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By Alexandra Glinsbockel

“Here’s looking at you kid” (Casablanca, 1942); “There’s no place like home” (The Wizard of Oz, 1939); “I’m the king of the world!” (Titanic, 1997); “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” (Love Story, 1970); “If you build it, he will come” (Field of Dreams, 1989).

Classic quotes from timeless tales; single statements transcending generations; famous narrations that contain an extra quality that seem to have the power to render an audience speechless. What is this secret trait, you may ask? What is so special about lines like “Dignity. Always, dignity” (Singing in the Rain, 1952)? The answer is quite simple: emotion. Every great line ever delivered in a motion picture connects with a particular emotion. Whether joy or despair, loss or elation, these quotes provoke thought, heart, and memory. Drawing an individual into the world of imagination… and out of reality, film has an unspoken etiquette attached to every sitcom, every horror, and every romance that airs. This instinctive rule relates to the reason motion pictures were even created: documentation, connection, and truth. It is not the purpose of this post to criticize failed attempts of this mandate, but rather to enlighten the public about how positive subliminal messages, such as the ones presented within the aforementioned lines, have begun to evaporate.

While watching a film, what do you find yourself drawn to? Some would say (in a randomized peer survey; n=12) that they are attracted to “the roles the characters play. Where they have been, where they came from, and where they are going.” Others state that they enjoy characters that “mirror my thoughts and my fears and my predicaments.” Based upon this survey, it can be concluded that people like to watch productions based upon connection. If there is no personal involvement with a character, especially the protagonist, then there can be no compassion, joy, or even anger at the conclusion.

In the last decade, thousands of productions have been placed on the ‘big screen’ in local theatres and cinemas. The average time for a movie to play in a multiplex before being cast aside like yesterday’s ‘hip’ jeans in favour of the newest mini-skirt, is three weeks. Consequent to these statistics, a film either ‘makes it or breaks it’ within the first weekend of playing. The cumulative gross of the biggest blockbusters must reach astronomical ranges to even have a chance of maintaining a position in the world of media.

Have you ever sat in one of those cozy-blue plush chairs at your local Cineplex with your $4.98 popcorn and just wondered, “What was this movie about again?” The fact behind the matter is often nothing. People are willing to pay $12.99 to spend two and a half hours watching, regrettably, nothing of consequence. The majority of inspiration behind the creation of movie-scripts no longer comes from controversial issues, such as the debate behind African-American freedom and rights in Gone with the Wind (1939) or familial roles presented in Private Benjamin (1980). Based upon more recent films classified as ‘great,’ society in the twenty-first century seems to desire only one thing: entertainment. Rather than a family gathering around one fifteen-inch screen at the end of the day in order to be informed about political movements and debatable topics, people now crave escape. Like ‘running when the going gets tough,’ most of society would rather ignore potential problems in their community, in favour of a ‘cheap thrill’ with a plot they won’t even recall three days later. Say goodbye to policy and documentation ladies and gentlemen; say hello to fantasy and illusion.

Though this view of humanity’s decomposition is cynical and pessimistic, the facts are unimpeachable. Listed in an article posted online under the title, All Time Top Box Office Hits, the highest grossing films of the last decade are evident. Where The Sound of Music (1965) and Swiss Family Robinson (1960) once reigned, captivating tales of families defeating any and all odds in the name of love, features such as Shrek 2 (2004) and The Twilight Saga (2010), films about fictional characters craving a created reality, a world far removed from what is ‘real’ and valid, now preside. What does this tell us about our generation? More importantly, what does it tell us about our collective future?

If one is properly equipped, rousing films can still be found. The Pursuit of Happiness (2006), The Blind Side (2009), The Help (2011), and The Iron Lady (2011) are only a few examples of the last decade’s ‘golden nuggets’ so to speak. However, these films, as inspiring and motivating as they are, are continuously flooded over by the major entertainment hits of our time.

An example of a film with a thought-provoking message is the 1991 film, Not Without My Daughter. Sally Fields portrays a young woman with a seemingly fantastical reality. With a beautiful daughter and exotic foreign husband, Ms. Field’s character believes that she has it all… until her husband introduces her to life in Islamic Iran. Mounting the boundaries of politics and culture, this film, based on reality, delves into the controversial world of freedom, equality, and justice. In Canada, far removed from this existence of terror, it is easy to pass over this movie as clichéd and outdated. However, for anyone who has ever thought of the colossal size of the universe in relation to the miniscule existence of the individual, this movie will hit something deep within that may have never before been breached, proving that motion pictures directed towards the human condition still exist.

It can be difficult to find that one film that touches you deep within; it can be cumbersome to spend a night of relaxation with a video that actually sparks thought… but it can also inspire new beliefs, new dreams, and new hopes for the future. Though no longer dominant in society, the messages hidden deep within classic tales will endure, so long as romantics imagine and visionaries create. However, for those inevitable nights where even dreamers crave oblivion, it will always be socially acceptable to lie back and just relax, for “after all, tomorrow is another day!”*

*(Gone With the Wind, 1939)