Today Black Friday is seen as one of the busiest shopping days of the year. During my childhood though it was the day we piled into the car to see a movie together as a family. I have a fondness for the day after Thanksgiving due to those happy memories laughing and joking around. With so many siblings this was a real treat, my parents couldn’t always spring for a movie night so we looked forward to this time of year.
During Thanksgiving we celebrate all the things we love: family, faith, purpose in life, and blessings. We gather together and through our family traditions share with each other our gratitude. As a writer I have many other things I’m thankful for as well. The worlds that come alive through books, movies and television can never replace the things we love but through these portals we can take journeys we otherwise could not. As we begin to ponder the things that went well for our year and the things that didn’t go so well, it’s best to start with those events we can find gratitude in. For in thanksgiving we remember happiness, lessening the sting of everything else. Let me share a few of my movie blessings…
BABES IN TOYLAND
Everyone has that movie, the one that began their obsession with movies. Some of us start older and some of us start rather young. I started when I was 6 years old. Mine was a VHS tape my parents rented when the technology was a brand new fad. A 1961 Disney remake, a musical done in technicolor. I fell in love with Babes in Toyland.
I was so enthralled with the movie my parents tried to buy my own VHS tape for me, but balked at the $65 price tag. I only got to see it a handful of times before even the rental tape got wound too tight – a common problem in those days. Watching it again as an adult I understood right way why I was so enchanted.
Watch this clip from Babes in Toyland of “The Forest Of No Return”, “Go To Sleep” and “Toyland,” it’s one of my favorite parts of the movie.
Many of those reasons feed into my loves today: color everywhere, emotion, heightened and extreme like wringing a cat’s neck, an every-time story, simple but well executed with a dash of the fantastical (and even a little bit of early special effects). It’s cast was excellent, really embodying the characters, what’s not to love? No matter whether you fell for an action movie or for a romantic comedy, it’s how they made us love movies that really blesses us. Babes in Toyland was the perfect movie for me to start a lifetime of loving film and cinema.
THE BLOCKBUSTER GEORGE LUCAS
Everyone knows George Lucas. Writer, Director, Producer, Special Effects Creator, Movie Maker and Story Teller. That’s a lot of roles to hold in one lifetime. Star Wars and Indiana Jones are his claims to fame but he’s responsible for oh so much more. Most consider him the father of the modern movie making world. He created blockbusters, merchandising and spin-offs before the industry could even comprehend that audiences wanted such things. These are all well and good. Lucas’ real contribution to film and cinema is his constant push to try innovative techniques, and legitimately help himself and his fellow filmmakers find new ways to put their stories on-screen.
For me though, it’s his behind the scenes features he willingly shared with the world when he released The Star Wars boxed sets. This man has taught me more about film-making than any book, behind the scenes extras (that weren’t from Star Wars), or movie magazine articles I’ve ever studied on the subject. When Lucas opened Skywalker Ranch to hold a Digital Seminar, only director Robert Rodriguez showed up to soak up the master’s willingly shared knowledge.
What’s up with that?
How blessed the movers and shakers in Hollywood were and what incredible treasure troves of information they passed on obtaining. Needless-to-say I would have attended in a heart beat. Despite my lack of invitation, the DVD extras stirred my passions for the movie making business, no seminar needed. It’s a blessing to be so inspired by a great leader, to push the envelope, share and collaborate, and not be deterred by others’ nay-saying.
Thank you, George Lucas.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, THE STUDIO SYSTEM AND DIGITAL CAMERAS
For all Lucas’ advances and his success’ effect on the film industry we can’t forget our past. In looking to the future it’s best to remember what timeless techniques were utilized by our forerunners. We are very blessed to have access to all sorts of movie history from the Golden Age of Hollywood. If not for this time movie making would not be what it is today. Can you imagine your Christmas without It’s a Wonderful Life?
I sure can’t.
One of the reasons this movie endures even now in 2013 is the studio system environment in which It’s a Wonderful Life was made. Frank Capra was able to learn his trade during a time when the industry was fledgling and a system was needed to keep its development on track. The studio system provided that stability and gave Capra the opportunity to work and learn his trade from scratch. Studios had a plethora of stories, really great well written stories and simply needed the people with vision to throw them up on the screen. Frank Capra was one of the great ones, his stories enduring even now. It wouldn’t have been possible for him without the studio system.
With the advent of digital cameras and home computer editing making movies is even easier today. Yet without our heritage, with movies like It’s a Wonderful Life and directors like Frank Capra it’s easy to forget the beauty of film. Not the celluloid reels but the stories that came about through passion for an art that was evolving as fast as the studio cranked out movies.
Black Friday Traditions
As a writer I can’t imagine my life without movies. If you are out and about this Black Friday or a Black Friday in the future, stop by your local theater with your family. Let the joy a good movie can bring to your life sweep over each and every one of you. During this time of gratitude may we all ponder the things that have touched our lives. May we share with our families and friends the love and thanksgiving we hold for each of them.