Hollywood may be slowly going off the deep end. We’re drowning in kids’ and family movies with ridiculous cash-grab concepts and casts of celebrities who seem to have way too much time on their hands (I wonder, would Jimmy Stewart have played a cartoon talking turd?).
From what I can tell, there seems to be some kind of prize for delivering the biggest, loudest superhero explosion. And I think most people can agree that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp need to be separated before we get any more terrible remakes.
Now, I won’t lie. I love a nice, relaxing blockbuster if the story and characters are up to scratch. I thought “Inside Out” and “Coco” were actually really sweet. But film has so much unfulfilled potential that we seem to have left far behind us.
We used to create works of art that allowed us to be shocked, to think and reflect, to laugh until our sides hurt, or to cry like toddlers. Sure, the big films with the merchandise at your theater are mostly fine, sometimes great. I was a big fan of “The LEGO Movie,” even though it was essentially an insightful cash grab. But I think we need to go back to the classics — both as viewers and filmmakers.
Return to the chilling tales of Hitchcock. The adventure of a gunslinger riding into the sunset. And the witty, passionate affection an Audrey Hepburn line can bring. We should regain some of this time in film, before studios raced to bring off the biggest effect extravaganza, and when we made movies for their quality. And, personally, I would like to see a few more people not ask, “Who?” when I say names like George Bailey.
Before film really became what it is today, the movies at most theaters were not mostly family films, blockbusters or horror flicks. Sure, there was Disney and the first of the Bond films, and Universal’s run of monster movies. But there were also westerns; great, sweeping epics like Ben-Hur; film noir and romances, that, in all fairness to those of today, did not depend on either dirty jokes, or anything to do with an airport.
Film today is largely good, but there are so many films, so many entire genres, that are nearly gone. And these hold so much new territory that might completely change how we make and how we view film. Most teens have never been exposed to this, whether through new films being made or watching older ones.
I hope that, if the filmmakers of today will not remember these, then we, the filmmakers of tomorrow, will. There is so much we can explore that we are not. So many themes and ideas, laughs and tears, and stories and characters are gone. Even if film today was perfect, we would still need to revisit the work of the past. So try a couple of older films. Then, if you like to act, or write or film, use what you see. And maybe just have a little fun along the way.
Here are some good films to start with:
n “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” — A dark western about the legendary death of the titular outlaw, told in flashback by his killer. In the end, we learn the myth is greater than the man.
n “2001: A Space Odyssey” — A long epic of the human experience, from apes playing with bones, to spaceships hurtling through space — a sci-fi work of art with hardly any dialogue.
n “My Fair Lady” — A romantic musical and rags-to-riches story of a poor British flower seller, helped and harassed by a rich professor. Unfortunately, I’ll admit, it’s a little misogynistic.
n “The Manchurian Candidate” — A political thriller in which U.S. soldiers begin to suspect something is off about their decorated commander, and slowly unravel a multinational conspiracy. It reeks of Cold War paranoia, but the story is riveting.
n “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — The story of King Arthur’s search for the Holy Grail from the acclaimed British comedy troupe. Possibly the funniest film I’ve ever seen. Really, it’s hilarious.