema has numbed the general movie going public and indeed those who vote for cinematic awards to only accept certain types of stories and certain predicated methods of storytelling?
The future of cinema may indeed be quite bleak if Hollywood continues to shun originality and honour cookie-cutter productions. Do yourself a favour and watch Drive. Or if it’s not your thing, watch an indie film, a low-budget film, not an adaptation or a re-make.
Go to a film festival.
Broaden your horizons.
Don’t let Hollywood dumb down storytelling for good.
Drive should have been nominated for many Oscars, but so should many other brilliantly original, well thought out, and innovative films.
Only you, the audience, can help Hollywood execs learn that we want more originality. The choice is up to you, dear cinema-goer.