Sunday, April 7, 2013

Better With Age

I was having a hard time figuring out how to link the three movies that are featured in this post and I finally concluded that what they all have in common is that they all deal with age, albeit in different ways.  So first up, we'll talk about an older movie that's gotten a facelift.  Then we'll talk about a new movie that deals with old age.  And we'll wrap up by talking about an old movie that's a must watch.

Let's begin, shall we?

First up, the 20th anniversary re-issue of Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park. I saw this movie when it first came out and enjoyed it but I wasn't too sure about the re-release, since it's been retrofitted for 3D and readers of this blog know that, overall, I don't think too much of 3D and I especially don't have kind words for shoving new technology on films that weren't made with the tech in mind.  (I have exceptions to my rule - Life of Pi being chief among them, but it was designed with 3D in mind.)  I enjoyed the movie, although I didn't much care for the 3D.  I think it was done well - the film isn't noticeably darker, which is a common complaint with retrofitted 3D - but the story isn't made any stronger by it.  There's plenty to enjoy in Jurassic Park and any movie that manages the improbable feat of making a sex symbol out of Jeff Goldblum is to be admired. (And hey - Samuel L. Jackson before he became - well, Samuel L. Jackson.)  The science is a bit sloppy and the tech is nigh-laughable after 20 years (floppy disks? Wow.) but the dinosaurs are wonderful and the story will grab you if you let it.  Further, Jurassic Park is a big-screen movie that's not ashamed to look better on the big screen.  Go take the young 'uns who weren't around when it first hit the screens (and are old enough to handle the scares) and enjoy.

Next, a gem that probably slipped right by you.  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel came out about a year ago in wide release, but it was a little art house movie that cameandwent in most places.  This is a "who's who" of esteemed British actors - Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, and Maggie Smith, among others - and tells the story of 7 Brits "of a certain age" who are all thrown together when they all decide, for their own reasons, to retire to a hotel in India.  (Finances are a big concern for most of them and India's far cheaper than England.)  The hotel turns out to not be as advertised.  It's a wonderful film - richly tender and visually stunning.  Yes, with all the horrible stories coming out of India lately, I'm not sure if this move would be a wise one by an elderly retiree, but it makes for a great movie.  Please check this one out.

Last, a classic from all the way back in 1919 that you need to see.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a magnificent example of a style called German Expressionism, but I don't want you to see it to tick a "must see" off your movie list (although it will let you do that).  Caligari is simply astonishing.  Keep in mind that this film was made just after the end of WWI.  On top of the devastation caused by that war - the first to utilize aerial combat and the widespread use of chemical warfare - the world had been stunned by the 1918 flu epidemic and was still in the grip of a mysterious disease known simply as "sleepy sickness."  It was a scary, scary time. Caligari plays on those fears - mind control, insanity, murder are all crucial parts of the story, which also reinforces the idea that you ought to steer clear of traveling carnivals.  What is truly extraordinary about Caligari, however, is not the plot - it's the look of the thing, which is deeply fascinating. There's not a square angle or a plumb line in the entire film - and it's deliberate.  It's not realistic at all, but it's an unparalleled visual statement of what an unhinged mind might see.  Amazing.  Get it now.

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