Tag Archives: Movies

The Familiar Five: Reflections on a Summer Movie Marathon

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It was interesting to see how people responded to the notion of seeing five movies in theatres in a single day. My initial instinct was that it was madness, an opinion shared by many others; others thought it wasn’t a big deal, remembering Oscar marathons or film festivals where they sat in theatres for just as long if not longer. What everyone could agree on, however, is that it’s decidedly abnormal, which is why I jumped on the chance to attempt it once I realized it was temporally possible.

I saw four movies back-to-back in January of 2011, the first time I had attempted such a marathon, so this was not entirely unprecedented. However, this felt like a different experience, and not just because I was adding a fifth movie to the equation. Adding a fifth movie was indeed a challenge, necessitating more scheduling juggling to get the timing to work and forcing an earlier morning, meaning that I’d more likely be sleep deprived. However, it also depends on where the movie marathon is taking place, both in terms of cost and nearby amenities. My previous marathon took place at a theatre with discounted Tuesday tickets and nearby fast food for lunch; this marathon took place at Madison’s AMC 18 Fitchburg, which also has inexpensive matinees but is isolated to the point I had to walk fifteen minutes beyond where a bus was able to take me.

There’s an argument to be made that all this preparation—the Large Popcorn bag you keep refilling halfway because you know you’ll eat it all if they give it to you, the two orders of overpriced chicken tenders constituting meals, the snuck-in water bottle you refill in the water fountains, the Ziploc bag of ginger cookies, the brief bit of fresh air to keep sane—overpowers the movies themselves, already at risk of seeming lost as you jump from film-to-film, genre-to-genre over the course of the day. At the same time, though, there’s something nice about losing yourself to the movies for a day, rather than watching a movie distracted by what I’d been doing before or what I need to do after. I may have been tired by the time I reached my fourth and fifth movies, but I was also squarely in the moviegoing mindset.

My particular moviegoing mindset is also particularly tuned to marathons. I’m not someone who has incredibly strong responses to movies: I like seeing movies, and I like discussing movies, but you’ll rarely see me take a hard stance on whether I liked or disliked a particular film. This is not to say that I’m not critical of films (I can’t shut that off), but rather that I’m more likely to treat their consumption as a sort of cultural participation rather than evaluation. Seeing five movies in one day is the natural progression of losing an hour watching trailers on Apple.com, jumping from genre to genre in order to get a big-picture view of the cinematic landscape.

Admittedly, it’s a big-picture view of the big picture landscape, focused mainly on films with wide distribution, big marketing budgets, and big box office goals. That’s where my filmgoing tends to focus itself, both because it’s the kind of movie experience I grew up on and because it’s the type of movie I find most easy to participate with (not to mention the easiest films to find in multiplexes with cheap matinees). It’s also the type of experience that tends to play well in marathons, a lack of subtlety better opening up space to place the films within different cultural or industrial conversations.

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A Day Fo(u)r Movies: Black Swan, Tangled, True Grit, Harry Potter 7.0

A Day Fo(u)r Movies: A Field Report

January 5th, 2011

It is not really a secret that I’m not much of a moviegoer. I like movies, and even like going to the movies, but it was never really part of my social fabric growing up, which made it more of a family activity (and thus something that I didn’t do often once the family was dispersed into various locales in the post-secondary years).

While I’ve written about a few movies over the course of the blog’s existence, it hasn’t happened very often. This is both because I haven’t seen very many movies while they’re in theatres, and because I don’t necessarily respond to movies the way I respond to TV shows. While I generally tend to lean away from highly evaluative discourses when looking at TV, perhaps objective to the point of stripping away my own opinion on occasion, with film I lean even further away from the subjective: usually I end up really wanting to have a discussion about a film instead of wanting to “review” it. And since there are various other locales to have conversations of that nature, this blog rarely ends up hosting them.

However, I figure that I tweeted enough about by moviegoing adventure yesterday that I should at least offers some reflections. Taking advantage of the $6 tickets available on Tuesdays, I figured it was time to get to the theatres for the first time since Inception in July – however, since I’m only on holiday vacation for so long, I was in a bit of a rush. As a result, I lined up a four-movie marathon: four movies in a single day is difficult to juggle at even the largest multiplexes, but I found the four films that made it work.

And so, some thoughts on Black Swan, Tangled, True Grit, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One after the jump (and some thoughts on what it was like to see them all in one day, as well).

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Some Extraction Required: Sharing the Experience of Interpreting Inception

Some Extraction Required: Interpreting Inception

July 21st, 2010

Although Christopher Nolan’s Inception introduces evidence to the contrary, in our reality dreams are a solitary experience: not only are they personal in terms of context, unique to each dreamer, but they are also personal in that only that dreamer can see the dream as it first appeared. After that point, the dreamer can only relay their memory of the events therein – memory which varies from vivid recollection to vague, disconnected images – to those around them.

And yet, Inception is very much built around the notion of shared experience, both within its story and in its clear desire for the audience to leave the theatre discussing what they just witnessed. In fact, I’m sure some would argue that the film requires this sort of discussion to truly come into its own, demanding that the audience either works with others who shared the same experience to reconstruct its intricacies from memory or to do what dreamers can’t do by going to the theatre and watching it again.

Accordingly, I have no intentions on offering a definitive take on Inception, both because I’m generally bad at developing theories and because a single viewing and an MSN conversation with my brother do not a complete understanding of the film make. Rather, I simply want to discuss how the film goes about creating this seemingly necessary sort of interaction, and why Nolan achieves this less through cheap ambiguities and more through a growing sense of uncertainty which simultaneously breaks down our reading of the film and the film itself as it reaches its conclusion.

A conclusion, by the way, which is not what it appears to be.

SPOILER WARNING: if you haven’t seen the film, and intend to in the future, and don’t want to read spoilers, stop reading.

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David vs. Goliath vs. Laziness: Potential-filled 2010 Oscars Lack Suspense, Muddle Triumph

David vs. Goliath vs. Laziness

March 8th, 2010

If you were going to watch a television show where two characters reach for the ultimate goal in their chosen field, one as the popular frontrunner and one as the almost-forgotten underdog, I think there’s a lot of dramatic potential there. There is something about the battle between David and Goliath that should automatically draw us in, and while Avatar and The Hurt Locker are not multi-dimensional characters (cue 3-D joke) they are fairly compelling award show narratives.

And while normal people, according to lore, only watch award shows to see things they like be liked by stuffshirts, people like me watch them because of the politics, because of the predictions, and because of the sense of surprise and anticipation. We watch them because we see a narrative in their story, able to chart momentum as the show goes on, moving towards the big award of the night with the pulse of a great year in film…ideally.

The 2010 Oscars will go down in the books as a rather colossal failure, the polar opposite of the simple and understated Oscars that followed the year before. In some ways, the show took risks not that dissimilar from last year’s show, but a few major missteps combined with some absolutely disappointing material from hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin resulted in an infinitely cynical response that, unfortunately, became the pulse of this show.

What was supposed to be thrilling and exciting, the story of two films in an epic fight for victory, became the story of how the show’s producers chose interpretive dance over cinematic integrity, and the predictable winners in most categories did little to keep this Oscars from being tepid, uninteresting and, perhaps worst of all, uneventful. A show like this should be an event, and this…this was just sad.

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What’s my Genre Again?: The In(s)anity of the Saturn Awards

The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films comes together every year to recognize the best in genre entertainment (in both film and television) at the Saturn Awards. This is, at least in my view, a noble endeavour, and the awards have offered a space where shows like Battlestar Galactica and movies like The Dark Knight have been awarded deserved prizes that may not have been awarded at the Emmys or Oscars thanks to what is considered a bias against genre entertainment in general.

The problem is that, over time, the Saturn Awards have stretched the meaning of genre so far that it legitimately has no meaning, welcoming both genuine confusion and some outright derision based on some of their categories. The sheer volume of nominees and the rather ridiculous range of categories means that this year the Saturn Awards skew dangerously close to the Oscar while simultaneously veering dangerously towards an opposite and unflattering direction, while on the Television side their definition of what defines as genre may be the most confounding awards show process I’ve ever confronted, as demonstrated by this year’s nominees.

Rather than seeming like a legitimate celebration of science fiction, fantasy or horror, the Saturn Awards read like an unflattering and at points embarrassing collection of films and television series which reflect not the best that genre has to offer, but rather a desperate attempt to tap into the cultural zeitgeist while masquerading as a celebration of the underappreciated.

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Hope You Didn’t Take It Seriously (Ricky Didn’t): The 2010 Golden Globe Awards

Hope You Didn’t Take It Seriously (Ricky Didn’t):

The 2010 Golden Globe Awards

January 17th, 2010

I said going into the 67th Annual Golden Globes Awards that I was more excited than ever to watch the show but the least “interested” in the actual awards that I’ve ever been. And that made for an interesting viewing experience as what I was excited for most disappointed me, with Ricky Gervais’ hosting gig becoming a muddled mess from the moment he started.

However, while I’ll get into that below the jump, what’s interesting is how liberating it was to have no emotional connection with the winners: admittedly, I’m usually one of those cynical objective types when it comes to these awards, so I’m not going to be legitimately outraged, but not having been “following” the nominees in detail made the show a lot more fun. It helped me see the show more for what it is, an entertaining amalgamation of what’s popular, whats trendy, and what’s been successful with audiences. And while you could argue the show at times feels like the People’s Choice Awards and other times feels like a Hollywood roast of those who have been around the business forever, it’s never boring.

And although I thought we could have gotten a far better show out of what was on the table, I have to say that I enjoyed watching it. And let’s face it: that’s all the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is really going for.

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Crossroads: Cinematic Convergence and Up in the Air

Crossroads: Cinematic Convergence and Up in the Air

December 29th, 2009

One of the joys of fictional narratives is that writers have free rein to start their story at any point in their characters’ lives. Unless we’re literally following a character from the time of their birth to the time of their death, there are parts of their stories that are simply not going to be told; instead, writers will select a particular time to pick up a character’s story that feels the most cinematic, or pressing, or engaging.

Television is at a distinct advantage in this area when compared with film, in that it is able to pick up multiple moments over the course of multiple seasons. Mad Men has made a business of using time shifts in order to find Don Draper amidst particular historical periods, while a show like Weeds fastforwarded its heroine’s pregnancy in an effort to streamline its position in the narrative. This is plausible, even desirable, because the lengthy runs of television shows allow them to create their own past, present and future – the narrative becomes longer and the moments become more plentiful and the characters’ lives become augmented by their lives as it relates to our experience (measured in seasons as opposed to years).

But with cinema, at least with those films which aren’t part of a broader franchise or serving as a sequel, there is an expectation that things will largely standalone. You will meet a set of characters at a particular point in their lives, and you will follow those characters for as long the writer intends for you to do so. And that’s sort of what I find fascinating about Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, a film where we meet a variety of characters at a definitely cinematic point in their lives. It is a film where we meet those at a crossroads in their lives, and one which is far less interested in how they got to this point than it is interested in what they’re going to do now that they’re here.

And in terms of finding a strong narrative of self-realization and life choices, Reitman has picked the right moment: it has also, however, led to some very strong negative reactions to the film from those who were expected a more indepth investigation into any one of the story’s various elements.

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