If you read my blog at all, chances are you’re a classic film fan. And if you’re a classic film fan, chances are you love TCM. Paula’s Cinema Club has taken inspiration from our love of Robert Osborne and the gang and poses an interesting question: when the movies that have been released in the early 21st century become known as “classics,” which films do we hope people will still be watching?
Here, for round two of the Future Classic Movies Blogathon, is my list of five films that I hope people are still watching on a future classics channel when I’m retired and wrinkly!
Big Fish (2003)
dir. Tim Burton; based on the novel by Daniel Wallace
starring Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman, Helena Bonham Carter
If any of Tim Burton’s films are remembered as classics in the future, I hope that this one tops the list, for a couple of reasons (my disdain for Burton’s reboot of Alice in Wonderland not included).
First of all, it’s an absolutely stunning film in the visual sense. A total feast for the eyes. Big Fish was released when I was twelve years old (Can you believe I was that young in 2003? I’m such a baby!), and I remember – with my limited knowledge of film at the time – just being absolutely floored by how pretty it was. As moving as the story is on its own, the visuals continue to be what sticks with me whenever I re-watch this film. I’ve seen thousands of films in the years since Big Fish was released, and I still get stars in my eyes whenever I watch it. I hope viewers never lose their appreciation for great use of color and cinematography, and with films as beautiful as this in rotation on a future TCM-esque channel, that certainly won’t happen.
Also impressive is the story itself. I would hope that the film would serve as a catalyst for future viewers to track down copies of Daniel Wallace’s fantastic novel. The film and novel both emphasize the relationship between Edward and his son, and how it has become so strained because they don’t understand each other. Edward’s mind is lofty, whimsical and full of nonsensical ideas while his son is very logical and readily dismisses anything out of the ordinary. Edward’s travels and adventures on their own are enjoyable to watch, but what the viewer can gain from the film is a message of the power of imagination, as well as the importance of acceptance of others despite their differences (in any relationship: parent-child or otherwise).
Happy Accidents (2000)
dir. Brad Anderson; written by Brad Anderson
starring Marisa Tomei and Vincent D’Onofrio
Happy Accidents deserves to be a future classic if for no other reason than the channel would at least need one crafty little film about time travel in the rotation. But there’s more to love about this underrated, nearly forgotten gem from the year 2000. A simple romantic dramedy at the surface level, Happy Accidents is more than just your average chick flick. It not only provides the viewer with some sci-fi food for thought, but also toys with the audience’s mind, constantly challenging whether or not the character of Sam is trustworthy. The characters are complex enough to push the film above average while still remaining relatable to the audience, which really draws the viewer in. I was more than a little bit floored after viewing Happy Accidents for the first time and was quick to add it to my DVD collection.
Comparing this hypothetical future classics channel to my own experiences watching TCM, one of my favorite things about TCM is being able to discover films that I probably never would’ve heard of or had access to otherwise, and with that in mind, I think it’s important to include somewhat quirky, certainly unusual films such as Happy Accidents on any round-up of future classics.
The Namesake (2006)
dir. Mira Nair; based on the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri
starring Kal Penn, Irrfan and Tabu
Just as with Big Fish, I would hope that watching The Namesake would lead viewers to track down copies of the novel, which in this case is even more phenomenal than the film. I don’t think you can truly appreciate this film without also reading the book and picking up on all of the strong motifs that Lahiri includes. But even if viewers didn’t take that extra step, The Namesake is a film with a lot of important lessons for the viewer (and, just as importantly, a gripping plot with a lot of emotional impact).
The biggest moral of the story told in The Namesake is acceptance of yourself, your family and your heritage. The central character of Gogol/Nikhil struggles greatly with his Indian heritage. Born in America to parents who immigrated from India soon after they married, Gogol/Nikhil wants nothing more than to live the life of an average, young American male. After his father’s death he realizes that he shouldn’t have been so disrespectful toward the traditional values of his parents, even if he didn’t want to incorporate all of those values into his own life.
Equally important to both the film and novel is the immigrant experience. Though the two children of the family in this story are born in America, they must deal with their parents’ immigrant status; each parent deals with the adjustment to American life differently; and all of their friends who are immigrants to the United States had different experiences as well. For American audiences in particular, it can be difficult to imagine just how wide-ranging individual experiences with immigration can be, and while this film offers nowhere near a holistic view of the immigrant experience, it does offer a few perspectives that aren’t frequently portrayed, especially in Hollywood.
The Science of Sleep (2006)
dir. Michel Gondry; written by Michel Gondry
starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg
The Science of Sleep is a beautiful piece of work. I saw this film in its original run at one of my favorite theaters, Main Art… mostly because my sister loves Gael Garcia Bernal. And he’s phenomenal, but he isn’t the reason that this film should be known as a classic in the future.
The Science of Sleep is like a Nyquil-induced dream in movie form, but less disturbing and with no sniffles or next-day drowsiness required. Big Fish is a visually stunning film that utilizes a lot of unusual techniques, but it comes nowhere near the level of lovably odd techniques and hallucinatory imagery used in this film. Michel Gondry is a unique filmmaker to say the least, and I think it would be important to show a wide range of films (from mainstream to more experimental, Hollywood to foreign, etc.) on the “FCM” channel. When I saw this film as a teen it really opened my eyes and mind to different styles of filmmaking, and would hopefully do the same for future viewers. It’s already difficult for the average viewer to gain access to films such as these, with independent theaters becoming increasingly less common, so to show them on a future classics channel could only benefit future generations of movie-lovers.
Walk the Line (2005)
dir. James Mangold; based on the autobiography of Johnny Cash
starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon
One of my reasons for choosing this film is quite similar to the reasoning for the book-to-film adaptations that appear on this list: it could serve as a gateway to increase people’s interest in the past. Adding this film to the FCM rotation would not only introduce younger viewers to the story of Johnny Cash and potentially increase their interest in 20th century entertainment/history, but also introduce them to one of the early Millennium’s great films. Double-whammy of interest-increasement for viewers who would happen to stumble upon this film in the future.
The film offers an honest portrayal of ups and downs of life for Johnny and June, who lived in a world that will certainly look very odd to the viewers of the future, who will most likely be buying their air at stores and taking pills to keep them awake for 20 hour work days. On that note, the film could even be used as propaganda to support the new lifestyles of the future: “Look at these people! They argue and have addictions! Vote for such and such bill, unless you want our society to revert to these torturous lifestyles!” (I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen, but you’ve got to prepare for the worst potential uses of an FCM channel. And I’m letting my imagination take over a bit here, so I digress.)
My choice of this film also goes back to variety again. The musical/music-oriented genre of films has, unfortunately, died out quite a bit in the 21st century. Very few musicals are released, and an even smaller number are actually good.The actors in this film not only sing, but do a ding-dang good job of it. The channel will need musical films, and Walk the Line is certainly a better option than most of the recent musical releases.
A lot of people consider “classics” as having to be masterpieces of film — groundbreaking works by legendary directors, with fantastic casts and crews. I don’t necessarily see it that way. As I’m sure you’ve guessed by these choices, my ideal “FCM” channel would be a wide-ranging one, including independents, blockbusters, Hollywood productions, foreign films, biopics, adaptations, musicals and just about everything else under the sun – masterpieces and cheesefests alike.