Thursday, June 16, 2011

Super 8: The Movie, The Medium

Just saw J.J. Abrams Super 8. I loved it. A group of kids making a super 8 movie witness a train wreck and then all sorts of paranormal hell breaks loose. The film is a loving tribute to early Spielberg classics, particularly Close Encounters and E.T. Having a 10 year old, we’ve actually watched those films a lot recently, so all the little references were hitting me just right. This is a great film and a great family film. Good filmmaking, good suspense, and sophisticated. Not enough of those types of films for the 10 year old set. So kudos for that.

Some random thoughts in the Super 8 afterglow.

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Two teens in the bathroom couldn’t figure out why the film was called super 8. I could only smile in bemusement.

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As the King of Super 8, I of course bring some baggage into a film called "super 8".

The irony of the weekend—I spent $120 just this week cleaning up audio hum from a botched super 8 transfer done 15 years ago by the very same lab that did the super 8 work on Super 8. It burns me up. That lab was always bragging about their work for Ollie Stone and Jimmy Jarmusch, yet whenever Danny Plotnick showed up they never seemed to properly know how to use their equipment. I’m still paying for their boobery to this day. Grrr….

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With my jaded eagle eye I was looking for some small gauge gaffes. One thought I had is that the Ektachrome we see throughout the film is the wrong Ektachrome for a late 70s period piece. I could be wrong about that. My super 8 knowledge is foggier than it used to be. But in the late 70s, wouldn’t the stock be Ektachrome G? Those certainly were not Ektachrome G boxes on display. Anyone have thoughts about that? I am actually curious.

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Lots of super 8 in the air this week. First Blank City extolling the no-budget, underground aesthetic of super 8, then Super 8 takes it to the big budget stratosphere with a look back at suburban teen home movie mayhem. All good stuff. Is there a new super 8 revival afoot?

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Let’s talk about Spielberg for a moment. As a kid I really liked him. Jaws, Close Encounters, ET, and Raiders are all films I saw and loved in the theaters when they came out. But I hit the college years sometime around the release of The Color Purple. I loathed that movie. Such a powerful, heavy, mind-blowing book, yet the film seemed so tame in comparison. Likewise I was shocked by how a book as harrowing as Empire of the Sun could be turned into a feel good Spielberg nostalgia trip. I felt Spielberg couldn’t handle anything with true grit. His world was all about 50s movie matinee escapism. At that point in my life I was diving deep into the world of underground and avant garde cinema. I was looking for some challenging Blank City type of material. I viewed Spielberg as a guy who was good at making greasy kid stuff. I saw that as a bad thing.

Now that I’m a parent and have a ten year old and have been revisiting some of those early works, the ones I liked in the first place, I absolutely have a renewed respect. Exciting fare for the whole family with much more emotional depth than I remember. Smart and well made. A world for kids and adults to share. Films like E.T. and Raiders are definitely aimed at the kid market, but are ones that adults can still be thrilled by. Films like Jaws and Close Encounters are aimed at adults, yet kids can still be fascinated and creeped out by them. That’s a nice balance. And I should say that Close Encounters is one of the all time greats. I’ve always thought that. So there. Steven Spielberg, I apologize for anything mean I’ve ever said about you. Hope you haven’t been waiting too long for that.

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