Hooray for Hollywood
Movies are welcome comfort during a nasty winter like the one we are experiencing. January and February are prime times to catch up on the newest and best movies, which will be celebrated Sunday at the annual Academy Awards.
I’ve got to see many of this year’s nominated movies: The Wife, A Star is Born, Green Book, Vice, Bohemian Rhapsody, Roma.
This year’s film crop has left me with the feeling that movies no longer are simply entertainment. Most of the movies I have seen this winter have had strong messages, or themes, delivered by an impressive line-up of film talent that seems to get stronger every year.
They are movies that don’t leave you just feeling entertained. They are movies that leave you with thoughts and ideas worth thinking about.
For instance, Green Book shows readers how spending time with people unlike ourselves can help us overcome our prejudices. Bohemian Rhapsody delivers the message that we all need to learn who we are, accept it and get on with life. Vice shows how political corruption hurts the world, while Roma displays the hurts of class divisions.
Both A Star Is Born and The Wife are about troubled relationships held together by remarkable feminist strength.
I was thinking about all this when I walked past our television set yesterday and noticed that a rerun of the 1958 musical South Pacific was playing. It has always been a favourite, so I sat down, became engrossed and watched it right through.
Now that’s real cool entertainment without the deep messages or themes, I thought as I listened to some of Rogers and Hammerstein’s greatest songs. Then I reached the part in which the three main characters unexpectedly confront the issue of racism.
Some background for those who don’t know, or remember, the movie: American military forces are gathered on an island in the South Pacific during the Second World War against Japan. Nellie Forbush (Mitzi Gaynor) is a navy nurse who has fallen in love with Emile de Becque (Rossano Brazzi), a French plantation owner. Joe Cable (John Kerr) is a Marine lieutenant who has fallen in love with a young Tonkinese woman.
Cable has decided he can’t marry the girl because she is of a different race. Nellie has decided she can’t marry de Becque because she has learned that he was married to a Polynesian woman who died and left him with two interacial children.
The three are together in a scene in which Nellie says she can’t marry de Becque because of her feelings about him having married a Polynesian. She can’t help herself because racism was born into her, she says.
Cable feels the same but bursts into the song You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught, one stanza of which goes:
“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”
People are not born racists, they learn to be, is a strong message delivered through music.
Cable and de Becque, convinced their lives are over because their loves cannot be fulfilled, go off together on a dangerous reconnaissance mission. Cable is killed but de Becque survives.
The movie ends with de Becque walking up the hill to his plantation and sees Nellie serving lunch to his two children. She has overcome her racist feelings and all ends well.
South Pacific was nominated for 10 awards in 1959 but won only one – for best sound.
It was not just an entertaining movie featuring classic musical numbers such as “Some Enchanted Evening” and “Bali Hai,” but a movie that delivers an important message without beating viewers over the head.
It will be interesting to see what movies walk off with the golden statuettes Sunday evening. It is a safe bet that the winners not only will have been entertaining but will have delivered messages that are important to receive and ponder during these troubled times.
That’s the wonderful thing about the movies. Not only are they a good place to go when the weather is snowy and cold. They tell us something about who we are and how we should conduct our lives.
Good work Hollywood! Keep them coming.