By Bill Arceneaux
At the heart of The Muppets – which featured a song called “Life’s a Happy Song” – is a fight for relevance in a world that has shifted philosophies. An optimistic Kermit is seen as being out of touch with a current outlook filled with negative connotations. It’s a kind movie, with no irony or sarcasm but rather infectious joyfulness throughout. By the end, hearts and minds have been won, but, as a product (or victim) of Generation Y, I remain a bit pessimistic. After all, a movie like this doesn’t get made without some dirty pockets getting filled with cash.
Man, do I need to let the sunshine hit my face.
People born in the ’80s and ’90s have every reason to be cynical. The hippies lost, Generation X got monetized and we were bombarded with direct marketing advertisements and sold some “feelings.” This is a golden age for film criticism not just because the internet has democratized things, but because we are a bit more critical now more than ever – sometimes even to a fault. This overly critical mindset gives way to art that is almost too analytical (commenting on the commenting of itself), or even too self aware. Are we trying to prove something to someone?
A few DIG issues ago, I wrote a rather glowing review of the latest Godzilla movie. The previous American installment was an example of cheap thievery, depending on the apathy and stupidity of its audience in order to make a profit. The latest installment is an example of something I’m more than glad to see in summer blockbusters (a time of the year known for selling “fun”): simple genuineness.
The easiest (and most recent) movie to compare this to would be Pacific Rim, another rock ‘em sock ‘em monster movie with nobility on its sleeve. The key component of both lies in their expression of simple humanity and believing in the potential goodness in all. They don’t explore the grey areas of the soul, but do expose us to conflicts meant to test resiliency and hope. Motives of characters are crystal clear, never even open to debate. Heroes are made and villains are fought. Simple. On paper, the themes in Godzilla should come off as cheesy for impatient and quick thinking Millennials, but it’s the technical prowess and virtuous acting that makes it all work well. Simple does not and should not have to equal cheap.
Godzilla, Pacific Rim and, to an extent, Marvel’s The Avengers are examples that, despite the best efforts of evil conglomerates, movies with old school sweetness and sure fire heart can resonate and light a fire under young adults with a chip on their shoulders. We’ve already seen the release of The Amazing Spiderman 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past, two movies that, I would say, incorporate some throwback elements from the flicks above. Studios are taking notice.
The summer is a time of year for relaxation and replenishing. To spend some time soaking up Vitamin D and to not worry so much about sun radiation. Enjoy the simple things now, and wait to observe and report in the fall. There’s a reason why school and Oscar season start in the fall, after all. Wocka Wocka.