Let’s get right to it, shall we? Richard Dickson gives us food for thought. Are we guilty?
Member since 1/21/01
Born December 8, 1968
Talk to anybody who has anything to do with film – making movies, writing about movies, loving movies, you name it – and they’ll inevitably point to some film they saw as a child that flipped the switch in their mind, the one that left them wide-eyed in their seat as it unfolded before them. They’ll say it was that sense of wonder that launched them down the path they followed, and they’ll speak with unadulterated love for that golden moment of their youth.
Why is it then that so many of them seem to forget about that feeling when they talk about the movies they see today?
Case in point: the reaction in the geek circles I move in to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I sat there with a big stupid grin on my face, enjoying every minute of it, patting myself on the back for each reference I got. My friends? They rattled off every movie they thought the film “robbed,” analyzed the scientific feasibility of the villain’s plan, and scoffed at how historically unlikely the whole thing was. And it seemed less to comment on the film than to show off how much smarter than it they thought they were.
There seems to be heartlessness in talking about film these days. Any director who tries to create an emotional response is labeled as “manipulative.” Put traditional good guys and bad guys in it and it’s “hokey” or “old fashioned.” No matter if the film works like gangbusters, the intellectual high-ground must be defended, and the discussion breaks down to this editing technique or that piece of cinematography, to trotting out some obscure film school dinosaur that maybe five people reading the piece may have heard about. It becomes not about the film but about the critic. For a group that thinks of themselves as film lovers, there seems to be surprisingly little love involved.
If someone asks you why you love your significant other, do you pause for a moment and reply, “Well, a complex series of biochemical responses in conjunction with an innate evolutionary need to pass along genetic material drew me to a member of the opposite sex of appropriate breeding age”? No, you talk about that trip to the beach, the night the power went out, getting caught in the rain. You talk about the emotional resonances, the memories, the images that linger. You don’t question why they happened, how the water vapor caused that rainbow you both wished on, how the way they make your heart race is simply a biological precursor to arousal. You simply think to yourself, “I really love this person.”
And I don’t think film should be any different. I love movies because of a farmboy rescuing a princess. Because of a boy and his best friend flying over the moon. Because tonight won’t be just any night, because the flowers are still standing, because they’re digging in the wrong place. And while I can tell you every technical reason why those moments work, that’s not why they stay with me. It’s because, in some way, they make me feel like that eight-year old boy that saw a Star Destroyer fill the sky for the first time. Sure there’s a place for serious analysis. It’s when that analysis becomes the be-all end-all of one’s approach to film that the rabbit rustles in the bottom of the hat and the magic goes away.
As for my friends, I asked them if, had we been the age then that we are now, would we have torn Star Wars apart, dismissing it for all the cribs from Kurasawa and Herbert and Tolkien? Or would we have remembered a Flash Gordon or a Buck Rogers and just felt like kids again? They had no answer, but I knew mine. My head may tell me how I love movies, but my heart tells me why.