Commentary on Movies, History and Perspective
What we look for most often when we sit down at the movies is a prevailing sense of having gone somewhere and experienced something. We’re looking for fulfillment or some substitute for it, call them distractions from our everyday or little excursions like holidays. We’re used to getting something in return for our investment, like did we get our moneys worth, did we laugh, cry, think, tune out, fall asleep, shout for joy or throw popcorn by the hand full. Entertained is relative I suppose, as long as we can agree to disagree on just exactly what it is that moves us to and from fulfilled. What constitutes entertainment may differ slightly, if not altogether from person to person, from your personal favorite genre to genre free pass, from your demographic appeal to your cultural perspective, but the underlying sense of fun, fear, exhilaration and, there’s the magic word – escape – is what returns us time and time again to the movies and television we love to love and hate to hate when it goes against our escape.
When you break it down it’s pure and rather simple really, beginning with a connection to the material and key players, an interest in or curiosity of far away stories and backyard ones too, about places we’ve never seen or been to before or maybe we have and wish to return. Sometimes it’s a back in time when there were no mile high buildings scraping the sky or a time when we dreamed, earth-bound of building elevators to the stars. Every now and again we seek solace in our movies through events that unite our collective experiences about people we are attracted too or repulsed by, people like the people in our lives, the people in our dreams and imaginations. The stories are what invite us in, give us that connection, portray our fears and adoration for who we love to be loved, who we hope will guide our way. Usually we know the sensation of excitement that is the foundation for entertainment, the way it makes us feel through laughter and tears, silly and subtle really – we know when a movie succeeds because we feel it long before the awards shows or listen to someone we know or don’t know; we find time to read the reviews of critics and enthusiasts and then do the complete opposite. We are certain that it has little to do with accolades and more to do with effective storytelling, engaging characters and that enjoyment factor above all else we’re on the right track for some kind of memorable. But there are no barometers or yardsticks to measure success, no ½ gallon jugs cut to collect one side for popcorn opinions and the other side for facts like sugary soda pop. If only it were as easy as plucking the oily, half cracked kernels you’re never supposed to eat but do it anyway safe at the bottom of the tub. Just as easily as we understand the entertained and the entertainment, there are countless distractions and unnecessary detours. The Oscar contenders for Best Picture always perplex some, baffle what we think we know about the elusive success, ruffle the feathers of many while proving the one thing all movies have in common – that for as much as filmmakers and Hollywood executives think we’ve come up with a formula for success, for every film review and blog entry gamble on the pros and cons of entertainment value, we can never fully know the outcome or get a money back guarantee. That’s entertainment, as the saying goes. Sometimes you win a few and sometimes you have to think about it for a while.
Every time we sit down to watch a movie there is uneasiness inside, a mixture of excitement and enthusiasm as our everyday world slides back out-of-the-way for what dreams may come draws near. Even with all our homework complete and preparatory reviews considered, against our better judgment waiting in the ticket line we find ourselves a little giddy with the possibility to be entertained at all costs. Even if they are mostly self-serving and just another marketing tool for the Hollywood machine, we can’t help the nostalgia that creeps in as that little dream in each and every one of us surfaces; far away and imagining we wonder what it would be like to be a movie star or directing the next great sinking ship epic only this time it takes place off the shores of some far away planet stuck in a dying universe and we risk everything to save the girl or boy of our dreams. Secretly we can’t help falling in love at the movies with people we don’t know but think we do because no matter how much our lives are troubled, no matter how hard it was to even get there, when the lights fade and people immediately go quiet – or you hope they do – and the last cell phone text screen pops off in the dark as the silver screen flutters to life and a new movie begins – magic happens.
Movies have always taken me on tiny journeys of self discovery to places I’ve been and places I know in my heart exist somewhere. I have always looked for stories that elevate and escape, reward the senses while staying true to certain fundamental principles, certain laws of performance and believable outcomes. I suppose that is my struggle, the letting go of rigid formalities for the sake of airy space operas and such things. Sometimes it is easier to believe we all want the same thing than to get caught up in the truth of our different reasons for sitting there in the dark movie theater. Even as we arrive and depart as individuals we are connected each of us to collected experience that shows how alike we are the way smiles make frowns go away for a little while no matter where we’ve come from. Stories that make us laugh and cry show us more of who we are on the inside, the welcoming and the kind, the helpful and the willing to see others get ahead. Despite the thrill of destruction and the carnage of the disturbed among us, it is not all the violence that makes for entertainment but greater revelations about the distances between our elbows inside as much as the distances outside. And there we find one another again lost in looking, always hopeful of the next great thrill ride surprise.
All movies begin with words and ideas that take form on paper or computer screens, gathering people, places and things so that we have a place to land and take off from. The greatest stories impart familiarity while suggesting change that makes us better for having realized nothing stays the same forever. These tiny beginnings eventually have meaning and structure, scenes shape the way an act comes together, actors prepare characters we care about to enter the door or get on board the ship because we’re moving as much by the passage of time as the traveling of it, to someplace else, toward change and circumstances where we arrive in order to leave and leave so that we might have gone somewhere scary and fun and rewarding however short-lived. Films that travel inside themselves also prove to us that it matters even when we think we’ve been standing or sitting the whole time together without so much difference as the companionship of moments – the true magic of cinema is in the community of it, the separation of our differences to form a new kind of togetherness lost and found in theaters everywhere and nowhere as important as inside each one of us.
- A Jongleur Perspective on Movie Making (garyrevel.wordpress.com)
- 5 Obvious Tips For Writing About/For The Movies (badassdigest.com)
- More Movies Like This, Please: 2012 List (gointothestory.blcklst.com)
- Review the Reviewer – Aggregator Syndrome (rorydean.wordpress.com)
- Are films primarily art or entertainment? (Friday Question Fun) (andywatchesmovies.com)
- Movies Suck (in Arts and Culture) (thetyee.ca)