Friday, June 10, 2011

J.J. Abrams: Warm Blooded Old Days (Super 8)

Paramount Pictures Super 8

The halcyon times of Seventies/Eighties pop culture memorabilia have hit a grace note in our swamp assed culture of dead ends and hangdog autopilots, where anything fresh and creative is a miracle worthy of adoration. With everything at our fingertips, we've lost the world of intrinsic simplicity and wonder. Woody Allen touched on nostalgia and bygone era obsession affectionately and acutely in his masterful Midnight in Paris. For today's generation, the Eighties are hokey and playful, safe and enchanting. The Seventies offered us all the richest treasure trove of cinematic inventiveness, spilling over into the Me decade. Everything from arthouse Tarkovsky to mainstream Spielberg screamed with a passion for the power and the promise of the medium.

J.J. Abrams' latest Summer biggie, Super 8, thrives on this nostalgia, and for the most part succeeds as both a paean to our youths and a thrillingly old fashioned sci-fi thriller. Abrams' roots in fantasy television are felt as in all of his work, but go far beyond the functioning action of MI:3 or the misguided mediocrity that was Star Trek. Here, with his exceptional cast of tweens and semi-recognizable character actors, he triumphs in recreating the feel of the films we grew up on. The geography of the small Ohio town beset by bizarre tragedy and the tenacity of the children as aspiring Super 8 genre auteurs brings it all reeling back. The strong character development underlines an emotionality and strength largely lacking in Summer fare.

The third act combusts distressingly, before culminating in a hauntingly beautiful final shot that must have made executive producer Spielberg proud. Michael Giacchino's score is a thing of subtly nostalgic wonder itself. Recalling The Goonies, The Monster Squad, Silver Bullet and It, as well as early Spielberg(especially Close Encounters and E.T.), Abrams' best film glows with the lens flares of those warm blooded old days when we were children and everything was so much more pure.

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