We love them. Obsess over them. Rant when they don’t work and get even angrier when they insult our intelligence or expectations. From the moment turn of the century audiences cringed at the sight of a locomotive coming straight at them, the movies have meant more to us than, perhaps, any other medium (settle down, TV—and you too, music). We adopt their dialogue, follow their mandates on fashion and fame. We enjoy the looks into lifestyles we could never envision for ourselves while eagerly tweaking emotions (anger, fear, laughter, sorrow) that we normally try to avoid. So it makes sense that, eventually artists involved in the craft would want to explore the meaning of movies. Take them apart. Reference and homage them. Perhaps, even go so far as add commentary on their creation. This movies about the movies become a Bible of sorts, a window into a world that, without filter, comes to mean so much to us.
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How do you see the future? If you were someone living in the salad days of the ‘50s and ‘60s, there were promises of interstellar exploration, flying cars, high tech lifestyles, and meaningful medical breakthroughs. We’d cure all diseases, live like royalty within our own slick scientific reality, and never once worry about modern maladies like hunger, war, or death. This is Utopia, the perfect portrait of a supposed shape of things to come. Yet for every optimist there’s an opposite, a pessimistic perspective that’s part luddite, part ludicrous. It’s not a fear of technology that inspires these people, but where said advances will take us. Eventually, they believe our “U” will turns into a Dystopia, a horrible place where the End Times dictate our destiny.
With its flash and power chord panache, rock and roll has always been ripe for cinematic exploration. From the fictional stories based in the medium to the concert films that find emotional epiphanies in the strangest of song couplets, music makes for memorable movies. There is just something universally unreal about someone—or group of someones—who can transform mere words and arranged notes into an anthem, a ballad, or the soundtrack of your life. Even more amazing are the backstories involved. Some of these people are barely passable as human. Instead, they are a surreal combination of person and performance, their onstage act meshed with this doubts and disconnects of their everyday existence to form that most mighty of myths: the rock god.
Perhaps no single sequence in a movie maximizes the strength of the human spirit better than an escape. It’s almost always a question of resolve, of making peace with who we are while pushing our otherwise untapped talents to their very, very limits. It’s about recognizing that, beyond the basics, we all have the mantle to survive, we just don’t know it until the time comes to truly test it. Of course, there are the other ends of the escape spectrum where the wicked and evil try to avoid paying for their crimes through violence and mayhem. For them, it’s not a question of extremes. It’s an attempt to avoid responsibility by any means necessary.
At first, it seemed like a fluke. No actor from “overseas” was going to displace the American thesp as the leading cinematic staple in films. After all, we had Bogart and Cagney, Nicholson and Newman. But slowly, over time, the English have retaken their colonial territory, if only in the Cineplex sense. It began back when a certain Sir Lawrence introduced the Bard and his bad boy, Hamlet, to unsuspecting ‘40s audiences. Throughout the rest of the century, the UK produced one amazing male actor after another (though the ladies found their fortunes earlier—more on that next time). By the time the ‘80s rolled around, there was even a bit of a backlash among American performers, arguing that, every year it seemed, another English newcomer was walking away with the praise (and prizes).