The Good, The Bad, and the Passable: When Hollywood Does Just Enough

By  · Published on December 15th, 2016

A new video examines the epidemic of mediocrity infecting the film industry.

You don’t need me to tell you there are a lot of shit movies out in the world. For every Moonlight there’s a Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and sometimes, in fact, it feels like there’s more of the latter than the former. But what’s worse than a plain old bad movie are those that fall in the middle of the spectrum, movies that aren’t good enough to be considered good or bad enough to be considered bad, but instead lie somewhere in a kind of purgatory between the two. Mediocre, you could call them, but that doesn’t imply enough culpability to the filmmakers; instead the world “passable” is more appropriate.

So what is a passable movie? According to Evan Puschak, a.k.a. The Nerdwriter, who makes them his subject for the week, a passable movie is one that doesn’t fall apart like a bad movie, nor does it completely hold together like a good one; instead it strikes a precarious balance, always teetering on the verge of collapse while simultaneously flirting with cohesion. These kinds of films have too little or too fluctuating tones, overinvolved plotlines, traits that don’t mesh with character, abandoned emotional arcs, and they would seem to apply the “form follows function” architectural model to themselves, shaping their narratives to the rote intension of making money, satisfying lowest common cultural denominators, and nothing more. “Formulaic” is another word that could possibly be applied to such films, as that’s all they’re doing: checking off elements on a prescribed list, going no further than is required of them.

In recent years, Puschak feel such movies have been on the rise in Hollywood to the point they’re almost the status quo, and furthermore, as this epidemic increases, mediocre movies are wrecking the curve with their sheer abundance, creating as a result new criteria for “good” that pushes them firmly into the category. Puschak examines the why and how of passable movies in his latest video, and as we’ve come to expect from his work, it’s another eye-opening glance behind the curtain at an industry of illusion that is itself at times illusory.

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Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist