Thursday, March 11, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks - Movies That Haven't Aged Well

Wandering Through the Shelves hosts Thursday Movie Picks. It's a weekly series where bloggers post and share various movie picks every Thursday. 

The rules are simple: based on the theme of the week pick three to five movies and tell us why you picked them. For further details and the schedule visit the series main page here.

This week is Thursday Movie Picks - Movies That Haven't Aged Well. 

Grease (1978)

Set in the 1950s, a wholesome exchange student (Olivia Newton-John) and a leather-clad Danny (John Travolta) have a summer romance.

I think it's important to view some movie at the lens of the time they were made to understand their choices, especially satire. I won't discount Grease because it cast older actors to play teenagers, or how it's copying the gender roles of the 1950s. That's what it set out to do. However, it hasn't aged well for other aspects such as a lot of female characters getting violated in one way or another (Sandy completely changing herself to get Danny's attention, boys looking up girls skirts, references and innuendos to sexual assault). I definitely believe some moments (not the ones I've listed) are purely humorous, but others are just downright icky. 

The King And I (1956)

Widowed Welsh mother Anna Loenowens (Deborah Kerr) becomes a governess and English tutor to the wives and many children of the stubborn King Mongkut of Siam (Yul Brynner).

Rogers and Hammerstein's musical is unexpectedly magical to listen to, and I enjoy the performances. Similar to West Side Story, I don't think that movies that haven't aged well should be "cancelled" because there is a lot to learn from how far entertainment come. A lot of critics can and still argue over the merits of the gender and social politics of this story's setting. However, it's harder to argue against the musical featuring a lot of stereotypes about Asian culture and people. And, it's unfortunately given too many stage productions the idea to "yellowface" white actors just as this original film version did with Russian-born Yul Brynner.

West Side Story (1961)

A Romeo and Juliet tale centered on two New York street gangs - the all-American Jets versus the Puerto Rican Sharks.

This is one of my all-time favorite musicals. But it's also an essential example of the lengths the film industry has gone through to whitewash productions, especially details that Rita Morena has revealed over the years such as applying darker make-up to the cast to make them look more like people of color. It's also difficult to fathom even now that George Chakiris won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor even though he is not Puerto Rican. And as much as I love Natalie Wood, her performance is cringe-worthy. While I'm not particularly excited by Steven Spielberg's remake, I'm excited he chose actors with the appropriate backgrounds to play the Sharks.

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