Friday, February 1, 2008

Blueprints of what is being built: a short plea to consider the old and aging

We can’t always justify some people’s personal choices in entertainment. Like my mother, she would gladly pay you tomorrow for a mediocre “B” romantic comedy today. And for why, when there are magnificent films from back in the day which are so genuinely good?
Ok, granted, our independence from the studio situation has flourished and is closer to depletion therefore creating utter chaos and maximum creativity. These days censorship isn’t really present. We hear “shit”, “fuck”, and “douche bag” after 10 o’clock and a few “damns” before 8. Up until the 1940’s, writers would have to work around obscene language and inspiring classy ways to get the point across that these two gorgeous –hot for each other- characters just had sex although you didn’t see it. Who knew that coffee meant banging? A true example is the fall of the walls of Jericho in Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night”. Even when television was key, they certainly had to follow a similar recipe.
Personally, just because we have these privileges as filmmakers and writers doesn’t mean we should flood the screen with borderline x-rated images. Many films use their outrageous ideas to cover up their lack of storyline. Your multiple scenes of women showering and blood coming out of miscellaneous places isn’t going to make up for it! It may reach your target audience, and hurray for you, but it still doesn’t make a good movie that will stand the test of time.
What do I mean by test of time? Movies that you see references to almost daily: “Casablanca”, “Gone with the Wind”, “Citizen Kane”. Even if you haven’t realized it, our movies are rich in references to cinema history. The more you know, the more you can sit back, smirk and be humored by someone clever.
I do not think that Eminem was referencing Jerry Lewis when he came out with “Will the Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up?” Around 1970, there was an animated series with David Lander doing the voice of Lewis entitled, “Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down?” When I first found out about the cartoon, I found it funny that the phrases were so similar and yet have no connection whatsoever. Not everything is a reference; not every pink ribbon will have symbolism; not every blonde bombshell will refer to the tragic demise of Marilyn Monroe. Sometimes brilliance may have a trail and other times it’s just a coincidence that it has been done before.
To me, if a film is made with itself in mind, then it will most likely be good in its own right. In saying that, I mean that it isn’t made on the governing principles which “Fight Club” was made. If carbon copies are the future, then start an oxygen revolution. In all seriousness and in respect to the original purpose of this piece of writing, the old is worth referencing because it is good. It is a part of contemporary film and the evolution of humanity that is taking its toll. The cinema is a young and favorite pastime that may or may not be surpassing baseball. D.W. Griffith’s silent “Battle of the Sexes” rings the –same if not better- bell that “Heartbreakers” tried to. Really, give older movies a chance.
Here’s your starter kit:
“The Philadelphia Story”
“Modern Times”
“Sherlock Jr.”
“The Lady from Shanghai”
“Dark Passage”
There is no order, and are just random movies I pulled out of my ass but were luckily not thrown together from “shit” ideas. I cursed. Its okay, everyone; its after 8.
Once and if you like these titles, I have tons to recommend. I have not seen a ton of older gems but I know full heartedly that they are out there. I’m still brushing up on my repertoire and am hoping we can take this journey together. Its almost something to feel a bit ashamed over: to let such a rich history for a young medium of art slip your mind.

1 comment:

Amy D. said...

Anything with Orson Welles is amazing. Lady From Shanghai included.