Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Just Passing This Along

In a world long ago and far away, movies were fantastic. If you took the time and spent money to buy a ticket and see a movie, you were rarely disappointed.

Just going to a theatre was special. Theatres of the 1950s and 60s were lovely places. Ornate trim outlined the aisles; sconces with lights resembling sea shells or torches. Seats were comfortable, often covered with velour or some other elegant fabric.  Movies were designed to entertain and, though aimed at distinct audiences, appealed to a large number of viewers.

To die-hard film buffs like me, the downward spiral in movie quality has been disappointing. It is rare now that I see a movie which expands my horizons, catches my attention or speaks to me.

I saw such a movie this past weekend. It is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012) and it was shown on HBO. I tuned across it, intending to watch for a few minutes. But the film quickly pulled me in and I was hooked.

As a writer, I know the secret to great writing is to hook the reader immediately. Same technique applies to film, though we are less likely to change the channel or walk out of the theatre than to simply close a book. There is plenty of trash made into films these days in the hope, I suspect, of merely selling tickets and popcorn.

Big movies are still being made. These get talked about in connection with Oscar buzz. Everyone recognizes Lincoln, Les Miserables, and other blockbusters, whether or not fans ever go to the theatre to see them.

But bigger is not always better.

I have found that some of the best movies -- the ones worth my time -- are the so-called smaller movies, with a more sensitive and intimate story to tell. After all, there should be more substance to a movie than car chases and special effects.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a gem, particularly for viewers over the age of 50. It is packed with great British star power, too: Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy among others. I won't attempt to summarize the entire plot here but I found it very charming and touching.

The movie is based on the book These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach.  Each of the characters in the movie finds himself at a crossroads in life and living (rather unexpectedly) in India. For most, the lower cost of living is a factor but each has his/her own reason for moving there. In a nutshell, they learn what is important in life and to live without fear. As Bill Nighy says, "We need to learn to make the best of the situation." There you have it. Bill Nighy has summarized the meaning of life in 11 words.

Each of us feels alone at some point in our life -- mid-life crisis, financial setback, death of a loved one, reviewing what we have/have not accomplished. The characters in this film find themselves having to make decisions by themselves and taking comfort in the choices they make.

I've previously stepped up on the soap box a few times to complain about the prevalence of fear among the population in general. We tend to worry about all sorts of silly and insignificant things. With the wide use of social media and the majority of people linked by the internet, we experience an onslaught of trivia, gossip and "junk mail" for our minds. A good practice is to evaluate what is of importance and react accordingly.

Watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel had a surprisingly profound effect on me. I felt uplifted by the characters and their bravery. Reading more about the film, I discovered that the movie was somewhat of a "sleeper," making a nice amount of money world-wide. No doubt part of that success was due to word of mouth.

In this tough economy, movie companies spend little on promotion and advertising. They give a movie a shove, hope that fans who watch the trailer will be interested, then sit back and wait. Fans need to be vigilant for movies which strike their fancy. Then they need to go and see movies that are intriguing.

I am pleased to know that there are still gems out there like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The quality of the film is a reminder to look beyond the 30-second trailer that might be shown on TV. We need to be willing to take a look beneath the surface.

Just like the characters did in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.











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