Bill Maher: Why are Hollywood's prestige movies such downers now?

Eh. There’s a worthy point about Hollywood slacktivism and hypocrisy tucked away at the end of this viral rant, but it’s weird to criticize the film industry for not providing enough escapism in an era that’s overflowing with superhero mega-blockbusters.

And there’s nothing new about Hollywood favoring downer dramas when handing out awards, right? People have complained for years about comedies getting short shrift at the Oscars. The images from classic films that flash by while Maher is reminiscing about the good ol’ days include some of the most depressing pictures ever made, like “Schindler’s List” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”

In fairness, though, he’s not complaining about films being dark so much as dark and dull and didactic. He may have a point. I’m not going to spend my Sunday poring through the Best Picture nominees over the last 30 years to arrive at an informed judgment but I share his sense that even prestige pictures used to be more entertaining than they are now. Then again, that’s what geezers always think — it was better in my day. Glancing at the nominees at last year’s Oscars, I’d call every last one entertaining to greater or lesser degrees: “Parasite,” “1917,” “Ford v. Ferrari,” “The Irishman,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Joker,” “Little Women,” “Marriage Story,” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Not all are dark, and the dark ones aren’t didactic with the exception of “Parasite” — which wasn’t a Hollywood movie and was plenty engrossing, for all its darkness.

Ultimately, I think, his rant resonates because *this year’s* nominees are so grim and drab and this was the one year when we all could have used a little uplift. Ah well. If the post-pandemic zeitgeist is as exuberant as everyone expects, Hollywood will make sure that supply meets demand. This might be the last year of downer nominees for awhile.