In comparing "True Lies" to the epics of yesteryear, I hope no one took my
comments as an endorsement of David Lean's entire career (just as I would
hope his post-Lawrence films would not make him discardable).  What I wanted
understood was that the so-called "epics" of today are about nothing in
particular, just blowin' 'em up good.  Although there has always been an
element of spectacle to the spectacular, that wasn't all Griffith or Selznick
or Lean had in mind, even if their finished work might play against their
better intentions.  It's an observation that's been made before about where
the studios are today: they're making what would have been the "B" pictures
of yesterday with huge budgets, whereas the independents are making the "A"
list films.
Beyond that simple level, there's plenty to argue about over what those "A"
list films used to be, whether it was "blanderized" literature or some other
proven genre.  But a simple example of what has been lost is the current
re-release of "Dr. Strangelove".  It would not have been green-lighted today
-- unless, maybe, George C. Scott were made more heroic, with a love
interest, and just maybe, when all hope appears lost, he stops Slim Pickens
just in time...flying some new-fangled jet to Russia himself, and catching
the falling missile!  The audience cheers, maybe Slim Pickens gets a
missile-fin wedgie (for laughs) and the filmmakers add some appeal with
misogyny (also for laughs -- and ain't that how guys talk anyway)...big
articles on the effects...
I've just seen two recent studio pictures that bombed at the box office on
tape, "Fearless" (Peter Weir) and "Jennifer 8" (Bruce Robinson).  Both were
flawed, but both were interesting.  The former had a really terrible
marketing campaign and the latter was supposedly rewritten and recut by the
studio.  They both were attempts by the filmmakers to reach for something a
little different within the system...and the system didn't have the first
idea what to do with them.