Mumbles In The Darkness

Here’s an article which resonated with me:

Why are today’s TV shows and movies so GRAY?

I’ve now got to the point where the movie has been consistently dark during the first five or ten minutes, off I go to somewhere else.  Ditto the Brit movies in which the dialogue is either mumbled, spoken in an unintelligible accent or both.  Also, the ones where impenetrable slang is in more than half the dialogue — I know, it’s realism, but still — I don’t expect characters to speak Received English via the Royal Shakespeare Company either.

And for gawd’s sake, S-L-O-W D-O-W-N when you speak your lines.

Pardon me if I just want to know what the hell is going on in your precious Work Of Art.  Cinema is becoming like modern art, where the expression is so personal that it needs explanation by the auteur.  And don’t give me that “mood” jive, either.  You wanna see a mood, just watch my expression as I hit the “outta here” button on the remote.

I do make an exception for the Scandi-noir movies and TV shows, because the Scandis only ever get about two hours of sunlight a day, so an average production would take years to shoot if they waited for sunny days.

But even that’s a problem:  in every police station I’ve ever been in (and there have been quite a few hem hem), the rooms are brightly lit to almost daylight levels.  In the movies, I’m constantly yelling at the screen for someone to hit a light switch.

No wonder they miss so many clues:  they can’t fucking see them.

And no wonder so many people are ditching Netflix, Prime et al., when so many movies are being made according to the Intangible / Unintelligible Sludge formula.


  1. I have to have sub-titles going on every show I watch. The mumbles have taken over. Whatever happened to actors actually taking time to learn how to speak well – enunciate clearly – pronounce words in a concise fashion? It’s either incoherent shouting or moody mumbles. Without sub-titles there is no understanding of what just happened.

  2. In a few (not all) cases, the cinematographer might be lighting for HDR display. When viewed on a non-HDR, or even an uncalibrated HDR television the images can appear almost too dark–especially if you’re viewing in a room that has any ambient light whatsoever. They are assuming that you will consume their content in cinema-like conditions.

    Even in a cinema auditorium, too many movies are unwatchably dark by a combination of many factors. Projectors using under-rated lamps , 3D lenses being left on a few years ago (they eat half the light) and so on. When I was a film projectionist I was told to reduce the Amperage to the lamp by about 30% to save electricity–we were not getting anywhere near the recommended 16 footLamberts on the screen! But with all that said, yes, directors are going for gloomy “moody” depressing looks. It’s supposedly fashionable, and if one movie uses the effect well it’s copied ad infinitum.

    As for unintelligible sound, this article really hits the nail on the head:

  3. The Brits are still producing some decent stuff – they have trained and disciplined actors and actresses. I got BritBox as an Amazon sub-channel and there’s some very good stuff there.

    Right now I’m working through a 2013 remake of Wodehouse’s “Blandings” stories. Great fun.

    Lord Emsworth is well played as a silly, genial, old mumbler by Timothy Spall, but when he mumbles, one can understand the mumbles.

  4. If you want darkness, watch some of the Batman movies. At some point I expect the next release to be a completely black screen with dialogue.

    Mumbling actors and actresses are annoying. It’s annoying to me and it gets annoying to my wife when I keep asking “what did they say?”


  5. “In the movies, I’m constantly yelling at the screen for someone to hit a light switch.”

    Amen. And a thousand times, amen!

    My wife is a little bit tired of me always pointing out that the police/detectives/protagonists/whatever, on arriving at almost any given location will immediately pull out their flashlights and check things out – even if they have to walk past eleventy-one light switches to do it.

    Modern flashlights are freaking amazing (I mourn none of the flashlights of my youth), but if you’re looking for something in a building, ye olde light switch is still the way to go.

  6. Part of the ‘mumbles issue’ is that the studios no longer teach diction
    as was done under the old ‘studio system’ of years gone by.
    Currently, voice over by someone without an accent ( thick or otherwise )
    is often the solution to being able to UNDERSTAND what’s being said
    on screen.
    Music is another area where this is an issue. I have looked up lyrics just
    to find out WHAT was being said ( sung ) usually by someone who thought
    1) volume is a good replacement for talent and
    2) because the vocalist understood the lyrics – because he or she had
    already read/sung them 100+ times obviously meant that everyone else
    could understand them as well !

  7. My pet peeve is that many of the actors of the past thirty years telegraph a dramatic plot moment or intense feelings by descending into a hissing, mumbled stage whisper spit out at warp speed, while the asshole sound guy, who is sure he’s the movie’s most important contributor, crescendos the music at the same rate the dialogue volume drops.
    For example, I thought the John Adams miniseries was a video and story tour de force, but it was nearly ruined for me by lead actor Paul Giamatti’s fucking hissing.

  8. Hopefully the dark crap for “moodiness” is a passing fad (fingers crossed). In CGI-fest films they frequently have night scenes, it seems, so that they don’t have to spend tons of money on detailed CGI.

    Speaking of passing fads – in several films and TV shows they seemed to be recording a character’s dialog whispered and then brought up in volume to make the character sound more serious or profound. (Christopher Nolan’s Batman, Edward James Olmos as Adama in Battlestar Galactica.)

    Then there were a couple of movies, Three Kings & Domino, that cross-processed the film (transparency film processed in negative developers) to give the film odd colors and high contrast.

    If they aren’t pushing wokeness, then it’s some other damn thing…

  9. I’ve found a strange new respect for foreign language films. Saw the Battle of Westerplatte (island off the Polish coast) in polish. Another called I believe Tobrouk about a Czech platoon at Tobruk, in Czech. Also watched a movie called ‘Steel Helmet’ ca 1952 I believe. I swear the lead was the prototype for Sgt Rock of Easy Company even though it was set in Korea (comic book reference).

  10. In summation, most stuff made over the past 30 years or so are unwatchable as far as I’m concerned. I’ve long tired of the reasons. If the makers don’t care, then why should I?

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