Rejecting Hollywood for a return to movie innocence

I’ve come to the realization recently that I’ve lost any desire to be consumed by the surface world of all-things-Hollywood. This was terrifying at first, but now I’m starting to revel in it. I’m frustrated as hell with the state of cinema, and I’m not going to take it anymore! Heh.

Gee, Kyle, bitter much? Why, yes, thanks for asking. But it’s a natural evolution; why, even you may know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s all about finally understanding that your favorite films are simply never going to get the big box office numbers and award recognition (you at least think) they deserve, and that when the rare film does get all that it doesn’t matter anyway.

It’s about no longer sneering for a moment of unadulterated “I told you so” delight when some movie you thought was a stupid idea to begin with just absolutely tanks at the theaters, passing up Entertainment Weekly to read Gamepro or Transworld Snowboarding, and forgetting your Hollywood Stock Exchange password because your mind is consumed with where you’re going to bike next weekend. It means ignoring the hype, trusting your gut, and drinking fake movie popcorn butter by the quart. Life is more fun that way.

I know what you’re thinking. “Kyle, you’re an idiot. We never cared about that stuff to begin with.” If you can say that and mean it, that’s pretty cool. I don’t envy you, unless you’ve got rock hard abs, but I’m glad you’re well-adjusted.

I got involved. Not too much, but I read about movies and followed the work of favorite actors and actually watched the Academy Awards. I didn’t even flip channels when the lifetime achievement award was given out, in all the recipient’s rambling octogenarian splendor. If I was bored at the mall or I went food shopping with my parents, I’d read all the entertainment magazines, and once I had my own internet access I followed all the big film-related sites and talked about that stuff with my friends. I don’t think I was quite at the level of “pretentious film student/Hollywood toady-type,” but I talked about it a lot more than I had to.

It made sense, though, and it makes sense now. I’m all about the creative arts, so discussing story and plot and visual elements and design and everything wasn’t just empty talk and “look how enlightened I am” posturing. I wasn’t sure Hollywood was for me, but in terms of my own writing and projects movies have provided a nice widespread touchstone that I can reference and compare/contrast with when I talk to any of my friends, even the dumb ones. Because while anarchistic literature and surreal art is above a lot of peoples’ heads (even among college students!), pretty everybody has seen the latest Harry Potter and Austin Powers movies.

You can do it with music or books or whatever, but movies are the great equalizer because they give you everything: sounds, plots, images, everything but touch. But with books and music, you have to provide your own perceptions. Try having a movie-to-music conversation sometime with friends. It’s fun!

You: Well, for this new screenplay I’m trying to capture that ominous feeling and on-screen shadow play like in Suspiria:

Friend: Ah, yes, it’s very similar to that one song by Alexisonfire.

You: How do you mean?

Friend: I don’t know.

You: I hate you.

See? It’s fun.

My point is that I just don’t care about all the intricacies of the world of movies anymore. I don’t care about six degrees of Kevin Bacon, I don’t care about pointing out a futuristic homage to Rocky II in an upcoming film, I don’t care who wins Best Supporting Actress. That may sound negative. It’s really not! It’s actually a lot of fun, and I highly encourage you to at least take a break from all the intense attention you pay to your chosen cinematic idols and crushes (or whatever). It’s refreshing, and you might relearn why you got so into movies in the first place: because they’re fun, entertaining, and potentially life-altering.

No joke, dude. I point to Garden State as a perfect example of movie-making at its best, or at least one facet of great cinema. No one is accusing Garden State of being a masterpiece or a piece of trash. At least, I’m not; there are plenty of people who rate it as both and all things in between if you look around hard enough. I like Garden State. I love the soundtrack, I enjoy the performances, and I like some of the things the movie does with dialogue and plot. It’s not a perfect movie. There are things that I wince at, and places where I think some tight editing would have hugely improved the overall picture.

But to a whole lot of people out in the world, Garden State is the first film in a really long time, maybe ever, that seems to speak to them on a profoundly personal level and expresses what it means to be their age at this point in history. That’s pretty cool. There is a purity to their gushing admiration that is really cool to hear and read. It’s not like someone saying “Oh, well, The Aviator is an exceptional film and it should win best picture because it’s finally his time” or “The Nightmare Before Christmas is my favorite movie because Jack is my favoritest guy ever!” It’s just people, mostly young people, saying “Yeah, Garden State is cool” and nodding sagely. If you don’t get what I’m talking about, you should avoid punk music and watching sunsets. It just may be beyond you.

Which isn’t to say you’re bad, or a certain movie is bad, or paying close attention to Hollywood’s inner workings even though you’re a dental assistant in Ohio is bad. Nothing is bad, everything you do that doesn’t hurt anybody else is fine, and black is the most slimming color. I’m just re-evaluating my priorities, and I just happen to have a pulpit like this one available to comment from (I’m just lucky, I guess). I started out today only wanting to point out that award shows are so stupid to me because I can’t think of a single instance where a movie winning an award actually changed my opinion of it. If anything, it would make me more frustrated when I had seen some horrible movie and then I watched it pick up awards and accolades when a hugely more deserving film got ignored because it was only good, not flashy in an easily-promoted way.

None of this is to say that if Colin Farrell or Samaire Armstrong should be nominated for some future role, I wouldn’t root for them. I’d buy tee-shirts and stage rallies to drum up support! I’m just tired of stupid publicity, stupid pushes for indecency laws, stupid outrages over idiotic instances of bad taste no sane person cares about, and stupid end products disappointing me when I was anticipating a modern class after following a film’s production.

But now I’m free! I doubt it will last, but man oh man does it feel great. I go the theaters, buy a ticket for something that sounds good, and just enjoy the experience of seeing a movie. If it’s bad, it’s bad. If it’s good, it’s good. No worries. Is this premature onset of nihilism? Perhaps. Or maybe I’m just now in a position that instead of just saying “if I made a movie it would be ten times better than that” I can actually do it. I’ve won the victory over myself. I love Hollywood.

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