Monthly Archives: March 2012

Alias “The Escapist”

Alias "The Escapist" What’s your “movie-watching personality” ? Can you sum up what guides you when you’re deciding which movies to watch? Or when you’re revising your list of favorite films? (If you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming you have at least one of these lists, and that you find yourself having to revise it pretty often.)

I’d describe myself as an Escapist*. I seem to prefer my films at least one step removed from contemporary reality. For example, if I have to choose between a movie that takes place in the present day, and one set in the past or future, I lean toward the second one. (And if the setting is Victorian or Edwardian England, I’m a complete goner.) Usually I pick comedies over dramas. Sci-fi over regular-fi, especially if robots or monsters are involved. Musicals over stories that don’t include people bursting into song or dance. As much as I’d like to seem smart, and as often as I try to stretch my mind by watching films that are outside of the categories I’ve listed above, the truth is I watch movies to be entertained and get some relief from reality.

So, does your movie-watching personality fit into any of these categories?
Or would you describe yourself in a completely different way?

  • Intellectual: The films you seek out are the ones that, for most other people, are the cinematic equivalent of being forced to eat your Brussels sprouts first. If a movie promises an unblinking look at oppression or inequality, especially in a country other than the U.S., you’re in. If there are subtitles involved, so much the better. If it’s too entertaining, you can’t trust it. (And please, it’s “FILMS”  or “CINEMA”, not “MOVIES”.)
  • Keeping Up with the Joneses (or preferably, Outrunning the Joneses): You want to see movies as soon as they are released. Two weeks after they start in theaters, max. When recently-released movies come up in casual conversation, it’s important to you to be able to offer your opinion on the plots, characters and special effects, whether you actually liked the movie or not. Older movies don’t interest you that much.
  • Middle of the Road: Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Disney are your benchmarks for quality. If you still get DVDs from Netflix, often they’re scratched because the movies you want to watch are the same ones a bunch of other folks want to watch. You often find yourself in the same line at the movie theater as the Joneses crowd that I mentioned above. But it’s less important to you to see a movie right away than to feel pretty sure that you’re going to enjoy what you’re about to watch. You really don’t want to feel cheated out of your admission fee or two hours of your life.

* Partly because Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is one of my favorite books. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading it yet, it includes a superhero named The Escapist.)

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Because I Can’t Help It

There are countless blogs devoted to film. Some professional, lots more amateur. So why add to the digital pile? Why should I write this? More importantly, why should you bother to read it?

My only excuse for writing this is that I can’t help but do it. I’m fascinated by movies and always have been. If the time comes when all that’s left of me is a brain and both eyes, floating in a jar of liquid, I’m OK with that. Just put my jar in front of a screen, and keep the flicks coming via DVD, Netflix, TCM, or whatever other technologies the future may bring. (Just make sure the subtitles are turned on. I’m a sucker for good dialogue in movies.) And with the advent of blogging, I have a way to inflict my opinions on the world, for free and without having to run anything by an editor.

But why should any other poor soul subject him- or herself to reading what I’m compelled to write on this subject? (Note to English language: please develop a unisex pronoun, pronto.) Or encourage me by contributing the occasional comment? I don’t have a good answer for that. Unless you’re like me and you can’t help but watch lots of movies, and itch to discuss what you’ve seen, and maybe find out about some you haven’t seen but might enjoy. And, like me, you’ve exhausted the abilities of the flesh-and-blood people around you (spouse, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, others standing in line at the grocery store) to listen to what you have to say about movies. Or to give you something new to think about when it comes to movies. Like me, maybe you suspect that the only truth is moving images on a screen.

So what can you expect from Cinema Wonk? Subjective opinions, and lots of ‘em. Supported by a certain basic amount of online research (Google, Wikipedia, IMdB ) where possible. Written by someone who likes writing, but who has no formal training beyond high school English. New entries posted when I have the time and enthusiasm. Hopefully that’ll be a few times a month. I tend to focus on English-language movies from the 30’s through the early 60’s, just because I have a soft spot for them. (Thanks mainly to my mom, and to the “Channel 8 Morning Movie” from KTUL in Tulsa, Oklahoma.) But I’m always looking for opportunities to watch more varied films, and expand my horizons.

But if you’re looking for any of the following, keep movin’ :

  • Up-to-the minute factual information about what’s happening in the entertainment industry. I’m not a journalist. Don’t have the training, aptitude, interest or resources to be one.
  • Scholarly criticism. I took two film courses in college in the eighties, one on silent film and the other on foreign (i.e., not American) films. That’s all the formal instruction I have in how to think about movies. Anything I learned outside of those courses is self-taught. (In the course on silent film, I did learn not to snore if I happened to fall asleep. You just can’t hide that kind of noise during a movie with no audible dialogue, no matter how loud the musical accompaniment is.)
  • Hands-on experience with how movies are actually made. I’ve never been to a movie set, looked through the viewfinder of a motion-picture camera, written a screenplay or acted in a movie.

So that’s the deal. Who’s with me?