Hansen: Filming ourselves in Technicolor

From the beginning, movies were always mesmerizing but now they have become permanently imprinted onto our personalities and culture.

Movies saturate our lives with golden hues and perfect prose. They have turned us into pixilated extras who privately measure — at least in part — our success or failure by the standards of film and the heroes we keep.

The reason we identify so closely with the characters is that everything has become so real, so intimate and raw. There is no more veneer, no flickering celluloid, no thin red line between truth and fiction.

In this year's Oscar lineup for best picture, for example, the diverse plot summaries include love, determination, environmentalism, justice, family, survival, history, illness and war.

So here's a pop movie quiz: Where else can you watch these same issues come to life?

The Laguna Beach Film Society. Every month, the group screens interesting films that touch on a variety of topics close to home.

"We want to do some classic films, documentaries and some indie films as well," chairman George Weiss said. "So all of those make it an eclectic mix that reaches our membership's desire to see films that are new and interesting, have a story and are also relevant to the larger issues of the community."

With the alignment to the Laguna Art Museum, the group showcases films that have a California angle.

"We're also wanting to inform the public on issues that are relevant to us," Weiss said. "We want to raise issues. We're doing an environmental series this year with three documentaries on the environment and the ocean."

There also will be a series of short films done by students on Feb. 21 from schools including Laguna College of Art + Design, Saddleback College, and Chapman University, among others. Details can be found at http://www.lagunaartmuseum.org.

This diversity in film is a byproduct of the current state of movie making, which is a global phenomenon that relies on foreign success.

"There is an explosion of film production and I think a large part of that is due over the last 20 years to the international market," Weiss said. "When we opened Rob Hedden's film ['You May Not Kiss the Bride' in October] he remarked that, 'Gee, it opened in 10 theaters in the L.A.-Burbank area, but it opened in 200 theaters in Russia.'"

This summer when people expect lighter fare, the film group will turn to proven, thoughtful movies.

"We want to show classic films," Weiss said. "We're doing a film in May, 'The Best Years of Our Lives,' done in 1946 by William Wyler, probably the greatest Hollywood director of all time in terms of number of nominations for Oscars and awards."

Weiss said one of the original actors, Michael Hall, will attend the screening. Hall, who is in his 80s, was only a teenager when the film was made. He played the son of one of the main actors.

The film won seven Academy Awards, including best picture, and tells the story of three servicemen having difficulty trying to adjust to civilian life after the war.

"I think it's important … to show films that are historical greats in a setting that really captures them and does them justice, and to teach people about film at the same time," Weiss said.

"My personal goal is to get some film history and education included in the film so we show films that you may see on the TV screen and you think it's a good film, but then you see it on the big screen and you go, 'wow, I didn't know it was that good or that cool.'"

Whether it's a military movie or a student documentary, Weiss said the story always wins out.

"Wilder said 80% of the film is the script, and I believe that because the story is important rather than the car chases," Weiss said. "And you'd rather have a story about … flawed characters, people who are both good and bad, people who have overcome, people who are heroic but are ordinary most of the time. I think that's what I'm trying to get to, very interesting stories about people."

And when we see these stories we see ourselves.

We identify with the little scenes — the whisper, the brief expression, the slight touch on small of the back.

We remember the character who spoke the words we think but never say.

We are the movies, for better or worse, exposed in Technicolor, 3-D and laid bare in all our sordid glory.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at davidhansen@yahoo.com.

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