This Is Now, And "That Was Then, This Is Now" Was Then... (Pt. 1)

So much of the time, one’s opinion of a particular movie ties in directly into what we are going through at that particular time and place. One (such as myself) can endeavor to remain unaffected by his surroundings and personal drama when viewing a movie, making a sincere attempt at attacking each film from the same mental standpoint. This, though, is not always possible. As the unfortunately popular saying goes, and one for which I shall, just this once, substitute the not-actually-obscene slang laid within it to lessen its stupidity, *blank* happens. We have what we would consider a bad day, we decide to go and see a movie to cheer us up, we quickly find it’s not always possible to achieve this nor is it all that easy to forget recent tragedy or upsetting news, and we often take it out on the absolutely innocent film that we ourselves volunteered to enter while encumbered by our crushing grief or whiny sulkiness. Sure, the film might actually be a genuine “Grade Z” piece of crap, but having a bad day on top of it, depending on a person’s center or sense of humor, can just exacerbate the problem.

The first time I went to Short Circuit back in 1986, I had recently broken up with a girlfriend, and I somehow decided during this comedy in which a robot becomes wholly sentient and helps Steve Gutenberg get laid, that I was deeply in love with Ally Sheedy. Yes, she may have been the object of the Gute's desire, but it actually was me that she got through a rough patch. I must be accurate, though: the girlfriend didn’t really break up with me. She just stopped coming around or calling… disappearing from my presence really, which is, for me, actually worse than a real breakup, since I am a person who definitely requires some form of closure – in business, war, art or love. Regardless of the circumstances of the split, Ally was the girl for me that night at the movies. And, outside of my perverted sense of romance that evening (not that my sense of romance isn't normally perverted from the center at any given point), I also felt the movie was the funniest thing I had seen in ages. I sorely needed a laugh during this rough patch, and the film provided a brace of them for me. I rolled in the aisles at the same time that I struggled in inner turmoil and self-doubt within my seat.

Two weeks later, I wasn’t laughing. I took in another showing of Short Circuit, and I was mortified at how little I enjoyed the second go-around. Without the immediate presence of personal crisis suffocating my ability to critique properly (though that wasn’t even a concern at that time in my life), making me desperate for any form of entertainment outside of my pain, a merely mediocre Hollywood product almost became unendurable. Every laugh now seemed far too telegraphed, every punchline fell dead to the ground and was then obliterated by the now annoying Johnny Number Five’s treads, and Fisher Stevens’ role as the Indian scientist became far too stereotyped, obnoxious and outright racist to me. And Sheedy? While I still appreciated her on a purely physical level, I had moved on with my emotions. As it turned out, I wasn’t that attached to the real-life girl who had caused the initial burst of desperation, and had already staked my tent elsewhere by the time of that second showing.

And my feelings towards Short Circuit are still tied fast to that second showing. I cannot shake those two moments in time: that first visit where it seemed John Badham had saved my very existence with a stupid robot comedy, and that second, vastly different experience where I felt betrayed by both my own eyes and my critical value system.

I have felt often as I finally worked out a lifetime of watching movies on paper and online that I should give every film that I am rating a fair shake. Review each film fresh, and from the emotional center from which I am currently writing, creating and working. Don't toss stars at films that earned them years ago in my mind, far before I really had any sort of faculties for judgment (not that I do now, but, oh well...) There is a difference between the way a five-year old dinosaur enthusiast sees a film and the way a bratty thirteen-year old with divorce issues sees a film and the way a 23-year old on the make for chicks sees a film. They can all be the same person, as I am describing here, but the viewpoints and motives are all dissimilar. The big change between watching a film at those junctures in my life and now is that the 2008 version of me will take into account the viewpoints that came before, making full use of each memory, and analyzing knowledge of old or recurring biases or obsessions. It is not just film review. It is a review of the way I used to view film compared against the present day.

But I don't think Short Circuit will ever stand up to a modern viewing. I sincerely believe that a fresh showing would be useless at this point; I will not ever be able to separate that film from that period, and how I felt on those occasions. This is the problem with memory: you stick hard to certain moments, whether they are fond ones or not. Despite the evidence damning you to forever be wildly incorrect or inaccurate about something, because the moments surrounding that “something" have become part of your essence, and perhaps have continued to influence you throughout life, you stick to them like they were the last life preserver off the Titanic. My memories of Short Circuit have been something of an ongoing jolt to the groin of the fickleness of my own opinion. And that is definitely a feeling I do not wish to lose.

(To be continued soon...)

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