Maybe I'm Spoiled: I did something I so rarely do. I actually watched a couple of movies. They were both state of the art Hollywood productions but they also exemplify everything that is wrong with the industry.
Drive -- I didn't believe Ryan Gosling as a sullen tough; he looks like a paperboy. And that jacket that was clearly formulated to be iconic was just poofy. I really didn't believe in his instant devotion to the hyper-sympathetic single mom and daughter. Have movies given up on developing relationships? Rather than actually show their feelings develop, it was as if you were just handed the two characters and then told they had fallen for each other through longing looks and symbolic acts. Maybe I'm spoiled by TV where you can take a whole season or more to get a couple together, but I was left with the impression that the only reason they fell in love was because it said to in the script. I didn't believe the cliched stunt man mentor who turned out to be a bad guy, or the cliched ex-con trying to do right in an unforgiving world. The action scenes were cool and sharp, but they were way too few and far between. So much of this film was just people silently staring at each other. It could have been called Mood.
Secretariat -- At least I liked this movie. It wasn't terribly good, but I still liked it. It followed a strict formula designed to push emotional buttons, and it succeeded to some extent. Maybe I'm spoiled by the magnificently nuanced dialogue that you can hear in TV shows such as Luck and Spartacus or Justified, but the words handed to these actors were abysmal -- pure cheese. The acting was dutiful, with the exception of The Malkovich, who can deliver pretty much any lines with style. The plot: a steadfast woman in man's world; no one believes in her but she shows everyone, from her husband who doesn't want to risk their future of their children to the loudmouth macho types in the horse-racing game. Honestly, it's a strange lesson: It's OK to risk everything, including your family, because your personal emotional satisfaction is the most important thing. Alrighty. Still, reliving the Secretariat's Belmont race was cool, even in dramatically exaggerated form. (Note: Andrew Beyer -- see the book review above -- measures that to be the greatest performance ever by a thoroughbred by quite a large margin.)
These movies, though passably entertaining and unfailingly professional productions, exemplify everything that is wrong with the movies. No chances were taken, the actors seem small, the scripts are filled with simple language and narrow, crudely drawn characters. Again, maybe I'm just spoiled by how great TV is, but these were two very well-received and critically acclaimed movies and they simply fell flat. You could throw themes and plot points and cardboard characters in a machine and it would manufacture films like this. I think it'll be a while before I give movies another chance.