Movies are enjoyable, but not as often as they should be.
It's a Wonderful Life
Memories aren't what they used to be
The first movie I remember seeing at the theater was Batman starring Adam West and Burt Ward. After that I saw Born Free and some lesser lights and then a couple of years later came Planet of the Apes. Understand that I was five when I saw Batman and it was through a youthful, non-judgmental lens that I came to love movies. There were, no doubt, other movies seen during that time but nothing that stayed with me beyond a few incoherent images, sounds and bits of a story. Pirates, cowboys, and some scientist kidnapping people by shrinking them, and putting them into a cigarette case, linger. The images may well inform dreams and things I've written.
It lives ... in my head
Movies that live fully and vibrantly in our imagination are few and far between. There are any number of reasons that a viewer may not retain a film. A lack of focus could be anything from having a bad day, an upset stomach, the poor quality of the cinema, but likely it's that the film didn't grab you.
My standards aren't low ... they're adaptable
I watched a number of old movies growing up just because we didn't get into town often, so movies were shown in the Legion hall and in the village's community center. We saw quite a few great films during those Friday nights. In grade eight our school had a print of Latitude Zero, a Japanese sci-fi /fantasy film featuring Caesar Romero as a mad scientist(How could you resist the original Joker?) and Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Neither of these films will win any awards, but they took an audience away and they entertained. For that I am grateful. When I say a film should be good, for me goodness is a fairly liberal term. A film should entertain. It should take you outside yourself during the experience. It should linger in the mind. If it has a good story, a good cast. wonderful images and perhaps some great music ... then bonus, bonus, bonus and BONUS.
What Makes a Good Movie?
The image is adjusted forever
Sometime in my teens Jaws arrived in theaters. The summer movie was born. The story, the crisp dialogue, the shark of my imagination that was never diminished by the robotic actor on screen.
Jaws created the "summer blockbuster" phenomenon.
Jaws made $100,000,000 in North America alone. It has been noted that it certainly wasn't the first film to do this. Jaws established that the age of the big summer films had begun. People may not have been anxious to get into the water, but theater seats were a place of safety and welcome excitement.
Jaws reached a standard for suspense, shock and thrills that Hitchcock had achieved, but that few films afterwards would equal. Alien did. Disaster movies were big in the 70's. Airport, Towering Inferno, Poseidon Adventure and the really bad Earthquake set the stage for a string of sequels and derivative nonsense.
Later we would move to Toronto and I returned to the village once to visit friends. We went into town to see Rocky at the Strand theater. This was film-making that pulled in and involved the audience.
Great Moments in Film
On balance ... Kong,Trek, and a boy from Krypton
There have always been good and bad films. No era has really been a golden age of cinema. A new King Kong stomped across the screen. Star Trek returned. Star Trek the Motion picture was not a good film, no matter how much I tried to will it to improve. Superman arrived and we did believe a man could fly.
No Superman before or since has equaled the screen presence and sincerity of Christopher Reeve. No Lois has embodied the gutsy determination of Margot Kidder. Jackie Cooper is Perry White. Brando, Hackman and Ford were great. I would have liked to see Lex Luthor played less for laughs.
Star Trek improved with Wrath of Khan. Although some have said Galaxy Quest is the best Star Trek movie.
Conan appeared perhaps as Robert E. Howard had imaged. The second film was not as good. Flash Gordon blasted onto screens. The Queen soundtrack resonated more than the film. We saw it in one of Toronto's great old theaters and it was fun. The age of large theaters was ending and Cineplex began to dominate. For the most part it wasn't so bad, but I suspect that we may have seen Mad Max: The Road Warrior in a barely converted janitor's room. There were only six seats.
We had no expectations
A poster,painted by the Brothers Hildebrandt (Greg and Tim), dominated one wall of the bedroom I shared with my younger brother. The iconic painting of Luke, Leia, C3P0 and R2D2 with the menacing figure of Darth Vader looming over them. We knew none of the details at that point. My sister has bought two posters and all we knew was Star Wars was a movie, and the other poster in the room was distracting. The other wall had Farrah Fawcett's well-regarded, and toothy, photo.
My high school, East York Collegiate Institute,was showing Young Frankenstein and I was going to take my brother to see it that Friday night. My mother didn't want us to go out in the rain so offered me the extra money so I could take Troy to a movie the next day. We headed out to Fairview Mall. Once we arrived we saw a long line-up. That should have been a clue. It wasn't. We asked one of the boys in line and he said they were all there for Star Wars. Then he said he has already seen it four times. Troy and I probably had the same thought about this boy's mental state. We got our tickets and some popcorn and sat in the middle row. Unlike Asian theatres, where seats are assigned, in most North American theatres you sit where you find space.
The lights dimmed. The music rose. A small cruiser appeared and suddenly a huge ship dwarfed and engulfed it. We were hooked. We were fully absorbed into a Galaxy ... Yada yada yada.
What made a film memorable for you?
Still from the Great Train Robbery
Popular films of 1977
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Saturday Night Fever
The Spy Who Loved Me
Star Wars Ep. IV: A New Hope Adventure
Ricardo Montalban with Nick Meyer on the Set of Star Trek II (1982)
Once we moved to Toronto, we were able to see movies more often. The first movie I saw in the city was Grizzly. I remember being fairly terrified and would have buried myself in a tub of buttered popcorn had that been possible. This was followed by Friday the 13th, Halloween and other assorted late '70's fare. Jaws had shown that summer movies worked, and also that teenagers were a demographic that would spend and spend.
Frozen with laughter
In 1975 Monty Python and the Holy Grail was released in theaters. I saw it on TV for the first time in 1977. My brother Troy and I were making quite a bit of noise so our sister came in to see what we were watching. We couldn't answer because we were laughing so hard it was almost difficult to breath. She just thought we were nuts. We saw Jabberwocky next, but it wasn't the same. A couple of years later we saw Life of Brian in the cinema, and it was like meeting old friends again. Life of Brian is in every discernible way a better made film. The direction, the sets and costumes, the writing is tighter and the story linear and certainly more lucid. It just doesn't paralyze you with laughter. The music is one of the highlights of the film.
The Pythons would make other films, including Time Bandits with Sean Connery, but Holy Grail and life of Brian remain favourites. John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam would go on to individual and stellar successes. A Fish Called Wanda, The Fisher King, a number of BBC's acclaimed travel series, and Spamalot top the list but in no way encompass all of the Pythons' range and achievements.
Graham Chapman will always be remembered for his work in Life of Brian.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The summer film craze has been blamed for what seemed like a rush to rush to capitalize on a trend, as well as some bad decisions in scripts and in financing.
As if Ishtar, the Golden Child, Heaven's Gate, Superman Four, and Apocalypse Now are even explainable events.
The blame for Apocalypse Now should rest closer to home, and with someone who should have known better. Blame that would rest squarely with Francis Ford Coppola, especially after the revelations in the documentary of Hearts of Darkness. Apocalypse Now is widely, and justifiably, regarded as a classic. It is also a testament to excess, lack of oversight and the wonders of chemical enhancement. It succeeded so it didn't become the benchmark against which all other poor decisions and hubris are measured .
Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate would be vilified and ridiculed, not because it was a bad film, but largely because it failed. It had cost in excess of 40 million, and made back less than two million. Cimino would go on to write, or direct a few more movies. He had considerable success as a novelist.
Terry Gilliam would be unfairly lumped into a category of difficult and unsuccessful directors, along with Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick
What becomes a classic?
Sometime in the mid-eighties I saw a film that reduced me to fits of laughter. Afterwards, sitting in a bar, a friend patiently tried to explain what the director was trying to achieve. I patiently explained that even though I had understood what the intent had been, I thought the film was an unintentional laugh fest. Google 'ears, Dennis Hopper, inhale, mask' for a fuller explanation. I may start giggling again. That having been said, I enjoy a lot of the director's work.
In 1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was released. It changed the way pop music was used in film and managed to make a depressing ending cheerful. Redford and Newman would team up again for The Sting. A movie that reintroduced audiences to Scott Joplin and Ragtime.
An early memory was watching In the Heat of the Night on television, and that was followed by To Sir With Love. This was my only view of a wider world as our village was quite isolated. One of my favourite films is Sneakers, in which Sidney Poitier plays a key role.
Bruce Lee was an early hero because I had seen him on Batman in the two part episode which featured the Green Hornet and Kato. Years later I would see the various Lee films. The recent Green Hornet parody was a wasted opportunity.
Learning William Shatner was Canadian was a pretty big deal. I always enjoyed his work. It has been amazing to watch as he reinvents and re-energizes his career.
Cheap films make a profit
The Dark horse rears it's magnificent, and cost effective, head
Ah, the sleepers
Roger Corman made a number of low budget films that gave actors, writers and directors their start.
American Graffiti, Halloween, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction ,El Mariachi were all films that had been difficult to get financed and then went on to make a substantial profit.