I don’t make it to the cinema too often these days, but recently I was able to watch a couple different films which, remarkably, I really liked. Actually, that says a lot. I tend to be picky about my films having had my fill of the big blockbuster, really-cool wannabe, super-hero sick to my stomach, Hollywood vapid reality films which clog the projectors these days.
I was extremely encouraged in the last couple months about the trailers for films up-coming here in Malaysia and I was not disappointed. As I think about why I liked both of these films, I realized that it reveals something tangible about me as a writer.
What films you ask? “The Book Thief” and “Saving Mr. Banks”.
First, “The Book Thief”. I have not read the book, but my daughter was assigned it as an English book and she actually liked it which made me think it has some potential. I became more familiar with it through some of my students, one of whom used a passage from the book for an oral interpretation – a good one for that matter. Everyone was intrigued by Death being the book’s narrator, and as it was set in Germany during the WWII era, I, as a history buff, was naturally drawn to it.
What I enjoyed about the movie, besides the riveting setting, was the bare-nakedness of humanity on display. I’m a sucker for sentimentality that is genuine and gripping; this movie had that. Who couldn’t root for the beautiful young girl who had to deal with such heartache and pain, only to find the happiness and joy of life. It struck a human cord which most Hollywood movies never touch.
However, the second movie, “Saving Mr. Banks” immediately rose into the upper echelons as one of my favorite films of all time. Let me make a disclaimer, I have always loved “Mary Poppins”. It is, in my estimation, the best Disney movie ever made. If it doesn’t make you smile, then you don’t deserve to smile. So when I heard that Disney was making a movie based on the contract negotiations between P.L. Travers, the writer of Mary Poppins, and Walt Disney, who had promised his kids that he would turn it into a movie, I was hooked at first glance.
The movie did not disappoint on any level. It was cleverly put together in a way that showed the moving childhood of P.L. Travers in Australia, interspersed with the delightful tale of Walt Disney trying to woo the rights from her. It is magical. As one critic put it, “Saving Mr. Banks” is a treasure. I found myself with moist eyes much more in this movie than in “The Book Thief.” The humanity, heartbreak, and emotion on display spoke to me on many levels. You can have your big bang blockbusters any day of the week, but I’ll take the Sherman brothers pounding on the piano trying to convince Travers that they will love her character as much as she does.
I can’t tell you how much I loved this film. I shall go see it again this weekend.
It is precisely the type of story that I strive to write. Gripping, human, emotional, enchanting, inspirational, and just down-right awesome.
Thank you, Hollywood. I don’t say this too much, but thank you for two films which display humanity how it should be.
Keep it up and I might come to the cinema more often.