Movies and Me

Poster_-_Gone_With_the_Wind_01In an unexpected development, Christmas in Connecticut and Frozen are the only two movies I viewed since January 2014. I have yet to view a motion picture in a theater or on a computer or television screen in 2015. That is so not me as I remember myself.

While YouTube videos make it to one of my screens, they are mostly bits of snark from the Internet, music clips, and an occasional segment of spoken word—footnotes to an argument or line of thinking.

Recent YouTube faves include Elvis Presley’s Return to Sender, Michael McIntyre’s standup bit on Condiments, and a clip from the Poster Central blog about Les Bell’s 1968 Jimi Hendrix Concert Poster. I digress.

One couldn’t help but notice that last night the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented their annual awards. I spent my evening with the computer off and the television dark, reading a book. Cultural residue from the event was everywhere this morning. Even if no one I knew made the least mention of the Academy Awards during the last week, there it was. (To prepare for this post I did read an article about Oscar picks in the newspaper).

I don’t watch very many movies these days when I used to take in three to five per week when in graduate school. What happened?

Movies have become indistinguishable from anything big business produces. Whether it is soap, paper products, electronic devices, vehicles, food, clothing, gasoline, whatever, Hollywood and the rest have been unable to escape the mechanized automation that generates “culture” and “products” for mass markets. Cognizant of that, why spend the time?

It may have seemed that wasn’t the case to a then young graduate student in the 1970s and 1980s. Since the 1929 winner Wings, return on investment has been a key Hollywood producer’s concern. One could argue that financial return has been part of the movies since W. K. L. Dickson first produced an Edison Kinetoscope Record of a Sneeze in 1894.

Frozen generated $1.280 billion as of last September, making it the highest grossing animated film of all time, and fifth highest overall. I watched it because I didn’t understand the constant references to it in the media. I felt I had to to keep up.

People with whom I spend my time just don’t talk about motion pictures—at all. The woodshop of society has sanded off the burr of cinematic interest. I don’t think that’s what Hollywood moguls had in mind when they built the gigantic economic engine Hollywood has become.

Over the years I collected VHS and DVD format movies and they sit on shelves and in boxes waiting for ultimate disposition. The ones I expect to watch have some personal connection. The movie my wife and I saw on our first outing; our stash of Christmas movies on VHS; perennial favorites Out of Africa, The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings trilogy; and movies related to my writing like The Power of Community.

Perhaps I grew out of movie watching. Maybe I learned the requisite lessons about Hollywood and moved on.

As with sporting events, movies have little attraction. In some ways I’d like to join others to view a film and discuss. Mostly, I’d rather films stand on their own without commentary, at the ready to view when there is utilitarian reason to do so. How boring of me.

People need useful work to provide meaning in their lives. Those involved with the movies aren’t that different even with their designer attire and well-catered parties on this special night.

As we search for truth and meaning there are better ways to experience life than by letting corporate entities tweak our intellect and emotions. Willing suspension of disbelief is a good thing. Helping us forget who we are and can be is the unforgivable part of cinema today.

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