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[dropcap] C [/dropcap]reativity is something that goes relatively hand-in-hand with movies. It is a transcendent force that can help make a film more than just moving images, but rather an experience unlike anything else. But there is always credit for the minds behind the final product. For every A Trip to The Moon, there is George Melies. For every Citizen Kane, there is Orson Welles and for every 2001: A Space Odyssey, there is Stanley Kubrick.
This year in cinema, there was no shortage in creative movies as films like Interstellar, The Lego Movie, and Boyhood among the many films that have their elements of creativity that work either on screen or off. This year also had three films that focused solely on the creator behind the great moments: Chef, The Wind Rises, and Birdman; and these minds all work in a similar way.
Chef is all about the freedom to be creative and breaking from the shackles of a corporation in order to feed the creative mind and the master work that it brings forth. Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a former big-name chef who is now working in a restaurant that he feels is constricting his gift. This culminates in his boss, played by Dustin Hoffman, firing him the night before he is going to enact his revenge on a cruel food critic and show him that he still has something left to prove.
He ends up instead making the creation at home as his staff at the restaurant concocts the same meal that the critic had before and leads to the critic scoffing at it before Carl bursts in and explodes on the man’s previous review.
This is almost a spiritual companion to another film mentioned, Birdman, as in one of the film’s latter scenes, Riggan (Michael Keaton) walks over to the theater critic (Lindsay Duncan) who holds the very fate of his work (this extension of his own creative mind) in her hands. Instead of showing that he is more than just another actor filling up a superhero costume, the critic turns on him and showers him with negativity and the very thoughts that Riggan thought he could fight off with the premiere of his play.
“I’m going to wreck your play,” she says to him before she leaves and he enters a small tantrum.
This battle between the creative mind and the critic, or gatekeeper to their fate as both movies make them at times, rages in both Chef and Birdman. Consequentially, both end with the creative mind and critic coming to a resolution (in Chef, he helps build a new restaurant and in Birdman, she gives him a good review). It also further validates and almost calms the storm of the battle that the films create between this creative mind and their critical counterpart.
But as both films paint the picture of the relationship between creative mind and critic somewhat dark, they also are used to almost elevate the work of the former.
In Chef, as Carl and Martin (John Leguizamo) work on the Cuban sandwiches for the workers who helped them get their equipment into the food truck, Carl’s son says “who cares” when a sandwich doesn’t come out right. As Carl takes him to the side, he talks to him about how much this craft means to him and how, while he may not take it seriously, he should try to since he (Carl) does love it so much.
A similar scene, in Birdman, has Riggan speaking with his offspring (played by Emma Stone) about the validation he is looking for by making this play and the way that people will look at him again if all goes well. While there is more of an appreciation in Carl’s speech, Riggan still speaks the same merit: what he is doing really matters to people.
And it does. Art means the world to many people and the way it influences people’s lives, and especially culture, is incredibly important. That’s what makes these two films specifically so significant. Sometimes they can be a little arrogant and sometimes they feel a little self-righteous, but beneath it all, they both are about the artist performing his craft.
That is especially true in The Wind Rises, which takes away the fight between the artist and the critic and supplants it with the artist and time, which is something that also plagues the men of Chef and Birdman. Jiro Horikoshi (voiced in English by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) strives to be one of the world’s best aeronautical designers. This dream gains a little reality (even though it is through a dream) when as a boy, he meets Caproni (Stanley Tucci) who introduces him to the world that he lives in as one of the best designers.
As the story progresses, we watch as Jiro pushes himself, and occasionally fails, to reach this dream. He never completely loses it like Riggan or Carl do, but he always is pushing harder to achieve what he first saw in that dream. Much like the previous two characters, Jiro has hurdles that he must go over in order to achieve, but the fight is usually with himself and the time that is closing in since Caproni gives him a deadline of ten years in which he can achieve greatness (and the impending illness of his wife).
Creativity has been unbridled in film this year and these three films are just a few examples of this. It seems that these three films work the best together and each have elements that run together, and while the final end goal may be different, it still stands as a testament that the creative mind will be pushed but by who, and what direction will it take.