Archive for November, 2017

Movies Since Last Post:

Super Dark Times
Blade Runner 2049
Jerry Before Seinfeld
Blue is the Warmest Color
Prof. Marston and the Wonder Women
Too Funny to Fail: The Life & Death of the Dana Carvey Show
78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene
Why Him?
Blair Witch
Black Hawk Down
Thor: Ragnarok
Only Living Boy in New York
Ingrid Goes West
The Big Chill
Take This Waltz
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Just Peck
Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond
Lady Bird

Just over a month to go, and I just eclipsed 150 movies with “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond,” the Netflix doc about the making of Man on the Moon. If you don’t know much about Andy Kauffman, or about what Jim Carrey did to play him in the movie, you might not be that interested, but to me, it was really interesting. Carrey is a bit of a freak, but somehow, also strangely compelling.

I had a sobering moment last week that made me think a lot about the movie-going experience, and since this whole experiment was supposed to be about how we take in movies these days. I wanted to write about it. My friend John and I went to see Justice League, but upon arriving at the theater, we learned that the showtime we needed was the 4D Experience. For the uninitiated, that means that your seat moves, they blow air and mist at you at appropriate times depending on the action in the movie, lights flash when someone shoots a gun onscreen, and they even pump smells in for odorous scenes. Sounds like fun, right? I did wonder as we were walking in if this would actually make this movie memorable, because the trailers (not to mention almost every DC movie ever) have been rather underwhelming.

You should note above that Justice League is not listed as a movie that I have seen since my last post. After about 8 minutes of creaking seats, rushing air and flashing lights, John and I decided that this was a horrible thing to do. We got up as soon as a moment arrived where we didn’t feel like the seats would jolt us to the ground and left. Like I said about 8 minutes in, which was about 7 minutes after John turned to me and said, “I hate this.” Thankfully, we were within the half-hour window that the theater will give you a refund, so we got our $23 back and went to a bar, with not a regret in sight.

I know that movie attendance has been down in recent years, but I’m not sure that this is the answer to that problem. For one thing, even though we watched a few scenes, I can’t remember anything that happened in them. I think Batman fought some guy, and then Wonder Woman fought some guys. I wasn’t paying attention to what was happening on the screen because the chair was constantly moving and there was the sound of rushing air in my ears every few seconds. And I don’t know if anyone else in the theater was paying attention, either, because every chair movement was accompanied by the requisite “oohs” and “ahhs.” There may have actually been some dialogue in the movie, but I don’t think I heard any of it. Normally, that kind of behavior in a theater would have me enraged, but this time, it didn’t bother me because the whole experience already had me annoyed.

This kind of thing may fly for a ten minute Harry Potter ride, but for a two-hour movie, it’s just a bad idea. Maybe it’s the movie purist in me, but how is a person supposed to follow a plot when they’re being distracted by all this stuff every two seconds? I know, I know, following a plot is silly for most folks, but it’s what I do. Otherwise, why watch a movie? To be entertained? Pfft.

But this is the world we live in. Thousands and thousands of people just like being mindlessly entertained when they watch a movie. I guess our jobs and our lives are so stressful that that’s what we need to do to fill the time when we have it. There’s not inherently anything wrong with that attitude. However, that’s why Michael Bay movies not only exist but thrive in our culture. I know I’m shooting fish in a barrel here, but the guy has legitimately never made what any smart person would call a “good movie.” But the 4D experience seems like an unnecessary step beyond that. Have people become so simple-minded that we can’t just sit for a couple hours and watch a movie without all this extra razzle-dazzle? Apparently not. But as we were leaving the theater, the little old lady who took our tickets asked why we were leaving so soon, and we said we couldn’t stand the 4D experience. She then told us that the kids love it, so I guess that’s the demographic they shoot for. John replied, “Well, we’re old and grouchy.”

Of course, Justice League‘s box office would seem to indicate that no matter what they try to do to enhance the experience, it doesn’t really make a difference. It has eclipsed $300 million overseas, for a combined haul of $81 million worldwide, so “boo-hoo,” right? Still, it is way below projections, so who knows what this means for the future of the DCEU? They have a whole bunch of movies lined up starring these characters (ones that aren’t Batman and Wonder Woman), so I’m not sure who would be interested in seeing those. I probably won’t be, even in a real theater. And not to poop in their gym bag even more, but Thor: Ragnarok has been making money at a pretty steady pace, crossing $500 million overseas, and also has a score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, as opposed to Justice League’s 41%.

I’m not really sure what it all means, except that they should just let the movie speak for itself. If it’s good enough, people will enjoy it and remember it. If you feel the need to make it into a ride, then you maybe need a few rewrites.

Of course, having said that, I did have a great movie-going experience that had some added razzle-dazzle. The big differences were that this was an older movie that I had seen many times, so the extra stuff wasn’t a distraction. The other big difference was that the razzle-dazzle was actually an orchestra. I’m referring my Halloween viewing of Nightmare Before Christmas accompanied by the Boston Pops.IMG_20171031_195046.jpg

This was definitely a cool new way to experience both a movie and a night at the symphony. This time, it wasn’t distracting because they were playing along with the actual movie, and they weren’t blowing mist on me when it snowed or anything. If you’re going to spice up a movie, that’s the way you do it. Instead of dumbing it down, why not add an orchestra?