MOVIES SUCK….This just in: movies suck. From the LA Times today:

“It’s really easy for all of us to blame the condition of the theaters, gas prices, alternative media, the population changes and everything else I’ve heard myself say,” said Sony Pictures Vice Chairman Amy Pascal, whose summer releases “Bewitched” and “Stealth” flopped. “I think it has to do with the movies themselves.”

After months of hand-wringing and doomsday forecasts about the permanent erosion of moviegoing, the lunchtime chatter at Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills and other industry haunts has turned decidedly inward. Now, four straight weekends of crowded theaters have forced moguls and creative executives to admit in public what they have spent months avoiding: They were clueless about what audiences wanted.

The weird thing is that I suspect the movie industry is once again overreacting to short term news. It’s not that movies don’t suck. They pretty clearly do. But DVDs and plasma screens and videogames really have had an effect. Frankly, looking at the chart on the right, it doesn’t look to me like the movie biz is doing half bad, all things considered.

On the other hand, I don’t think they should be patting themselves on the back too quickly either. I mean, if they think Transporter 2, Flightplan, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, and The Constant Gardener are examples of a resurgence of great movies, they’re setting the bar mighty low. A year from now no one is going to look back and think of those as memorable films.

But here’s the mystery: why are movies so crappy? I know the usual excuses: movie executives are unwilling to take chances; movies are all aimed at kids, who just want lots of action and special effects; and merchandising and marketing are more important than the movies themselves.

Fine. But you know what? You can have a movie with lots of car chases, raunchy language, and special effects and still have a smart story. It’s not as if a tightly written production would actively drive kids away, after all. So what keeps Hollywood from producing decent scripts? Hell, they can produce cartoons with smart enough writing to attract adults while still appealing to children, so surely they could do the same thing with live action movies? What’s up?