Sunday, February 4, 2018

Apparently, this is my 1000th Post Tagged "Movies"



I dunno.  I like milestones.  That seems significant.  1000 posts.  On movies.

There are 2865 published posts here, so I guess movies are mostly what we discuss.  That's not to say I've watched 1000 movies since starting The Signal Watch, but it also isn't to say we haven't.  I don't really know.  I've only done the "let us account for every movie we've watched" thing a few times.  And even then I left out things like Hallmark Christmas movies.

But I have been doing this blogging bit long enough that The Room has gone from a cult-movie bit of schadenfreude to fodder for an Oscar nominated picture and we've been through three Spider-Mans.


The great and terrible thing about movies is their universality, how personally we take them, and our shared roles as experts in our own way.  I'll never pretend to know everything one could know about the Madea franchise, the Fast and the Furious movies, the works of Ingmar Bergman or Japanese romantic comedies.  And we're all kind of jerks about movies (I mean, I know I'm pretty smart, but when you go to the mat for your favorite movie..?  Pshaw.) You will never convince me in a million years that an Oscar nomination is a valid reason for watching a movie.  And I am sure there are plenty of you who wonder why I watch dusty old crime movies or suffer through... oh, so much of what I'll sit through.  (Fifty Shades Freed tickets are purchased!)

I suppose if you read these posts, you've got *something* of a feel for my tastes - what I'll watch, what I don't.  What I like or care about, and what makes me roll my eyes.  There's no way it matches your preferences or tastes, and I appreciate you sticking around, if, indeed, you've done so (if for some weird reason this is your first time here, hello!).  I also don't expect you'll read every post.  I assume many of you who keep up with the site don't read 65%-75% of what gets posted.

And that's okay.  This is a personal site, and as time has marched on, I think you've picked up the tone shift to the personal.  There's no point in trying to play up an omniscient critical voice.  That's not what's happening here.

But I also know a lot of you folks found this site because we happen to dovetail here and there on movies we liked, be it Planet of the Apes, monster movies, superhero flicks, or even noir (although there's no evidence any of you care at all about noir).

So, thanks!

I don't have a Top 10 movies list in my head.  I don't trust people over 25 who do.  But if I had to think of some movies that actually, very much, truthfully impacted my life in some way - I think for some folks they're "important" movies, or movies one is supposed to take seriously and have some cathartic experience - or movies where we just love every line of dialog, every camera angle every acting choice, every bit of set design and the score can still give us chills.. If you only have ten of those, I am very sorry.

That said: If you have that experience every time you see a movie - it may be time to see a doctor.



Last night I watched one of the movies of my youth that, at age 15 - for reasons I'll never understand - grabbed me and shook me to my core.  From the first frames of ice hitting a tumbler and an unlikable goombah of a gangster laying out what is, of course, the thesis of the film:
I'm talkin' about friendship. I'm talkin' about character. I'm talkin' about--hell, Leo, I ain't embarrassed to use the word--I'm talkin' about ethics.
That the movie was, as it turned out, a set of borrowed elements, be it Hammett's Red Harvest and The Glass Key, or visual elements of Le Samourai and The Conformist, I'd find out about all that later.  And stumbling across Red Harvest thanks to JAL's suggestion I read some Hammett (an author I still consume voraciously 20-odd years later), and the aforementioned other films - and it's only made me love Miller's Crossing more, somehow.

To this day, I consider it a high mark of dialog, plotting, design and character.  Hell, Tom's apartment, the Shenandoah Club and a half-dozen other locals of the movie probably inform half of what I think of as a good idea for the palette for my own house.  And I've been chasing that high from the first dozen or so times I watched Miller's Crossing ever since.

The impact a new movie could have upon me seemed to fade in my 20's, and I miss it, I think.  I can still love a movie and wish to revisit the film, but it's possible Bride of Frankenstein was the last one to strike like lightning (pardon the pun).  So I try to show some sympathy to these kids online who are furious, losing their minds that they feel the movies with that same meaning to them, have been slighted by critics or - worse - the masses.  I have no doubt the affection and belief that Batman v Superman has deep meaning for some people is absolutely real.  But we grow and change, we don't come from that place of everything being new.  At some point we are as old or older than the filmmakers.  Our lives serve up experience, history becomes something more than what we study in class, and the simulation of life unfolding on those screens changes what it means to us.

What I've found curious is that I never saw myself as any of these characters, even as a child.  I might wish to have the cocksure swagger of Han Solo (I liked Luke, but always found Han cooler), or the cool reserve of any number of movie cowboys.  Or the experiences of Alex Rogan getting whisked off to fight the Kodan Armada - but it took the internet to tell me people wanted to *be* those fictional characters.  And I've never been sure if that was an exaggeration or hyperbole.  I was always more inclined to imagine myself in an orange jumpsuit pulling on a helmet in an X-Wing of my own.

Despite this personal connection - Movies are the great American export and can speak a universal language.  We may have to work harder to understand a Bollywood product, but what a movie is and what it says both intentionally and incidentally are windows into the worlds of others.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: in this era of outrage in which we keep dredging up the past and finding the norms and attitudes wanting, we owe it to ourselves to try to better understand the past.  Those people may still be alive and able to answer for themselves, and it's important to understand ourselves as part of a continuum - that what we say or do now will no doubt look absurd in just a few decades.  Looking back, movies - sometimes those smaller ones - capture that past in light and shadow.

It's part of why we pitch the site as a bit of archaeology and history.  The joy of a film is all the greater when you can understand the context in which it existed and the forces that drove its creation.

If we spend too much time in our write-ups wallowing in our own experience and our personal narrative that we brought to a movie, I can apologize.  But please know I am well aware that all of you have your own story around a lot of these movies.  How you relate to those films is your narrative, and I hope you know I'd read your version of events, too.

So, hope you stick with us for as long as we're doing this.

2 comments:

RHPT said...

I'm fairly confident I've read 99% of your blog posts. (I think I started skipping the noir ones a couple of years ago.) That being said, I have noticed how your opinion of movies have changed over the years. You are grumpier now.

Ryan Steans said...

I think, yeah, probably. I mean - certainly when I started in 2003, I was much more about boosterism and whatnot. But I also think, for reasons cited in the post, things change. I'm not the person I was then, and it'd be kinda weird if I had the same opinions and outlook 15 years on.