A friend from Boston wrote this morning to say that she “didn’t see a single one of the nominated movies this year. The only one in the whole bunch that I saw was Once, and it was fun to see them win best song. A lot of people I talked to only saw Juno and none of the others. What percentage of people do you think are like me and didn’t see any of those movies?
“Too many seem to have too much violence, too many downer stories. We want to see something uplifting. I love Tilda Swinton but I have no desire to see Michael Clayton. Away From Her, too depressing. Other people who saw Atonement said the same thing I did — they couldn’t get invested in the characters.”
I answered that what she’s feeling is valid to some extent, but “movies are not supposed to be pills that you take to feel better. They’re not travelling carnivals with elephants and jugglers. They’re supposed to be aesthetic journeys and emotional hikes that get us in touch with things that too many of us tend to push away (or anesthetize ourselves from) in our day to day. They’re supposed to be compressions and condensations that create indelible moments, insights and excavations into our collective soul.
“We’re only here for 80 or 90 years, we need to figure some stuff out before we pass on, and good movies are part of the learning-and-realizing process.
“I don’t like downer movies either, but ‘uplift’ can turn rancid in the wrong hands. The bottom line is that 85% to 90% of the time movies looking to provide uplift are awful. I just want movies that are really engaging by virtue of being well made by talented people, and which tell fundamental or hidden truths and generally shed light in this or that way.”
She replied, “What if nobody actually saw all those movies? Isn’t that something you should talk about?”
I’m replying as follows: “These are some of the best movies that the filmmaking culture is turning out now. Every year there are at least 20 or 25 films that are somewhere between excellent, very good or good enough to watch and think about later. If regular people in Boston and Saskatchewan are living such insulated and cut-off lives that they can’t be bothered to go to some of these films unless it has an advertised ‘happy pill’ vibe then the hell with them. They’re children. I have no time for childishness, and neither does anyone else of any worth. Life is short.”