Posted by highhurdler on December 20, 2009
The nature of art is that it produces an emotional response, sometimes it’s loud and obvious but more often than not it’s muted and internalized. If an art form resonates or touches us in a meaningful way, it’s likely to create a memory of the time when we first experienced it. As such, we might associate a particular song or movie with a person we once knew – e.g. a popular tune or film from when we were dating a certain someone – such that hearing or seeing it again will provoke a nostalgic feeling of a time gone by, or of an acquaintance lost. I’ve also found that many of the more powerful epic films that I’ve experienced can imprint themselves permanently into my consciousness. Additionally, movies watched when I’ve been emotionally vulnerable have a stickiness factor within my heart and mind.
Like most of the movies associated with Nora Ephron (she produced, directed and collaborated on this one’s screenplay), it’s pretty average and fairly forgettable except for the fact that I saw it when I was ‘naked’, and thus easily susceptible to manipulation Hollywood-style. I can therefore still remember much of its plot, even its trivial elements. While intrinsically this is not unusual for me, I still seem to have a heightened sense of: the “feelings” of its characters; the over-the-top scenes, like the one in which John Travolta (in the title role), playing an atypical archangel on Earth, has a duel with a bull, still resonate; the essence of Bob Hoskins’ tabloid newspaper editor still ‘bites’; and I remember two rather odd plot devices – Michael exudes a unique aroma for each female within sniffing distance and, of course, the biggest ball of twine. I don’t know if I’m misremembering this or not, but it also seemed that costars Andie MacDowell and William Hurt shared an onscreen chemistry that Tinsel Town would normally have capitalized on for at least one more picture, especially given this film’s box office (a better than 300% return on investment), but somehow didn’t. In any case, it’s surprising that I remember so much of the movie given the state (a numbing fog) that I was in at the time, especially since I’ve seen at least 3,000 movies – many of which I’ve completely forgotten – since that Christmas in 1996. I wonder if my father had passed away that week whether I would be able to recall seeing that movie at all, or whether the memory would be completely blocked by some sort of defensive mechanism in my mind.
While anticipating the arrival of my parents for this year’s holiday, Michael (1996) is perhaps not so curiously in my thoughts. Movies like this date us; they help us remember the past. We avoid or seek them – depending upon the memory – for the emotions they provoke, or the solace that they provide. Art is that way.
Merry Christmas to you and yours, and a Happy New Year too! May the year 2010 be fruitful and memorable, and God Bless the brave men and women that have chosen to serve and protect our freedoms so that we may enjoy these holidays in peace.
Streamline is the official blog of FilmStruck, a new subscription service that offers film aficionados a comprehensive library of films including an eclectic mix of contemporary and classic art house, indie, foreign and cult films.
Actors Alfred Hitchcock Bela Lugosi Bette Davis Boris Karloff British Cinema Buster Keaton Cary Grant Charlie Chaplin Citizen Kane Comedy Criterion Dracula DVD Elizabeth Taylor Film Film Noir FilmStruck Frankenstein Fritz Lang Hammer Horror Horror horror films Horror Movies Humphrey Bogart James Bond Joan Crawford John Ford John Huston John Wayne Joseph Losey MGM Movie movies Night of the Living Dead Orson Welles Peter Lorre Psycho Roger Corman Screwball Comedy Steve McQueen TCM The Exorcist Warner Archive Westerns