Film – A Personal View
I have always loved and enjoyed film. I remember spending every Saturday morning with my brother watching cartoons — endless, colorful, action-packed cartoons — from 7 a.m. to about midday. Those were special times. At night or during the late afternoon, my dad would prefer to watch war epics with John Wayne, or gangster flicks starring Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and a host of other incredibly bad guys. Sunday evenings were a chore as well, as we wanted to watch The Wonderful World of Disney, while he insisted on catching up with Million Dollar Movie or some other godforsaken TV program he had seen a gazillion times before.
I started going to the movies myself when I began to enter the workforce. I remember being at the premieres of many new releases, including Alien, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. When VHS eventually appeared on the market, I started collecting movies for the first time. At first, I only purchased special editions or director’s cuts: the reconstructed edition of Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon, the complete version of Mervyn Leroy’s All Quiet on the Western Front, and the fiftieth anniversary edition of David O. Selznick’s Gone With the Wind. What was the point of “buying” a video, I thoughtfully pondered, if it’s not going to be for something “special”?
As more and more hard-to-find features became more-and-more plentiful (and readily available), I became more-and-more obsessed with collecting them and with the process of establishing a permanent collection. Back then, I only collected certain movie genres, i.e., science fiction, Westerns, favorite actors (Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Errol Flynn, and the aforementioned Duke Wayne). I continued to expand my bulging collection, while adding widescreen and/or letterbox versions of favorite film epics, among them Lawrence of Arabia, Blade Runner, Doctor Zhivago, The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur, and the classic Disney animation features (Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Peter Pan), along with such newer items as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Tarzan, and Mulan. It helped to have two small daughters at home to spur my buying spree.
Currently, I have a personal library of around 400+ movie titles, including Japanese anime and the works of Miyazaki and Kurosawa, and nearly 50 (or more) videos recorded on VHS when I lived in New York. When I briefly resided in Brazil, I decided to acquire items with Portuguese subtitles (Mission Impossible, The Silence of the Lambs, Saving Private Ryan, Rob Roy, Braveheart, Nixon), which I used in some of my English-language classes. Since returning to the U.S., I’ve expanded my collection to include DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, which are certainly special in themselves, due to their numerous commentary tracks, bonus features, making-of featurettes, interviews with the stars, movie-makers and production staff, and all the things us movie buffs look for and desire the most.
In addition to these, I have a fairly large movie-book collection devoted to major Hollywood studios (MGM, Paramount, Twentieth Century-Fox, Universal, Warner Brothers, RKO Pictures, Columbia), to major actors (Errol Flynn, Charlton Heston, Tyrone Power), and to specific films (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Dances With Wolves, King Kong, Lawrence of Arabia, the original Star Wars trilogy, the two Terminator films), along with publicity photographs and assorted memorabilia.
The thing that I am most proud of, however, is that I have no prejudices when it comes to the types of movies I like to watch. I’ve seen a myriad quantity of film genres over the years. And while some people simply hate foreign films, for example, or films with subtitles, or animated films, or horror films and sci-fi films, I view and enjoy all of these genres, in addition to many others.
As mentioned above, I have used films in my English classes before. I’ve even used some of the Disney features, when the subject matter was at its most inviting (Pocahontas is an excellent example). I’ve used silent films (tailor-made for foreign language learners), classic films from the 1930s and 40s, film noir, action-adventure flicks, Westerns, comedies, musicals, drama, you name it. Some films have very adult themes, risqué dialogue or harsh scenes, while others have excessive sex or violence; still others are more childlike or childish in their story telling. If the target audience member is an adult, there is no problem with any of this, as long as they are informed beforehand of what they are about to see.
In my view, the purpose of film is primarily to entertain, as well as to enlighten and inform. To educate audiences as to a filmmaker’s intent is another valuable aspect of movie viewing. Having been raised on American movies, and having watched a majority of well-made (and not so well-made) American films throughout the entirety of my life, I admit to a natural fondness for them.
But having seen such wondrous works as director Martin Scorsese’s Hugo or Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves, moreover, have once again affirmed my love for motion pictures; they have opened my eyes to the infinite variety of movies that are out there, and the pioneering movie-making techniques we now take for granted, which were first exploited by the French, the Germans, the British, the Russians, and the Italians, and later on by the Japanese, the Spanish, and eventually the Brazilians, the Chinese, the Koreans, and many other nationalities.
Expanding my tastes, as well as my personal collection — and “seeing” a film in a way I had never seen before — are for me the driving forces of movie viewing. It is my continuous hope that by writing about what I have seen, by sharing what I have learned, and by divulging what I have gathered about the films I’ve viewed and enjoyed; and the wealth of stories and “ways” of transferring a director’s vision onto the film “format,” I too can help others to begin the process of “seeing” a movie in different ways from what they had previously seen.
This is the joy I get out of writing about the film medium. And if I, at my age, can still get that same thrill from watching movies that I first experienced by viewing cartoons on television — that so-called “special time” — and if I can add to a reader’s viewing pleasure by my writings, then that’s time well spent.
Copyright © 2013 by Josmar F. Lopes