Day: February 27, 2011

Why I Like a Movie?

My regular readers will notice the similarity of this post to one I did a few weeks ago on reading entitled- Why I Like a Book?.  In it, I ask the question- Am I a soft reader?  I must say I thought it was one of my best posts and it inspired some interesting discussion; however, it did not completely put my mind at rest.

Perhaps mistakenly, I like to think of myself as a smart person- even as an intellectual.  Despite my fondness for television and fast food, I also aspire to higher, loftier places.  For example, rather than simply reading I get great pleasure from discussing literature with my friends and digging deeper into texts.

It is the same for other sources of entertainment- particularly movies.  My parents taught me to analyze everything.  To look at a movie and comment on the socio-economic conditions, values presented or implied, even the cinematography and acting.

I can recall many times getting into somewhat animated conversations especially with my brother about the virtues of one book or movie over another.  In my family I’ve always felt comfortable talking about anything and expressing my opinion about everything.

That said- Do you ever want to be a particular type of person but you just aren’t?  I think deep down inside I want to be a hipster intellectual who enjoys independent movies; however, I am learning every day that I am more of a blockbuster fan than I’d care to admit.

At BYU they had an international cinema which was free with films from all over the world.  Even then, it was the type of thing that I wanted to like.  I’m not really sure why but there seems something better about a person who likes international cinema- something brighter, more thoughtful?

I went over and over again and left each time bored out of my mind and disappointed.   I can’t think of a single one I enjoyed or felt emotional about, not one (and its not the subtitles that bothers me. I can’t even remember any titles- that’s how unimpressed I was).  Since graduation I have tried repeatedly to like other supposedly ‘thoughtful’ movies, and I very rarely do.  Another one that my brother loves which I thought was a snooze-fest is Days of Heaven.  I admit the photography is beautiful but the story is obvious and pedestrian.  After about an hour of watching wheat in the wind and listening to people complaining I was done…Sadly there was another hour left!

I suppose there are movies like Juno, Slumdog Millionaire and 500 Days of Summer (all films I adore)  that might be considered ‘independent’ but each still has a certain box office appeal.

The reason I started thinking about this is tonight I watched The Blind Side- an incredibly popular movie starring Sandra Bullock as Leigh Ann Tuohy, a Memphis mother who along with her husband and family, invite a homeless african-american boy into their home, and eventually adopt him.  The boy turns out to be Michael Oher, all-star offensive tackle in the NFL.

It is an inspiring movie about the ability of family and love to rescue souls.  Some have criticized the film as being racist, as another ‘white people saving the poor black boy movie’;  however, I’ve seen interviews with both Michael and Leigh Ann and they are clear that Michael’s race had nothing to do with their offer of love.  They saw an opportunity to rescue a needy soul and they took it.

Clearly The Blind Side has its fans- millions were made at the box office and Bullock won an oscar for her performance.  However, there is a whole crew of people who scoff at such a movie.  In fact, A.O Scott, film critic for the New York Times, said as a point of critique, that it sheds “nuance and complication in favor of maximum uplift.”  This is a bad thing? How is ‘maximum uplift’ a bad thing?

Am I stupid? Am I duped by the dramatic music and the ‘based on a true story’ tagline?  I don’t know?  Maybe? I wish I could help it, but no matter how ‘intelligent’ I try to be, I still respond positively to The Blind Side and negatively to those scores of international films that Mr.  Scott would probably think are brilliant. Recently I watched the supposed indie classic Dinner with Andre, and I about died of boredom.  It’s seriously two people talking about nothing for over two hours! Kill me now!

I am not saying that every movie has to be roses and cupcakes or even end happily.  Some didn’t like 500 Days of Summer because of its ending, but I thought it was perfect.  As mentioned before, I love Slumdog Millionaire- a film where children are treated terribly, horrible poverty is exposed, and gang violence pervades.

Why did Slumdog work for me?  Because the characters at the heart of the story are good people who I wanted to see succeed.  I got caught up in their romance.  I wanted them to be happy.  In this case, the ending was triumphant enough for the grim beginning. In fact, it made the difficulties experienced all the more meaningful because of the greater triumph they add to the characters.  In Slumdog you really feel like you grow up with the two characters and become immersed in their struggles.  It’s a great movie. (Not to mention the script, cinematography, acting and music are all sumptuously wonderful)

I am even willing to like a movie that’s a little bit different such as Where the Wild Things Are- a very divisive movie.  You either love it or hate it.  I thought it was brilliant and captured the essence of childhood perfectly.  I can’t think of another film that portrays the way I thought as a child.  When you’re little you take everything for granted and yet you want everything changed- and you, want to do all the changing.  You also see the world through a unique lens that doesn’t make sense to the grown ups around you.  Have you ever seen a child throw their hands in the air in frustration trying to explain a problem or tell a story to an adult?  This movie gets that aspect of childhood just right.

Like the little boy in the movie, I also thought I could be queen of the world as a child- I wanted to do everything on my own, in my own way.  I’d like to think I’ve carried some of that spunk into adulthood? Where the Wild Things Are also captures a child’s ability to ask questions about everything.  The boy, Max, accepts his new world, but he constantly asksquestions of the wild things.   It’s a unique movie, but it is also one of my favorites. ( I have to add my nephew used to look and sound just like the little boy in the movie! He’s 14 now, so not so little.)

In the end, I believe people deep-down inside are good.  Of course, life and sin can tear away at their dreams and values, but I still feel people start out good, innocent and full of potential.  Modern skeptics would hold otherwise, and so movies that I respond to come off as sentimental or silly.  Oh well!  I tried for years to like their stuffed shirt flicks and it isn’t worth it. Give me a weepy biopic or a sentimental romance any day over a cynical portrayal of urban life. Btw, I spent time in urban areas on my mission, and saw a lot more good than evil and more things to feel hopeful about then despairing.

I also believe in the power of redemption.  No matter how bleak it may seem we all have the power to change our lives- no one is a lost cause. It can be as simple as a character that learns to love another person, which is why I’ve always loved Breakfast at Tiffany’s (and Audrey Hepburn is a goddess).  Its about two flawed characters who save themselves through the purity of their love.

It doesn’t have to be redemption through Christ (which I clearly believe is the most profound redemption).  It can be redemption through many noble things such as hard work, persistence, family, community, and love as in The Blind Side.  This theme of redemption is why I LOVE the story of A Christmas Carol.  It is also what attracts me to Jane Eyre.  The bitter Rochester finds himself and renews his life through loving Jane.  It doesn’t always have to be a drama.  Sometimes the funniest movies are ones that feature characters who learn their lesson- What About Bob? comes to mind as an example.

I do have to remind myself that these intellectuals I want to be like aren’t so great.  After all, they are the same people who think David Foster Wallace and David Sedaris are funny- a thought which is beyond me?  I think both of them are obnoxious, condescending, preachy and dripping with disdain for anyone who isn’t like them.  I didn’t laugh once while reading their supposedly insightful commentaries.  (Maybe because it is my traditional Christian life they are making fun of? On the other hand, I can laugh at myself and my culture?)  Who knows?

I guess I respond to what I respond to.  Can anyone help that?  Hmmm…I definitely will be curious for everyone’s thoughts on this one!