On July 7, 1943, the great Joel Siegel was born. He is best known for the 25 years he worked for Good Morning America as their weekly film critic. But Joel Siegel was also an English Professor, disc jockey, music and movie critic. In honor of his work with film, I turned to one of my friends Melanie Lewis, who in my opinion has a refreshing view on film and if there is such a thing as a film connoisseur, she is it! I hope you all enjoy her post as much as I did and leave her lots of GREAT comments!
My Love of Film
It’s said that in Hollywood films there are only about a dozen or so storylines that are recreated with different characters over and over again. While these reproductions can afford us with two hours of amusement and “entertainment”, they are often blatantly predictable and anti-climactic. Yes, we have an enjoyable time, but in the following weeks, we quickly forget the film and its meaning, if it even had one. This is why I feel, as a society, Hollywood is letting us down. Just as with other art forms, we are becoming artistically illiterate and numb.
In a film class I took last year, we talked about the differences between Hollywood and foreign films. Hollywood films focus mostly on action; on what happens. It’s also important for the characters to be attractive, well-known actors. Production companies spend millions of dollars on the action parts of the film and the salaries for the big stars. Foreign films put more emphasis on conveying a feeling. They often don’t have big budgets and you rarely see many flashy action sequences. The actors look like everyday people. The aesthetics of the sets are not as elaborate as the production designs of Hollywood films. Quite often the films are funded by the government or national art organizations. They wish to educate and inspire with their work, rather than to only entertain. Foreign films deal more with the grittiness of real relationships and things we deal with in our lives each day. For example, if any of you have seen, “The King’s Speech”, you see how the film focused more on feelings/relationships instead of action sequences. It was set in the midst of World War II and yet we really don’t see any wartime action.
My favorite time of year is the last two weeks of January, the Sundance Film Festival. There is something magical about the whole experience. There are people from all over the world joining in the celebration of story-telling. You feel such a closeness with humanity. One thing I love about independent films is that they have more of the qualities of foreign films than the Hollywood assembly line films. When you experience a Sundance film, you will not soon forget the feeling you have when you watch the characters develop in front of you. You are invited to share in their vulnerability as they bare their soul. Their struggles are your struggles; their triumphs are your triumphs. I could go on and on about what I love about independent film, but I will say that I think some of the best filmmaking out there right now is being done in documentaries like, “Inside Job” , “Waiting for Superman”, or “Sing Your Song”. I have become somewhat of a doc-addict this last year. These filmmakers often have little to no budget and yet are so passionate about the message they want to convey, that they find a way to get their film made.
I would challenge each of you to incorporate good films into your lives. I don’t want it to seem like I don’t watch Hollywood films or am trying to discourage anyone from doing so. I realize there are times when we want to relax and be caught up in a fun movie. But I also feel the need to learn about the things in the world that can educate and inspire me. So check out a documentary, independent film, or a foreign film. And who knows, maybe I’ll see you at Sundance next year. :o)
There is an amazing documentary in theaters now called, “Buck”. http://www.buckthefilm.com/
Buck Brannaman is the man who inspired Robert Redford to make the movie, “The Horse Whisperer”. To be honest, I have no affinity for horses, but this film is really about our own “training” as humans and how we interact with other humans. It won the Audience Award this year at Sundance.