Thursday, 3 March 2016

Movies - On the Shoulders of Giants.

Like everything else in the world, the movies have changed in the last hundred years.  Since celluloid was first animated to produce cine film, new technologies have cut their teeth in the film industry and changed the lives of ordinary working-class people.  A night at the movies has been a universal source of entertainment,  music, laughter and often an educational experience, opening the eyes of the world to the beauty of foreign shores and mountain wildernesses.  It has brought us graphic, visual images of war, famine and injustice.

I love a good story, especially about something inspirational that changes lives. Lawrence of Arabia was my first encounter with a person who made a difference and through reading and movie-going, I have encountered many more. They are remarkable people who changed our perspectives and whose stories enhance our own lives, through the skilful retelling of their stories, by great producers and directors. Sometimes, like Ghandi, Erin Brockovich, and Mandela, they are figures of our times, who teach us moral lessons and show us what we can achieve together.  At other times they are purely fiction, recreated from a novel but they teach us valuable moral lessons about the nature of others and ourselves. If not for the wonderful but brutal portrayal of Dian Fossy in Gorillas in the Mist, I doubt that there would be many of those wonderful primates left in the wild.

Movies can move mountains. I will never forget the blanket silence that enveloped the audience of Spielberg's Schindler's List at the ABC cinema in 1993: One of the most poignant cinema-going moments that I have ever experienced. If anyone born post-war was ever in doubt about the evil of Nazism and why we fought in World War Two, the three hours of powerful film-making that they had just experienced left them with no doubt.

The power of a movie to influence opinion can be exploited. Power corrupts. Ultimate power corrupts ultimately. Working only to entertain for profit can have a negative effect on young minds and behaviour. Watering down dialogue and increasing the level of violence, purely to appeal to a global audience, reduces effective storytelling. I am not saying that all the movies in the past were wonderful.  I just think that the current level of violence aimed at young people is excessive and that those with so much influential power should be mindful when yielding it.

In January this year I went to the launch of  The Winter Gardens Film Festival at Blackpool Opera House, with two girlfriends. It was a magical evening, with a pre-show cocktail in the art deco bar, the Wurlitzer organ playing before descending into the stage, then the movie: Black and white (as was the dress code for the event).  It was the original 1930's version of 42nd Street and included so many sexist remarks and violence towards women, that we three feminists were shocked. There's one thing that cinemas has helped to change. There was a jazz duo in the bar afterwards and it was lovely to really dress for the occasion. The tickets were £7.50 and I highly recommend the experience to you all for next year.

I wrote the poem in 2010 and although I have managed to worm out some excellent big-screen experiences in the mean time, my overall opinion remains the same.

On the Shoulders of Giants.

I love a night at the movies,
A feature in through most of my life,
The cost of the theatre was always outrageous,
For my father of four and his wife.
But he took us along to view Zulu,
And Can Can in Manchester too,
I dragged Nana to see Sound of Music,
We went several times: Technicolor was new.
The Gaumont was stuffy and smoky,
With overstuffed plush velvet seats,
An usherette guided us in with a torch:
During the interval, sold ice-cream and sweets.  

The studios told us a story,
with passion, with skill and with style
Hitchcock intrigued us, then scared us,
Musicals made us all dance in the aisles.
Eastwood was dirty as Harry,
A magnum tucked under his coat,
Then Clyde the orang sent us ape with his punches
I laughed so much at Airplane, I just couldn’t cope.
In the glorious nineteen seventies,
Scorsese sizzled and Coppolla soared,
Lucas launched the light-sabre,
Brian had a life,
Oh my God how we roared.

I still feel myself on the edge of my seat,
As Spielberg’s monstrous ‘Jaws’,
Munched into box-office history,
A Great White blockbuster: but look what it caused. 
When Cameron sank the Titanic
She went down spectacularly,
But he didn’t raise her and sink her again
In Titanic two and three.
I used to love going to movies,
until Stephen attempted Jaws 4 in 3D.
Jurassic Park opened the gates to extinction
Of everything I loved to see.
The sequel,
The prequel,
The crappy 3D-quel,
Just rolled on their way,
They had nothing to say,
We went napalming into the nineties,
The budgets exploded beyond exponential
and up by the power of three.
Comic book heroes in trios,
rebooted, re-caped, on a spree.
Homogenised, Superman movies,
with watered down dialogue, are not for me.
When Jackson adventured with Tolkien,
I accepted there had to be three.
It hadn’t escaped my attention
that Lord of the Rings was a trilogy,
though trebling up on a Hobbit
seems rather offensive. I hope you agree.

The rise of the cinema complex
has altered the industry.
The closing of beautiful buildings,
The Regent, The Princess, The Tivoli,
transformed into pool halls and night spots.
No place for the family.
And oh how our choices have narrowed,
with every screen showing  the same,
A Mega-bot sequel,
A Mega-size Pepsi
and Mega-big popcorn,
for one Mega-bucks fee.
When asked why they churn out more robots,
the studios simply say,
comedy and dialogue don’t travel well,
explosions can net £20 million a day.

Will our children understand prejudice,
without films like The Rabbit-Proof Fence,
or consider the rape of an Afghani boy,
if The Kite Runner isn’t made in his defence.
If there is a filmmaker listening, 
I’d love more like Amelie,
I'd like my 'third-kind–close-encounters’
to be truly amazing. Not just one of three.
I still love going out to a movie,
not watching tax-dodging flix on TV,
I want to be moved by the story,
I like a film speaking to me.
Give me more makers like Kubrick, 
more actors as good as Carloff,
Now they stand of the shoulders of giants
And all they can do is fall off.
Thanks for reading, Adele