I tend to disapprove of nihilism in the movies, since it usually comes across as smug posturing from arrogant directors who have no real experience with true human darkness. That doesn’t apply to Roman Polanski, a man who has gazed into the abyss from both sides and knows its secrets the way few of us ever could. Nowhere is that better on display than Chinatown, his greatest film in which he captured the despairing heart of film noir perfectly. It opened today in 1974.
Speaking of auteurs, you don’t often hear Minority Report mentioned among the list of Steven Spielberg’s greatest films. But it really should : a surprisingly bleak look at a future where crime can be predicted and prevented, and what happens when the system turns on one of its own. In the wake of 9/11, its commentary on the loss of our rights seemed uncannily timely, and the ensuring years have only increased the power of its message. It opened today in 2002.
We’ll close with a couple of Disney flicks, and since I spent last week dumping on various classics from the House of Mouse, I’ll elevate a couple of their better efforts that don’t always get the attention they deserve. There was a strong streak of Warners’ anarchy in Lilo and Stitch, helping it cut against the grain of Disney’s overly sweet formula and giving the misfits of the world a heroine who really knows what it’s like to be on the outside looking in. It opened today in 2002.
The other one is the original Parent Trap, in which Hayley Mills plays identical twins scheming to get their divorced parents back together. The remake pretty much just makes us all weep for Lindsay Lohan; this one has far fewer unpleasant pop-culture connotations. It opened today in 1961.