Give me a guy in a marshmallow suit
Sunday, June 29, 2014 12:32 AM
Remember when going to the movies was special? I do.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I still love going out to the movies. In fact, it’s just about my favorite thing to do. Whether it’s under the stars at the Auto Drive-in or in a darkened auditorium at the REI Cinema 10 or one of the other cinemas in the Upstate, I’m always up for a trip to the movies.
A bad day at the movies is better than the best day at the office, that’s what I always say.
Still, at the risk of sounding like an old man yelling at kids to “Get off my lawn,” I think we have lost a little bit of the mystery and wonder that used to come with a trip to the theater.
My opinion has nothing to do with the theaters themselves. Most of them are run quite well and are technologically superior to the theaters of yesteryear. They are doing their job.
No, I’m referring to the films themselves. While many movies today are much more technically advanced than films in the past, they seem to lack heart.
I think some of that comes from the proliferation of computer generated imagery (CGI) used in films today, especially this time of year, during the summer blockbuster season.
Take this weekend’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction” -- which is sure to be number one at the box office -- for example. Through CGI, director Michael Bay has created a cinematic vision in which humans seamlessly interact with giant robots.
Sure, it looks great. Yes, the special effects are mind-boggling. Indeed, those sure do LOOK like giant robots up there on the silver screen.
But they’re not. Those are computer generated images. That’s cool and all, but it just doesn’t feel right sometimes.
And it’s not just “Transformers.” Virtually all of your big budget summer tent pole films are stuffed to the gills with computer generated imagery and actors who were acting against a green screen while the movie was shooting.
It’s like they’re cheating.
Yes, extraordinarily talented people are creating these films. Unbelievably talented people. But, I kind of liked it better when the stitches were showing just a little bit.
WHY AM I BRINGING all of this up now? I’m glad you asked.
There was an item going around the Internet last week that listed some of the summer movies from 30 years ago, during the vaunted summer of 1984. The item referenced the top films at the box office from a very specific weekend: June 22-24, 1984.
I went to boxofficemojo.com and, sure enough, it checked out. For June 22-24, 1984, the top six films in America were “Ghostbusters,” “Gremlins,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” “Rhinestone,” “The Karate Kid” and “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.”
With the exception of “Rhinestone” (sorry, Dolly), let me just say: Wow!
You mean “Ghostbusters,” “Gremlins,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” “The Karate Kid” and “Star Trek III” were all in theaters on the same weekend? That’s enough to make up a summer popcorn movie master class for an entire decade, let alone a single weekend.
(“Police Academy” also was still lingering around on the charts that weekend, despite having been in theaters for nearly three months by then. I’m betting Greenwood County Councilman Robbie Templeton saw “Police Academy” in theaters. I’m pegging him as a “Police Academy” man.)
Movies like “Ghostbusters” and “Gremlins” and “Temple of Doom,” those were the type of pictures that provided the cinematic high everyone seems to still be chasing today.
Were they stuffed with perfect computer generated imagery and seamless special effects? No way.
The creatures in “Gremlins” were puppets. Seriously.
The scene in “Ghostbusters” where the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man stomped through the streets of New York? That effect was accomplished, in large part, with miniatures and a man in a latex suit.
What really made those movies in the summer of 1984 great was simply this: They told a good story. They weren’t remakes or reboots or reimaginings or rewhatevers. They were well-written, creative and unique. They had heart. That’s why we’re still talking about them 30 years later.
A few weeks ago, I threw a private party out at the Auto Drive-in. We showed “Jaws,” which was originally released in 1975. Of the more than 100 people who attended, at least half told me they either had not seen “Jaws” or had not seen it in many years.
Let me tell you, that movie still plays like gangbusters. When old Ben Gardner’s head came rolling out of that boat, I could hear people screaming across the field.
And here’s the thing: You hardly see the shark in “Jaws.” A glimpse here. A look there. Most of the tension in “Jaws” is created by the score, the cinematography and the acting. And the film is, of course, propelled by a simple, effective story from Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb.
I know I’m coming off like the Grumpy Old Columnist here. But, I promise I’m not bitter. I still love going to the show. I’m going to see the new “Transformers” just like everyone else, and I’ll root for the good guys and curse the bad guys.
But, it would be nice to capture some of that old magic again, like the times when a puppet or an animatronic shark or a man in a marshmallow suit were just as good as a computer generated image.
Now get off my lawn.
Trainor is the senior staff writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 864-943-5650; email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @IJCHRISTRAINOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.