A Time for Film

If there was one thing I learned from the Film and Literature Class I took senior year from one of my favorite high school teachers, it was that those moving pictures worth remembering, worth your time, and worthy of being considered “art” are films.  Movies are entertainment.  That’s not to say that watching your favorite romantic comedy isn’t something to love, or that newly released “bromance” ought to be passed up – they all have their place.  But there is something truly special about a film that is as aesthetically pleasing as it is entertaining.

When you think about it, directors, actors, producers, and films, are asking a lot from their audience.  We are expected to set aside usually at least two hours of our lives in a sedentary state of awe, belief, captivation, emotion, and we sure don’t want it to feel like a whole two hours.  So in that way, we can be quite demanding.  Slowly but surely, I have gained an appreciation of more “artsy” films.  Those that have a purpose and a vision, are trying out a technique, technology, or are playing games with its audience.  Sometimes the mere cinematography of a film can make it entertaining even with a lacking or unimportant story line.

Still, the quintessential film is one that does it all.  It makes you laugh, cry, smirk, question, evolve, reveal, and leaves you satisfied but wanting more.  And it is this, for the most part, what I just don’t see in new films.  What is it that seems void or empty in modern picture making?  Is it the actors? The technology?  The writing? The music? Or some combination of all of these? Regardless, I find a year where “Avatar” and the “Hurtlocker” are runners up for Best Picture, to be a disappointing one.  Sure I had my own issues with Avatar (think Pocahontas rewritten along with fern gully, instead with blue aliens and the incredibly evil American white man), but overall I liked the Hurtlocker.  I just don’t think it was best picture material.   I do have to admit I was captivated by “The King’s Speech”.  I thought it was more than entertaining, well shot, moving, pointed, and layered.  Still, I find myself disappointed that this was all the film industry had to offer.

This all leads to one thing: I return to the classics.  Watching old movies has become one of my favorite pastimes and its one of those things I have always loved, but now appreciate even more.  There is nothing more quintessential than Humphrey Boggart’s side mouthed “Here’s lookin’ at you kid”, or the rough romance of Clark Gable’s frankly not giving a damn.  No closing scene will be quite as pointed or captivating as Francis Ford Copolla’s in The Godfather.  And no two people will ever be as beautifully depressingly picturesque as Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

In our computer age, SDI, high def technology, we have lost an eye for film beyond pixels, special effects, and 3D.  The careful placement of shots, angles, and frames, all once much more carefully structured with the human eye (and heart) is now left to programs, computers, and the push of a button rather than the physical moving of a camera.  Trick shots and difficult takes have lost their allure, and have removed the artistry from filmmaking.  Gone are the “Hitchcocks” who were trained and flourished in silent film, perfecting how to illustrate every move, breath, and idea of a scene without a sound to clue us in or a word to describe.

But I’m not a film snob…excuse me while I go prepare to watch Harry Potter 7 Part II.

Is there any film more perfect than the pairing of Humphrey Boggart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca?

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