Film’s New, New Reality

In “Neo-Neo Realism“, from a recent New York Times Magazine, film critic A.O. Scott resists the easy answer of escapism, for what audiences want in films:

what if, at least some of the time, we feel an urge to escape from escapism? For most of the past decade, magical thinking has been elevated from a diversion to an ideological principle. The benign faith that dreams will come true can be hard to distinguish from the more sinister seduction of believing in lies. To counter the tyranny of fantasy entrenched on Wall Street and in Washington as well as in Hollywood, it seems possible that engagement with the world as it is might reassert itself as an aesthetic strategy. Perhaps it would be worth considering that what we need from movies, in the face of a dismaying and confusing real world, is realism.

He notes that the ancestor of this new new wave of realism is The Bicycle Thief, so anti-escapism isn’t really new. But he offers a number of films in example–Wendy and Lucy, Sugar, Chop Shop, and more–that honor the audience by offering up real characters and not dumbing things down. Meanwhile, they manage the surprising, true-to-life feat of ending on notes of quiet hope, even in the face of tragedy and difficulty.

Scott’s analysis is intelligent and stirring. Suddenly, and as if I needed it, I’ve got a lot more movies I’d like to see. And a lot more little ones that I’m going to have to hunt for in theaters, as these little quiet movies don’t get a lot of screens.

I’m just wondering what comes after the new-new realism? The Grateful Dead song, “New Minglewood Blues”, became “New New Minglewood Blues” then “All New Minglewood Blues”. Will we see an all new realism sometime in the future?

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