Openings, part two

Tuesday, September 3, 2019 - 3:30pm

"The Sound of Music"

"The Sound of Music" Buy this photo
Twentieth Century Fox

In the spirit of Welcome Week, Festifall and all things post-Labor-Day, The Michigan Daily Film section has written a collection of blurbs celebrating our favorite “Openings” to movies. Here’s to another year of learning, changing, trying, failing, crying, smiling, passing, movie-watching and (most importantly) a-best-picture-awarded-to-a-film-that-surpasses-the-low-bar-of-not-being-problematic-at-best-and-severly-discouraging-as-to-the-current-state-of-the-conversation-on-racial-equality-in-America-at-worst.

“The Sound of Music” 

“The Sound of Music” might be my favorite musical of all time. The film, released in 1965, was wildly successful, claiming the title of the world’s highest-grossing film for half a decade, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s just something about it — the music, the characters, or maybe even the story itself — that feels timeless and completely irresistible, and I think whatever magic it was that made “The Sound of Music” so popular is encapsulated in its very first minutes.

The opening scene of the movie is rather simple, capturing Julie Andrews (“Mary Poppins”) as Maria roaming the fields of Austria in song. It’s all we as viewers need to want to attach ourselves to the character for as long as we possibly can. In just these few moments, we discover that it’s impossible not to love her. She’s charming, fun, determined and completely true to herself — everything one could possibly ask for in a heroine. The song she sings, sweet yet sentimental, is elevated to a thing of brilliance thanks to Andrews’s voice. It’s hard to imagine that anyone else on Earth could make a line as trite as “my heart wants to sing every song it hears” sound as powerful and earnest as Julie Andrews does.

Though the landscape that surrounds Andrews is beautiful  — so beautiful it’s almost hard to believe it’s a real place — it’s rendered trivial with Andrews’s presence. Her command of the camera is as natural, as obvious as our need to breathe. The scene, carried by one of cinema’s all-time greatest actresses, truly is a thing to behold.

— Elise Godfryd, Daily Arts Writer

“Back to the Future”

As a whole, I’ve long believed “Back to the Future” to be one of the most well written films of all time. Every line of dialogue sets up another, every off-handed joke becomes a central piece of the plot. The first scene of the film is among one of its finest in this regard. The first shot, a slow pan across a series of synchronized clocks instantly reels the audience in, simultaneously posing the question of why all of these clocks are synchronized while also clearly showing that time is what the movie is going to be about. A television brings us up to speed on stolen plutonium that we see in the laboratory moments after. By the time Marty McFly blows out the gigantic amplifiers a minute or two later and realizes he’s late for school, we already know exactly who this too-cool-for-school slacker is. The most ingenious part of this opening is when Doc calls Marty on the phone. In only about four lines of dialogue, we inherently understand the friendship between Doc and Marty, a friendship that eventually becomes the central and emotional core of the entire trilogy.

We never ask how a teenaged wannabe rock star became friends with a crazy inventor. It doesn’t matter. In less than four minutes, without even realizing it the audience has accepted a seemingly preposterous premise, The Power of Love begins to play and a perfect opening sequence is complete. 

— Ian Harris, Daily Arts Writer