There’s no denying 2016 has been an underwhelming year for movies, particularly blockbuster films. However, there have been some wonderful films like any other year. We live in an era of hyperbole where something has to be a masterpiece or trash and little in between. I fall victim to that line of thinking as much as anyone else.
However, recently I have been thinking about the push-back we sometimes give on classics over modern films. For example, I think that Zootopia is the best non-musical from Disney since 101 Dalmatians. (Sorry Wreck-it Ralph fans but that’s what I think). Some people didn’t like the movie as much as I did and that is fine but some people seem to take an affront to the very idea a modern film being considered with classics like 101 Dalmatians. Why?
Is it beyond the possibility of consideration that Disney could release a film today that is on par with the quality they used to release? Why is what has come before inherently better than what we produce now? In my Pete’s Dragon review I said that it reminded me of movies like Black Stallion and Old Yeller. It may not be quite as good as those movies but it did remind me of them. It may not have for others but this is just my opinion. Part of what I liked about it so much is we don’t see many films like it these days, and I thought it was so well executed for the type of movie it was trying to be. Those movies are not perfect either so I don’t see the comparison as a problem.
I saw this last year where friends loved Ex-Machina. I liked it but it didn’t make my top 10. However, I have no problem with a friend who listed it in his top 100 movies ever made. What’s wrong with that? Why can’t a new science fiction movie be as good as your Blade Runner or Terminator? Sure those movies have time to marinate and debate but I don’t think they are inherently better than something we could produce today.
Let’s take Rogue One as an example. Let’s just say it is spectacular. It could suck. I have no idea. There are people no matter how great it is wouldn’t put it over any of the original trilogy. Why? Nostalgia is part of it but I also think some film fans just think old=better and they don’t allow for the idea of a new classic. Star Wars: the Force Awakens is my favorite Star Wars movie. Some freak out about that but I think it took everything the original trilogy did right and improved upon it. Made it better. It’s not a perfect movie but as I say neither are the originals.
Some people like the new Jungle Book better than the old one. I disagree but I have no problem with their view. To me they are close.
Let’s use Moana as an example. Let’s just say it is also spectacular. There are some that no matter how great it is would never put it with the Renaissance classics like Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Part of that is probably a bias towards 2D animation but I’d like to think Disney is as capable of producing a masterpiece today as they were in 1990. Yet for some no matter how good it is they will never give it such high praise.
I think part of it is we don’t tend to nitpick the classics the way we do current films. Hate to break it to you folks but the original Star Wars trilogy for example are not perfect. I love them but they aren’t perfect. Same with the Disney Renaissance films.
Just because it is old doesn’t mean it is inherently better and I have no problem saying that!
I think Sing Street is as good if not better than anything John Hughes ever did. Shock! Scandal! Sorry it’s true.
I think Love and Friendship is better than Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility and may be my favorite Jane Austen adaptation.
I think Mad Max Fury Road is better than the original Mad Max.
I think Inside Out is better than Finding Nemo, Incredibles, Wall-e and Toy Story 2 and 3.
I think Frozen is better than Aladdin
I think Dark Knight is much better than Tim Burton’s Batman.
I think Rescuers Down Under is a million times better than The Rescuers
I think Spotlight is better than All the President’s Men
I think Prince of Egypt is better than The 10 Commandments
I liked the new Ghostbusters about the same as the old one.
You can debate with me about specific films. What I am objecting to is the seeming impossibility of a ‘new classic’. Why is that such a problem for people? Do we not still have creative minds at work and is there not still the potential for greatness?
I remember when Richard Roeper said Forgetting Sarah Marshall was one of the top 20 comedies and people freaked out. I haven’t seen that film so can’t say but why can’t he see a comedy now and think it is one of his top 20 favorites? What’s wrong with that? Is it an impossibility that someone could find a modern comedy as funny as the classics?
What are some movies you feel are modern masterpieces and live up to or surpass classics in their genre? I don’t even know if I am making any sense but do you see what I am saying? Do we have a tendency of putting classics on an untouchable pedestal current movies can never reach? Are they inherently better? Why?
Anyway, I know this is rambling but just something I have been pondering. I would love your insight and feedback.
ps. Something is also not inherently better because it was released by Criterion (they released Armageddon…) but that’s a post for another day.