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Column: Generation (TH)X

I love movies. I am 35 now, which means I grew up in that sweet spot where I saw "Star Wars", "Superman", "Raiders of the Lost Ark", Jaws, "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno" all before I was 12. OK, so it took me a while to learn how to swim but outside of that I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I don’t mind that marketers are noticing my generation, it’s a bit flattering actually. What does bother me is that they are approaching us with a sledgehammer. Here are a couple of examples:

1.George Lucas. This is not another anti-Lucas rant. I have my criticisms but can’t fault the guy for trying to keep his product in the marketplace. The commercials I just saw bothered me though. They are for the re-re-re-re-release of the Star Wars films on DVD and include shots of guys saying “I remember when I first saw it!” and shots of their kids wholesomely saying “Wow, Chewie’s cute!” It’s all a bit much. Yes, I had a great feeling the night I sat down with my kids and watched Star Wars and they actually enjoyed it. But it was a private joy, not a cheapening lead-in to an ad!

2.VH-1. Again, brilliant understanding of generations. Without actual music in music television, the folks at VIACOM looked in the vault and said: “We’ve got all this great content from the last 20 years, let’s see if we can get the folks who tuned in the first time to watch it all again. Except this time, let’s class it up with documentaries and reunions and make sure the retirement companies and companies pushing middle-aged pharmaceuticals sign on as sponsors.” Have you counted the number of times President Palmer is pushing Allstate on VH-1??

3. Bryan Singer’s "Superman Returns". OK, this was more subtle but it hit me like a freight train. POTENTIAL SPOILER: Superman’s last speech in the movie brought me to tears as I realized the age I was when I saw Christopher Reeve, heard Brando deliver those lines the first time and thought about my soon-to-be 4 year old son. It was a pivotal moment for a film geek and believer in heroes.

My movie watching background may be different from most. Thanks to my Dad, I knew who James Cagney and Kirk Douglas were before I knew who Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher were. I watched a lot of old movies. I watched the same movies as my Dad did when he was growing up (a parent’s prerogative to immortalize themselves, if I may paraphrase Lou Reed).

As a result, I was familiar with the movies that influenced the filmmakers who were turning out the first run movies I watched as a kid. This was a great perspective to have. For instance, I had seen all the serials that influenced "Star Wars" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and could appreciate them in that context. (something I could never articulate at the time, of course.)

This brings me to the main point of this rant: it’s all happening again. Today’s film makers are my age, or younger in many cases, and I can see the TOTALITY of their experience in real time, not just through my Dad’s eyes. For example, this new movie with Robert Downey JR called “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”. I saw the trailer and it looks great but it is hyped in the tradition of “Saturday Night Fever” and “Do the Right Thing” where those films are set up to iconic status.

Hold on.

Both great movies but have they been off the vine enough to warrant aging to perfection? I’d like to think so, I saw them both in the theater and feel a sense of ownership. (note: anyone doing the math, I went to a lot of movies as a kid that kids probably shouldn’t have gone to. That’s the topic of another piece I am working on).

Robert Rodriguez set up his "El Mariachi" trilogy in the spirit of Sergio Leone’s "Fistful of Dollars" trilogy. Why? Because he could and because it was what influenced him as a kid. And don’t tell me Steven Spielberg was not a huge fan of "The Longest Day" or the original "War of The Worlds".

My bottom line analysis is that the process is accelerating. Film production has only been around for about 125 years and in that time each generation has learned from the past, exploited it and, in some cases, improved upon it. Now, we have seen that cycle shorten to where a film that has been on the shelf for 5 years or so gets a new package and is re-released with “deleted scenes” and “three alternate endings”.

Case in point, the new 4-disc set of Ridley Scott’s "Kingdom of Heaven". I think the credits may still be rolling in the first-run theaters as you read this.

At some point, all of this was done for the first time. And that was the magic.

Joe Ramirez

Special to "Trailer Trash"

Posted by on September 19, 2006 8:33 PM
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Aw, Grampa Joe!

The cycle is too short now, I agree. If you can't improve dramatically on a movie (and adding "deleted scenes" doesn't count - they were deleted for a reason), just leave it alone.


-- Posted by: unfake1 at September 20, 2006 9:36 AM

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