Movies I don’t enjoy

I was recommended to watch a movie; sci-fi, which is not usually my preference, but this was one financed by Google and published on YouTube, so I thought it worth a look. I managed to watch the first five minutes before getting bored and wandering off.

I expect more of non-Hollywood movies, I suppose. This one was yet another white-man-hero-with-hidden-identity schtick that had a reasonably interesting premise and absolutely no character engagement that I haven’t seen a hundred times before. People talk about romance being formulaic; presumably they haven’t seen any of the many superhero movies released in the last decade that are all variations on a theme of white-men-save-thing/world-in-different-costumes.

The hypocrisy bothers me. People who would dismiss romance out of hand are all too ready to gush about superhero movies as if they’re something new, unique and different. I have to wonder whether this is a gulf in entertainment aimed at women versus that aimed at men, which likewise does a disservice to fans of either genre.

So it goes. I think the best movies are those that are fantastical or superhero, but grounded by something as human as a love story. It’s just a shame that the vast majority of big budget special effects movies immediately default to the huge, world-spanning, life-or-death crisis as an overarching plot line, and romance is usually sidelined.


On the truth of romance

One of my favorite romantic comedies is The Mirror Has Two Faces. It’s about Rose, a nerdy English lit professor, who marries Greg, an equally nerdy math professor on the agreement that their relationship will be purely platonic, and then hijinks ensue. It’s an interesting, adorable movie, and I highly recommend it if only because Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges act their asses off, but one part of it has always stuck in my memory: Rose’s lecture on the nature of love and romance. It speaks to me as an aspiring writer, and I want to share a little of it here with you.

Experts, scholars and my Aunt Esther are united in one belief: True love has spiritual dimensions, while romantic love is a lie. A myth. A soulless manipulation. And speaking of manipulation, it’s like going to the movies and seeing the lovers kiss… The music swells, and we buy it, right? So when my date kisses me, and I don’t hear strings, I dump him.

The question is, why do we buy it? Because, myth or manipulation, we all want to fall in love. That experience makes us feel completely alive. Our everyday reality is shattered, and we are flung into the heavens. It may only last a moment, an hour, but that doesn’t diminish its value. We’re left with memories we treasure for the rest of our lives.

I read, ”When we fall in love, we hear Puccini in our heads.” I love that. His music expresses our need for passion and romantic love. We listen to La Bóheme or Turandot, or read Wuthering Heights, or watch Casablanca, and a little of that love lives in us too. So the final question is: Why do people want to fall in love, when it can have such a short run and be so painful?


I think it’s because, as some of you may already know… While it does last, it feels fucking great.

The Oscars

I wasn’t going to comment too much on the Oscars, but something has been really irritating me.

So La La Land didn’t win Best Picture, and instead the Best Picture Oscar went to Moonlight – a truly great movie about complex black lives. It was well deserved. Moonlight is a rare work of art, and an exemplary example of the best that a film-maker can produce.

It bothers me that a film as good as Moonlight has been overshadowed by a stupid, stupid mistake. It bothers me that people seem to be giving more props to the makers of La La Land for being gracious, than to the makers of Moonlight for creating an excellent movie. The conversation becomes slanted; people suddenly talk about La La Land being ‘robbed’, as if a movie that is effectively Hollywood praising itself is equal to the heartfelt realness of Moonlight.

There is talk on Twitter that this mistake was intentional, and this deflection of deserved praise from a movie highlighting people of color is intentional. I’m not sure if I ascribe to such theories, but… I can’t help but be suspicious. America is a deeply racist place, and this would not surprise me.

For the record… I’m not overly impressed with a lot of Oscar movies. I feel animated features are routinely left out, as if the Academy are unwilling to acknowledge that animated movies are capable of the same level of excellence. There’s also a real sexist bent that I utterly despise; the division of male and female awards for acting, for example, is ludicrous, and only serves to highlight the fact that if there were no awards for actresses, there would likely be no women at all receiving an Oscar.

It certainly disgusts me that, of all the Oscars ever awarded for Best Director, only one woman has ever won it. I have no illusions about the bigotry of Hollywood.

Moonlight deserves so much more praise than it is being given. But the fact of its win is significant, and it makes me hopeful. The world turns, and it changes even in dark times.


On the boardwalk

She stood at the boardwalk railing, and watched the lights reflected in the water. “Nice night, isn’t it?” she said.

“Yeah. It almost makes you believe the city isn’t a cesspool,” he replied. “Almost.”

“Are you always this cynical?”

He shrugged. “No, but I’ve had better days.”

He leaned on the railing beside her, and stared into the water below. She touched his shoulder, and smiled at him.

“Why did you call me?” he asked suddenly.

She pulled her coat around her, and didn’t meet his gaze. “After everything that’s happened… I just wanted to be sure that you’re okay.”

“Oh really? So what happened to ‘I never want to see you again, you bastard’?” He gave her a lazy look, as if he didn’t care, and went back to watching the lights.

“Really? You’re going with that now?” she said.

“Yeah, I–”

She thumped his arm, and he protested and backed away. “Shut up. I am not doing this… this romantic movie bullshit with you,” she snarled. “It’s not fair and you know it. You acted like an asshole and I was completely justified calling you that at the time. Then you turned out to be more like a good person, someone I could like and talk to and fall in love with and all that good stuff, so I called you, okay? I called you. You don’t get to hold it against me.”

She shoved him again, with her teeth clenched and her eyes angry. He let himself be shoved.

“You know I don’t do subtle,” she said. “And – and I hate the stupid speeches in those movies, and fake characters who can’t say what they’re actually thinking because they’re embarrassed or whatever–”

“I’m going to tell you what I’m thinking,” he said softly. He held out his hand to her. She stared at it for a long moment, then reached out. Her fingers slid into his.

“I’m really, really bad at this,” he said. “I’m glad you called me, because I thought, maybe she doesn’t hate me. Maybe I’ve still got a chance.”

She stared at their hands, clasped together. “A chance for what?” she whispered.

“All that romantic movie bullshit,” he said, with a half-chuckle that quickly left his face. He looked afraid, and hopeful.

She closed her eyes, squeezed them tight, and then gazed out at the city lights shimmering in the night sky. “What if I said no?”

He sighed, and let his hand fall. She didn’t let go. He looked at her hand, and then into her eyes.

“I didn’t say no,” she said. “I’m just asking what if.”

“Then I’d leave and you’d probably never see me again. We’ve got no reason to talk to each other now.” He paused. “Do you want me to stay?”

She suddenly pulled him into a tight hug, and buried her face in his shoulder. He touched her back hesitantly for a moment, then wrapped his arms around her and pressed his nose into her hair. “Yes, I want you to stay,” she whispered.

They stood, unmoving, in the warm glow of the boardwalk lamps. When she lifted her head, he kissed her as if they were the only two people in the world.

“It doesn’t have to be a lot of… romantic movie bullshit,” he said. “Just a little. It’ll be fun.”

She laughed at him, while their faces touched and his grin grew wider. “Just a little,” she said, running her fingers down his cheek. He caught her hand and kissed it. “Just the good bits.”


So, movies

I witnessed The Hobbit.

It was acceptable. Let’s be honest here, it was never going to be Citizen Kane, not when the source material would be laughed out of any creative writing course these days for being unbearably long winded. I enjoyed it, in a kind of basic way.

All I can say is that it did not have any sexytimes and they had to bring in Galadriel just so there would be one woman with a speaking part. The rest of the movie was a giant sausage fest of white dudes in fantasy combat with various computer generated villains. If you like that kind of thing, go see it now.

Still, I can’t help wanting them to make a fantasy movie with some depth… is such a thing not possible anymore? They do it with sci-fi, why not with this?

Back I go to writing. Much to do, narrative wise, now that I’m done with the holidays.


So I went to see

…a movie, instead of writing. In my defence, this weekend has already exhausted me to the point of just falling asleep on my keyboard, so who knows what I would have produced?

Surreal porn, probably, the like of which would make a pastor blush.

It’s still difficult to get back to the idea of writing, as if I don’t do it as naturally as I did before. I’m not sure why that is, apart from the exhaustion. But I’m back to thinking about stories again, and at least I can take comfort in knowing that my narrative circuits are still functioning.

On that note, good grief. Hollywood wouldn’t know a story if it jumped up and bit them on the neck (woo, free Twilight reference!) I’m at least reasonably sure that movies are written by the marketing committee at this point, and if you’re not guaranteed to make a tie-in game for a kids’ flick or a tie-in novel or spin-off for an adult film, it just doesn’t get made.

And sequels are king, even when they’re a colossally bad idea.

Am I disillusioned? Hell yes. I don’t think I could be persuaded to sell the movie rights for anything I wrote for any money at all. There’s just too much about the movie industry that repulses me, and the vast majority of their writing is top of that particular list.