Movies, Death, and the Death of Movies

I have spent the last week or so pondering what topic to cover for my next post here in the shadow. I thought about some of the movies I’ve seen recently, and my brain began to spin with possibilities.

Should I review American Hustle, which I finally got around to seeing (thank you, Netflix)?

What about The Wolf of Wall Street?

No, too much time has passed, and everyone has probably been brainwashed about their greatness. (For the record: “meh.” Over hyped.)

But then I thought about the last couple times I saw an advanced screening, and how I felt seeing the Big Movie Mouth-Off’s Jimmy Martin come in and deal with doing his job and being with his friends, only days after his friend and partner, Jeff Vice, had passed away. What a professional.

I wanted to approach him (in the press section, from my seat in the average Joe area) and tell him how sorry I was, but I suck at that kind of thing. I really do. Of course, very few people are “good” at that. It’s just not a skill most people care to develop.

But, as always, I digress.

This isn’t a post about death; it’s a post about movies.

I love movies. I really do. Always have. Like books (my other love), movies have the ability to take us to places we’ve never been or could never go, and allow us to meet people we would otherwise have no way of encountering.

And, like books, they can get your mind racing with possibilities of what might be.

Anyway, in the scenario above, I’d like to think that I would have been gracious in my expression of compassion to Jimmy, and that we might talk a bit about our mutual love of movies.

“So, you review movies, too?” he’d ask.

“Yeah, amongst other things. I’ve covered some comic cons and am a writer. I just have a little website, though; nothing as well-known as yours.”

“You monetize it yet?”

“Monetize MyOwnLittleShadow? I’m still trying to get paid to write traditionally!”

I like to think he’d chuckle a little bit at that.

“I guess. It took us a long time to get the Big Movie Mouth-Off to where it is today.”

“I’m sure it did. Everything takes time. But I like to think that my reviews are intelligent enough, even if I don’t have thousands of people looking at them.”

“So, are you an ‘all movies are good’ or ‘all movies are bad’ kind of reviewer?”

“I’ve thought a lot about that, actually, and I’ve got a theory.”

“Do tell,” he’d say, putting his hand under his chin like a little kid waiting for a bedtime story.

“Well, here’s how I see it right now: Hollywood, for all of its money and access to writers and actors and source material, rarely does anything spectacular. And I don’t mean spectacular in the ‘Michael-Bay-blows-up-the-world’ kind of way. I mean spectacular in a way that challenges us with multi-faceted characters or uncomfortable subject matter, or even something as simple as a coherent plot that is well executed. Films that 20, 30, 40 years from now will be looked back at and remembered. I’ve watched 4 of the Best Picture nominees for the recent Academy awards: American Hustle, Gravity, The Wolf of Wall Street, and 12 Years a Slave. Of those 4, 12 Years a Slave was the clear winner. It wasn’t even close. And that’s not because it’s a perfect film, it’s because the other 3 of those were so over-rated. It’s like Hollywood just expects us to take what they give us and assume it’s the greatest film ever made, and that’s JUST NOT TRUE.”

“Well, I can certainly agree with that,” he’d say.

“Exactly, but the real problem with reviewing movies today is that they are either a love-it or hate-it kind of thing. People that watch them generally either think they’re great or they’re terrible. There’s a lot of 2/4 star movies, but individually, people are basically all-or-none when they think of movies. So we wind up with a crop of better-than-average-but-not-great movies getting best picture nominations, being enshrined as the best, when it feels more like they’re just the-best-they-can-do. And it’s not that the movies aren’t a great way to kill 2 hours, but it’s like watching the popcorn you just overpaid for in the lobby: there’s not really anything to nourish you in it. Your soul will just shrivel up from so much of it.”

“That’s pretty deep.”

“I like to think so,” I’d say.

So, after a couple other words, I’d shake his hand and return to my seat to watch another hopefully good, but probably disappointing, film.

At least, that’s how it goes in my head.

And just like in Hollywood, I’m sure it looks better in my head than it does in real life.

On second thought, maybe this post is about death.

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