March 14, 2007

On being bored watching movies.

We were talking about movies last night, and Henry said:
I hate movies.

It's not the movies, so much. It's how long they are.

After one hour of predictable complication, the second hour of predictable resolution is unbearable.
I sympathized, mostly. Not that I find everything predictable. Actually, I don't. My boredom takes the form of viewing each scene as something to be gotten through, to be tolerated. I have the feeling that nothing will happen, even though I constantly tell myself, it's a movie, something always happens, in every scene. But it's just going to be one of those movie things, that happen because something always has to happen to make it a movie. Two characters are having an ordinary time, and my usual boredom kicks in: Nothing will ever happen. I realize: But this is a movie, so it must. I reach a new level of bored: Yes, something violent will happen or be revealed or someone will get very concerned or upset for some reason.

For example, "Spellbound," which I watched last night: People would be sitting around talking about a swimming pool, and Ingrid Bergman would draw the shape of the pool on the tablecloth with a fork, and Gregory Peck would get all upset. That's not a good example of the way movies bore me though, because there's a cool little mystery about why parallel lines freak him out, which is what you remember if you haven't seen the film in a long time and decide to give it another go. But there are many unspiffy scenes with actors pretending to be psychiatrists, gliding along gloomily through a shadowy house that you're supposed to believe is a mental hospital.

Ingrid Bergman is either in her glasses, with her hair pinned back, and icily fending off what today we'd call sexual harassment but was apparently the daily norm at this place, or she's got the glasses off, her hair is mussed, and she's hot for her new boss -- Gregory Peck -- so that she'll get up in the middle of the night, put on a gorgeous bathrobe, and glide on up the shadowy stairway and right into his bedroom, in search of sexual harassment. I'm complaining about movies, but I loved that scene. Not only did icy Ingrid's sexuality emerge, depicted by a surreal sequence of opening doors that really felt like emerging sexuality, but her bathrobe had parallel lines on it, so Gregory Peck got another chance to subtly freak out. And poor icy Ingrid wasn't going to get to float through the doors quite yet.

And on to more scenes, scene after scene, with shadowy stairways and fusty, harass-y psychiatrist/actors and windblown outdoor shots to get your hopes up about Ingrid's sexuality and Gregory getting all worried again and when is that Dali dream sequence going to show up so we can turn this off and go to bed?


Matt Brown said...

Ingrid Bergman, parallel lines, and people pretending to be psychiatrists - sounds like a winning combination!

J. Peden said...

Insomnia. I'd rather watch the Internet. Been using Movies to try to break habit. Old ones much better. Saw "Bad Bascomb", 1946, in which Wallace Berry takes on the Law, Indians, Mormons, an Orphan, and Ma Kettle [Majorie Main], set in Yellowstone in front of the Tetons. Pretty damn funny.

Little Orphan, about 8, who has a crush on ~60 y.o. Berry: "do you think Zeke [Berry] will like me in my pretty dress?"

Ma Kettle: "Zeke likes anything in a dress."

LutherM said...

Peter O'Toole - "The Ruling Class"- from 1972, is non-boring, although you may not sleep well afterwards.

Ron said...

Well, at least it's been awhile since we've had a 'Althouse doesn't like movies' post. I could have put money down on this one occuring! Good thin g you didn't go into the vortex of 'Vertigo!'

Christy said...

I watched Winged Migration on our local PBS station last night. Gorgeous images. Of course it was better in the theater a couple of years ago, but still.... I flipped over to AI during pledge breaks but didn't manage to catch any good performances.

The movies I choose to rewatch seem to have strong musical elements: Moulin Rouge, O Brother..., and Chicago.

jult52 said...

Christy - I very much agree with you on all 4 recommendations. "Moulin Rouge" received a mixed reception but I'm convinced it is a great movie (although too long).

P. Rich said...

Too many PC messages in movies these days (nothing new for Hollywood), from casting choices to themes to dialog. Maybe that's why I enjoy light British comedy, mindless action and good sci-fi. They almost qualify as "just entertainment." The rest tend to be just manipulative - hitting all the demographics, victim memes and emotional archetypes. Ugh.

Richie D said...

!!! Who's "Henry" ????

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Richie D: This is Henry.

Beware: The off-blog Althouse has melded with the blog personae.

Wurly said...

I only watch two types of movies now. I enjoy older movies, primarily for historical purposes(1) to learn more about the culture of my parents and grandparents and (2) to reaffirm the fact that adults are less "grown up" today. The second category are completely idiotic movies, like "Dodgeball", that don't pretend to be anything other than escapist humor.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Wurly: "Napolean Dynamite" probably fits both of your categories at the same time.

Robert Burnham said...

I'm almost never in the right mood for a movie.

What bugs me is the fact that every movie tells a story that unfolds at the unvarying rate of one second per second. Most of the time, I'm simply unwilling to give up that kind of control over my own imagination.

Give me print anyday -

MrBuddwing said...

I saw Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND in college some 30 years ago.

I remember how the audience sighed when a very young Gregory Peck entered the movie. I remember how the audience chuckled knowingly when Leo G. Carroll showed up.

Yes, it's lesser Hitchcock. The treatment of psychiatry and psychoanalysis is a sheer joke. But when I left the university auditorium, I raced back to my dormitory, positively exhilarated, the love theme resounding in my memory.

The scene in which Peck's note is lying on the floor while Carroll and the police are standing over it was worth the price of admission.

I suppose what I find most unsettling about Prof. Althouse's slam against SPELLBOUND is that I've always regarded "classic" films as an antidote to much more recent, disappointing films. One thing worth noticing is how well-written the best of the old films are.

When was the last time you saw THE THIN MAN? Or THE MALTESE FALCON? Going abroad, how about Powell and Pressburger's THE RED SHOES?

In short: When was the last time you saw a movie which gave ample evidence that the people who made them loved reading books?

Maxine Weiss said...

......which is why you are always better off with novels.

With a good novel, even when the plot comes to a standstill, you can still meditate upon, and pontificate over, sentence structure, and word choice.

Watching a movie is passive. It's being fed to you.

Reading a novel is active. Your imagination is doing the work.

Is Althouse so advanced that she couldn't use some work developing her imagination?

Love, Maxine

Joe said...

Who's "Henry"

Henry is one of those arrogant artie types. He sneers at the common man. He actually once watched a mini-series consisting of a snail attempting to mate with a ground sloth.

Unless this isn't the Henry I think it is, in which case he's just a publicity hound.

Henry said...

Thanks, Joe.

I have no argument with the common man, I just don't like movies. It's the only phobia I have.

So is this the documentary you're talking about?

Here we see an ant. This ant is engaged in a life or death struggle with the wolf. You can see the ant creeping up on the wolf on all sixes....