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2002: A Gigantic Look Back

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Written by: Herb Lash
Date: February 2002

BMZ Reviewer and Columnist Herb Lash offers his thoughts on the standout films of 2002 -- a year which saw a record-breaking 20 films released.

  

Category: Columns

Spontaneous cheers and thunderous applause are rare things inside any movie theater - and rarer still inside a Giant Screen theater. The clapping hands and delighted shouts heard inside the Ontario Place Cinesphere during the GSTA's 2002 Toronto conference were all the more amazing because they belonged to seen-it-all veterans of the Large Format industry. Typically, eruptions of joyous noise and gratitude are signs of a hosted bar somewhere in the convention hotel. But not on this night - PULSE: A Stomp Odyssey had just rocked the proverbial house and the words on the lips of most in attendance were, "Finally." PULSE continues a legacy of experimentation and daring that defines the best IMAX films. Also playing at the Cinesphere were the classics TIGERCHILD (1968) and NORTH OF SUPERIOR (1971) - sometimes rough, occasionally weird and always engaging films that give testimony to a more free-wheeling era in Large Format filmmaking. PULSE is a throwback to this era - when the aim was to break away from the formulaic and create something exhilarating, something new.

A special screening of SPACE STATION at the California Science Center in Los Angeles provided another highlight for Big Movies in 2002. Billionaire and the world's first space tourist Dennis Tito was on hand to show off the video diary he made while blasting toward the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. Tito's introductory words and pictures were living proof of the indomitable human desire to reach space. But just like in SPACE STATION the movie - it was the in-theater presence of astronaut Susan Helms that stole the show. Her sense of wonder, courage and dedication to space exploration was and is inspiring. SPACE STATION is startling for its incomparable space images. But in the wake of the Shuttle Columbia tragedy, the film is most impressive as living history. This and other IMAX space movies allow us the unprecedented opportunity to be present at the frontier of human discovery - risk free. What seems especially precious now are the expressions of delight and joy on the faces of the pioneering men and women who risk everything in pursuit of discovery.

2002 was also a good year for Tigers and Chimps and Snowmen. INDIA: KINGDOM OF THE TIGER served up gorgeous landscapes, snatches of history, bits of biology, a helping of biography and a dash of suspense for what amounted to a smoothly delivered docudrama - a rarity. The film makes a strong case for the unique experience to be had in a Domed Giant Screen theater - immersion without the burden of 3-D headgear. ..Jane Goodall is magic and her beloved chimpanzees fascinate. JANE GOODALL'S WILD CHIMPANZEES is not the sort of film that demands to be made in Large Format - but who cares, Goodall and her cause deserve the best. . . SANTA VS. THE SNOWMAN suffered from a case of bad timing - not everybody was ready to embrace the idea of cuddly Holiday creatures strapping on weapons of mini-destruction and having fun with war. Those who haven't played a video game in the last ten years might be shocked by the kiddie friendly violence - but it's the kids with X-Box blisters who are least likely to be bothered by killing in the name of fun. Questions of taste aside - the film is a technical triumph, a 3-D thrill ride with Hollywood polish…And finally 2002 was the year IMAX unleashed its very own weapon of mass destruction - DMR technology (a state of the art blow-up process that allows 35mm films to masquerade as Big Movies.) The DMR films seen thus far threaten to tarnish the integrity of the Giant Screen. APOLLO 13 and the latest STAR WARS are Big Movie pretenders that gain nothing by squatting on Giant Screens. It is not surprising to see the Disney Corporation attempting to squeeze a few more dollars from LION KING, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and TREASURE PLANET - warmed over blow ups. But shame on the IMAX Corp - for not respecting its own admirable traditions.

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