Friday, November 11, 2016

"I Like Movies Where They Kill Somebody Else"

Sometimes I think about why I don’t like movies as much as I used to.  Other times I think about why I don’t like television as much as I used to.  I have a fascinating existence – so many things to complain about.  Almost everything, in fact.  I do, however, prefer fish today.  They apparently learned to do something about that “fishy” smell.

So today, it’s movies.  Specifically, “Action Pictures”, or as they are currently identified, “Every movie outside the Oscars ‘Nominating Season’.” (Where they temporarily limit the “body count”, focusing instead on serious illnesses or growing up in the wrong body.  Or in the South.)

Maybe you noticed this yourselves.  Crafted around “Audience Targeting”, when you now go to a movie, they do this “Pandora” thing with the accompanying previews.  It’s like,

“You have selected a movie where death and destruction are the prevailing elements.  If that is your kind of movie – as it appears to be, otherwise what the heck are you doing at this one? – check out these five upcoming previews, all of which will thrill you in a virtually identical manner.  Enjoy.”

I believe it was at the last “Bourne” offering we saw, going only because we were desperate to get out of the house.  Before the film began, we were treated to previews of five similar movies, where everyone was running, shooting, crashing their cars and dying.  (The only worse assault of likeminded cinematic offerings occurred when we attended a theater frequented primarily by Jewish Senior Citizens and saw previews of five films, all of which dealt with either the Holocaust or “They’re selling ‘The Home’.”)

I wondered what I did not like about those five previews for “Action Pictures”, other than they appeared to be the same movie.  Yes, the violence and mayhem had been escalated since my moviegoing heyday (because nobody ever got rich giving the audience less.) 

And if there were a “Logic Detector” similar to the “Metal Detector” in airports, none of them would make it through without a subsequent “Pat Down” or possible “Full Body” investigation, if you get my drift and if you don’t it’s a faulty analogy, freeing you to make a replacement “These movies make no sense” analogy of your own and my apologies for wasting your time with a less than scintillating comparison.

And then it finally occurred to me.  The difference between “Action Pictures” today and “Action Pictures” of the past:

In “Action Pictures” of the past, the victims were inevitably “other people.”  Today, in movies, the victims are unavoidably


Which to me at least is less fun.

“Historical Dramas” are set in the safely distancing past, leaving the audience on the edge of their seats, perhaps, but personally unperturbed.

The Charge of the Light Brigade:  “Into the Valley of Death rode the Six Hundred” – tragic but not me.  Every rendition of The Alamo.  Everyone’s massacred.  Pomerantz goes home.  “Indian” pictures.  I am neither a settler nor an Indian.  I may identify – I do identify, with both sides in fact – but I am unlikely to ever be cut down by a flaming arrow or staked out on an anthill, predatory buzzards circling ominously overhead.  

Terrible stuff, without question.  But ultimately, just “harmless entertainment.”  (I know how that sounds, but… it is.  I simply immerse myself in somebody else’s travails.  And then I get ice cream.)

World War II movies – before my time.  “Bubonic Plague” movies – we’ve got modern medicine.  “Pirate” pictures – do I look like a swashbuckler to you?  Audiences identify because “It’s people.”  But there is no visceral, personal connection.  

Vesuvius – bad.  You say, “Yeah” and you go out for dinner.  “Mafia” movies – if you’re not a “Corleone” or a “Tattaglia” – and you don’t eat where they’re avenging personal grievances – it’s just two families that are not getting along, neither of which is thankfully your own, thus placing you protectively “in the clear”, so you can simply “enjoy the experience.”

By contrast, the five previews I saw accompanying the latest Jason Bourne sequel, in every storyline, normal people, like me, are placed in terrible jeopardy.  It’s a frightening situation, these movies reflect.  Nobody’s a “civilian” anymore.  Nobody’s “Off Limits.”  Nobody’s “Out of bounds.”

“Murder Spree” movies?  Everybody’s a target.  Terrorist explosions?  Forget about it.  Out-of-control car chases?  The actual participants may be “not you”, but you come out of a pizza place, boxed “takeout” in hand, and an overturned police vehicle, its wheels still spinning, is lying on top of your Subaru.  You were in there for five minutes; now you don’t have a car! 

And you had nothing to do with anything!      

I don’t know about you but to me, that’s different.  Once, you watched battles between strangers.  Now, they are coming for me!  (And don’t kid yourself.  They’re coming for you too!)

I liked it better when the jeopardy was identifiably remote.  Rocked by devastation to others but personally out of the woods.

Today, it’s all “woods”.  Where you once turned to films for diversionary comfort, you are now reminded,

“No place is safe.  Including this movie theater.”

I’m going to avoid those five previewed pictures.  But with this inexorable trend in movies, seeking soothing sanctuary from a frightening reality,

I no longer have anywhere to hide.
Lest we forget.

As "Duke" Wayne used to say,

"Not hardly".


JED said...

I know what you're talking about. People just going to the corner to pick up a paper are at risk in many new movies and watch out if you go to an outdoor food bazaar - there's bound to be an out-of-control car about to barrel through.

But what about half of Alfred Hitchcock's movies? In North by Northwest the poor guy gets chased by a crop duster for no apparent reason and in The Man Who Knew Too Much, the child of the couple on vacation is kidnapped. Even in the The Birds, everyone in the town is terrorized for unknown reasons. But at least in those movies, there was a real story with good acting and terrific music. And they didn't use huge explosions and automatic weapon fire.

Is that the difference? In the newer movies, the random killing is done so loudly and indiscriminately. Everything is overblown (so to speak). In the older movies, no weapons of mass destruction were used.

Stephen Marks said...

"Everyone is massacred. Pomerantz goes home." Just's the opposite with adult erotic cinema. I want to be the guy in the bed, I want to be the guy in the shower, I want to be the guy with the neighbour's wife. Instead it's "Everyone is having sex. Marks goes home."