I have often considered what it is, for me personally, that the movie going experience has changed so much over time. I’m not talking about technical innovations. I’m talking about the shift I feel from seeing so many great movies in my childhood and teen years, to reaching adulthood and finding myself so unimpressed with a film that I feel I’ve wasted my money or I have walked out of the film altogether. This year I walked out of many films completely unsatisfied, not caring about the situations or the characters. I often think why it is I feel continually disappointed by films as I see them. I don’t think it’s because I’ve become a cynical adult. In fact, in my day to day life, I feel like a pretty joyous person, always seeking the best out of my next and newest experiences. What universe have I stumbled into that I continue to attract so many films that displease me on a fundamental storytelling level? Have I really changed that much over time? Because I tend to think the movies I grew up with are still great films, and I’m not looking at them through the eyes of nostalgia. I can tell the few that I liked as a kid, which really turned out to be bad movies from my adult perspective. But not a lot of those movies were bad movies that existed when I was a kid. If I really liked something, it actually did turn out from an adult perspective to be a really great movie.
What is our point of attraction when it comes to movies? What makes a movie great in our minds or what makes them terrible? How is it for some of us that the mass consensus can agree that a film is truly spectacular, while there are others of us counting the flaws? When I see a popular film and discover its many flaws, it’s not that I think the rest of the world has gone mad for liking the film, but the praise that gets received seems so unwarranted that it boggles my mind how anyone can truly fall in love with the film to begin with. What the audiences want, the studios give in return. Sometimes its a mass of special effects, car chases, explosions, spectacular superhero battles, etc. and a story that seems too over complicated instead of just giving it straight and letting it play right to us. Sometimes I think filmmakers like to make films that are overcomplicated because it gives the illusion that the film is more intelligent than it really is. There may be a lot of sweeping drama, but it might not line up with the characters motivations or their true intent. How is it that we allow studios to give so many of these movies our attention, when it almost seems like we knew better when we were kids what made a movie great!
A person might ask, how can we have known better when we were children? When I was a kid, my parents took me to all kinds of movies, whether it was G rated or R rated. The only R-rated films they wouldn’t take me to were ones that were overly violent. But I saw films like THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, MISERY, THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, CITY SLICKERS, DANCES WITH WOLVES, and what I may not have known as far as film construction, from a storytelling standpoint I understood the sense of adventure that captivated me with these movies…the hero’s journey so to speak. I could tell films that were bad, and I would be very correct in my analysis that they were bad, just simply when characters did things that annoyed me or something didn’t spark my enthusiasm for the hero.
How is it that we seemed to attract greater films in our childhood than we do as adults? I don’t think its necessarily that we only remember the good movies from our childhood, but we knew far more what we wanted when it came to entertainment. As kids there was no nostalgia to dictate our likes and dislikes as it is now with many adult filmgoers. I’m not talking about pointing fingers at the studios in the blame game, for overproducing on franchises in order to keep the theater-going experience alive (for as long as it still lasts), but at what point does the individual filmgoer start to see they are missing out on the storytelling experience…one that isn’t clouded by nostalgia…because when we were kids there was no nostalgia for us to judge a film by. Such a thing didn’t exist in our minds. We knew instinctively whether a movie was good or not. At least…the movies most of us grew up with, the ones supposedly made for children, actually treated kids like adults, and didn’t talk down to them.
It’s kind of ironic, because for many blockbuster films studios seem to make movies that actually talk down to everybody, to covering up storytelling flaws with complicated scenarios to seem like a better movie than it is. Movies especially made for kids now don’t seem to talk to them with a sense of grounded reality. As our perspectives change, so does it affect the results we get in return. Movies aren’t the same for those of us, who didn’t simply give into what the studios want you to believe was a good movie, but for what you knew deep down was a story that achieved greatness. Deep down, I think we all know better when it comes to a really great story, but most of us aren’t willing to acknowledge it for the sake of holding onto what we believe is nostalgia for our childhood. It’s that nostalgia that’s the illusion.
The fans want, the studios give it, the fans receive it, whether they like it or not. But what if as films continue to stay the same, we as film watchers start to change our perspective of the kinds of films we want to attract in our future. I don’t think you have to be a college film major to really understand a good story. But in focusing on the stories that you do think are great (really truly great), you can begin to want more of that, and you can see the difference with new movies coming out when you aren’t getting that kind of experience. It’s why in many ways I try to push for more people to watch classic films, to broaden their tastes and not simply except every piece of pie the studios give us…because too much sugar isn’t what we want! What I think we do want is for stories that we can relate to our own personal experiences. Not simply to escape from them. Movies are a powerful art form, where we can see ourselves living out our dreams up on the screen. It’s not so much that we need learn a moral or a lesson from them, but the greatest films are the strongest reflection of who we are as individuals, and achieve a powerful connection through the metaphors they summon (however fantastic or mundane they may seem). A film that speaks to you in this way is one you can say a resounding “YES!” too. “Life is just like that.”
And so we seek out more of those films into our experience.
Mike Caracappa is one of those certifiable bipolar manic-depressive animator genius, filmmaker, writer, and critic type people from Los Angeles, wishing for a better Hollywood than the one we've got.
Jul 18, 2014 0