12. July 2005 · Comments Off on Movie Melancholia · Categories: General, Media Matters Not, That's Entertainment!

There may be intelligent life in the universe, but if they landed at the multiplex this week, chances are they saw what was playing, barfed and departed in disgust. They, like me, can probably wait until the current collection comes out on DVD… and goes on special, marked down 50%. Even at that, the movie makers may go on waiting for my entertainment dollar. Looking at the cinematic joys on the schedule now and in the near future makes for depressing reading. Movie versions of comic books. Remakes of old and not so old movies. Movie versions of old television shows. Bloated special effects extravaganzas, by auteurs whose own self-importance is nearly as bloated as their production. Historical melodramas, whose actual fidelity to history is merely coincidental, of the sort that my mother used to describe as an “Urp-ic”…. Frankly, it’s all enough to make me barf as well. The last movie I went to see in a theater was “Phantom of the Opera” and only because Blondie dragged me, kicking and screaming; the one before that was “Return of the King”. Since then, it’s been all downhill, or at least, me looking at the movie reviews and schedules and thinking, “Bleah…I have better things to do… like wash my hair…brush the cats… haul mulch to the back yard… experiment with do- it-yourself-root-canal surgery.”

I shouldn’t have to tell you how sad and pathetic this is for our once-vaunted American movie industry, which still bestrides the world like a colossus, but is doing somewhat less well in American markets. Nearly fifteen years ago, my daughter and I rotated home from a decade spent in Europe, and counted one of the blessings of coming back to our home country, (along with having a telephone AND a washing machine in our house!) that of being able to go see a movie… the very day that it opened! To go and see a movie, ten hours after I read the review of it in the newspaper, instead of waiting six months until it appeared on the AAFES circuit for a couple of showings! Bliss was it to be alive in those days, to hit the multiplex in Layton for a weekend matinee, with a ten-dollar bill and a couple of supermarket candy bars tucked into my purse. (What, you think I am made of money, I want to pay the markup at the theater? Do I look like an idiot??!!) We loved going to the movies, I even had subscriptions to Premiere, and to Entertainment Weekly.

And then it just began to seem like all the fun of it, all the joy and anticipation just drained away, as if the plug on a lovely pristine pond full of goldfish and bordered by rushes and banks grown with violets all drained away, and there was nothing left but a baking mud flat, a couple of carp skeletons and a desiccated fringe of dead shrubbery. Going to a movie began to seem like a grim chore, a duty, something you had to do. There is a word for something you have to do, it’s called work. (Line stolen from someone else, not my own) Nothing much I read about movies lately, nothing much about the current crop induces me to spend two hours and the first run ticket price…it’s all too damn much like a grim duty and obligation.

I don’t want to see explosions and buildings collapsing— I’ve sort of been off that kind of thing since 9/11— I want to see sparkling conversation, not brief and easily translated sarcastic remarks filling in the short interim between explosions and buildings collapsing. I want to see stories about people, interesting, or admirable people, or at least people I wouldn’t mind knowing. (Sgt. Mom’s criteria for characters: “If you wouldn’t want to spend fifteen minutes with them stuck in an elevator, in real life… why the hell do you want to spend two hours and change stuck with them in a movie theater!???”) I don’t much care for graphic violence (emotional or the other kind) , torture, or spurting arteries, and no, I don’t much care for it in slow-mo or artistically choreographed, either. And I don’t care for car chases as a substitute for intelligent (or coherent plotting), and if that makes me the Little Mary Sunshine… well, I have been withholding my movie-jones dollar for a couple of years now, and it looks like a lot of other people are as well.

Is there a quiet, unfocused and non-centralized boycott in effect? Over a decade ago, Michael Medved outlined some of the discontents attendant on the contemporary movie industry—disrespect to religious values, to conventional families, to communities in fly-over-country, willful disregard, in other words, of every conventional standard in values and tastes. He detected a slump in movie attendance then, a slump that bears a resemblance to an avalanche in recent months.

All I can say is… thanks for catalogues of VHS and DVD movies and television shows— if it weren’t for the old stuff available to watch at home, I’d not have anything to watch at all.
(Discuss amongst yourselves)

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