TIME is one factor that definitely makes a film and it’s reputation what it is. Some movies are lucky enough to transcend through different generations and keep giving the same, or even a bigger impact to audiences who re-visit it or see it or for the first time. A classic example would be Singin’ in the Rain (1952), which was released to less then stellar reviews and major comparisons to the Best Picture winning An American in Paris (1951) the year before. Paris was Gene Kelly and company’s greatest achievement back then featuring big movie stars, a post-war storyline, crazy musical numbers, and an extensive 17 minute ballet performed in glorious technicolor. When MGM produced Singin’ in the Rain, the following year, the film was greeted with unenthusiastic feelings as compared to the former movie musical. But why is is that after more then 60 years, people are still humming the tunes to Singin’ in the Rain and giving it it’s iconic status amongst the best films ever made as compared to Paris? It’s as simple as this: TIME CHANGES EVERYTHING.
I stumbled upon this topic when I bought the DVD to the Seth Rogen-Zac Efron flick Neighbours (2014), which I gave a pretty positive review to when I first saw it in the first half of this year. The film was funny, original and full of zany comical scenes that kept the movie fresh and entertaining. But after viewing it for the second time at home, it really did not hold up. I only remember laughing a few times (not even a handful) and waited for the film to end. Arguably, the film isn’t made for artistic purposes, but a film is still a film – something for entertainment or something that will at least hold my interest or sway my internal feelings to a certain emotion that I want to feel. And if you think about it, that’s just a few months that the film had to age. Imagine the difference between what people feel when they realized that An American in Paris is a Best Picture winner and Singin’ in the Rain wasn’t even a nominee?
Neighbours was in no way a bad movie, but then it is really what got me thinking about this particular topic. While I’m writing this essay, X2 (2002) is playing in the background on television. When I first saw X2, it was no less then complete awesomeness to me. Especially at the young age of ten years old, it’s hard not to love mutants going crazy even if i hardly understood the political statements that underly in the X-Men story lines. The wonderful thing about X2 and it’s contemporary brother, the Spider-Man trilogy (the one’s with Toby Maguire and not the heinous flicks starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone), is that they hold up extremely well. They belong to an age of Super Hero movies that focused primarily on the narrative rather then eye boggling special effects and cheap gimmicks that are so distracting. Though we owe Christopher Nolan the thanks of resurrecting comic book films to prestige, the greatest of everything that has to do with that genre ended with The Dark Knight (2008) because now the genre is just too bloated. Trust me, in five years a re-watch of Iron Man (2008) and Man of Steel (2013) will be completely underwhelming, and you’ll find yourself back in 2002 re-watching Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson in a wedding dress waiting for Toby Maguire’s answer…
That’s where my general issue is at. Movies with GREAT NARRATIVES (and not necessarily great production value) AND RELATE-ABILITY are really the films that transcend in time and never get old quickly. I’m not saying a filmmaker should avoid trying have provocative imagery or great effects because movies indeed are a visual medium, but forgetting about the narrative does not help a movie hold up one bit. Let me use the old Spider-Man movies and the new ones to illustrate my issue. People love the new ones with Andrew Garfield because it apparently stays “true” to the comic book, and I’m sure people find the puppy dog love story to be cute. But at the end of the day, watching Garfield and Stone prance around on the screen with the top notch special effects saying the cheesiest lines to each other still does not have the impact as Maguire’s glassy-eyed acting, that wedding dress and “with great power comes great responsibility”. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s still great writing. And of course, you remember it!
As this new film year comes to an end, it’s my biggest hope that we have films that define 2014 as something great. A year like 1994 (The Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction) is what I dream 2014 to be like. And less like a 1952 (where The Greatest Show on Earth won Best Picture and Singin’ in the Rain wasn’t even nominated). But I have hope. This year is really turning out to be very sharp, original and quite interesting. Though that statement has been thrown around a lot almost every year, you can’t help but go with the times. Who knows, in 2020 I might look back and see 2014 as a bitter grape in retrospect.
All I wanted to say with this essay is that TIME plays a huge component on how things are received. And that is truly interesting to me. If you had a chance to read my essay, look back on films that you love and don’t be afraid to question yourself. There is no limit to this industry because we have new and interesting things coming out all the time. Take everything day by day and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t like this film anymore, time wasn’t good to it”. That’s how everything works, even with food or your past fashion choices. And even if you’re not a serious movie buff, that’s what makes film interesting. They aren’t just for entertainment but they’re there for discussion as well.
ON A FINAL NOTE: Can you believe Out of Africa won Best Picture in 1985 while Back to the Future and The Breakfast Club weren’t even nominated? Another example of how TIME changes everything.