You Don’t Watch Good Movies
“Thinking is boring, of course (all that silence), which is why so many industrially made movies work so hard to entertain you. If you’re entertained, or so the logic seems to be, you won’t have the time and head space to think about how crummy, inane and familiar the movie looks, and how badly written, shoddily directed and indifferently acted it is. And so the images keep zipping, the sounds keep clanging and the actors keep shouting as if to reassure you that, yes, the money you spent for your ticket was well worth all this clamor, a din that started months, years, earlier when the entertainment companies first fired up the public-relations machine and the entertainment media chimed in to sell the buzz until it rang in your ears”
-Manohla Dargis in her article “In Defense of the Slow and the Boring” co-written with AO Scott for the NY Times, find the rest of the article here.
Movies are the most under-appreciated out of all the main art forms. Music, although typically bad within popular realms, at least has had the Arcade Fire win the Grammy for best album and has far more support and respect than that of film making. Although the world is obsessed with Lady Gaga, most people I run into college age and older have a taste for something with some quality. Even Starbucks plays some fairly good music, so even if the population chooses to not listen to quality music they are forced into it when they go buy their 5 dollar lattes 3 times a day.
I also have found increasingly good taste when it comes to television. Lately, the medium has not only released great shows (or so I’ve heard) on channels like AMC, Showtime, and HBO, but also on primetime TV channels like NBC.
Other art forms like painting or sculpting are not really commercial and those who are fans of those mediums are usually true connoisseurs of it, while most in the general population really don’t care at all.
But movies on the other hand, make millions of dollars a year. The problem is not in a lack of consumption, but rather in what is chosen to be consumed. There are constantly lines out the door each weekend at the cinema complex and “dinner and a movie” is still probably the most popular thing to do on a date, but rarely are movies given the respect of other art forms. Rather, they are seen as pure entertainment.
While recently scanning different peoples profiles on the popular social networking site Facebook, I checked out the movie interests section to see which movies each individual “like(s)”. Most have the typical run-of-the-mill classics like Star Wars or The Goonies, and there is even the occasional arthouse flick like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Fight Club, but nothing that steps outside the boundaries of cult classicism. Those most interested in movies are usually into some specific genre like horror films or sci-fi movies. Even the artsiest of my “friends” choose to “like” quirky, minimal comedies about depressed men and the manic pixie dream girls that save them as folksy indie rock songs play in the background.
Nobody I know stays in the know of the latest films to be released or the true global classics of the last fifty years, which isn’t something you would expect except out of cinephiles, yet I know many people who keep track of all the latest albums and cool songs (thank you Pitchfork).
Even the amount of views this post will get and how many people will actually read the links I have provided about this problem by the aforementioned Dargis and Scott, as well as the piece by Jeffrey Overstreet at the end of the article, is proof of the lack of thought that the person puts into moviegoing.
In most movie discussions, I tend to keep my mouth shut; my opinions and views are so far skewed from the norm that I have become entirely unable to participate in talk of cinema. Yet I refuse conformity, if only because of my weariness of watching the same plotlines unfold while not so great actors act out one dimensional characters to the sound of millions of dollars! Well, at least they’re all good looking…
People, step outside your cinematic comfort zones. Go see Of Gods and Men or Terrence Malick’s forthcoming The Tree of Life or Kurosawa’s Ikiru or something that isn’t made for the sole purpose of shutting down your brain. At least every once in a while?
“Most American Christian moviegoers, like most Americans, want flashy, fast-paced entertainment, not art that moves at the speed of life, or art that quietly asks them to think things through. But this is a quiet film that asks you to pay attention. That is a strength, not a weakness. By inviting you to pay attention, it will become a part of you, an experience you’ll remember and discuss. Thus, it denies you many of movie conventions that have conditioned us to get comfortable and turn off our brains.The only music we hear in the film, with only a couple of exceptions, is the music made by nine Trappist monks in prayer. Many scenes are almost silent, as the monks go about their daily tasks wrestling with difficult questions about their responsibility to follow Christ. ”
-Jeffrey Overstreet on why Of Gods and Men won’t do well in the American church and in America as a whole. Read the rest of the article here.