Opinion: ‘If films reflect society, we are in trouble.’

Americans still love movies — though they prefer them at home in pajamas these days.

That change is minor, though, when compared with the current wave of popular movies. If films reflect society, we are in trouble.

Every nation has a Golden Age in art, books, music and movies. For movies, ours was during the decades before 1960, with such classics as “Casablanca,” “Rear Window,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Rebecca” (Alfred Hitchcock’s triumph), “Citizen Kane,” “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “Some Like It Hot” and “The Maltese Falcon.”

Compare these to today’s list of most popular movies: “Love and Monsters,” “F9,” “Halloween Kills,” “A Quiet Place II,” “Voyagers,” “The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.” What does it say of our society? There was always a demand for horror films for young fans but also good drama and comedy for adults. Where are today’s?

The answer is that the prediction came true: Television, via Netflix, took over. In addition to viewing one film, series that hold the viewer’s interest for weeks also became popular (“The Crown”). Screenwriters had to develop new techniques for the smaller screen which meant goodbye to repeats of westerns and movies with spectacular landscapes that demanded large screens to do them justice (think “Lawrence of Arabia”). As a cinephile (I had to get that word in) I dreamed of being a movie critic and watching endless hours of movies. I am grateful to Ted Turner for creating the classic movie channel that brings us films we never saw or missed or could joyfully see again, such as “Casablanca,” which made Humphrey Bogart an icon, or a critics’ favorite such as “Brief Encounter” written by Noel Coward (showing his romantic side) and directed by David Lean. Watching TCM restores your faith in quality over quantity.

Is romance dead? Has our taste changed? Is it fear that society will find something, real or imagined, that somehow offends somebody somewhere? Could these classic movies have been made in today’s environment?

The last five years have increasingly narrowed the telescope focused on deeds and speech so that if you keep searching closely enough you are certain to find an inkling of an offense somewhere. In the movie industry’s early days there was the Motion Picture Production Code (also known as the Hays Office) tasked with reviewing films with sexy scenes. Today, anything goes when it comes to sex but there are powerful guardians including the media scrutinizing issues in movies covering race or gender. Films used to be made for entertainment. Today, they are also for morality. It is called progress.

Greenwich resident Carla Wallach is an author of five books and writer of numerous articles in national publications. Her latest book, “In The Company of Originals,” is available at Amazon.