What changed about movies in the last 10 years? The better question is, what didnt?

Everything's different now. Digital projection looks an awful lot like film. 3-D is back. Ten years after The Blair Witch.


Everything’s different now. Digital projection looks an awful lot like film. 3-D is back. Ten years after The Blair Witch Project, viral marketing produced another dark-horse blockbuster in Paranormal Activity.

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Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell made real movies, while Judd Apatow turned Steve Carell, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd into the new Carrey, Sandler and Ferrell.

TIFF expanded into a full-on dynasty, spawning a number of sub-programs – Canada’s Top Ten, Reel Talk, Film Circuit – and breaking ground for its global fortress at King and John.

Canadian cinema is chugging along just fine, by the way. Denis Villeneuve bookended the decade with Maelstrom and Polytechnique Philippe Falardeau with La Moitie Gauche Du Frigo and C’est Pas Moi, Je Le Jure! David Cronenberg gave us the excellent Spider and A History Of Violence.

Sarah Polley scored an Oscar nomination for her first feature, Away From Her. Deepa Mehta saw Water go up for the foreign-language prize – an award won three years earlier by Denys Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions. And Chris Landreth brought home the animated-short-subject honours in 2005 with his moving psychodrama, Ryan.

Best cult movie? The Room. Worst cult movie? The Passion Of The Christ. (You know it’s true.)

Major talents like Michael Mann, Peter Jackson and Robert Zemeckis became the victims of their own obsessions – lightweight digital video, CG eye candy and that ridiculous “performance capture” technology, respectively.

David Lynch, after recapturing his auteur’s crown by retooling a failed TV pilot into 2001’s Mulholland Drive, decided he didn’t need to script his movies any more. (Thus, the meandering, three-hour drone of Inland Empire.) And Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez wasted three hours of everyone’s time with Grindhouse, even though they’d already made the definitive salute to the sleazy 70s in the 90s: From Dusk Till Dawn.

We learned that anything can be remade. Or sequelized. Or remade, then sequelized.

And if it’s a superhero property, you’re golden – unless you’re Superman Returns. Batman, though, is huge, even if he’s a little on the shouty side.

Does it have hobbits? Hobbits are massive. Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy redefined the way studios regard fantasy. It’s no longer necessary to treat cherished literary epics as problematic niche products now they’re snapped up for event-movie tent poles, regardless of whether they have the mythological heft or ravenous fan base to make good on the investment.

Sure, the Harry Potter series was a no-brainer – as was Twilight, making it even stranger that every studio passed on Stephenie Meyer’s books – and the Narnia movies are doing well. But there won’t be any new chapters for Eragon, The Golden Compass or The Dark Is Rising. Not that I’m complaining.

Massive success at the beginning of the decade meant nothing at the end of it. New Line Cinema, which backed Jackson’s epic quest to film LOTR as a three-part, nine-hour-plus epic and rode that puppy to fortune and glory, was assimilated by parent company Warner Bros. last year. It only exists as a logo now.

On the other hand, Pixar – which kicked off the decade with Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo – not only survived its acquisition by Disney but actually thrived, generating back-to-back masterpieces in Ratatouille, WALL*E and Up. (Brad Bird’s 2004 effort The Incredibles may endure as Pixar’s best feature ever – a thrilling mashup of James Bond and the Fantastic Four, with a 60s design aesthetic that makes Mad Men look chintzy.)

The explosion of boutique studios early in the decade led to sudden consolidation later on. Paramount absorbed Paramount Vantage, Disney pared Miramax down to a shadow of its former self, DreamWorks downsized, Tartan folded, and so on. And when Warner shuttered New Line, it also terminated Warner Independent Pictures – and wound up with egg on its face when Danny Boyle’s orphaned Slumdog Millionaire found a new home at Fox Searchlight.

With digital video growing ever cheaper and more accessible, documentaries grew ever more intimate (Capturing The Friedmans, Tarnation, October Country, 65_RedRoses). And more festivals equipped themselves with digital projectors to show them, which led to more features being available digitally, which led to the construction of lush, digitally capable megaplexes like the AMC Yonge & Dundas… which led, sadly, to the slow death of the Carlton Cinemas.

But if world cinema finds itself losing ground on the big screen, there’s always DVD… and Blu-ray and HD on demand and media streaming and any number of other looming technologies that give us the chance to watch decent presentations of the global bounty at home.

I have no idea how high-def video on demand will change the future of proper moviegoing, but honestly? The more ways to discover tiny little gems like The Host or Let The Right One In or Tulpan or Summer Hours, the better.

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