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Film: Small Ball

by Ross Douthat

A review of In a World . . .

I complain fairly often in this space about the slow decline of middlebrow entertainment — the way superheroes and franchises have crowded out original storytelling, the way the economics of the blockbuster has made it hard to get even a medium-budget movie off the ground, the way it’s difficult to imagine today’s Hollywood greenlighting many of the classics of my childhood and teenage years. (“Wait, you’re saying he just learns karate from some old guy and then goes on to win a tournament? That’ll never justify our marketing budget! Why can’t we make him a karate superhero instead?”)

These are familiar complaints to anyone who follows the film-industry conversation, and so it’s always good to have a glass-half-full response; and recently the optimist’s case was supplied by my comrade in right-of-center movie criticism, the Washington Free Beacon’s Sonny Bunch. He argued that, thanks to technological advances that make it easier than ever to shoot and edit, and distribution channels such as Netflix and Amazon that make it easier to catch up with obscure titles in your living room, the decline of the $40 million movie may actually end up ushering in “a golden age of small-budget cinema,” thick with interesting small movies made “at $5 million a crack.”

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