Friday, March 13, 2009

Hollywood and Wings

And so it comes to this.

Wings (1927)
William A. Wellman
STARRING: Clara Bow, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Richard Arlen
WON: Best Picture, Production
Best Effects, Engineering Effects (Roy Pomeroy)

I feel that I should have something more engrossing to say about this film. After all, it's a "first," and society loves firsts for some reasons. Thing is, first never means special, and first never means best. For their to be a first, there must be a second to best it, and a third and a fourth. There are many Best Picture winners that are better then Wings. In fact, most of them are, and being first doesn't change that one bit.

Wings isn't a bad film, don't get me wrong. It's just... standard. Even the films I've given generally negative reviews have had several interesting elements to them that make them stand out. Wings has some technical innovations, but it's story and "message" come off as a-typical Hollywood plodding.

We got a boy...

He's got a dream, see. He wants to fly in dem new spangled air-o-planes!

We got a girl...

She's a scary clown with boobs

She's the girl next door, and she's got a big ol' crush on the boy! But the boy, he loves another girl...

But this other girl is in love with the local rich kid, also pictured. We get some standard push-me-pull-you dinking around that would probably continue forever, if not interrupted by...




So, the boy and the rich kid go off to war, where they meet Goofy Comical Relief...

While he's a citizen, he comes from a German family, so nobody trusts him! Until he waves around his tattoo, that is!

So, our trio go to boot camp. Cue boot camp hijinks.

They even have an always-angry drill sergeant!

Ok, I'm starting to sound demeaning, but we've all been here before, dozens of times. I'm not sure how fresh all these tropes were at the time, I'm not that well versed in film history (yet), but I do know they were done to death afterwards, and almost never done by classy films. I'm talking about Pearl Harbor and Top Gun kind of unclassy.

It amazing how, right off the bat, the Academy gave the award to something standard and boring over fresher and more artistic films. The people may have changed, some of the categories may have changed, but the Academy? The Academy is forever.

Another thing about this film being the "first" is that it's talked about to death, so everything I'm about to praise this film for has been talked about to death. When people talk about Wings, they always talk about Gary Cooper.

Cooper plays a fellow pilot who bunks with our main characters for all of two minutes. During that time, he delivers a bit of wisdom about how good luck charms don't really mean anything, that when death is knocking at your door you're gonna answer no matter what. Then Cooper's character leaves for a training mission, has an accident, and dies off-screen.

It's a fleeting moment, and the only real time the film transcends itself. Despite still being wet behind the ears at this point, Gary Cooper is clearly a subtle and talented actor, which gives the moment much more weight. It gives the scenes that follow an eerie feeling to them. Unfortunately, the movie goes on too long after, with too many scenes unrelated to the war (including a horrible set of scenes where one of our main characters chases imaginary bubbles... uh, don't ask), so by the final moments of the film, when Cooper's words would have resonated the hardest, they're all but forgotten.

The film's other big plus is the flying.

There were no models, so CGI, no stop motion, simply no special effects that could simulate flight at that time. So, when you see airplanes take off...

Airplanes in the air...

And even airplanes crashing...

You're seeing the real thing! These moments are really what make Wings worth watching. Sometimes it's nice to be reminded just how sedated on computer generated images were are, and just how thrilling the real thing actually is.

I really wish I had more to say, I really do. I wanted to do a huge, perhaps multi-article breakdown of the film, but I came up with nothing besides what I've just shown you. Wings is standard, that's all there is to say.

Firsts aren't always that important, I guess.

However, We're still not done with the 1st Academy Awards yet. There's one more film to look at, one that changed the face of film more then all the films reviewed so far put together, even if it didn't win the top prize.

You ain't heard nothing yet.

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