05 January, 2012

This is Why I Got Into Movies

At the risk of being too reflective or too effacing, this is what I got into movies for--

I got into them for "Ode to Joy" playing as a leitmotif. I got into it for crazy women and gay men playing romantic leads. I got into the kind of magical madness that only magic turned into light can bring. I love movies. I love the artifice. And as much as I complain and whine about what's wrong with movies (I won't stop the blog to go into all that, don't worry) I do this out of a real love for the medium.

There's this old Patton Olswalt essay* about this exact sort of thing. It was so long ago that I think I read it on MySpace (so, like, maybe five years ago, whoopee) and I have no desire to look it up. If I remember it correctly, people were complaining about how much he was complaining about movies. The reality is that they didn't get why he was being such a stick in the mud. The reality was that he loved movies. He was being a dick because he loves movies so much. The kind of particularity that comes out of movie fans-- real serious movie nerds-- appears as serious dicksmanship. In reality, it is a form of affection that can never be read by the thing it is aimed at. There are more efficient forms of prayers than fanhood.

To state the obvious: I am no Patton Oswalt. I'm not saying this as a revelation, I am saying this as insurance against people saying "Oh that James thinks he's a regular Patton Oswalt" as they chew their tobacco and watch their Jerry Springer, no doubt**.

My point is that I love trash. I love ridiculous films. I love Written on the Wind and All That Heaven Allows (and its remake) and it isn't simply because I had to watch these in college. It's a chicken or the egg type of situation and I can only dwell on it for so long before it turns into a soggy, over-fried mess.

Not to say I'm opposed to self-destruction.

Movies should be true to their form. As much as films are built around lies and tricks, they should be in the service of truth. I can't remember where I got this idea from-- Ideally someone will correct me on this account-- But films are pieces of fiction that tell the truth. If this weren't an entry simply on a semi-campy 1950's "Women's Picture" and where I more sober, I would go into detail on this. Nobody wants that, though, including myself, so I'll add this as my conclusion:

Films should be true to what they're trying to be. An action movie shouldn't make airs towards being a political drama and a romance shouldn't feel the need to include horror elements. Or whatever. Nobody wants to see a musical sequence in a court room potboiler unless you're Indian, in which case everything is a musical and nobody kissses.

All of that is grammatically horrific and horrifically vague and, you know what, in terms of art I think that is pretty goddamn succinct. It's certainly the best that a snob who loves garbage can do.

With all of that said, there is a factual error in the trailer of Magnificent Obsession--The stone cold reality is that the "greatest romance in cinema" is, in fact, Black Narcissus, a movie where no one kisses, no one has sex, and everyone leaves because they're failures and they hate themselves. Also: Deborah Kerr. Your move, Douglas Sirk.

*It's really a blog entry, but why denigrate his words by attributing such a horrible word to his poetry?

**How bad did all of you want to watch the Jerry Springer Too Hot for TV VHS tapes when you were a young 'un? Bad? Really bad? I think it was between that and the uncensored sections of Blind Date. Thinking back on that time of my life, it's crazy to imagine I was that willfully restrictive about what I wanted to get a boner about.