But films no longer shape and inform our culture. You look back at the impact of, for example, the films of 1994, 'Shawshank Redemption', 'Forrest Gump' and 'Pulp Fiction', they infiltrated our hearts and minds on a mass scale in a way that hardly seems possible now.
It's partly to do with technology and attention spans. People are more interested in how Zuckerberg tweaks the timeline than how Fincher directs a film, and people are more inclined to sit through a series of YouTube virals that they not only watch, but feel they're participating in. YouTube videos are really about community, a shared experience, the way cinema used to be.
I was having a Skype conversation yesterday with a friend, about how computer games are now so much more exciting than films. And we feel jealous -- because neither of us are gamers. The release of a new 'Call of Duty' is a cultural event, but a new movie is just a media event, lots of noise but then pretty soon we forget that 'Lincoln' was even made.
The biggest problem is the films themselves. The studio flicks do their best to live up to the stereotype; brainless nonsense chopped up and churned out to the masses. That's why marketing is so expensive. The only way to get us into the cinema is to batter our brains senseless with images and hype, convincing us that "hey, maybe 'Contraband' will be an awesome movie!"
But to see a studio movie, with big stars, mostly leads to disappointment. There was an article today in the New York Times, about how China is completely turning away from American films. The reason is obvious. Here's a quote from the article:
And then there's independent cinema. Even at the level of no to near-no money, it's hard to find the gems, the market filled with films about twentysomething white hipsters having mild revelations while drinking coffee.
The most creative writers and directors of our time are probably using their skills to create commercials for drinks and foods and cars, because that's where the money is in this industry. It's hard to get work in movies. You start out resisting, because you have artistic integrity, but pretty soon you realise, you have to make a living.
And even when you find a great movie, the chances of getting that film to the masses is minuscule. The greatest movies I've seen in recent years tend to be independent and foreign films that just don't have the ingredients which equate to distribution and attention.
Online distribution can potentially change this. But like everything that is great, big business normally finds a way to take it over. Netflix are on our side at the moment, with treats like 'House of Cards' and the return of 'Arrested Development'. But is this really a sway towards good content, or is it only temporary?
I feel the ground is ripe for a new age of revolutionary filmmakers. The modern equivalent of the Spielberg/Lucas/Coppola era, the children of Tarantino/Rodriguez/Fincher. But these filmmakers are in a different playing field. They can't ignore the internet, they can't avoid the fractured nature of modern viewing styles. And the next generation of important filmmakers are going to include women. There are so many unexplored stories that cross the boundaries of gender, sexuality and beliefs.
We live in a unique time. Technological advances so crazy that if we told alien visitors, they wouldn't believe us. And still we're torn apart by religion, greed, fundamentalism and those damn trendy hipsters.
All of this conflict, unrest, confusion, and hope; it means the world is still, as ever, full of stories. It's too easy to get distracted by the toys, to be swayed by market forces.
Our job is to be artists. To write what we can and do it in unique and fascinating ways. It's the only hope we have if we want the cinema to be relevant in this era.