Because I am a cranky old crankypants, I wrote a screed about how movies have gotten, on average, too long. Because I am a lazy young lazypants, I have not yet done the research to confirm this fact. If someone wants to apply for a $300,000 grant in my name and do the lobbying necessary to make sure I receive it, I'll make a spreadsheet and do some math. For now, we're going to have to go with my gut reaction that The Hobbit, a 300 page children's novel, does not need to be a nine hour, three part film.
You couldn’t pay me to see Lincoln. It’s not the subject matter—I’m an avowed abolitionist. It’s not the casting—I like Daniel Day-Lewis nearly as much as I dislike slavery. It’s not that I can’t handle period pieces—in fact, I find that they offer the best chance one has of seeing a heaving bosom. It’s the running time, plain and simple. I believe firmly, as a matter of public policy, that a movie studio should require a special dispensation from the president to make a film longer than two hours. And Lincoln, no matter how cozy Spielberg may be with his title character’s ghost, does not deserve a presidential thumbs up.
I’m not the first to observe that this year’s Oscar crop is especially long, but it’s possible that I’m the most irritated by it. The Hobbit is 2:46 minutes. Les Mis is 2:30. Zero Dark Thirty is 2:40. When did the average length of a motion picture jump from 90 minutes to 150? When did Hollywood decide that I have an attention span?
Wait, no, you're not a sucker. You're a good guy.
As my buddy Nate pointed out—on Twitter!—overblown Oscar bait movies have been around forever. Cleopatra and Gone With The Wind, say, clock in at 192 and 238 minutes. Most classic musicals run around 2:30, as do a lot of the most famous World War II movies. And the other day I read that the average runtime in India is about 150 minutes. (Not sure if that's bumped up by Bollywood's love of musicals.)
The real loss, Nate points out, isn't that directors of prestige pictures aren't editing themselves, but that the movie studios are essentially making nothing but Lincoln or The Avengers. The B picture is long dead, and Hollywood is the worse for it. This is why, when a 93 minute barnstormer like Taken is released, everybody freaks out. There should be ten Takens made a year, and we should only be subjected to one Lincoln at a time.