I have a shameful secret. It’s actually a boring secret, but I’m still ashamed of it. And it is this: I think my attention span is getting worse. Blame the era we live in, but when it’s as easy as a single click to stop watching a movie, I have a pretty low threshold for what I’ll turn off. And yet often I don’t.
I’m ashamed of this because I’m a completionist. I’m the guy who feels a very real compulsion to finish all the sidequests. I’m the guy who will recommend to others that they start Parks and Recreation by skipping Season 1 because it doesn’t take off until Season 2, but if I start rewatching, you better believe I’m watching Season 1.
I feel like when I start a movie, I have to finish it, even if I’m not really enjoying it. And when the story is good, I can be incredibly, annoyingly patient and absorbed. So these two things are at odds. It’s frustrating. Having these two sides going at it in my head isn’t fun, so it’s often a matter of triage. You have to make a call. Some movies you pledge to stick with, others you decide it’s okay to only watch part of. That’s where I come in.
Flight - first 25 minutes
No one does “cool under pressure ” like Denzel, which is why the actual flying part of of Flight is worth watching. If you’re a fan of disaster movies, then you’ll appreciate that it’s not about the disaster itself, it’s about what happens beforehand, the gentle slide and precipitous fall from normalcy into everything going wrong. The buildup. The moment when they realize how truly screwed they are.
All of that happens in the first ten minutes of Flight. Plus you get a bonus intro with Denzel making a joke about being up at the “crack of dawn” while staring at a naked lady’s ass, then telling whoever he’s on the phone with to “hold on” while he drinks the last half-inch of a Bud Light from the night before. Damn.
Anyway, the rest of the movie has been famously panned as a 70-minute advertisement for the 12-step program, so you can go ahead and pass on that with confidence. There aren’t any more plane crashes.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – the half-hour in the middle
Let’s be honest; Temple of Doom is not a good movie. But it’s Indiana Jones, and just because the meat smells a little off in your sandwich, you’re not going to let that prevent you from enjoying the delicious bread. Get it? Because the bread is the first and third movies. And it’s funny because the bread is usually the least important part of the sandwich. Moving on!
Temple of Doom starts with a James Bond style musical number and psychedelic pseudo-dream sequence that you come away with with one quotable line – “the antidote” “to what?”, etc – and a vague feeling that maybe you’ve stumbled into the wrong movie. Temple of Doom ends with what feels like a half-hour mine cart chase that serves no purpose other than marketing a Universal Studios ride and elevating the already uncomfortable racist overtones of the film to brand-new heights.
But in the middle there are some pretty good quips and scowls.
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – only the parts with Gene Wilder
It’s right there in the title. It’s Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, not Charlie And His Creepy Uncle Tug at your Heartstrings. They even changed the title of the book to reflect this fact. Yes, obviously, when you were a kid, the whole thing was magical, but unless you’re just the right shade of depressed, there’s simply no reason to watch the first half hour of this movie.
And you might as well go ahead and fast-forward the part where Charlie and Joe go off by themselves to violate the trust of an eccentric candymaker, too. Pretty much anything that isn’t Gene Wilder cleverly insulting children is going to have to be a casualty of war in our quest for efficiency. We’re boiling it down to the essentials, here.
Drive - Skip all the parts where they actually drive
I have a pretty good formula for enjoying Drive. Stick to scenes in elevators, bars, and clubs. Skip cars, apartments, and beaches. Edit it like that, and you’ve got yourself a pretty good romantic comedy.
Kidding! Sort of. Look, Drive is a great movie, but it’s uneven as hell, and if you take a while to buy into Gosling’s whole “Forrest Gump meets Clint Eastwood” thing, the pace can be pretty brutal until it clicks. So, to spare yourself, do watch the opening sequence even though it’s in a car, but skip anything in a car from then on. Also, long scenes in apartments, especially the ones that seem to consist of Gosling staring creepily at Carey Mulligan’s son. Stick to the elevator scenes – there are some great scenes in elevators – and scenes that take place inside a bar, restaurant, or strip club.
Trust me on this one.
Top Gun – Skip all the parts with girls in them
Because Top Gun is best enjoyed in its pure, “Dude Soup” form. Seriously, the only women I can remember being in this movie are Kelly McGillis and Goose’s wife, Meg Ryan. **Side note ** I had to look up the actress who played Goose’s wife, because I was only 75% sure it was Meg Ryan. While on IMDB, I was flabbergasted by the fact that Tim Robbins was in Top Gun. Did everyone else know this? He was Merlin. That’s the craziest thing I’ve read all day. *** End of digression.
Like I said, those are the only two females I can remember in this movie, and they have about as much charisma between them as my high school driving instructor. It’s like the people who made the movie consciously made the choice to totally under-write the female characters to make room for more Cruise/Kilmer close-range staredowns and beach volleyball. I say, just take the ball and run with it. Skip the lip-service to “hey look we have girls in our movie, we’re not sexist” and just double down on your Dude Soup and jet fighters.
Other movies considered:
Space Cowboys – only watch the parts where they’re not in space; old-guy banter is fun, strange Russian satellite plot not fun.
The Frighteners - first half hour. Because there is only thing that’s truly frightening in this movie, and it’s Jake Busey’s face.
Ghostbusters - only parts with Bill Murray. Felt too easy to go there.
Braveheart - randomly fast-forward at five minute intervals and try to not construct Mel Gibson in your head as a crazy person. Fun game.