Like Mark Twain's death, the demise of Hollywood movies is always greatly exaggerated. "Talking pictures" were supposed to do-in the movie industry. So were the black-listing of Communists, television, color television, big-screen television and the $8 movie ticket.

But the film industry keeps rolling along and rolling in dollars.

In a way, it's what the annual Academy Awards celebrate each year. It's about people singing, like Sondheim's old showgirl, "We're still here" while radio dramas and vaudeville have gone by the way. Something about movies seems to mate with the American psyche.

If so, in recent years the American psyche has gotten to be pretty spooky. If you thought Hitchcock's "Psycho" was frightening, how about the fact the leading candidate for best film this year, "No Country for Old Men," is so gruesome and graphically violent that a good half of the film would have been banned by the Motion Picture Industry a generation ago.

That's scary.

Is this who we are now — people who sit in the dark eating popcorn with our wives and husbands while unbearable mayhem plays out before our eyes — complete with buckets of blood and severed limbs?

Apparently it is.

Apparently, being a sophisticated moviegoer in 2008 means being able to take a body punch and — without wincing — appreciate the acting and effects. It's the spook-alley code of honor now — tough guys don't blink when the going gets gory. And a person who thinks the whole enterprise seems to teeter on madness is automatically dismissed as provincial.

It's a brazen new world. Until a majority of people are willing to stand up and tell Emperor Hollywood about his so-called clothes, the future promises films even more stark and graphic.

Barring such a backlash, it is the American movie that will remain "no country for old men."