I Love Escaping…I mean movies…I mean, Kenny, help me out, here.

I love movies.  I love good movies, and there are even a lot of not-very-good movies that I’ve quite enjoyed.  Last June, I was sitting in the farm house of John and Gabrielle Daubert reading through a Paste Magazine article about the greatest living directors.  I had seen at least one movie by almost all the directors in the list, and the ones whose movies I hadn’t seen were by and large directors of foreign-language films.  I’m not opposed to foreign-language movies.  There are many that I absolutely loved: Pans Labyrinth, Mongol, Hero, Life is Beautiful, Motorcycle Diaries, Mountain Patrol.  I just haven’t seen as many.

Anyway, back to that living room in June 2010.  We were sitting there talking about the directors and the good and great films they made while waiting for Nate and Bethany Myers to arrive (As an aside, as a college freshman, Nate helped me memorize the final line of Blade, which is odd).  I don’t recall the specific discussion, but I know that by the time we got half-way through the list, I had said, “Oh, I love that movie,” at least 10 times; possibly more.  Julia Owens was there and said, “You love every movie.”  I said, “Not every movie.”  Gabrielle said, “You are great to watch movies with because you like every movie.”  Again, “Not every movie.

Well, however I may protest, it is often true, and I frequently remember and think about what Julia and Gabrielle said and wonder if it was a compliment, strictly an observation, or a knock.

I abandon myself to the fantasy movies weave very easily.  I am capable of admiring the direction, the cinematography, the acting and all the minutae of movies, but I can also just abandon myself to the story and float along with its currents in contentment (perhaps due to those features, but that wouldn’t explain why I liked this).  It is very different than the way I experience music.  Some music grips me, and while in general I can appreciate even the music that doesn’t, I cannot abandon myself to that music which does not intrinsically grip me.  With movies, I can will myself to accept the story.  My ability to choose to abandon reality is quick and total when it comes to the silver screen.

I used to think that this meant that I simply valued the films’ capacity for “entertainment.”  I could often be heard saying, “Some films are just meant to entertain, nothing more.”  I am now starting to think that is a pretty inaccurate statement, mostly due to the kind-hearted skewering I received from Kenny Camacho on the subject this past Sunday.  He’s gunn’ learn me good, even if’n ‘e is frum Sahth Ca’alina (oddly, spell check is accepting everything in that previous sentence).  His basic point, as I understood it,  is that on some level, regardless of ulterior motives, practically all non-documentary movies (and even some documentary movies) seek to entertain.  You therefore cannot base value simply on entertainment factor.  I can’t really remember what he said specifically, but I think it was that you have to value the movie on its ability to accomplish its established goal.  Romantic comedies (which I by and large, love), for example, set the goal to transport you to a fantasy world filled with romance, shenanigans and happy endings.  “How well does the movie do at bringing  you into the fantasy?” is probably a more appropriate question to ask.  Maybe Dr. Camacho will comment and elaborate on this or fix where I’ve butchered what he told me.  (He’s seriously a PhD, I wasn’t just being sarcastic…this time)

Last night, I watched Inglourious Basterds (two thumbs way up) and tried to keep this in my head.

But I failed.  I’ll learn though.

Ultimately, I found myself enveloped by the story, as I usually do, as I did earlier this week, when I watched Carolina with Becky or earlier this month when I watched (and truly loved) Chaos Theory.

The next step of my movie-watching maturity is to maintain this innocense that allows me to sink into and also be able to explain the merits of the movie and why or why not I really liked it, why it was or was not good, or why I may have enjoyed it in the moment, I probably will not watch it ever again.  (or the more rare occurrence:  why I really did not like it)
What movie have I seen more times than any other?  Alright, alright, alright


2 thoughts on “I Love Escaping…I mean movies…I mean, Kenny, help me out, here.

  1. Keep that innocence, Matt.

    You pretty much nailed it: my point was that movies–like all art–are unavoidably outward in their focus–they want to reach and move you. But beneath that global aim are more specific goals: politics, ideas, religious beliefs, social agendas, etc. The task of the critic, as I see it, is to 1) do their best to listen to the argument a work of art puts forward, and then 2) explicate the power of that argument so others can think about it, too. Sometimes, that means saying the work of art (or movie) missed an opportunity: the romantic comedy that is neither romantic nor funny (Gigli); the serious drama that ends haphazardly or treats complicated subjects insufficiently (Gone, Baby, Gone). More often, it means starting a conversation about what a movie got right–and how it could have been even better. Then, rarest of rare, is the movie that blows your mind–that says more than you thought possible in a style and form that takes your breath away (Inglourious Basterds, perhaps). In any case, we LISTEN first, then we THINK, and the MORE we think, the better we get at it (and the more we grow). So, keep watching, and keep writing.

    Good post, Matt.

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