Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Classic Movies

Some movies are often referred to as classics. However, I'm not sure who is authorized to make this decision. Is the term little more than a marketing tool by the folks in the business, or is there something more? After stumbling around the web for a little while, I came across a definition that I found to capture most of my thoughts. A classic movie is one that dazzles viewers, influences other movie makers and story writers, wins prestigious awards, makes a lot of money at the box office, and stands the test of time and repeated viewing.

Now, if we step back from this definition and give it a good going over, you might notice that it just doesn't seem complete. What about the notion that the movie actually has something positive to say or to teach us? Let's consider two children's movies that are considered as classics, Mary Poppins and Dumbo.

Mary Poppins: A british family with a distant and disconnected dad seeks a nanny for their two wayward children. Nanny after nanny has been driven away by their mischief. Enter Mary Poppins, who takes control of the children and leads them on magical, song-filled adventures with Bert the chimney sweep. We find that the children have been misbehaving only to get their father's attention and love. Mary Poppins brings them all together. The movie was released in 1964 and mixes live action with animation. It was nominated for 13 Oscars and won 6. Its label as a classic is well deserved.

Dumbo: The mother animals in the circus await the stork's delivery of their newborns. Mrs. Jumbo the elephant is graced with a baby with big, floppy ears. Every animal in the circus derides the new arrival and tries their best to humiliate him. They despise him and label him as "Dumbo". Only when they see how the popularity of their circus booms because of Dumbo's ability to fly, do they embrace him. The movie was released in 1941, and pushed the envelope in the area of animation techniques, but I find its message deeply flawed. It was nominated for 2 Oscars and won 1.

Perhaps the notion of a classic is in the eye of the beholder.