Now, as for American movies, I just can't deal...at all.
Somewhere along the line, and I can't really gauge where, American movies became all about explosions, violence, sex and...that's pretty much it. Story-lines ceased being important; explosions, special effects, and a super-hot actress to get the whole thing moving in the right direction became imperative. And thus I made a decision, sometime during the mid-90's, to not bother seeing any more big budget Hollywood flicks. The decision was a arrived at after seeing "Terminator 3" (or something like it). I felt cheated, ripped-off, and patronized at that time, and the feeling has stayed with me ever since. Snobbish? Absolutely...and unapologetically so. And so I made the decision that there were only two types of movies I would see going forward: foreign and independent.
Of course this is hit and miss, this way of doing things. I've seen a few foreign movies that were entirely too arty and drawn-out to sit through. ("Far Away, So Close!" by Wim Wenders comes to mind.) But the majority of them were great: "Kontroll", "Run Lola Run", "Broken Embraces", to name a few, were well worth the price of admission, and were edifying and thought-provoking from the moment that I left the theatre. I can't remember the last American movie that I saw that was even remotely thought provoking; perhaps "The Godfather" or "Casino", but then, those were rarities. Independent movies work differently. Devoid of significant budget, they have no choice but to rely on dialogue, complexity, and intelligence. Once upon a time Quentin Tarantino fell into this category, but then he made it big with "Pulp Fiction"; now, puffed up full of a big budget and an even bigger commercial expectation, he's awful. In the inevitable conflict that is art versus commerce, as with modern music, commerce won and continues to win yet again. But not with the independents, and certainly not with the foreign movies.
Paul Fussell once stated that he abandoned H.L. Mencken as a literary mentor when he went to the front lines of Europe during the Second World War. To Fussell, Mencken's irony wasn't applicable anymore, as it was American in nature and was "deficient in the tragic sense". This could be what lies at the heart of American cinema. We all like a happy ending, us Americans. Sometimes, things end tragically, not happily. More times than not, things may have a positive conclusion, but are bittersweet. Not so with American cinema. Happy endings must be achieved, though life certainly doesn't work that way. And so, we get explosions, hot chicks, special effects, wild stunts, but inevitably, a triumphant ending. Complexity and multi-dimension is eschewed to ensure that the maximum amount of the aforementioned aspects are prominently displayed in said movie. Inevitably, what the American public gets are movies that are big, loud, and ultimately, utterly forgettable.
For me, I'll stick with the subtitles, the irony, the complexity, and no explosions. I want a story that I can dig into into. If I want explosions, I'll buy some illegal fireworks and set 'em off myself.