The History of the Movies #WordPrompt

This month’s WordPrompt features the word BRIDGE. In an email from WordPress the morning of March 9, the first thing I did was start to consider using the WordPrompt inspiration as a jumping-off point for a new blog post.

What’s the Word: Introducing the Monthly WordPrompt

When I was learning how to make blogging a hobby, I took part in a few free courses. WordPress provided me with a ten-day photography course to get me out the door (and onto the “blog”) with some beginning training as a photographer.

Looking for other resources, I found the now-retired writer and educator Jeff Goins, from Nashville, Tennessee, best known for his bestseller The Art of Work, which I have read twice, also led me through an introduction as to how to write a blog, some years ago, through the free portion of his training courses, on Facebook. Mr. Goins is great and you can find his blog at https://goinswriter.com/blog/

Nowadays, building a bridge is not an expensive activity. Some towns are doing it to transform the pedestrian experience in their communities and to bring back some charm to the old traditional ways of living. By installing a pedestrian bridge, nearby areas will become more accessible and in turn boost local business as well.

A beautiful bridge crosses the Welland Canal very near to my parent’s home. There is a parking lot to sit in your car and watch ships pass, and walking and rollerskating and hiking trails run to and fro, very nice. It is not really for pedestrians, although you can go on foot if you feel what’s out there is worth walking to.

The road runs out of town in the direction across the bridge. The hiking trails run along the outskirts.

I want, for this post, to go back twenty-five years, to recall some excellent films. All these films pointedly affected me.

The Coen brothers’ 1987 film Raising Arizona is a favourite comedy. Lovers played by Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter pine for a baby of their own, though are unable to conceive. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AIfVoGUs6c

Finally, Cage, desperate to make his beloved wife happy, kidnaps a baby to raise him as their own. Despite the bad taste of the plot, it is a very funny caper film and does have a happy, if ambiguous, ending to all the trouble. The evil presence of the monstrous biker, having pledged his help to the infant’s real father, kind of transforms Cage’s view of criminality and helps him see that wrongdoing is not a loving way.

In 1988 audiences got the mind-blowing film Die Hard, where Bruce Willis plays a shameless cop who becomes caught in a high-level burglary in L.A. at Christmas time. The stakes are high for Willis’ character and the action is exciting and fast-paced.

Tim Burton’s 1989 film Batman redefined how a movie could introduce a superhero on the silver screen, especially at a time when previous versions of the character were beginning to be forgotten and new themes for the character were being introduced in the pages of comics. Tim Burton’s Batman was not only a superhero adaptation for the big screen but also incorporated elements that had never previously been attempted (or even dreamed of).

The nineteen nineties were set to be an excellent decade for film. With Jaws in 1975, Star Wars in 1977 and Superman in 1978, the tradition of the summer blockbuster event film had been established; the warnings that film was a doomed industry were unfounded. In 1992 Robert Altman brought to the screen a scathing indictment of Hollywood politics; Altman had previously been well known for directing MASH, the Korean War comedy.

Altman’s The Player was the story of a struggling screenwriter, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, keen on making his film a reality; the film executive who might give him his chance becomes so incensed by the trouble writer’s persistence that a lone encounter ends with manslaughter. The rest of the film is about the studio exec’s insistence on escaping justice, and while these are spoilers it is to be noted that the corruption about the murder is so pronounced that it translates to the meta in a break from reality. The Player is a very meta piece of work.

Another favourite movie of 1992 is Quentin Tarantino’s debut Reservoir Dogs, a story of a diamond theft woefully gone wrong. Acting wonderfully, Harvey Keitel keeps the film gripping for the audience. In the following years, it’s clear that Tarantino proved to be another visionary Hollywood auteur.

1993 saw the entire film industry mature when Steven Spielberg brought Richard Crichton’s sci-fi novel Jurassic Park to the screen in a massively successful undertaking that brought CGI in the film to a whole new ballpark. Beyond the visual spectacle are other nice touches in a special film; points of dialogue, often given to Jeff Goldblum, lend philosophical beats to the movie that remain relevant today. The theme of Jurassic Park is that people’s greed cannot be subdued when they are tempted.

The pop hit of 1994, Trainspotting, based on the Scotsman Irvine Welsh’s novel, shows the lives of drug addicts whose only allies are their small pack of anti-social but occasionally intellectual nonconformists. Great movie with not much CGI, but great music and outsider philosophy that is hard to match.

Another outsider film, a tiny film in 1994, Clerks is directed by Jersey’s Kevin Smith and features an unknown cast shot in grainy black and white, giving a voice to frustrations among convenience store characters who carry the talky little thing that Smith would prove in the career ahead of him he would never leave behind.

The Truman Show in 1998 stars Canadian comic Jim Carrey as a naive salesman who wishes passionately to leave his hometown, to give chase to a mysterious girl who once flirted with him in high school. His wife, his mother, his best friend all reject the idea. Adding to the complexity of Carrey’s character, he misses his father dearly, who drowned in a dramatic storm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ne-DzDN7WDw

Alan Ball directed American Beauty in 1999, a scathing satire of the upper class that is reminiscent of some of the best satires of the 1970s, such as Chinatown and Network. The film American Beauty asks questions about art; it takes the American Dream to task, with confusion among its seasoned male characters living successful family man lives.

Another great film from 1999 is The Blair Witch Project, a frightening horror film that broke box office records left and right and was the least expensive investment in Hollywood history that turned out to be the most successful. Internet marketing helped add to the intrigue in 1999 by linking the found footage filmmaking style to a website that helped make the events of the film appear real. I am pretty sure that The Blair Witch Project is the first found-footage horror picture.

In 1999, another excellent movie was Fight Club, in which Edward Norton’s character unravels and reassemblies his psychological make-up and values based on a chance encounter with Brad Pitt. Great music.

A fourth important film from 1999 is The Matrix. Neo, a computer programmer played by Keanu Reeves, finds out truths about a simulation that controls the world and slowly accepts that he is a hero for it.

SLC Punk in 2001 brought arthouse outsider sensibilities to the story of an American punk asshole who would claim to be a punk rocker while still pursuing the avenues opened to him by his hardworking parents. Good music here, too.

In 2002 The Bourne Identity stars Matt Damon as a U.S. spy with no memory of who he truly is. A realistically minimal style of narrative where plot and dialogue are concise and effective help make this film just great! No one dreamed it would be such an influential hit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpKaB5dvQ4g

By making Bourne Identity’s scripted ending seem insensitive, the events of September 11, 2001, complicated creative decisions about its conclusion, the director determined.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 in 2003 and Kill Bill Vol. 2 in 2004, both directed by Quentin Tarantino, proved that the best martial arts films in screen history could now come within from the USA; a new tradition.

The Terminal, a 2005 film starring Tom Hanks as an immigrant living in an airline terminal, until his immigration issues can be resolved, is a terrific movie. Hank’s efforts to be guilelessly cool work well and there is quite a bit of observational satire about social acceptance.

Another film that was strong in 2005 was Transformers, based on the Hasbro toys of the 1980s that represent advanced cars and trucks that transform into robots. Megan Fox delivers a strong and visually sophisticated performance as the female lead. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3t3TedG-ovs&vl=en

Note: this video, while using footage from earlier films in the franchise, is mostly discussing the upcoming Transformers 7.

In 2006, Daniel Craig starred as James Bond 007 in Casino Royale, which was the last film adaptation of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels after decades of James Bond movies. Craig did a good job as his performance helped bring a flashy but lightweight, though beloved, film franchise, into a new universe for 007, that saw that what was going on was dark and dirty.

The Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men in 2007 is stellar, where a lucky cowboy does his best to steal a small fortune in drug money after he comes across a shoutout where no one has survived. The villain in this film is a frightening characterization.

The 2007 action film Live Free or Die Hard is a sequel to 1988’s Die Hard, and even has Bruce Willis and Kevin Smith together for a scene. Unusual that a greying lead actor can return to continue to do a stunt-heavy film would become more and more acceptable for cinema audiences who enjoy the USA style of filmmaking.

A few years later, in 2015, the promotional work by the Walt Disney Corporation for Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens made me glad that I had Star Wars toys as a kid. I even had an R2-D2 light switch cover that would turn off the light when I needed to rest. I had workbooks, which is a little unfair to the other students, that helped teach me to put words together on the page through the lens of a world filled with Star Wars.

I had a lot of action figures that were likenesses of characters and vehicles from the Original Trilogy, and, in nice weather, I could play with them in the backyard of my house. In 2015 some of that fun reemerged unexpectedly when Disney and Lucasfilm revealed that J. J. Abrams would direct a brand new Star Wars film. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill even returned for the new titles.

In 2017, Rogue One A Star Wars Story also provided a new backstory to the classic sci-fi Star Wars from 1977.

The 2019 film Joker is a standout about an anti-social outsider who wishes for nothing more than both sanity in his mind and the city around him, and who chooses between fame as a comedian or joining the criminal faction of the city of Gotham. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2ZIMeqgZ6E