Life in the Pedestrian Lane

What you see is what you get

Posted: Sunday, September 23, 2007

Movies just aren't what they used to be (there! I said it!). In the past decade they have become really bad. No originality. Movie makers have lost their imagination. If it's not a TV show or a sequel it appears that no one can think of a story line for a new movie. Remakes of old classics seem to be the favorite fall-back. They became classic because they were good the first time. The remake seldom is. And sequels? We've watched Bruce Willis Die Harder way too many times.

Dialogue is a thing of the past. Writers know how to spell only a couple of words, one starts with "F," the other is "D'oh." The formula seems to be that no more than 37 seconds can pass on-screen without some form of that "F" word or else the female lead appears in a shiny black bodysuit carrying a whip. If Clark Gable had known what he was starting he'd have said "Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a DARN!" Any character that uses a three syllable word, like "tedious," is likely to be the one who dies a prolonged and painful death.

I am of the movie generation. I really like going to movies, or used to. We don't go so much anymore for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is there's not much we want to see. I grew up with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry way before they were ever on TV and spent lots of Saturday afternoons watching double-feature westerns where bullets flew but no gore spattered. When one of the bad men died, it was off screen after he lost his black hat and fell off his horse. No lingering death scene showing mortal wounds spurting blood or limbs flying off in every direction.

I even spent serious time at drive-ins. Where else could you get the full effect of "Godzilla" or "Creature from the Black Lagoon," except in the front seat of a '49 Ford huddled with your steady date of the moment? Sometime between "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" and "Halloween," the drive-ins closed and movies became boring. (Anybody see "Valley of the Dolls"?) Bucket seats came in and ruined the whole reason for watching a movie from a car, then the 50's generation grew up and turned adolescence over to a bunch of kids who didn't know what they were doing and it got spoiled. Movies became "meaningful" and epic and realistic in the apparently failed attempt to counteract TV. Let's face it, it is a lot easier, not to mention cheaper, to sit at home in front of the tube. Besides, you have the option of turning it off. Movie makers are putting their product on TV or DVD almost as soon as it hits the theaters these days, hoping to catch the stay-at-homes.

Which brings me to my real point: Did you watch "High School Musical 2" a few weeks ago? What? No romance in your soul? No kids in your house? Apparently, the night it aired on the Disney Channel it drew a larger audience than anything else on TV. I'm not sure whether that says a lot for the Disney movie or not much for TV. What it DOES say, I hope, is that the powers that be who make kids' movies are finally getting away from the dark and creepy. Even some of the animated stuff lately has been a little foreboding. Maybe the trend toward lighter will move into the industry at large.

I devoted many evenings to movie musicals back in the day. Granted, some of them were pretty brainless (do you remember the title or plot to any Doris Day movie?), but they were what they were intended to be: entertainment. Gene Kelly tapping down the street with his umbrella belting out "Singing in the Rain" is such a movie moment that Jackie Chan even used the routine in one of his martial arts movies. And Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on the dance floor were the epitome of movie class certainly a cut above Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Class in current movies seems to be that the actors stay covered-up during the hot sex scenes.

I like a bit of drama and suspense, and even fright night in its place, but 20-plus years and 11 versions of "Friday the 13th" is a little much. How long can Jason terrorize Crystal Lake Resort? Campers should have caught on and quit coming there by now.

Roy and Gene are gone, unfortunately, and movies have become commonplace. Several lists of the 100 Best Movies of All Time don't list any titles past 1993, although "Finding Nemo" did make the TIME list. Maybe "High School Musical 2" is an indication that all is not lost. But did we really need a remake of "Halloween?"

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai.



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