June 22nd, 2010

Whale fluke

Meme, Day 30!

The finale what is grand (yay! I made it!):

Day 30 - Your favorite movie of all time
Oh, now we're to a tough one. And...I can't really answer that. Not completely. Any answer almost seems too easy, and too reductionist: do I saw The Empire Strikes Back for its impact on my childhood, how incredibly well it holds up 30 years later (seen any other 1980 films lately?) and how I think it's the Star Wars film that's firing on the most cylinders? Do I say 2001: A Space Odyssey for its impact on my childhood, for helping make me a longtime fan of both Arthur C. Clarke and science fiction? Do I say Monty Python and the Holy Grail (seriously) for how it got me into Monty Python, how it collapsed me laughing, and showed how a hysterical film can also be a beautiful film? Do I say Blade Runner for how no matter how it's re-edited, it has an emotional impact and gets its mood so right? Do I say The Adventures of Baron Munchausen for how thoroughly it flies over the top? Do I say The Lord of the Rings (all three films in toto) for how wonderfully overwhelmed I felt by so many of its moments? (Seriously: I forgot to breathe at some moments in the trilogy.)

There's a common thread I'm seeing in the films that come to my mind, beyond their being all SF or fantasy and their all having wonderful music: they are very, very heightened experiences. They completely immerse you in their imagined worlds. They either don't wink at the audience or wink so thoroughly -- Holy Grail's low-budget workarounds (the coconuts!) and the sudden intrusions of modern-day people at several points -- that the wink becomes part of the experience. (Holy Grail would not have been as good a film, I think, had the Pythons decided to stay with their original idea of having the film half medieval and half modern, including stealing the Grail from Harrod's and having God as the getaway driver. The ideas were funny, but, I think, muddled. Making the film mostly medieval was, I think, the stroke of cleverness that makes Holy Grail really work.) Movies can be so good at creating that heightened experience: they're already heightened by (ideally) being shown on a large screen; also, filmmaking technology can be used to create almost anything one can imagine, and these films don't bother with using their technology to portray, say, acne problems or the local neighborhood Starbucks. These films are careful in both their huge details (The Lord of the Rings with its tens of thousands of soldiers) and the tiny details (my breath caught a little when I saw Bilbo at Rivendell; I referred to that at the time as "the happy-sad moment of a beloved character, grown old"). These films all do this with love and care. I always hope more movies are made like that.

Day 30 - Saddest character death
I was too young to see the death of McLean Stevenson's character on M*A*S*H. Later, I wasn't watching the later years of The West Wing (due to not having a TV until the very end of the last season), so I didn't see how the show dealt with John Spencer's sudden death by having his character Leo McGarry die suddenly.

I was watching NYPD Blue when the show spent several episodes showing Bobby Simone (Jimmy Smits) growing sicker and dying. The show took its time and gave its focus to Bobby dealing with his declining health, more than a lot of TV shows would've done; it was almost its own miniseries instead of the start of a season. And NYPD Blue took other risks with the story, getting more into the spiritual side of the end of life than the show typically did (remember, plenty of characters died on that show; the show wasn't going to give such attention to the death of that jackass Denby). The audience spent a lot of time in Simone's head as he passed away. And when Simone did die, the episode didn't end by fading to black, but to white, the only time that happened on the show.