Monday, May 07, 2007

THE Genre

I could talk about movies for years. They are still, even with a family, a big part of my life. I also love films, but I'm absolutely crazy for movies.

Oh, you don't know the difference between a film and a movie?

Let me tell you how it is.

Films may win awards, praise from critics and explore the human condition. Films may be emotionally stirring or boring beyond words. They may be pretentious and irritating, they may be quiet and marvelous. Films may have naked people to represent an emotion. Films may have profanity, as long as it's true the characters. Films can portray the ugly and the beautiful. Films can put you to sleep quickly.

Films are truthful. Plenty of good stuff, LOTS of bad stuff.

Movies are in THX surround sound. Movies may have explosions and car chases. Movies take us someplace new. Movies are sometimes set in outer space, sometimes in an apocalyptic wasteland. Movies have a bombastic score. Movies have crane shots.

Movies tell a story. Plenty of good stuff, LOTS of bad stuff.

But I love the roller coaster, I love the MOVIES.

I want blockbusters, I want scope. I want explosions, bare breasts, gunfire, profanity laced diatribes, decapitations, last minute rescues, martial artistry, super heroes, elven warriors, and a bit of comic relief. But most of all it has to be spectacle AND heart. Spectacle without emotion is just empty pretty things. Heart without bombast, is just a film.

When I was six years old I was in Reno with my mom and we were going to the movies. I wanted to see "The Rescuers" a Disney cartoon with mice. My mom, for whatever reason, couldn't bear the thought of sitting through another kid flick. But she'd heard about this new movie that was family friendly enough, and yet live action. I was disappointed, and even a little afraid that we would be seeing this "Star Wars". I'd seen the trailer on TV, frankly it looked like a horror movie. Big hairy sasquatch looking guy, intense gun battles, a snake wrapping itself around some guy in a pile of garbage. What was my mom thinking?

I remember to this day, clearly; sitting in that theater. As a giant Imperial Star Destroyer roared, yes roared, overhead. The theater shook and my eyes were as big as dinner plates. It was the greatest movie, ever. Ever. I wanted to see it again and again. I got the toys. All of them. It forever changed my life. That was what I wanted to do, in some way, be a part of that. THE genre. Movies. The bigger and badder, the better.

So as an adult I am peripherally involved; I do shoot and edit video. Using the same gear that the big boys do. I am happy in my work; and though I am 36,I still love the movies. I also enjoy films, but make no mistake, my heart and mind is where the mayhem is.

Many of my peers, especially in the self important world of cyberspace, do not, in fact love the movies.

There is a cynicism that permeates the "geek" culture now. A sort of jaded, non-plussed, "meh" attitude that is only occasionally abated. Everyone pines for the glory days of "genre" cinemas.

What they forget, is that movies in the late seventies (movies, not films) and early eighties, generally sucked.

Not only that, there were far FEWER "movies" than now. "Films" it could be argued, were more numerous and better than their modern day equivalents.

I can count on one hand the number of blockbuster movies that came out before Jurassic Park, that really hold up to today's quantity and quality of MOVIES. The Terminator and T2, Alien and Aliens, The Empire Strikes Back, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Die Hard and the Road Warrior. Okay that's two hands.

Blade Runner is not only overrated, it kind of sucks. (And I am a HUGE Riddley Scott fan.) The Directors cut is fair - though it makes Matrix Revolutions look like a masterpiece. Blade Runner suffers too much from trying desperately to be a film. It's a movie. Twenty years later, it really needs to get over itself.

The Superman films, 1 & 2, are good. Not great. They are dated and slow. The heart is there, but the effects take me out of the moment one too many times. A blockbuster first and foremost must have heart, which these movies do; but it cannot fail in realism in the world it creates.

ET doesn't hold up. It's sweet, and it still makes me cry. But it's dated, and simplistic in parts. Don't get me wrong, as a film it succeeds brilliantly, but as a movie it falls behind it's peers.

Return of the Jedi is weaker than Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. I'd put it on par with Phantom Menace. Sorry, that's just the way it is. I will be blogging soon my manifesto to put the Star Wars movies in perspective. Stay tuned.

Both Indiana Jones sequels are fun, but not great.

ALL of the Star Trek movies, were serviceable, and some (Wrath of Kahn) even had shades of greatness. But let's get real. They were never in the same ballpark as Empire Strikes Back. And I'm the biggest Trekkie you're ever gonna meet. Star Trek V. Need I say more?

And honestly, off the top of my head, that's all of the "good" movies that I can remember. I'm sure there were others, but really - when it comes to movies, the 80's were mostly filled with crap. Teen sex farces, bad Sci-Fi, and lots of experiments that are incredibly dated when you watch them now.

And then in 1993 there was Jurassic Park. The critics were lukewarm. They missed it. I knew immediately that it was a revolution. Suddenly, anything was possible. The young movie makers that had grown up watching Star Wars, now had the tools to make dreams reality.

We had crossed over; and "movies" entered a true golden age. Problem was, and is, the movie geeks, who began to crowd the internet with their "meh" and "worst movie ever" pabulum, were blinded by nostalgia. They have missed it completely.

Many decry the over use of Computer Generated Imagery, CGI; and they do have a point to some extent. Movies like "The Mummy Returns" and "Lost In Space" suffer greatly from an over dependence on it - though I would argue that they are hampered far more by pandering story structure and poor direction. But CGI, is undeniably an incredible tool - which when used properly and when integrated with practical elements, can tell a story like never before.

Pre-CGI, the movies made were but a training ground for what we have now, filled with a small amount of genius work (Cameron, Lucas, Spielberg) but mostly stuffed with cheese (Ladyhawk, Ice Pirates, Legend, Willow, etc.).

Now, was and is the time to see the best of the best. We are witnessing a murderer's row of movies.

A murderer's row.

And it's happening. Right, NOW!



The Lord of the Rings Trilogy flat out blows away the most of the best of the "golden age". Star Wars may be the exception.

The Matrix Trilogy, especially the first movie, puts Blade Runner to shame.

The Harry Potter Movies are incredible in their scope, effects work and heart. Nothing remotely that good and consistent could have sprung out of the 80's. Especially not four, soon to be seven, films.

Comic Book movies are for the most part fantastic. Spider Man is great, as is the X-Men series. I'd say Daredevil was a stinker. But even Hulk and Fantastic Four were better "superhero movies" than all but the first Superman movie. And oh yeah, comic book movies in the 80's, oh yeah, that's right, compared to now - THERE WEREN'T ANY!!!

Pirates of the Frikkin' Caribbean. Sweet Jesus, point me to a movie in the 80's (a MOVIE) that even comes close to kicking it's butt. The sequel was just as good. Critics, and old people (meaning people in their 30's) hated it, the rest of us loved it, and showed our love with our hard earned cash. Dead Man's chest is number 6 on the all time US gross list.

The Chronicles of Narnia. The rest of the series to follow. Beautiful and Brilliant.

All of the Pixar movies. Don't deny the influence of 80's films on these, just recognize that the stories and effects are now done much better.

300. Revolutionary. Extraordinary. (WAKE UP OLD MOVIE GEEKS!!! WAAAKEE UPPPP!!!!!)

Sleepy Hollow. Big Fish. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. From the master Burton. Ed Wood is more of a film, but still great.

Gladiator. Kingdom of Heaven.

The Bourne Identity and Supremacy.

Casino Royale. The best James Bond movie since, well, ever.

Forrest Gump. Contact. Castaway.

The Sixth Sense.

Children of Men and Apocalypto. My absolute favorite "movies" last year. The former does lean heavily into the "film" category - but only because it's effects are so seamless. The latter (despite the director being a racist nut-job) is one of the most inspired "movies" I've ever seen. (Though heavy on the violence and gore.)

There are more great ones I'm forgetting I'm sure. But the point is, I didn't even have to think too hard to come up with many GREAT "movies" post-Jurassic Park - that ALL stand up and even exceed the best of movies in the 80's.

Granted there are lots of other movies today, a majority in fact, that are just plain good, mediocre, or even lousy. (Elektra anyone?) But I'd say I'm fine with that. I'd much rather have a decent "Ghost Rider" than time and energy spent on another flick with the effects quality of say "Dragon Slayer" or "Dark Crystal" (Wow did both of those movies suck. They, sucked.)

Even with the looming threat of the next Die Hard sequel being cut down to a PG-13 (an awful, awful, awful, awful idea) I know it will likely be way better than parts 2 or 3. I hate the whole PG-13 concept; movies should go for the throat, every time (that's what made the 80's movies that were great, GREAT) but I can live with it as long as we get Lord of the Rings and Pirates level of quality on occasion.

Again, in case you forgot the whole first part of this lengthy diatribe, I'm talking about "movies" not "films". Frankly, I don't have enough interest in films to be able to tell you if films today stand up to those made 20 years ago. But if you're talking movies, guess what? For this grown-up who will always be a kid at heart, it ain't even close muchachos. Movies today, flat out rock.

Stay tuned for my manifesto on why the Star Wars Prequels are just as good as the original trilogy.

Oh yeah, one other thing.

Can't wait till' Shrek 3 comes out. Sorry, I love the Shrek movies. And so do the rest of us idiots. Take solace in the fact that Shrek 2 has passed ET in domestic gross. Probably because it's a better "movie".

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Chris, you rock. Absolutely. You are a brilliant guy and besides, you make me laugh out loud. You must have excellent genes.