I watched two movies with my wife this weekend, both good, but very different in quality.  The first we found in the sale bin at the local Wal-Mart; Doctor Zhivago.  The second we watched at our local second run theater; Iron Man 2.  In the classic, so much more attention was paid to the grand vista matched with equally grand music.  The modern concentrated on flash and boom.  Now I admit that these two movies represent more than just different eras, but also different genres as well.  There were plenty of action films made back in the day, but I would argue that there was a greater effort put forth to create a larger picture which integrated with you other sense of sound and feeling.

In the classic film, there were plenty of times where literally nothing was going on.  This allowed you to recover from previous action or think about the previous scene before leaping into the next event.  Remember the Doctor Zhivago is set during World War I and the Russian revolution, so there are battle scenes and explosions, it is not just a love story.  Iron Man 2 also attempts to have a love story entwined with the action, so there are similarities.

Doctor Zhivago is also a truly feature length film of over 3 hours.  Modern films seldom pass the two hour mark.  (Dr. Zhivago actually has an intermission for bathroom breaks that is even on the CD with music and there is a prelude with music as you get yourself situated in the theater.)

Many would say I shouldn’t complain.  If I don’t like the modern methods, I should not go to see the movies.  Well I do like the latest releases from the film industry, it just seems that they are concentrating on the visual only right now.  There are movies made for the full spectrum, but those are not widely distributed.  The Last Station is a good example.  It is the story of the last days of Leo Tolstoy and was not available in my home town until it came out on CD.  I do not believe that our local video store would have gotten a copy if my wife had not specifically requested it.

The last general consumption movie that I remember that had the whole package from my point of view was Silverado, at least the opening scene was panoramic.  It is easy to pick on some films, which are concentrating on the special affects to the detriment of all other facets of film making.  Transformers is one such movie, where there are spectacular battle scenes that just suddenly happen.  If you have not watched the cartoon, you don’t even know who the participants are.

I believe that Hollywood can merge art, action and special affects.  The original Star Wars films had magnificent music to set the mood of every scene.  Even the latest Star Wars and Star Trek films are still filling the story before leaping to the next event.

I once complained to my grandmother that there were no good movies like when she was young.  She assured me that on the good ones were replayed now and she had seen plenty of losers in her day.  I am sure that is true today.  If there are only 2 good movies each year, that is 50 good movies just since I was a teenager.  And I am sure that there have been more that 2 good movies produced each year.  Here is a short list on movies I think would be on that list, add your own if you please.

  • The Thin Man Series (6 films) – actually made before I was born
  • The Quiet Man
  • The Princess Bride
  • Hopscotch
  • Silverado
  • Patton
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Midway
  • True Grit
  • The Star Wars Series (6 films)
  • The James Bond Films (most of the 17 films)
  • The Lord of the Rings (both live action and animated)
  • The Star Trek Series (most of the 11? Movies)
  • Most Mel Brooks films
  • Driving Miss Daisy
  • The Last Station
  • Young Victoria
  • Most Pixar Films
  • The Bourne Series

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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