Feb 26 2013
Well, the Oscars came and went. I didn’t watch them (though I did finally see Argo instead, which oughta count for something). But the whole conversation surrounding cinema’s Superbowl got me thinking: Do our great movies matter?
I mean, duh. Of course they do. It feels silly to insinuate otherwise. But lately I’ve been wondering how much of an impact any particular flick really has on us as people. In other words, I don’t think any of us would deny that the medium is important. But how important is it, really?
Movies have the power to change people, if they allow it. Period. This is a really obvious, potentially reductive example, but it sure seems like the amount of people cosplaying as Neo has gone up dramatically since 1999. I won’t bother with any psychoanalysis about assuming identities or anything, but that specific behavior didn’t exist prior to the movies. They can change us if we let them. That’s all I’m saying here.
I’m concerned that we don’t let them change us in the right way often enough.
Do you remember when the reviews for The Dark Knight Rises started coming in? RottenTomatoes had to TURN OFF COMMENTING for that movie due to the obscene number and content of comments posted on the “rotten” reviews. We’re talking hundreds of comments. We’re talking slander, insults, and threats.
All this, from people who were self-proclaimed fans of a movie trilogy founded on principles of sacrifice, honor, and integrity. The previous movie in the trilogy featured a hero who had so mastered his impulse control that he could keep fighting for reason and ethics after he lost his friends and reputation to the devil himself.
And its fans viciously attacked movie critics online, for not liking a movie. (A movie that, incidentally, revealed a surprising amount of flaws once people finally SAW it).
Not to keep ragging on comic book/movie fans, but The Avengers was a movie that ultimately extolled the value of camaraderie and the team effort. Many of its fans occupied themselves with debates as to whether it was better or made more money than The Dark Knight Rises.
What the hell, guys? Why does this happen? If these movies are as powerful and important as we say they are, why do so many of us act as if we never learned the lessons they teach***?
I specifically picked those two examples, by the way, because these are movies that most of us can agree are well done, created by artists with something to say, and extremely popular. Also, the specific act of treating filmmaking like a horse race is something relatively unimportant. Obviously, movies can’t solve gang wars or anything, but you’d think that maybe becoming familiar with the struggles of Bruce Wayne might dissuade one from, you know, threatening somebody over a movie review.
If I may bring up a column from a couple weeks ago, shouldn’t the fans of a movie have some sort of responsibility to, you know, take the message seriously? Film is a storytelling medium, after all, and stories are in no small part vessels for the delivery of messages.
Really, if we aren’t taking these kinds of stories to heart, what are we sitting in the theater for? I realize I’ve been asking a ton of questions in this article. Sorry about that.
The concern that I’m really battling here — since I seem to be focusing on superhero movies — is that we’re using these big, important themes (responsibility, sacrifice, compassion) as an excuse to create wish-fulfilling fantasies. Like, we’re really there just to see Batman punch some dudes, but the movie hanging the violence on a deep thematic discussion of chaos and integrity somehow makes that base pursuit okay.
This kind of stuff really does seem weird to me. The arguments surrounding movies seem to be getting more and more divided, petty, and pointless. It’s especially alarming that the very movies getting this treatment would often be ashamed of us, if movies were people and bothered to think about this issue instead of all the other philosophical quandaries that reality would create.
I don’t know. I know I’m probably overstating the significance of this stuff. I just can’t help but think that the motive for consuming all this media gets a little lost in the shuffle sometime. And every now and then I come across a movie that almost does seem like if enough people could see it, then the world might get a little bit better.
But of course, that would require us listening.
To close us out, I’d just like to toss out a short, non-definitive list of the great movies that I’ve listened to, and what they said. Feel free to add your own below.
For All Mankind – Made it impossible to ignore the beauty and scope of the universe.
Eyes Wide Shut – Kubrick’s final masterpiece forced me to come to terms with the hard truths of commitment and romantic relationships.
The Cabin in the Woods – This one made me start to question the nature of fiction violence, or as Joss Wedon put it, ask “Why do these terrible things keep happening to these blonde girls?”
Speed Racer – The Rosetta Stone for staying honest to yourself, in whatever line of work or walk of life you wind up in.
Videodrome – A film that reminded me that it DOES matter what we watch, because we hear its voice whether we want to or not.
***This doesn’t even break into the much more relevant question of why these incredibly immature things happen, at all, but that’s a whole ‘nother thing.
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