My Favourite Film of 1933.

Film Something which is persistently annoying about film criticism, especially the sort of film criticism perpetrated in Amazon reviews or comment threads on blogs, although plenty of professional reviewers are guilty, is of lambasting genre pieces for not having a strong story or deep characterisation. In recent years it's the stick smashed around the heads of comic book films but you'll see it mentioned in relation to musicals, westerns, comedies, dance films and notably action films essentially anything which wasn't premiered during Sundance or Cannes.

Typical examples are the Ultraviolet and Resident Evil series, both of which I hold in high esteem for their action set pieces, strong female leads and general campness.  Both franchises are regularly reviewed badly, both are criticised for the genre credentials and in general treated as though they don't know exactly the kind of fare they're trying to be.  What story they have is a scaffold for gunplay and visual pleasures and although I seem to be able to see this, others find the whole business quite tedious.

But this wasn't always the case.  Back in the day, film musicals, especially those choreographed by Busby Berkeley had a gossamer story acting as little more than a framing device.  In Footlight Parade (1933), James Cagney is tasked with presenting three "previews" or musical numbers designed to preface a film release on the same night and in the final hour of the film we're presented with all spectacular three.  Even taking into account the vertical studio releasing process that was wildly popular, taking $819,080 at the box office.

Why this change?  Have audiences become more sophisticated?  Have expectations increased?  Yes to both.  But I also think that it's incumbent on filmmakers to enunciate what their film is really about and also, if the story is purposefully simplistic to justify such.  Melissa McCarthy vehicle Tammy is almost art house in the way it chooses not to give its lead character any goals in particular and have a road movie structure without a clear destination, but also doesn't manage to be especially funny when it has to be.  Which isn't to say it didn't turn a profit.

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