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The Rough Cut 11-18-11: Rough year? Time to escape

November 21, 2011 - Keith Frederick
So how has your year been?

Judging by the nightly news, it hasn’t been great. Mine certainly hasn’t been.

Money troubles, civil unrest, unprecedented political partisanship, natural disasters, football coaches — the year’s troubles are legion.

And that’s why we’ve turned to our imaginations for a release. Only two of the year’s top 10 grossing films — “Fast Five” and “The Hangover Part II” — are set in a recognizable, non-fantasy, non-science fiction world.

And those films deal with such outlandish situations, they, too, are almost fantasies.

I realize that, in a sense, all popular fiction and film is “fantasy,” but I’m talking about such film sagas as “Harry Potter” and “Twilight,” where the characters are far removed from our world, or outlandish sci-fi worlds where towering robots or hyper-intelligent apes run havoc over the world.

Since the early 2000s — the post 9/11 world — with our world seemingly in so much turmoil, the list of top films each year have been fantasy-filled — “Avatar,” “Transformers,” “2012,” the afore-mentioned “Potter” and “Twilight” sagas, the multitude of superhero films, the many animated films. The list is far too large to include here.

It isn’t the first time a troubled movie-going audience has turned toward the cinema for an escape. For example, in the 1980s, Indiana Jones, “Star Wars” and “E.T.” dominated an industry that was suddenly filled with sci-fi, action and fantasy. It’s no coincidence that the United States at the same time was going through a recession, that the Cold War was on everyone’s minds, that the world suddenly be­came aware of third-world famine and disease and that drugs and AIDS were national news headlines.

By contrast, the 1990s were a time of booming business, relative peace and a balanced budget for the U.S. The bubble had yet to burst and the country climbed out of the recession. By the mid-1990s, more real world movies and dramas were finding success.

In today’s world, I’m not sure films like “A Few Good Men,” “Philadel­phia,” “Forrest Gump,” “Apollo 13,” “Twister,” “Jerry Maguire” or “As Good As It Gets” would reach the same blockbuster status.

Even “Titanic,” the blockbuster to end all blockbusters, would have trouble in today’s market. These days, if we’re going to watch that many people die, we want an alien or a robot to be the cause, dang it.

But don’t get me wrong. I may be fascinated by the psychological reasons for the genre’s popularity, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it.

Lately, I’ve been getting my fantasy fix from ABC’s “Once Upon a Time.”

In case you’re unfamiliar with it, “Once Upon a Time” stars Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan, a lonely young woman who is brought into the town of Storybrooke, Maine, by the son she gave up for adoption when he was a baby.

The son, Henry, has found Emma because he believes he has discovered a secret — she is the long-lost daughter of Snow White and Prince Charm­ing.

Emma is unaware of this because the entire world of fairy-tale creatures and people have been cursed to live in our world, unaware of their real identities, by The Evil Queen — Henry’s adoptive mother here in the real world. He believes only Emma can break the curse and fix things.

The show is fun, clever and action-packed. The performances are quality all around and the back stories are parsed out just enough to keep you interested in them all. It’s a great show for my wife and I to sit down and enjoy each week and forget our own problems.

After all, there’s nothing wrong with a little escape now and then.

Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick’s column appears monthly in Go. He can be reached at 946-7466 or by email at

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