Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Lets all go to the movies

The clock in the car is reading 6:55 as we pull into a parking spot and I am already frowning at the husbeast. I hop out before he has finished turning the car off and scurry towards the building without really waiting for him to catch up as I have no intention of being late. A few minutes later I am taking the stairs nearly two at a time, thankful for my long legs, as I sprint for the back row which is thankfully still empty as it is our favorite spot. The husbeast settles in next to me just in time for the lights to start to dim. The room is momentarily dark before the whirl of the projector can be heard and the screen in front of us comes to life with vivid bright light.

I love movies.

Whether I am settling in at a theater or working on my ass groove in my couch at home, I absolutely love movies. I have a ridiculous movie collection and know the staff of our local theater by name to support my claims of my movie addiction.

What isn't to love about the movies? I mean the experience of going to the theater, sitting in the darkness as worlds are laid out before you, where you can watch love grow, and sorrow pour forth, and mysteries unravel in suspense is completely liberating. For the run time of that movie you are not in your own world but in another that was carefully crafted for you. For that short amount of time you can escape your own life and problems and immerse yourself elsewhere.

People have used movies as a type of escapism as long as there have been movies. During the depression, wars, and times of national strife people fled to the theaters for some way to not think about all the problems in the world. With the advent of the VCR and subsequent technology (DVR, BluRay, Digital download), movie channels like HBO, Starz, Showtime, and Cinemax, and eventually streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime people can administer a much needed dose of escapism from the comfort of their own homes (or wherever they are with a well charged tablet and a wi-fi signal).

Still with movies being such a well loved pastime there is so much hate and vitriol out there for them. There are entire websites dedicated to picking apart and destroying movies. Now don't get me wrong, there are some really awful movies out there, but when I stop and look at some of the movies receiving such hate, I have to stop and wonder what is wrong with these people.

I have a friend who is notorious for hating all movies. In reality he actually likes a lot of movies. It is  the fact that he has such fervent hate for any popular movie that is based on something like a comic, TV series, or book (which pretty much all modern movies fall into this category) and is very vocal about his hate makes him seem like an all around movie hater. It is bad enough though that there is a moratorium on movie discussions when  he is in the house, and he is pretty much never invited to see a movie with us.

I have heard him say before that he thinks that I have very low expectations of movies and that is why I am not disappointed in more of them. I say that is complete and total bunk. I actually have very high expectations of most movies, and even I can be (and have been) disappointed in what I have been presented. I am just more tolerant than he is, and according to sites like Rotten Tomatoes, than most people.

First off I have pretty much no problem with variances between movies and their source material. I am a huge Douglas Adams fan, and you can't really love his work if you can't accept that the same story is going to be different in every incarnation it has. You will be hard pressed to find a radio play or movie script for Hitchhikers guide that is the same as the books or any other scripts for the story. That was done on purpose, and I love him for that, and for teaching me that the details can change and the story can live on.

Rare is it that a book can directly translate into a film. Sure we would all love for every minute detail of our much love novels to be depicted on screen exactly how they were written, but lets face it, that is impossible. Some things just don't translate well and would hurt the story in film format. Sacrifices have to  be made.

Let us also accept that they can not always find actors who look exactly like the character in the book and can also pull off the character. Yes there is a height discrepancy between Hugh Jackman and Wolverine from the comics. Get over it, that man has Wolverine down. Again sacrifices have to be made.

Also you have to remember that the movie is being made with a modern audience in mind so it is not going to always follow the tone of the book exactly, and it most certainly will be tonally different if it is a remake of a beloved childhood show or movie. You have to accept that what children of the 80's wanted to see is not the same as what children of 2015 want. They want cool graphics and more explosions, and modern relevant cultural references.

Lets address another big hater point; historical fiction. There is a very important word in that particular drama that people seem to dismiss far too easily. No, not Historical, I was referring to the word fiction. If you want something that is historically accurate you need to find something that is listed under the heading documentary, and even then you are going to most likely find something with a bias slant which obscures certain facts.

No matter how you look at it, all films, even documentaries, are going to get facts wrong or gloss over things that could be important. In historical fiction films there is going to  be a lot more inaccuracies than in documentaries but this doesn't mean that they are outright bad movies. Do not go in expecting to learn history from something that is fiction. Do you even know what that word means?

In historical fiction movies you should probably be looking for overall themes, concepts, and messages instead of factual accuracy. I mean there are of course some gross inaccuracies that would warrant outrage, but for the most part the things people hate on in movies are much more minute, like perception of certain historical figures that they don't think mesh with the common agreed persona of that person.

Take your historical fiction with a grain of salt and go read some biographies and history books to determine the 'truth' of events is the best thing I can say about that. Enjoy the  movie for what it is and let it go.

After all of that I think what needs to be done is for you to ask yourself a few simple questions:

Did I enjoy the movie?

This is probably the most important question. If the answer is yes it was a good movie. If the answer is no, it could still be a good movie.

Was I emotionally moved by the movie in some way?

If you found your heart skipping when the two lovers finally kissed, crying when the anti hero tragically sacrificed themselves for redemption, or terrified as the suspense unraveled, it is a pretty good guess that this was a good movie. Movies are supposed to invoke emotional responses and if it engaged you enough to receive those reactions then they did a good job.

Did I feel a connection with the characters?

Characters are not real people, but if you feel for them and are invested in their outcome then it was probably a good movie. If you get indignant for a character when they are mistreated, or genuinely want to see them find happiness, or care about them in any way, then they really did their job well.
Did I ever get bored with the movie?

Was the movie overly confusing and frustrating? 

There are confusing movies and then there are confusingly frustrating movies. Dannie Darko and Memento come to mind as confusing movies that were good. The time lines are all mixed up and there is a lot going on, but the movies are still engaging and entertaining. At no point did I ever stop the movie and say to hell with it because I had no idea what was going on and therefor no longer cared.

Did you ever get bored with the movie?

This is a tricky one. Boring movies can still be good movies. If it is boring and you sit through it and are still able to say you enjoyed it, or that it was emotionally evocative, chances are it wasn't a terrible movie. I have this problem with Saving Private Ryan. Good movie, but it was so slow I kept getting up and going to do other things instead of watching it. I wasn't in the right mind frame to watch it at that time, but it didn't make it a bad movie.

So an example of a bad movie?

The new Conan was so boring that I found myself making grocery lists and pondering what to make for dinner; strike 1. The writing was also so incredibly disjointed that I found it confusing and hard to form an attachment to any of the characters or care about them; strike 2 and 3. It was completely not enjoyable and is one of the few examples of me hating a remake. It met none of my criteria for a good movie. 

Of course when it comes down to it, that is just my opinion. Whether a movie is good or bad is completely subjective. Should you take Rotten Tomatoes or a critics word for whether or not a movie is good; probably not. There is no guarantee that what the reviewers were looking for are the same things that you are looking for in a movie. Just because they hate it doesn't mean you will, and just because they love it doesn't mean you will.

Remember critics went to school for film a lot of the time and the things they are judging the movie on is probably not criteria that you are looking for. It is sort of like watching ice skating or gymnastics. You see a beautiful entertaining routine and the judges give it low scores because they weren't low enough in their rotation or they wobbled a little too much on dismount.

Always give things a chance, and you might be surprised where you find a gem of a movie that you will love and cherish forever. You may enjoy it, and then again you may not, but you will never know until you try it.

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