Sunday, October 9, 2011

Critic's Cafe: Bill & Scott Discuss The Potential Lasting Power Of Their Generation's Films

Scott: Isn't it amazing that we still remember and watch the Wizard of Oz when it was made in 1939? That's 72 years ago! It got me thinking... are there any movies that were made during our lifetimes that will be remembered fondly 75 years from now, in the year 2086? And by "remembered fondly" I don't mean in that, "Oh yeah - I've heard that was a classic," way but I'm thinking of, "This movie is the pinnacle of the cinematic experience and it is still watched and loved today." Maybe we should start by identifying some more films by bygone eras that we still remember fondly in 2011.

Bill: Our lifetime is almost 40 years. I'm not sure if Wizard Of Oz is a fair comparison. It's 72 years old. For instance, I think we can agree that Star Wars has staying power. But it came out in 1977. So, by your reckoning of 2086, should Star Wars endure, that's a 109 years! No movie has met that benchmark and is still watchable and acceptable to modern audiences.
But, if we're talking movies in our lifetime that have the potential to sustain itself for three quarters of a century, regardless of whatever year that would be, I'm game. I would say, off the top of my head, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Godfather, Forrest Gump, Titanic, Jaws, Superman: the Movie, and Back To The Future. We can discuss these at length, but they each have a pedigree going back 15-38 years already. Certainly well on their way towards the 75 year benchmark. The real challenge, as I see it, is what films over the last 10 years have that potential? 

Scott: Sure... 2086 would be for a movie released this year. Maybe we should qualify our exactly lifetimes. I am born in 1977 so that makes me 34 year old. I completely agree with Star Wars, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Godfather (even though Godfather was a little bit before my time - was it released in your lifetime?).
I think I'm going to disagree with you on Back to the Future, Jaws, Titanic, and Superman: The Movie. Not to say that all of these aren't great films - I just don't believe they'll be held high as the gold standard of cinema, watched, and loved by fans 75 years after their release.

Since we disagree, allow me to briefly defend my positions.

Back to the Future - While it's a great film, I believe it may be only for our generation. I don't think newer generations watch and appreciate it the way we do. I don't see loyal Back to the Future fans among people outside of our generation.

Jaws - Certainly a classic, but I don't think it rises to the level of Wizard of Oz. It has a reputation for genuinely scaring people out of the water and there are plenty of folks that will stay away from something that could disturb them.

Titanic - While it performed epicly at the box office, I don't think it has staying power. I think people kinda got sick of it, actually. The scene on the bow of the ship and the scene when Jack dies are both thought of as jokes now - not as serious drama.
Superman: The Movie - I would say this is THE Superman movie... but then again, I would because this is my generation's Superman. If you asked somebody who grew up in the 50's they would tell you that George Reeves is "the" Superman. While good, it's not even the best superhero film let alone the one that will endure the longest. Superman will continue to be reinvented and reimagined for each generation. Once a good, newer version comes out the old will eventually be forgotten. EX: Tim Burton's Batman.

Bill: Well, I was born in 1972, which makes The Godfather within my lifetime. It also makes you a whipper-snapper sonny-jim, lol. As far as the films you disagree with, let's start with Superman. It was released in 1978. Now, 33 years later, it is still going strong. Of all superhero films, it has endured the longest without a reboot. Batman has had 2 reboots so far, and Spider-Man is getting one a mere 10 years later. It is still a mainstay on cable television and reboots or not, it will be the gold standard by which other Superman films will be measured. Was Gary Oldman's Dracula superior to Bela Lugosi's? Perhaps. Did it erase Bela's from the history books? Certainly not.

Jaws - Currently holds the #48 position on the AFI's top 100 films of all time. Released in 1975, it is 36 years old, almost 1/2 of the 75 year benchmark, with no signs of slowing down. Outside of some 70's haircuts, the movie transcends the era it was filmed in. It's a classic tale, perhaps the Moby Dick of the 20th Century. 

Back To The Future - 26 years later, it is still relevant today. "Hello McFly", "Flux Capacitor", and "Slacker" are as much a part of our cultural lexicon as "Live long and prosper", and "Go ahead, make my day." Films as recent as Knocked Up (2007), Fanboys (2008), and Arthur (2011) reference BTTF. As long as the future continues to hold a strong contingent of nerds and geeks, this Time Travel film will hold up as the measuring stick of other time travel movies.

Titanic - Oh, absolutely this film is gonna make it. It seems once a month some cable channel is playing it somewhere. There has been a dozen films about the Titanic, but none so vivid as this. The fictional love story alone is great. Poor boy meets rich girl, they fall in love, jealous fiance and his lackey interfere, timeless. Now, put that with the most historically accurate account of the Titanic to date, and you have an instant classic.

Ohh, and before I forget, other movies that I need to shout out, that came to me after the "top of my head" moment, are Ghostbusters and E.T. the extra-terrestrial.

Scott: Listen, I'm not disputing the quality of these films. The AFI list is completely irrelevant to this conversation. There are plenty of amazing films that have found themselves on the ash-heap of history. In the top ten alone you have Raging Bull, Singing in the Rain, and Lawrence of Arabia - all of which are cinematically fantastic but nobody watches anymore.

Sure, Titanic is shown on cable monthly... but do you believe that will be the case in 2072? I think not. And as for the way movie quotes make it into our everyday language, I'm sure plenty of people have said, "Go ahead, make my day!" Or "Asta la visa, baby!" without having ever seen Dirty Harry or Terminator 2.

As for your other two suggestions, I agree with E.T. You actually stole that one from me! I was going to say it. But as for Ghostbusters, I think this is the perfect example of a movie that was loved by its generation and forgotten by the next.

Here are a few movies I had in mind:
In the tradition of Christmas movies remembered far after their initial release such as It's A Wonderful Life how about A Christmas Story? That movie has a die hard fan base even though it's initial theatrical release was a complete bust.

I also think Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Princess Bride, Toy Story, and Disney's Beauty and the Beast?   

Bill: You couldn't be more wrong. You could try, but you couldn't do it. AFI completely irrelevant? The point of the AFI is to preserve film. If some film is expected to go 75+ years, it would need to be preserved and worthy of preservation, wouldn't you agree? Nor was the AFI mention the crux of the argument, but just reinforcing the others.

If people who never saw films like Dirty Harry and Terminator 2, yet recite lines from it, just further proves my point. They've had enough cultural impact from those who have seen it to make it part of our vocabulary. There are people who never saw Star Wars, yet will say "may the force be with you", and know that they just recited Star Wars.

Ghostbusters forgotten by this new generation? Explain the upcoming Ghostbusters 3 film. Explain a successful animated series and recent video games that have carried the torch for this widely accepted and beloved film. The film is referenced in recent films like Casper (1995) The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005), Just My Luck (2006), Zombieland (2009), as well as television episodes of Family Guy (2006) and Robot Chicken (2006).

100% with you on Christmas Story. In fact, this could be a separate discussion unto itself. "In our lifetime, has there been a Christmas Movie that will be as timeless as Scrooge, A Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th St?" The Santa Clause, Elf, Bad Santa, all funny films, but destined to be lost through the filter of time.

I also agree with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The exception here is that unlike Wizard of Oz, which has mass appeal, Rocky Horror will never grow beyond its small, but persistent, cult following.

I think as far as animated Disney films go, we can do better than Beauty and the Beast. Aladdin and the Little Mermaid spring to mind. The Lion King is epic too, thanks in part to Elton John's "The Circle of Life" which owned the Billboards back in the day.

I have nothing but love for The Princess Bride, and it has the hallmarks of an enduring film. My gut tells me it'll get passed over around the 40 year benchmark, but I hope I'm wrong. 

Scott: When I mentioned the AFI I was referencing the top 100 list you mentioned. It is clearly evident that quality films are completely forgotten about by the general population.

Ghostbusters 3 may thrust the original back into the spotlight once again but I feel very comfortable saying that in 2059 it will not be remembered like Wizard of Oz is today. There have been a recent string of very late sequels and video games released (such as the Warriors video game and the new Rambo film) that have very little to do with fans demanding their release. Hollywood is, for the most part, out of new ideas so they just keep recycling the old ones.

You mentioned Lion King. While I don't think it will stand the test of time as Snow White has it will be interesting to see how it does when released as a 3D film. Are families willing to pay in the theater to see something they have at home on DVD?

I think the big challenge animation has in staying relevant is the progression of CGI technology. Almost every animated film is now fully CGI. Once the technology moves on, so do audiences - as is evidenced by silent films to talkies and black and white film to color. No silent films remain relevant today and very, very few black and white ones do. Could 3D be the next big revolution that makes 2D films seem obsolete in the eyes of audiences?

Bill: I still say its a bad call on your part about Ghostbusters. But time will tell, and we just have to be patient. Still, if the Mayan Doomsday Calender is correct, I predict that Ghostbusters will endure to the end of mankind.
I don't think 3D will ever replace 2D. While it certainly is a sustained novelty, going as far back as the 1950's, audiences don't seem compelled to watch television with special glasses all the time. 3D will be, at best, a specialty, like a "directors cut." Unique, but not fully replacing the original (unless its a film by George Lucas).

As for animation, good call. Will be interesting to see how the old ink & celluloid hold up. Old Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, and Flintstones still hold up on television, but as for big screen films, anything new is given the CGI treatment. Still, Disney vaults their films, releasing them periodically, driving up public interest as they do. So, conceivably, this method may sustain their films for decades to come. 

While we seem to agree on what makes a film have lasting value, we differ on some of the titles. Still, the real challenge in this discussion for me are recent films. Anything 2001 and forward? Any thoughts, ideas, prospects?

Scott: If there are any, I think I'll be surprised by them. There are some good movies but I think they lack the qualities to truly withstand the test of time. Dark Knight, Iron Man, Gladiator, Sin City, Avatar, the Lord of the Rings films, and Memento - I like them all but I don't think they're going to be the next Wizard of Oz. For a movie to achieve that level of sustained popularity it has to have timeless themes and a great deal of re watchability. What are your thoughts - agree or disagree?

Bill: Lord of the Rings has potential for one reason, it's been done, and done well. While it is true that Hollywood does run out of ideas and is prone to reboots and remakes, I don't recall them ever remaking an epic film on an epic scale. So I don't think this trilogy will ever be touched. LotR will always have a core literary fan base, but will it be enough to sustain the film for decades to come? 

Gladiator may be our generation's Spartacus. But how often do you come across Spartacus

Dark Knight, Iron Man, shoot even Spider-Man. But I fear that in 75 years, there will be at least 2-4 reboots of these franchises.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here, totlly left field, and say Shaun of the Dead. Here are my reasons. Despite its lack of universal appeal, I can offer this up as you offered up Rocky Horror, which also has limited appeal. I would venture to say that not since Airplane! has there truly been a movie that knows how to spoof an entire genre, and spoof it well. While films like Scary Movie, Date Movie, and Meet the Spartans tend to spoof a few movies in their films, Shaun of the Dead wonderfully spoofs the zombie sub-genre of horror. It touches on many zombie movie themes, but tells its own linear story without ripping off other zombie movie scenes. Having re-watched Airplane! recently, I noticed just how funny that film is, even if so many things have changed regarding air travel today. Today, you do not run into Harri-Krishna's (sp?) at the airport, there are no smoking sections, and overhead luggage are now put in closed-door compartments. Still, people of a post 9/11 world still laugh at this films comedy, because there are so many universally funny things involved. Therefore, I feel that as long as the Zombie genre holds up, Shaun of the Dead will always be an appreciated and often watched film by fans of the genre. 

Scott: I just had the chance to poll a group of 19 to 22 years olds on this topic and I think they've changed my mind on a couple of movies.

They all said that they had seen Titanic, Jaws, and Superman: The Movie but that they thought they were bad for various reasons (such as the Jaws shark looking too fake). They DID however say they loved Back to the Future so I'll change my mind and agree with you on that one. They also said Lord of the Rings so I'll agree with you on that one as well.

Two movies they suggested that I actually agree with are Rocky and Grease.

As for Shaun of the Dead... I think it has cult film potential but not on the level of Rocky Horror Picture Show. In its heart it is a parody and parodies have a shelf life that is tied to what they are spoofing.

So far, we've agreed on the following movies:

Star Wars (all three originals?) -1977
The Godfather - 1972
Back to the Future - 1985
Lord of the Rings (all three?) - 2001
A Christmas Story - 1983
Rocky Horror Picture Show - 1975
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark - 1981
E.T. - The Extraterrestrial - 1982

Bill: Well, for Star Wars and LotR, I'd say all movies in their respective trilogies. I just can't see A New Hope lasting 75 years, while Return of the Jedi fades away. I'd also say Rocky Horror Picture Show should go. Yes, there will be a cult following, but the argument was for films to be as accepted as Wizard of Oz. Clearly, Wizard has far more appeal. Other than that, I'd say the list looks solid. But let's include: Rocky.

No comments:

Post a Comment