In this NY Times piece, film reviewer AO Scott — one of the best in the biz — writes about how we often go to movies with modest expectations.
This paragraph, in particular, really got me thinking:
I was bored. The kids were bored. A trip to “Megamind” or “Unstoppable” was easy — a relatively inexpensive excursion we could all agree on that was unlikely to leave anyone too disappointed. Very few movies are so bad that they ruin the experience of moviegoing, which itself is engineered to fulfill modest expectations and to mute rather than inflame enthusiasm.
As a film geek who believes a good film can not only entertain to the highest level, but inspire and influence our real life thoughts and actions, that paragraph took a bit of time to digest.
But it’s true. Sure, films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Lost in Translation, and 500 Days of Summer will always stay with me because how much my sappy ass relates to the themes of the movie, most of the time I watch movies knowing it won’t be that good.
We don’t do this with anything else. We don’t jump into a relationship, take a vacation, or buy a shirt thinking “eh it’s not gonna be that great but it’ll keep me occupied and modestly satisfied”.
I downloaded The Goods, this cheap comedy starring Ari Gold and that overrated-as-hell Asian guy Ken Jeong (his one gimmick is he’s a geeky, old Chinese uncle who engages in outrageous behavior like talking/acting like a black gangster), knowing full well it’s gonna be a forgettable comedy. I did it anyways because, well it’s free and I have some time to kill tonight.
Okay, so piracy made that last example irrelevant–it’s much easier to settle for crap movies when it’s free and easily available–but even before the days of the internet, I have attended movies with no expectations, mostly just to see it or because there was nothing else to do. Chances are you’ve done it too.
There is no bigger theme with this entry, and I have no conclusion. It’s just…the notion that we go to movies knowing “it won’t be too bad” and expect nothing is something very few people are aware of.
Still, ever now and then a movie will hit every nerve, and make you think about your own life. And if that movie manages to combine its theme with an entertaining story, that is when it becomes a masterpiece that will stay with a film geek for life.
For me, Wall-E does a brilliant job of depicting loneliness and isolation while keeping the film entertaining. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind captures the pains of heartbreak and how our initial reaction is to “forget/throw away memories”, but in the long run, we realize those memories should be cherished. 500 Days of Summer is just damn and Up in the Air is just heart-wrenching to watch, especially the end.
A good movie will stay with you, and the romantic thing to say is we willingly sit through hours of mediocre junk to find that one good movie. But no, as AO Scott so succinctly puts it — we just got nothing else better to do and don’t mind being half-assed entertained.