While Hollywood studios are raking in the bucks but not elevating the quality of cinema with summer sequels and superhero fare including this weekend’s July 4 openers Magic Mike XXL and Terminator: Genisys, Dustin Hoffman is getting notice for a comment that we’re sure is common among his peers who came up before studios were blinded by global box office returns. That is, that movies today stink and that if you want quality, you find it on television. The business has changed dramatically from when Hoffman was a top star. Then, audiences turned out to see great actors like Hoffman in such films as All The President’s Men, The Graduate, Tootsie, Marathon Man, Midnight Cowboy, Lenny, Papillon and Kramer Vs. Kramer. Asked by the UK paper The Independent about the movie landscape today, he said: “I think right now television is the best that it’s ever been and I think that it’s the worst that film has ever been — in the 50 years that I’ve been doing it, it’s the worst,” the two-time Oscar winner said.
To many, Hoffman’s stating the obvious. He has been in his share of unabashedly commercial films like Dick Tracy and Meet The Fockers, but when a guy with that résumé and those Oscars says that, it registers. The reporter didn’t ask him why movies suck or to trace the breakdown in quality from the way they were made in his heyday, and so we have to wonder if it has to do with the preoccupation with dating movies far in advance and then hustling to deliver the picture — which devalues quality — or a move away from reliable stars to instead focus on concepts or the fact that so many studio movies seem to mostly be about regurgitating old hits and spending fortunes blowing sh*t up. About The Graduate, his breakout 1967 hit directed by Mike Nichols, Hoffman recalled: “It’s hard to believe you can do good work for the little amount of money these days. We did The Graduate, and that film still sustains. It had a wonderful script that they spent three years on and an exceptional director with an exceptional cast and crew, but it was a small movie. Four walls and actors, that is all, and yet it was 100 days of shooting.”