Last night I went to see the delightful new movie Mary Poppins Returns. As one of the few heathens who have not seen the original Mary Poppins, my opinion is understandably suspect – but I really liked it.
In this movie I saw the best work of great actors, Disney animators, choreographers, songwriters, scriptwriters, stuntpeople, set designers, costume designers. And, just as I felt during my recent trip to a Lindsey Stirling concert, I was inspired by the range of human potential.
Sometimes art needs to celebrate itself, and that’s what this movie did.
Sure, in most movies the art needs to be doing its work quietly. You shouldn’t even think of it as art – it should be so good, it’s invisible. The movie should be so good, you shouldn’t think of it as a movie.
But sometimes we all need to be reminded of exactly what we’re dealing with when we go to the movies, or the concert hall, or the theatre. We should get a right-smack-in-the-face picture of the greatness humans can create. The costumes should be bright, the music over-the-top, the dancing perfected, and the story full of cheer and wit and enthusiasm. And moviegoers seem to agree.
This explains the success of movies like Mary Poppins Returns – or, in past years, films like The Artist or La La Land (both homages to Hollywood). Sure, these movies can be a little self-congratulatory. But it’s impossible for them to be cynical, and that’s good enough for me in a world of cynical movies. When people really stop to think about all the complex, backbreaking work that goes into show-business, admiration is the only possible emotion. And admiration makes for beautiful films and a more beautiful world.