Sunday, June 10, 2007

"Three hunnert" old and new

The mighty Laurelhurst Theater has been having a '60s film fest of sorts during the last few weeks, which has given me the rare opportunity to see some of the favorite films of my yoot on the big screen. Those of you who grew up in the Chicago area during the 60s and early 70s may remember as fondly as I the venerable "Family Classics" with Frazier Thomas that aired on Sunday afternoons on WGN -- or, and one must adapt an "old man voice" here: "in my day it was just channel 9." Apparently, Frazier picked out the films himself that he thought would be good viewing for the kiddies, and ran them in heavy rotation. So I had the chance to get to know some great films that were made before I was born, like "War of the Worlds" and "The Time Machine." Fortuitously, the films the Laurelhurst is playing intersects nicely with the Family Classics films, so I couldn't pass up the chance last Saturday to see "Mysterious Island," the film that first made me recognize the importance of a kick ass film score, and yesterday the unassailable awesomeness that is "Jason and the Argonauts," both on the big screen. Actors? Directors? Pffft! Who cares when you have the legendary Ray Harryhausen doing the special effects, and the even MORE legendary Bernard Herrmann doing the music? Blissful, I tells ya!

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned how much I liked the movie "300," despite its pedestrian script and flagrant historical inaccuracies. I based this opinion largely on its jaw-dropping visual style. But watching "Jason and the Argonauts," which was made in 1963, made me wonder how well "300" would hold up in 40 years. I mean, answer this question:

Who's the bigger bad ass?

I gotta say, I think it's the guys what ain't got no skin. But it does make one wonder if the ubiquitous, push-button nature of CGI has robbed film of some of its magic. Or maybe I'm just getting older and the final product means more if I know that some old dude in his garage took 4 months to produce a fight with skeletons that only lasted two minutes on screen. I guess it's just the heart involved. You can feel the passion in "Jason and the Argonauts." Passionate CGI, well, perhaps that's just a little bit harder to render.


Tavia Rowan said...

Plus, in those older films (I'm thinking also of old Disney films), there was character even in the backgrounds.

Tavia Rowan said...

...and, of course, the old army doesn't make you feel like you must run to the gym.

Anonymous said...

Oh, don't be such an old fart ! Escapist fare is escapist fare. Every generation has those movies that capture their imagination visually. One is not better than the other. You enjoyed "300" & you still enjoy "Jason & the Argonauts"; it's not a contest. I also wanted to add that I think the recent re-make of "War of the Worlds" was better than the "Family Classics" version, (despite Tom Cruise). Spielberg did a better job of conveying H.G. Wells idea of invasion. Talk amongst yourselves...

Andrew said...

I don't necessarily agree with your "escapist fare is escapist fare" opinion, Mr./Ms. Anonymous. It's true that every generation has those movies that capture their imagination, but some ARE better than others. For example, here are two movies that came out in 1982: "Blade Runner" and "Tron." Both captured the imagination visually. But one is largely forgotten and the other's name is still invoked with awe as a defining example of how to create an entirely new world.

No, it's not a contest, but the question was whether "300" would hold up as well after 40 years as "Jason and the Argonauts" has. Maybe it will. One of the things I liked about "300" was that it had an uncompromising vision, and that is something it shares with "JatA." But I wouldn't be surprised if in 40 years it's regarded as this generation's "Tron."

(I should also mention that I do actually kinda like "Tron." But I don't have the Director's Cut DVD of it, as I do with "Blade Runner.")

Anonymous said...

Please tell me that you are not comparing "Blade Runner" to "Jason & the Argonauts". Between the source material (Phillip K. Dick), the story, & the perfromances, (Harrison Ford not with standing). that is great movie, not just "escapist fare" & generally considered so, (especially the directors cut). Again, I must emphasize : I loved "Jason.." growing up, but a time-tested movie it ain't. I would think that if you talked to some kid who came of age in the 80's, they might claim that "Tron" is a movie that still works for them, (Nostalgia does tend to make things seem more grand) & I think "Jason..." is well remembered best by those of us from that era.

Hey, I love a good debate.

Mr. Anonymous Geek/Asshole

Tavia Rowan said...

And what is the difference between escapism and greatness? Could it have something to do with the message? Or does the delivery of the message make or break the film?

I forget-- did "Jason etc" have a message, besides "animation is fun?"

Anonymous said...

Very subjective of course; "greatness" for some is "lameness" for another, (is that actually a word ?). Most of what can be considered escapist movies usually do not have a message (i.e. "Jason..") or any kind of depth. "Blade Runner" on the other hand, is the kind of movie that had a variety of levels in the story. It also has inspired a certain level of debate. As noted, nostalgia is the rear view mirror in which objects appear to be greater that the might actually be.

Anonymous Geek / Asshole (Mrs)

Andrew said...

I AM comparing "Jason" and "Blade Runner" -- not their perceived "greatness," whatever that may mean -- but the passion with which they were made. I think passion is what sets apart good "escapist" movies from bad ones, and good "idea" movies from bad ones. "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is not a great movie, but it was made with passion. And I think that's why it remains a cult favorite when so many other similar movies have long since been forgotten.

The (albeit rhetorical) question I asked at the end of the post was if "300" had a similar kind of passion that would make it a cult favorite long after the technology with which is was made had been surpassed. I don't know the answer to that question but it will be interesting to see, 40 years from now, if small theaters have revivals of "special effects movies of the 00s," will a screening of "300" be as well attended as was the "Jason" screening?