A Preparatory Indulgence, Pt. 4: The Facts, Ma'am... (Maybe the Facts)
On the Internet Movie Database, which most of us simply refer to as IMDb (small "b", thank you) and which has largely taken on a generally accepted position as the main online resource for instant movie information, I have (to this date) rated around 5,000 movies.
Let's get this straight from this point on: I know that I am not a complete poser. Despite what happened with The Last Detail and those other films, I am very certain of my love for the movies. It's like asking if I wish to continue breathing. And I have actually seen all of the films that I have rated on IMDb. I may not have seen some of those films for over twenty years or more, but I have seen them. The difference, though, is that I actually care and consider what I am rating on the site.
Fully aware that the way I felt about certain films in my teens, twenties and even early thirties may not be the way I feel about those films now (and even considering the fact that I might have nothing left of the memory of the seeing of a certain film except for my love, hate or boredom with it at the time), I have taken great pains in recent months to amend these ratings to fit my current state, but only by freshly viewing the films in question. While it is not of any importance to any other person but myself, it is the way that I have to tackle things to keep my sense of critical opinion as pure as I can, given the fact that I am as deficient and as prone to posturing and wrongheadedness as anybody else.
The one constant in my life of misspent youth, careless education, menial employment, and suffocated relationships has been my love of movies. The movie theatre has always proven to be the only acceptable form of a "church" to me. I don't require religion in my life, but it doesn't mean that I didn't spend a certain portion of my teens trying to figure out where I fit into the system in which everyone else was so willing to switch to lock-step every Sunday to enter. Combine my youthful wandering with my early love for movies, and is it any wonder that the only times that any socially accepted church really reached me in any way was when I took in various viewings of The Cross and the Switchblade and The Greatest Story Ever Told inside churches? (OK, it was also to make out with girls in the church pews. Hardly watched the films in two instances...)
And so it has gone. It doesn't really matter where the experience takes place, though I prefer a legitimate theatre. The flicker of the movie image, the darkness of the room, the comfort (or charming discomfort) of the seats, the smell of popcorn, the shared community... all of the standard cliches of why one loves going to movies also apply to me -- call it my one true moment of conformity -- and there is nothing for me to trade for the experience. I long to see movies everywhere, in any setting. Anywhere Sam-I-Am would not eat green eggs and ham is where I would watch a movie. Even on a vacation that has been solely designed for me to partake of an area's distinct pleasures, my first thought is of seeing a movie at some point while I am there. The movie theatre is where I always long to be, and for this statement, there can be no pose. It is where I meditate. It is where I can truly think through problems. It is where I need to be. It is where I am truly me.
Perhaps you see my movie adoration as too romantic. Well, if I must prove romantic in some small measure, then this is it. Personally, I view this stance as more theological, maybe even personally political. Regardless, what I know is that I am a movie fan. Of that, I can be certain, and my motto of "Any film, any time" is also a true statement, at least to the degree that I can follow through on it by financial means and via my ability to reach the location in question at the proposed time.
But, if I know who I am, why did I get all flustered over my reaction to not having seen The Last Detail (and those other films)? If I just kept to my occasional pose in those situations, aren't I the only one to know of my infrequent deception?
That is precisely the problem: for most of my life, I have simply been deceiving myself. Maybe even all the time.
Worse, to a large degree, I have drowned myself in sewage, and never really taken advantage of the full breadth that the cinematic world can offer me. I have resigned myself to the film ghettoes for so long, that I have forgotten how wide-ranging and interesting the total film experience can be. See only wide-release films, and you will only have a wide-release history and knowledge of movies. Keep to watching only slasher movies, and your ability to dissect films of deeper intent with the same casual ease of a killer's butcher knife through a victim's flesh will be met only with struggle and the eventual rending of true understanding. It's the equivalent of only keeping to beach reading, but never approaching the literary canon. While I have made exposed myself to and studied films throughout my life, it has only been through the keeping of company with very particular directors: Hitchcock, Lang, Kurosawa, Powell and Pressburger, Welles... But there are so many more worthy of deeper study and appreciation, beyond seeing one of their films and calling myself done. There is a broader, film education waiting out there for me, of which I thus far largely chosen to neglect myself. The first step is to watch the films. The second is to understand them.
I have friends who only go to the movies to do what they term as "escape," an overused term, to be sure, but it is the way I have heard it phrased. Get off work, "need to not think for a while," go to any stupid film that weekend... that is the relationship that the bulk of people have with the movies. It is a night out with friends, a wife, a date, a lover... nothing more. Dinner, a movie, and then... come what may... return again next weekend unblinkingly and machine-like to the next wide-release movie...
I, too, have walked the path of shared ritual as regards the movie experience. I love going to new movies, too, but I never call it escape. Never. I cannot shut off the brain, even when watching Friday the 13th, Part Eleventy-Thousand: Jason Gets A Hysterectomy. (Believe me, they will find a way...) My need to not simply watch, but to ascertain and critique, extends to my home movie ritual, where the DVD player almost never seems to stop whirring. And lately, whirring non-stop without any true focus.
And it this inability to simply watch a bunch of dopey After Dark horror films (in the same manner that I just fervently watched thirteen dopey horror films over the Halloween weekend) and discovering nothing but ennui over the idea of continuing through the series, combined with my anger over the collected lies of my reactions to simple conversational movie repartee, which led me to moment a few months ago for which metaphors concerning holes and digging were created. This point in time saw me finally get a grip on all of these issues, and brought about the establishment of "The 46x60 or So" project, involving the creation of a massive (and ever-growing) list, and a new sense of purpose guiding me through the movie landscape.
[To be continued in The 46x60 or So Project, Pt. 1: Building a Tower of Film...]