The Brie Larson Experiment: Epilogue

Posted: January 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

I thought I would compile a few more thoughts on my whole 2017 experiment. And if anyone is interested, here is a link to the spreadsheet with what I watched, how I watched it, and a little blurb about what I thought. I hope I don’t offend anyone with anything that I wrote. Some of it may have been because I was getting kind of tired of movies. Honestly, if someone was a psychologist, they could probably do a study about how watching tons of movies when you’re forcing yourself to do it can affect your enjoyment. Hell, I’ll pay you ten dollars for it!

When I first attempted this in 1997, it was obviously a completely different world. I actually wish I still had the notebook that I kept track of the movies in because that would have been interesting, but for the most part, I watched VHS tapes that I brought home for free from the video store I worked in, and went to the movies. That was it. Two outlets. I didn’t have any premium cable channels, I don’t like watching movies that have been edited for television or have commercials in them, and I certainly didn’t have Netflix or anything like that. Still, with that system, I cracked 100 movies. In 2017, with all that stuff, I watched 159 (and had I not walked out of Justice League because of the stupid 4-D experience bull-poop, I would have made it to 160.) The funny thing is, in ’97, I was a college student (and a film student, no less) with access to thousands of movies for free because I worked in a video store. This time, I was a grown-ass man with a full-time job. Looking back now, as a college student with aspirations to be the one making movies that other people watch, should I have immersed myself in them completely, as my film professor suggested everyone in Hollywood does?

Maybe I should watch movies that way, but I can’t. There are many reasons for this. For the same reason, for example, Jerry Seinfeld can’t just watch mediocre stand-up and not think about how to make it better (Not comparing myself to Seinfeld. I just thought that would drive the point home.) Because I learned things as a film student that the average movie-goer maybe doesn’t know, like basic three-act structure, “end on the button,” and funny phrases like “mise-en-sene.” And even after I graduated, I was still learning things about movies. Before the digital age, one of my tasks at my real-life job was to show 16mm films for BU students. On my first day, I learned the trick to changing reels. Back in the day, and still sometimes now, each film reel was around 30 minutes, so a 90- minute film required two reel-changes, which required two projectors side-by-side and you had to shut one off and start the other one within a split second if you wanted to make the change seamless. Of course, most of the college freshmen didn’t notice or care, but I certainly did. Anyway, to signal the projectionist when the change was coming, a little white circle would flash in the upper right corner of the screen, which was the sign to jump up (or on occasion, wake up) and do the on-off trick. While training me, Tracey, my predecessor on the job, said, “You’ll never be able to watch movies in a theater the same again, because you’ll always notice it.”

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See? This isn’t just some splotch that Lucas edited out of the Special Editions!

Unfortunately, she was right, because even now with digital films, I notice when a movie is nearing the 30-minute mark, and if nothing of note has happened yet, I start fidgeting and sighing. Suffice it to say, I had the department purchase a DVD player not long after that. It was too late, however. The signal was burned into my brain.

I guess what bothers me is that too many movies violate these basic rules that I learned back then. And these aren’t “film school rules.” These same principles are applied to Shakespearean theater. And I was told that you had to follow these rules or you would literally never make it in that business. Not surprisingly, everyone did follow them. I had a screenwriting professor who pointed out that every movie follows the three-act structure, even something like Pulp Fiction, which is told out of order. Even out of sequence, there is still set-up, conflict, and resolution. Too many movies abandon this time-honored method, and not in a cool way, like Memento. They do it in an unbelievably less exciting way, like Manchester by the Sea, where the conflict was, “I’m an angry loser,” and the resolution was to literally go home and leave the kid with somebody else.

So, in this long, history of my life essay that I’ve just compiled, the point is that there are things that make a movie good, and things that make a movie bad, and it has very little to do with how we watch them. Of course, it’s better to watch Blade Runner: 2049 in a theater on a big screen to get the scope of the story (and the huge, naked woman), but once you take away the nice scenery, I can’t really remember what happened in it.

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Definitely best to be taken in on the big screen

Of course, all things being equal, all movies should be good no matter what screen they are watched on, but let’s face it, no matter if you’re a film student or just Joe Movie-goer, or if you watch 159 movies in a year or just a couple, they won’t all be good.

But if Brie Larson appears in it, it can only increase your chances.

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