Friday, November 5, 2010
The old and the new...
Movie nostalgia is a seemingly immeasurable factor when thinking about your favourite movies from your youth. Are things really as great as you remember them or are you thinking about them through child's eyes? When you revisit movies that were important to you as a kid some things hold up and some don't. If you made a list of your top five movies when you were fifteen how similar would it be to the same list if you made it now? Sure, you loved ewok's when you were twelve but isn't it a tad hard to watch them ambushing all those heavily armed and trained stormtroopers when you watch Jedi these days? There was no problem with it when you were a kid because that filter in your mind hadn't developed yet. Movies were just something fun and a little bit magical and bullshit like whether a bus could jump a fifty foot gap in a highway overpass didn't enter into the equation.
If you made the two lists, childhood versus adulthood, how much crossover do you get? Is there anything you loved as a kid but can't watch today without cringing? Here are my two lists.
Top 5 movies when I was a kid;
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark - I've watched this film at least 100 times. It spoke to my imagination like nothing else ever had when I first saw this at about age seven or eight. Indy was the definitive action hero and Raiders was the definitive adventure movie. I'm pretty sure I didn't even know what a Nazi was back then, they were just like villains from a Bond movie to me. I think I loved Raiders so much because the action and characters were great, the 'good guys' and 'bad guys' were very black and white which spoke to a kids understanding of what was going on and I thought Ford was the coolest guy I had ever seen. This near obsession with Indy spilled over to the two sequels and the old Fate of Atlantis adventure game that Lucasarts put out in the early nineties. I loved this movie.
2. The Goonies - When this first aired on tv back in the eighties it was the first thing I recorded with the brand new VCR that dad had just bought. I watched that old video cassette until it was worn out and chewed up. As far as light hearted kids adventure movies went this one was my favourite. What can you say about Goonies? Kids going on an adventure looking for pirates treasure...what more could you want when you were seven? Data, of course, was my favourite. Not only was he from Temple of Doom but he had all the cool gadgets. When I see this one as a adult it is still endearingly charming. It's also amusing how much they could say 'shit' in a kids movie in the eighties. I've recently heard rumors about a remake of this one. Only time will tell how that turns out.
3. Return of the Jedi - There was only one rule for growing up in the eighties; you had to be a Star Wars fan and Jedi was my favourite. The third movie from the original trilogy felt the most 'swashbuckling' to me, with the awesome scene on Jabba's sail barge, the speeder bike chase through the forest and the ewoks, oh the ewoks. I wanted to go live in an ewok village and have ewok buddies and become 'an honorary member of the ewok tribe'. Plus you got to see Darth Vader with his freaking helmet off! That was a mind blowing moment for a young geek. I think Jedi still holds up great these days. Not as well as The Empire Strikes Back maybe, but there is Mark Hamil's performance in Jedi, which I believe is underrated. He is great and when Vader goads him in the last act and Luke looses his composure and lashes out he is so believably on the edge, so close to falling to the dark side. It makes you wonder why the same character duality is handled so clumsily with Anakin in the prequel trilogy.
4. Lethal Weapon 3 - Cops and robbers is one sure fire way to entertain a kid craving some action and Richard Donner's Lethal Weapon series were among my favorite of the 'old school' action flicks. When you watch these today it's clear the first movie is the strongest but back in the early nineties I was all about Lethal Weapon 3. Mel Gibson back in his prime acting days could piss pure charisma and Danny Glover was like the African American second dad you always wanted. As ridiculous as these 'buddy cop' antics were I'm sure I believed this was what cops were like when I was ten. There was something about this that captured my imagination perfectly that I can't clearly define. The 'cop killer' bullets? The exploding buildings? Leo Getz? Who knows.
5. Jurassic Park - When my dad took me to see this at the movies in '93 I didn't really know what I was in for. I remember this movie being hyped to high heaven before it came out and I was keen to see it as I was in the mid stages of collecting dinosaur magazines that came with a bit of a plastic t-rex model every week, so I was into dinosaurs at that stage. Then Spielberg worked his black magic or whatever it is he does and drew me so deep into his world that I made dad take me back to see Jurassic Park four more times. This is an incredible movie. The plot, the special effects, the performances and everything else about this movie owned me for the two hours or so that I sat in that cinema every time I went to see this. I recently watched this again with my five year old, and it is a testament to the directing of this film that when the t-rex shows up it is truly suspenseful. My kid watches alot of stuff with me and it's rare anything effects him too drastically, but when that huge, razor toothed maw is trying to get the kids through the perspex roof of the car my kid freaked out and made me turn the movie off. The iconic build up of that scene and the tension injected into parts of this film are amazing. Dr. Grant and the kid trying to get out of the tree before the car falls on them, the electric fence and any scene with those raptors; this stuff is all so good. To this day whenever I see the words 'objects may be closer than they appear' printed in a rear vision mirror I smile and think of Jurassic Park.
Top 5 movies now;
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark - Some things don't change and for me the top slot is still the same as is was twenty years ago. Raiders is, and I believe always shall be, my favourite movie of all time. The pacing is perfect the plot if simple and fantastic and the action is so entertaining I never get sick of it. I love the way Indy gets put through the wringer; the guy is not James Bond. He's never on top without even breaking a sweat. Instead he gets thrashed half to death in just about every scene but always manages to come out on top by the skin of his teeth. I love the way Indy is a Catholic but has a lackadaisical attitude towards religion; he believes in the historical importance of the ark but quote "I don't believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus pocus" is his attitude about it when Marcus warns him. Something must be said as well about John Williams score for this film. It is so iconic and so well executed. Many movie scores are incidental to the film but I believe this one is so important to the movie and the characters that it could well be my favourite film score.
2. Children of Men - This movie is something special. It is that brilliant kind of science fiction that makes you think and makes you look at the world you live in differently. The fundamental question Children of Men asks is what happens to the human race when it is suddenly faced with it's own mortality. The answer, in this dystopian, near future, is that it tears itself apart. This movie is comment on society, immigration, religion, terrorism and war. It's put together so frighteningly realistically that all this violence and hopelessness feels almost too real. The hand held shaky camera work and the long takes that don't cut for ten minutes at a time speak to that part of your subconsciousness that recalls seeing this kind of violence on the news or in documentaries. I love the way Clive Owens central character never picks up a gun in this film, even though he has ample opportunity to. Children of Men is what I love about movies. It makes you think and it makes you feel.
3. O Brother, Where Art Thou? - The Coen brothers. What can you say about them? They have certainly left their mark on modern cinema and, personally, O Brother is my favourite of their work. An epic, ancient Greek poem put in a 1930's southern United States setting? How could that work? I don't know how but it certainly does. This movie is eternally charming, funny and brilliantly acted. You come for the Coen trademark writing, wit and directing flare but you stay for the performances. George Clooney, John Turturro and the late, great Tim Blake Nelson are each wonderful as the three escaped convicts on their 'odyssey', having chance encounters with fame, a hilarious John Goodman as the intimidating cyclops and a run in with the Ku Klux Klan are among some of the best moments in this film, not to mention this great folk and blues music that is featured throughout. This is one of those films that you can watch over and over and never tire of it.
4. Leon aka. The Professional - The story of a hitman that takes a young person under their tutelage is almost a cliche' now but this film does it with so much style and a real, human relationship between Jean Reno as the assassin and a very young Natalie Portman as his understudy give this movie a gravity that imbues it with some emotional punch, where it could have just been another disposable action film. Reno's Leon has learned to suppress his emotions in order to be the consummate killer but those suppressed emotions surface when he finds someone to care about in Portmans young, orphaned Mathilda. Gary Oldman, in the role of the movie stealing corrupt, violent and psychotic cop, is not to be missed. Luc Besson's directing and action scenes are typically awesome and it all makes this film another of those movies you can watch time and time again and never get tired of.
5. The Fellowship of the Ring - Since reading The Hobbit as a kid I've been waiting for Middle Earth to be brought to life on screen. I wasn't quite prepared for just how epically and faithfully Peter Jackson's production was going to do it before I saw this movie for the first time in 2001. Differences in the source material aside, this filmaker understood the world he was bringing to life and captured the spirit of Tolkein's work in incredible fashion. I love fantasy adventure and there is so little of it that is truly good on film, so I was blown away by Fellowship. It is my favourite of the trilogy I think because I have affection for the whole 'party of adventurers on a dangerous journey together' aspect of the plot that speaks to my love for Dungeons and Dragons and fantasy novels. This movie is an example of what fans of a fiction can get when someone who is both talented and loves and understands the source material is in charge of making the film adaption.