Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Movies I've Seen

Do I like populist, corny Christmas movies as much as the next person? Of course I do. But sometimes It's a Wonderful Life gets a little old... not stale, just overly familiar.

I have decided that, this year at least, my favorite Capra Christmas movie is Meet John Doe, a flawed but nonetheless insightful movie, with more darkness than Wonderful Life. It concerns a young journalist who creates a "John Doe" to protest inhumanity by writing letters to the editor and planning to commit suicide by jumping off City Hall on Christmas Eve. Amid cries of shenanigans from the opposing town paper, she casts a vagrant as John Doe. Eventually, the saccharine odes to American small-town society conflict with monopolizing corporations and political corruption. The movie's mistakes lie in its Icaruslike ambition and spotty (long) script. And I don't like the ending.

I purchased my copy of Meet John Doe at the Dollar Tree. This might tell you something about the state of civilization.

To me, Meet John Doe is a parable painted in shades of gray. Everyone makes an unexpected choice and reveals his or herself as greater or less than what they appear. It functions as a really interesting allegory; it is exquisitely, beautifully directed; Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper, and James Gleason give amazing performances.

Also, I just saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on ABC. It was so much less scary than Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! I am not entirely opposed to books or movies aimed at children that are a little bit creepy, especially if you wait until you are a twenty-something child before you watch them.


Anonymous said...

I actually liked this version. It gives kind of a tragic depth to the Willy Wonka character. He's a messed up recluse, but this gives you more of a hint of why he became that way. The screenplay is incredible; one of the best in a children's film i've seen in a long time.

The plot twist at the end was extremely touching, and made me want to cry (I AM a sentimental slob!).

The original was more of a straight-forward fairy tale, but this has more of a contrast between the self-sacrificing hero and the slightly creepy brats.

In this version, there is no debate on whether the bad kids live or not (spoiler: they DO, although they get rather messy)

Remember how FREAKY the ORIGINAL zombie-chanting-keratosis-skinned-green haired Oompa-Loompa's were? [trust me it is the stuff OF CHILDRENS NIGHTMARES]

Not so in this version. Instead, the tiny Indian dwarfs have normal pigmentation and bust out into VH1 style music videos. It's completely random, but comical and works (IE Charlie the Unicorn).

Not that this is a ringing endorsement of Burton's Chocolate factory for parents of young children.

I actually think BOTH film versions are inappropriate for young kids (IMHO, the first one was more of a Trojan horse[G-rated classic where kids presumably DIE!!!]. Each of the two films is darker, but in different ways. Willy Wonka1 is FAR SCARIER than Charlie, but the latter has more heavy handed and depressing subject matter.

Weirdness is inevitable, but for older kids, the remake has more redemptive value.

John Alstonn

Anonymous said...

Also, Meet John Doe is kind of the combination of all the great Capra films (mr.deeds,mr.smith, and later, It's a wonderful life) though not quite as good. Gary Cooper was awesome as usual, and Barbara Stanwyck did a great job as well.

You never knew what would happen next, and as the plot unfolds, a bitter irony is about to take place.

Scrounge both Walmart and the Dollar Store for this wonderful movie!!!

John A

Katelyn said...

I have to agree--Charlie was 100x less scary than Willy Wonka; those Oompa Loompas creeped me out! That and Gene Wilder as Wonka was a recipe for nightmares. Johnny Depp was ten times less frightening in the role. And let's not even talk about the boat ride in Wonka. *shivers* All that said, I prefer the second one best.