Monday, December 5, 2011

Five Movies I Love More Now Than I Did When I Was Young

5.       Toy Story
I hear people all the time say, “Those cartoons are stupid and for kids only.”  On the surface, that may be true but Pixar, in the years and movies since, has proven that animation is not strictly child’s play.
I saw the first in theatres when I was 10 in the winter of 1995.  I have always entertained (and who hasn’t) the thought of your toys coming to life.  I watched as Woody’s jealousy got the best of him.  Then, with the realization of the need of a friend, Buzz and Woody are (spoiler alert!) able to escape the clutches of Sid and return into the warming arms (fine, cooled van) of Andy.
                Sounds simple that I enjoyed these movies years ago, so why do I love them now?  I had the privilege of seeing the 3-D re-release with Toy Story 2 in October 2009.  Two wonderful things I noticed this time around.  First, the brilliant Oscar-nominated screenplay.  The story, as cookie-cutter as it is, is nearly flawless.  Plus, there are more than a few jokes that only older viewers will get, such as the true meaning of “laser envy” and the brand name on the tool box in Sid’s room.
Second, of course, the awe & wonder brought about by the computer animation.  In some alternative universe, Pixar failed.  May God help those folks.

4.       E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial
We all dream of this: An alien is stranded on Earth, hunted by savage scientists for experimentation.  He - or if you listen to Spielberg, it – escapes and arrives in your open arms, where the two of you bond.  Your friendship is going perfectly; until of course the bond the two of you have becomes evident as the two of you really are bonded after the alien (spoiler alert) uses its finger as Neosporin® and the two of you contract a deadly virus, which (mega spoiler alert) almost kills you and kills him (fine, it).
Steven Spielberg’s pseudo-autobiographical tale (he can deny it all he wants) about the loneliness of childhood was for a long time the highest grossing movie of all time.  And it was not hard to see why.  As I grew older, I began to care more & more about these people.  You can just smell the Elliot’s desire to be loved and E.T.’s desire to love.  And the more I learned about the production – such as the fact that the farewell scene was the last scene filmed since the whole thing was filmed in order – the more magical it becomes.
3.       The Neverending Story
A movie funded by libraries (or so it seems), the American-debut of Wolfgang Petersen is a wondrous fantasy about a boy who loves to read.  Luckily, we mostly see the fantasy sequences surrounding a young warrior named Atreyu and his quest to save the Childlike Empress from the Nothing armed with nothing but a platinum selling album.  Based on a German novel of the same title, Die endlichte Geschichte proved once and for all that if you want American kids to read, don’t make a movie from a book that is barely available in a language they don’t understand to begin with, English.
Why exactly do I love this movie more?  Simply, the greater appreciation of the effects.  Watching the Rockbiter now still gives me chills. 
I don’t know, it’s late and I thought of the inclusion of this movie would be easy.  But I haven’t watched this in a few years and it could take pages to explain the story & why I love it.  Trust me, it’s great.
2.       Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Based on the first Roald Dahl novel about the aforementioned children’s palace, Willy Wonka tells the fascinating true, rags-to-riches-to-cavities story (only one of those adjectives is true) of a humble boy who (spoiler alert) inherits a chocolate factory after winning a contest.  But unlike the book, there are chorus lines of Oompa Loompas, a major upgrade.
As I got older, some of the obvious plot holes arrived.  First, why do Charlie & Grandpa Joe drink the Fizzy Lifting Drinks?  Charlie Bucket, closet hippie or future rebel without a cause?  Second, speaking of Grandpa Joe, where did he get that chocolate bar?  Until he did that show-stopping number, he didn’t walk for 20 years.  Liar, liar pants on fire!  Finally, who green-lighted the song by Charlie’s mother?  Seriously, who?  Next time, try not to skip the song on the DVD.
So why do I love it more despite the above?  Two words: Gene. Wilder.  Next time you watch this, start with act three.  For those who can’t figure out where to start, go to the opening of the factory gates scene.  The somersault he performs is just the beginning.  Watch his face every chance you get.  One of the great comedic performances ever.
1.       Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Released in the summer before I turned three, this was a staple in my house from the time my family could get it from the local video store (remember those?).  When I re-watched this movie for the first time in my 20’s, it amazed me that my parents allowed me to watch this.
On the surface, it looks and sounds like just another live action/animated flick from the Disney Corporation.  But, like America Beauty, look closer.  WFRR, apart with being a Christian station in Walton, Indiana, is a artful labor of love by Robert Zemeckis , the Spielberg protégé whose previous film, Back to the Future, took the world by storm.
Say what you want about the paint-by-numbers plot that is not why I love this movie.  My adoration is based purely on the look.  Although he doesn’t really show it now with all that motion capture nonsense, Zemeckis constantly shows he knows his way around with the camera.  But what really is impressive is the use of the animation in the real world of 1930’s L.A.  It is my belief that the CGI-infested world we occupy today would not be possible if Zemickis didn’t put as much care & precision as he places on the screen.  Most impressively, there actually is a point in the movie where the animation becomes fully integrated with the real world, and I’m not even talking about the beautiful transition at the end of the short.  Where does it happen?  And I didn’t even talk about Bob Hoskins.

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