As a lifelong cinephile I noticed a rather strange proclivity has sprouted horns during the past few years and that is the desire to reach for the green triangles viz. the fast-forward button, during certain films. Now, at the onset, I must point out that these films tend to be (although not exclusively) narrative-based mainstream films: Lord of the Rings, rather than Meshes in the Afternoon! And the points at which I find myself, for want of a better word, weakening, are over-familiar moments at which juncture, to all intents and purposes, the narrative stops.
So to further delineate my tale of woe, let me use aforementioned LOTR as an example, whose capacious fight sequences are a moment where my finger begins to itch, for two main reasons:
1. The story, as stated previously, stops.
2. I have seen a voluminous amount of fight sequences in other films.
The second point is the larger contributory factor regarding my ennui and is a downside, pure and simple, to the amount of films I have seen, to wit: there is very little a filmmaker can do to bring something new or original to the sequence. Therefore, all I’m left with is a great desire for the melee to reach a speedy conclusion and the story to restart.
Other stock film conventions that get me reaching for the propitiating ‘FF’ switch are:
• Car chases
• Love scenes – especially where the diegesis has kept the couple apart and their libidinous moment involves lots of clothes tearing and animal passions.
Let me end my threnody by stating that I wasn’t always like this. There are examples of the above conventions that I really enjoyed: French Connection, car chase; Ran, fight sequences; Don’t Look Now, love scenes. However, there only appears so many ways the medium can riff on these themes and the well, in my irascible and plangent opinion, has run dry.
Anyway, hand it over to the group. Any thoughts on the thread, including any other conventions you’re equally tired of.
I think there is certain level of acceptance if such scenes are well done, even more so if it adds to the film.
As you stated above I don’t think the French Connection would be quite the same without the car chase and Don’t Look Now would certainly not have the emotional complexity it did without the famous love scene.
For me it’s all in the execution.
^ Yes. A great car chase is a thing of beauty, like any great set-piece. Yes, the ‘flying wing’ scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark is just a fight scene, but the way it’s put together and most importantly the way it showcases the hero as just a regular guy puts it over the top. Can’t take my eyes off it.
Thanks for the responses. I hear what you’re saying about execution, but I wonder if the sheer number of films we all watch – far more than the average filmgoer – renders certain stock elements of narrative films rather redundant irrespective of how well they’re done. I mentioned the car chase sequence in The French Connection, it is undoubtedly original and brilliantly executed. However, I saw it as a young, neophyte film fan, one that hadn’t been inundated with every conceivable kind of car chase. I wonder if I saw it now for the first time, if it would stand up and out in quite the pronounced way it does within my own concepetual diegesis.
You’ll probably remember the hundreds of movies that have copied the sequence from The French Connection. You may be at the point where you should be more selective about your viewing if this is starting to become an issue. Remember, being open minded isn’t about accepting shit when it’s fed to you.
I have a friend whose father watches the Battle of Helms Deep sequence in Two Towers over and over.
Some people like really well choreographed fight scenes and others don’t care for them at all.
I’m often more tempted to press the big square button than the little triangle buttons. If I’m halfway through a movie and don’t care for it at all yet, the urge always comes up to just watch the next movie. There aren’t many movies I can think of where one part is so bad and the following part so good that I would fast forward.
-I wonder if the sheer number of films we all watch – far more than the average filmgoer – renders certain stock elements of narrative films rather redundant irrespective of how well they’re done.-
Well, people respond differently to repetition, but repetition certainly can deprive certain elements of their novelty, and I think this would force you to pay more some degree of attention to the “how” instead of just the “what.” And of course one’s interests shift continuously.
You don’t have to be a hard-core cinephile to get tired of certain ideas that are used over and over again in various films because they were enormously successful… once. There’s a certain “look” for example for crime oriented works that tv shows use a lot. Everything’s blue, not well-lit, camera movement makes you feel like you have palsy, etc. etc. Ooh and that rapid cutting from one scene to another thing — I never did like that and honestly, it also makes me feel like I may end up having some sort of physical disturbance when I’m through watching. I’ve heard that that particular kind of expression comes from music video…? And, what was the saying — imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Ugh.
The overuse of hand-held cameras.
I sympathize with what you’re feeling, except I’m not bothered by the same things you are. Certainly, action sequences that are poorly executed or occur within a bad film doesn’t do much for me (although that was always the case), but I still like a well-executed fight or chase sequence (they’re fairly uncommon imo). But there are other conventions I’m tired of. Here’s one: in almost every thriller or cop film, the last thirty minutes usually involves the good guy chasing the bad come and they usually end up in some high location. There’s a struggle that ends with the bad guy plunging to his death.
In general, the more films one I see (particularly if this occurs in a relatively short period of time), the harder I am to please. It’s only eat pizza from Domino’s or Pizza Hut all your life and then for about a year or two you travel around the world and eat at the best places. Pretty soon you can’t even eat the Domino’s pizza, and you wonder how you could ever have enjoyed it. I think somethign similar happens with films. For example, about ten years ago, I used to appreciate seeing independent films because they weren’t of the Hollywood, cookie-cutter variety; I didn’t leave the theater saying, “Man, why did they even make this film;” and that would be sufficient, even when the film wasn’t entirely successful. That’s no longer the case for me—and it’s sort of a curse.
I also think my notions of good acting has “increased.” I see performances differently now. I think I notice more things that would not have bothered me in the past. (Too bad, I can’t think of any examples.) And again, it makes enjoying movies a lot hader and a lot more rare.
But here’s a question I’d ask you (and others): would you go back to the time when you had an easier time enjoying films?
@Jazz — for me, personally, no. I like changing and growing, so if that means growing away from certain things, fine. There’s a million things I still don’t know enough about to appreciate, and would like to, even if I grew bored of them eventually.
Anytime male hobbits get uncomfortably touchy feely with each other in over dramatic endings that are about 30 minutes too long….yes. Agreed.
Yeah, I wouldn’t change, either. But there are serious drawbacks for me. Being harder to please may make one seem more sophisticated and elite—and I’m not saying that’s the case with me—but whether it is or isn’t, actually wish I weren’t so hard to please.
@Redletterprints — agreed! ha ha ha – what a schmaltz-fest that was.
@Jazz — Nah, it’s just a preference. If you make it come across as just your own taste, with no further explanation (unless someone asks, and then explain with respect for their intelligence), then it won’t come across as snobbery. There’s a way to do this, and a way not to do this. People who come across as snobs are really demonstrating their insecurity more than their preference for certain things. Don’t you agree?
would you go back to the time when you had an easier time enjoying films?
Nah, not really. That was then. Now, finding most of the product coming out of Hollywood beyond toxic and therefore best to be avoided, I’ve just turned to other byways. That’s a huge upside for me.
People who come across as snobs are really demonstrating their insecurity more than their preference for certain things. Don’t you agree?
I guess you’re right. However, when I say, “I’m hard to please,” I sort of feel like this is a snobby thing to say; or at least if feels like an indirect way of showing off, if you know what I mean.
Amateurism is still amateurism, no matter how hard or easy I may be to please.
Personally, I’d love to go back to when every film was amazing, because the sense of awe I had was just magical, whereas now it’s hard to feel that way – it’s more a feeling of “I wish I had made that,” almost envy, which is no fun at all. But I don’t think I would stay there very long. Or maybe I would.
I would be the first to argue that you choose to be impressed or not with life. Whether movies are included in your definition of “life” is up to you.
Here’s my problem: I have an instinctive aversion to negative judgments. I can get excited about things, sometimes with no reason at all, but I have a sort of innate filter for negative comments, and when I do criticize something, it’s usually couched in a lot of detached rationalization and “but that’s just my opinion” disclaimers.
For this reason, I had to go in and manually adjust my Netflix ratings after I assigned 200 or so, because none of them were below “3”. Also, this is why my blog is all about writing analysis of movies, and I never put reviews in there, even concerning inane movies. It makes me a pretty shitty critic, because it limits the range of reactions I tend to express.
But as you cinephiles know, as you get more experience in movie-watching, you tend to get more cynical, or at least you tend to cool off on popcorn and middlebrow fare. So my problem is, the positive voice and the negative voice are getting more and more polarized (just like politics in my country! Woah!) The negative one has more and more to say, like “what a terrible ethnic stereotype,” and “what hackey writing,” and “same fight scene I’ve seen a thousand times before.” But the positive-thinking voice musters more and more to counter it, like “Can’t you just sit back and enjoy it?” and “Could you do any better?” and “But you still enjoy it every time, right?” This is my version of the populist-versus-elitist inner conflict in cinema appreciation, I guess.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve lost all ability to form coherent opinions on movies. Yet somehow, I still enjoy watching them, even when they’re not my favorite films or the most memorable experiences. And I’m still excited every time I put a new one in my DVD player. So I wouldn’t go back, I guess — the experience is changing, but it still works for me.
@Jazz — no, I consider hard to please as just being the way a person is, whether they were always that way, or whether they became that way as they grew. It’s not like you’re going to someone’s house and turning down every dish they serve you because it doesn’t suit you. Liking certain movies, books, music, etc. over others shouldn’t be considered a personal insult to people, unless you couple it with the insinuation that they are idiots because they like what they like. That’s kind of lazy anyway. I’d be like, “Yeah, and you gotta see this film that I love too!” and drag them off to see what they think. If they liked it, and it added to their list of things that they liked, cool for the creator of that work! One more fan!
@TheGamgee — if people try to be open-minded, looking for surprise rather than bemoaning what they outgrew, you can keep that magic alive. You have to look at the world like it’s new, and it is — because you don’t know everything about it. It’s a perspective thing. And, a secret — looking at things this way makes you feel young, belying the number of years you’ve lived and the number of disappointing and bitter experiences you’ve had. But you have to want to dwell in the present, which is always, contrary to what we think, a fluid and therefore interesting time to dwell in. Ok, enough of my philosophical lecturing! :)
But you have to want to dwell in the present
Exactly! :) And nothing thrills me more (ok maybe not nothing, I’m not that obsessed) than discussing a movie I love with someone else who loved it. My friend and I went for a walk back when it was warm enough to do such things and talked about nothing but film and music without a break in the conversation. Most of the time we were both talking haha.
I just have a hard time getting out of my head, which is mostly locked in the past, and into the present. This is my year of learning though, so that’s something to work on.
(And I love philosophical musing from other people)
@ Jazzaloha – fascinating response. I thought your food analogy was spot on, In terms of going back, like most other contributors, I am happy with the place I am in now inasmuch as I have a much greater understanding of how film can be far more than a mere commodity. The enjoyment that understanding gives me when realised through engaging with a truly great (a contentious adjective, I know) film, without putting too fine a point on it, is one of the joys of life. I mean I always paid lip service to that position, but one of the many positives to my cinephilia is a deeper understanding of film as art – but there are shades of grey: almost all films have finite shelf-lives and after a while one engages merely with the art rather than the emotion of a film. I heard an anecdote about an English university professor who had studied Shakepeare his whole life, but wished he could read Hamlet as though for the first time again. In terms of my own filmic Hamlets, it is a sentiment I tend to share.
Yeah, at some level that’s what keeps you watching new films—the potential to have the “seeing ‘Hamlet’ again for the first time experience.”
I agree with dear delegates House Of Leaves, Matt Parks and Jazzaloha. it all depends on execution and
staging. I myself find films without set-pieces or dramatic climaxes very boring.
I find myself increasingly able to appreciate individual aspects of films that I otherwise would have simply openly dismissed.
Someone mentioned that they hold much higher standards for actors – how this is possible I cannot possibly imagine. How does one come to appreciate Bresson or neorealism or classical Hollywood or Fassbinder or Zulawski without opening one’s eyes to the immense possibility of a broad variety of acting styles? It is utterly unfathomable. When I hear someone say, “bad acting” I immediately assume that they are applying this to a standard, of which I think it is nearly impossible for any cinephile to hold to. The Coen bros. write dialogue mistakes into their scripts, Van Sant allows his actors to fumble over words, which is to say nothing of the transgressive, the avant garde, the expressionistic, the daring. I simply can’t understand that.
Furthermore, I find myself watching a film like A Talking Picture which I’m sure even many cinephiles would absolutely revile because it is so transparent, so non-narrative, so blatantly symbolic, and I enjoy every minute of it. The increase in variety of films that I am able to appreciate must offset the films that pale in comparison, those films that already felt formulaic as I was growing into maturity and are only made to look even less inspired as I have a broader frame of reference. The prognosis for those films from my childhood was never looking good, given simple life experience, but I still marvel at the ones that are filled with imagination, you can’t take that away. My lack of response to those that are simply a shallow reflection of life can’t be attributed to my gains in artistic perspective, I don’t think. As such, I don’t see much loss. I do see how a lot of people construct negative criticisms which preclude them from appreciating things that they otherwise would be able to, but I don’t think that’s cinephilia at all. I think that’s a hatred of cinema.