Steven Spielberg is disappointed with the current state of moviemaking

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Steven Spielberg, arguably the greatest American filmmaker of his time, is something of a cinematic oracle at this point. It's always interesting to hear his insights and anecdotes from a lifetime of making movies. But his current diagnosis of the state of Hollywood, shared in an interview with The Sunday Times, is not cause for rejoicing.

According to Spielberg:

"There's not a lot of films I'd watch that are made over the past twenty years, because I'm much more of a romantic. I like to go way back to the source. I look at a lot of silent movies for inspiration because they're all told visually and they're all told with hyperextended performance and with wonderful use of a frame. It's a way of getting my engine started."

Spielberg also says he has a pre-production ritual of watching four classic movies to get that engine revving. Everyone knows Spielberg is a nostalgic sentimentalist, so it's no surprise those movies are Seven Samurai, The Searchers, Lawrence of Arabia, and It's a Wonderful Life. Kind of his version of playing Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" before a fight. One wonders if the cinematic landscape is really that tawdry, or if Spielberg's standards are too high. Could it be there are some decent flicks from the last couple decades he might have missed?

But Spielberg puts his finger on the real problem when it comes to cranking out inferior work — the mercenary aspect of film franchises, especially the product tie-ins. He said:

"I think producers are more interested in backing concepts than [in backing] directors and writers. I don't think that's the right way of making a decision about whether you're going to back a film or not, but a lot of these hedge funds — these independent groups that are coming up with the money — are looking at the big idea more than who the director or writer is. And of course, they all want the guarantee of a big actor."

It's hard to deny that there's a lot of formulaic crap being greenlit, yet Spielberg still empathizes with his lesser colleagues, saying:

"If something isn't very good, I'll stay to the end in case it gets better. I keep looking for that ray of hope when I'm disappointed by a picture or a show. It's just plain rude to get up and walk out of something that someone has labored over."