Contradicting Popular Opinion:
An Enquiry Concerning Why We Aren’t Going to the Movies
Earlier this year I went to see High Tension, French Texas Chainsaw Massacre with twist #9 (the Fight Club twist).
Anywho, while I was waiting in line I heard this conversation between ticket buyer and ticket vendor:
“Two tickes to (SOME CRAP).”
(Looking at sign)
“High Tension? What’s that?”
“I don’t know. It is an independent movie.”
“I don’t watch independent movies.”
As if “Independent” were some sort of genre and level of quality unto itself. As a fella with the last name Dynamite says, “Gosh!”
Although, I can’t say that I really like that movie either.
Why aren’t we going to the movies?
It’s weird to me which movies are successful and which aren’t. Look at the indie flicks that really take off. Traditionally, the ones that make a lot of money, the ones that are really successful are these terribly mediocre films. Audiences don’t flock to see indie movies that are great or different. They flock to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding or going back a few years, The Brothers McMullen. Movies that are pretty much the goddamn same as everything else.
Or if the successful indie movie is different, that it is whole basis for success. Sure, I’ve never seen a flick like Blair Witch or Napolean Dynamite before, but there is probably a reason.
So, I CANNOT believe that a lack of quality is what is keeping people out of the theaters. Movies that make some good money are often pretty bad. Independence Day is a dreadfully silly movie, but it made nearly 7 trillion in the box office. (Not an exact number.)
Braveheart was both a box-office and critical success without the benefit of being worth a damn to watch.
Nobody had anything nice to say about Fantastic Four but it held its own. (FF was by no means a good movie, but was more enjoyable than the flat new Batman flick that the kids seem to like so much.)
Hmm… Let’s ponder these things a bit.
Movies are classic American escapism. 1939 was just about the greatest year for movies. A ton came out and a ton were great. Americans went to the movies because, things were shit. Work was scarce, war was brewing in Europe, and Elvis was still far off in the future.
Right now, the economy is pretty ass, there is a war going on, and nobody seems to like President Monkey anymore. We should be going to the movies.
But we aren’t.
The movies are coming to us. Between Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and Netflix, we are getting all of the movies we could possibly want. We can afford to be selective when it comes to seeing a movie in the theaters. It isn’t important to catch a movie there anymore. They’re available everywhere. It used to be, you miss a movie in the theaters, you might not ever see it again. You’d wait all year to see a poorly edited version on regular TV. It would be a big deal if NBC was going to show a movie.
Then came Beta, and VCR tapes, and cable channels devoted to movies. But movies still weren’t terribly cheap and easy to come by, and the quality of the home viewing was still pretty bad. You’d still wait all year for that flick to be on TV, but now you taped it or the kids.
Nowadays, there is the DVD player, and it is cheap as sin. They throw them into computers like nothing. The picture quality is good, the sound is good, the flicks are letter-boxed, AND they contain more shit than if you actually went to go see the movie in the theaters like a dope!
To go to the movies nowadays is to get 1/2 the experience. I’m not sure that this thing is a good thing, but it certainly seems to be the thing. Not to be confused with the Ever-lovin’ Blue-eyed Thing. or that John Carpenter movie.
But I digress from my digression.
Harry Potter made an assload at the box office this weekend. Why? For one thing, it is a movie that people want to see, have looked forward to seeing. More importantly than that though, it is a flick that people want to see AT THE MOVIES. It is an experience. People are in costume. Friends wait in line. It is a movie that wants a large screen, that wants to be huge and make you go “oooh.” It wants you to watch it with your fellow muggles. It’s at heart a big goofy movie that is not hurt if people react inappropriately.
On the other hand, you have something like, A History of Violence, THE best film this year. It is great to see it on the big screen; it sucks to see it a theater. People don’t know how to react to it. They talk during quiet moments. They whip out their cell phones. They laugh at hings that aren’t funny and don’t laugh at things that are.
The only way that my wife has found to avoid problems such as these is by going to the fancy theaters. You know, the ones that are downtown, show previews for remastered French art films, cost an arm and a leg to park by, and have 13 dollar ticket prices?
If you are shelling out 50 bucks for a movie, you shut the f*ck up and watch that movie like your life depended on it.
Even if you go to a normal show anymore, it is gonna cost ten bucks just to get in the place. Hardly anybody goes to see a movie alone, so make that 20. Then you get a 4 dollar pop, 7 dollar nachos, and mortgage your house for some M and Ms.
Then you sit through the pre-show still ads for personal injury attorneys and the same three trivia questions until ten minutes after the show was about to start. Then come the commercials for places that sell movie tickets, which is hardly what one needs at this point. Then TV commercials on the big screen, every kid’s dream. (Wow, look at the size of that Pepsi can! Awesome!) Then 8 previews for movies that the Geneva convention should ban. Then a fake movie preview to tell you to turn off your Celephone. Then one of those popcorn in a roller-coaster deallee. Or maybe it is the popcorn that dates the sexy Soda Cup despite differences in creed. Deep down, they are all just corn anyway right? It isn’t really that unnatural for a popcorn and a pop to love each other, right? They have the same first name!
After all this the movie starts, and with a little luck the projection monkey won’t load the 3rd reel in backwards, stalling the how for ten minutes.
And all this for a flick you can BUY on dvd in 4 months for less than the cost of the two tickets. And you see, the only thing Americans like more than buying things is OWNING things. We will collect DVDs we don’t even plan on watching ever.
So, to recap: French movies, unnatural love, celephones, and penguins fighting to the death.
This is why we aren’t going to the movies.
Hope that clears things up.
Here’s the mail it never fails to make me want to wag my tail when it comes I want to wail, “MAIL!”
I have a 2 year old, shut the f*ck up.
Just a few for you, starting with one of the strangest e-mail I’ve gotten about the Dead Poet column.
From Shawn S.
I know in the past I have called you a retard and other not so nice things but I must say that this column along with your holiday list was an enjoyable read from start to finish
Good day sir
Reader Colin P writes:
And good column. I haven’t seen most of the movies you rip to shreds, but I read because I like seeing them ripped to shreds. I usually read the movie zone just to goof on the pretentious “film” geeks who like a movie because their film class text told them that they should. For all I know, you’re like that too, but I like the vitriol in your columns. Good on ya. You had me at your debut for Batman Begins, which I liked (I DID recognise that I liked it only for my inner fanboy), but agreed with everything you trashed about it.
Finally, my eloquent friend DC, who provides a bit of a review of Pride and Prejudice:
I see that you have survived the tribal rite known only as Trial by Period Piece. You did this to
yourself, didn’t you?
I have found that the best way to get revenge on women for liking too-long
movies about precious dialogue and flouncing skirts is to trick them into seeing Barry Lyndon in a
theater. That shit takes some serious endurance. Of course, even prolonged exposure to the
joy-quashing perversity of Kubrick is perhaps inadequate revenge for the likes of a television
miniseries about a Jane Austen novel, not to mention something by Edith Wharton or one of them
Bronte bitches (whose books aren’t as good to start with). The thing with period pieces is that
they really ought to have vampires, just in general.
I have to admit, though, that I voluntarily watched the new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice the
other day. What’s worse, I repeatedly caught myself liking it. I think the difference, though, is
that unlike all those six-hour plus television adaptations, this version is not underadapted. I
could care less about the relatively rough-and-tumble costuming (la-dee-f*cking-da) or thecontroversial casting of Keira Knightley as Winona Ryder as the clever sister (I suspect that most
of the people complaining would rather face the easier task of identifying themselves, in their
poor self-esteem, with a less attractive actress). The real saving grace, though, is that the
movie shuffles the false suspense of the marriage plot to the side (the alternative suitors are
scarcely ever a blip on the radar) and uses the slack to show, with a roaming voyeuristic camera,
the way that information travels through a ballroom or, by emphasizing gesture, the way that
stilted polite speech can positively drip with sex. Of course, this means that many of the people
I’ve talked to, grad-students – who really just want films like this to be lavishly expensive
books on tape – are completely outraged by some of the liberties taken to make the movie as a
movie, and to make it matter that there’s a camera. More than the movie itself, I like the idea of
having an adaptation that movie people like and fetishists of the British novel loudly don’t. So,
if you’re forced to endure a skirt-movie, this one is completely watchable, and doesn’t stink so
badly of masterpuss theater. No vampires, though, much less gay vampires, although the grim,
foreboding, and girlishly named Mr. Darcy comes awfully close.
Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I have to go eat a couple of pounds of turkey and watch Phantoms.