September 15, 2013

"I don’t want to go to the cinema. Nothing would give me less pleasure.”

A quote from Peter Ackroyd, from the article we were talking about yesterday, which I saved for this separate post, because there was already too much going on in that other post, which concentrated on incredibly prolific writing and staunch aversion to travel. I'm delighted to read about someone who has such extreme versions of tendencies I have in what I'm forced to see as moderation.

As for movies, I've written about my resistance to going to the movies:

Why don't I see more movies? 1. I don't like the physical constraint of committing to sitting in a chair for 2 hours. 2. I only go to movies I think I'll like and still don't much like the movies I see. 3. Few movies seem like the sort of thing I'll like. 4. I have no shortage of other things to do (which is the case for anyone who loves to read). 5. I don't find myself in social situations where going to the movies is what people do together (and I don't see why people want to spend their precious time together doing something that involves so little interaction with each other).
But to say nothing would give me less pleasure. That's so extreme.

We actually did go to the movies this week. Last Wednesday. They were showing "Some Like It Hot," and I don't think I'd ever seen it in the theater, but I've long regarded it as just about the most enjoyable movie ever. Meade had never seen it. Afterwards, he said it was too long. Too long! This is a movie that tells a great story — 2 men running from mobsters fall into parallel romances — with economy and zest, and still it's too long.

Movie-watching takes control of your time. I see I wrote that in 2010 here:
I can't commit 2 hours to sitting in the dark, in the grip of some director's sense of how much time to take telling me a story. I can't wait while an actor speaks slowly and pauses and grimaces to try to make me feel that the words of a script are actually being manufactured inside his cranium. I have thoughts of my own.
But there's none of that slow talking in "Some Like It Hot." And there's some great facial acting. How can you tire of those faces?

So... movies.... what do you think? Surely, there are things that give less pleasure.


Robert Cook said...

I love the movies and would always rather see them in a theater than on tv or video format at home. The latter experience diminishes them, reduces them to a screen smaller than oneself; at the theater, in the dark, the huge screen lighted up with image and motion and sound, the dream overwhelms and one can slip into it.

A good movie seen with an audience can be an electrifying experience, as the emotional reaction of each single viewer is amplified by the shared reactions of everyone else in the theater, and actual collective catharsis can be achieved.

All the above said, I don't go out to the movies nearly as often as I once did, for several reasons: it's too expensive; one must find a showing convenient to one's schedule and arrive there early enough beforehand to insure not only that one can get a ticket, (if the movie is one that is selling out), but that one can find a seat located according to one's preferences and not just to what's left--usually way up front, (this is in NYC, where the movie houses are very often crowded, unlike other towns where I've attended the movies in recent years); I often just don't want to go to the trouble of leaving my apartment, shlepping to the movie, and then shlepping back several hours's just easier to stay home.

vicari valdez said...

while i have no aversion towards going to the cinema or watching movies in general, i think it's an awful date idea, especially a first date. how on earth are you supposed to get to know the person when you're both sitting in a dark room, staring at a screen and not talking to each other? if a guy takes me to the movies on a first date: DEAL BREAKER.

i love watching movies though. and i particularly love talking (whispering) about the film on the screen with a friend.

Paco Wové said...

Your comments do a remarkable job of echoing many of my own thoughts regarding movies. On top of that, if I actually "go to [a] cinema", I'm stuck watching at the cinema's pace, at the cinema's excessive volume, in the cinema's seats surrounded by other yahoo cinema patrons, with my shoes stuck to the cinema's bubble-gummed floor. No thank you.

I extend this who-are-you-to-waste-my-time critique to most non-fiction writing as well. To be worth my immensely valuable time, a book better be informative, entertaining, or preferably both; frankly, most writers' imaginations and writing styles aren't up to the task.

David said...

As a teenager, movie dates made no sense to me, especially for first dates when you are getting to know someone.

Then I realized that for a lot of people not having to talk to each other was a plus.

Bob Ellison said...

"Nothing would give me less pleasure" is an excellent example of imprecise communication. This guy Ackroyd might literally be the tractor in the empty field, swinging baseball bats at windmills.

cubanbob said...

I think you are nuts on traveling-heck everyone has an opinion like the great SF Dectective Harry Callahan said but on this I'm with you. The theaters and audiences aren't what they used to be. The multiplex theaters are too small, too much light and the audiences are too rude. So other than the films that ought to be seen in IMAX 3D I find it more enjoyable to watch them at home on the big plazma set with the surround sound system. Pause for a sandwich or bathroom break or replay a scene and I prefer the company of my SO or kids and friends to strangers. With a couple of streaming devices and On Demand I'm a happy camper. But then again being in my late fifties I'm coming down with old-fartitis. As Joe E Brown said " nobody is perfect.

Speaking of watching Billy Wilder movies last night I saw the Seven Year Itch. Tonight I'm going to see what other Wilder movies I can download.

mesquito said...

I was suckered into seeing Avatar. Wiggled in my seat and was ready to leave after about 45 minutes. Prior to that the last theater film I saw was Apollo 13.

Megaera said...

Given my aversion to supporting Hollywood, about the only time I watch movies any more is at the blood bank doing platelet phaeresis; it takes about 2+ hours, so they supply donated DVDs to watch. I manage to stay about 2 years behind the times that way, and can be reasonably selective. At least it's free, and it's something to "do" while immobilized for 2 hours.

Anglelyne said...

Watching movies is usually just too passive an experience - I often feel that all the imaginative work is being done for me, and being done too slowly, and not done well. As you say, "... in the grip of some director's sense of how much time to take telling me a story". Not that there aren't movies I enjoy - for visual beauty, or a well-paced narrative that doesn't feel it's been edited to the bone (or pointlessly elaborated) for the slow-learners. (I'm always wishing that foreign movies had a choice of subtitle density - one translation for people who can read quickly, and the irritatingly abridged versions for those who can't. I assume this is a cost as well as a demand problem?)

The above is probably true of most people whose formative "entertainment" experiences were book-heavy rather than movie-heavy.

Wilbur said...

I have not gone to the movies in over 15 years, primarily for the reason that I refuse to put my money into the hands of an entertainment industry which I find incompatible to and even destructive of my political and social beliefs.

I haven't missed them a bit.

raf said...

So... movies.... what do you think? Surely, there are things that give less pleasure.

I am given to understand that waterboarding can be an unpleasant experience. Maybe there is something else, too.

eddie willers said...

Ditto me for all the reasons you stated plus this one: Most of the good writers have moved to television.

Breaking Bad packs more in its hour than a whole summer of "blockbusters".

And I'll also agree with Meade.

No movie not named Gone With The Wind should be longer than 90 minutes.

Craig said...

I've read three of Ackroyd's books, The
Great Fire of London, which was really about Samuel Pepys, The House of Doctor Dee, about alchemy, and Milton in America, an alternative history based on false facts that are truer to the history of the Puritans than the history of the Puritans. The books are about as adaptable to the big screen as Proust, though I'd have said the same for Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being until I saw the movie which was in some ways better than the novel.

SteveR said...

I don't like going to the theater,I don't trust the food

MarkW said...

I have to say that it's almost true that nothing would give me less pleasure than sitting through Some Like It Hot in the theater.

Which suggests a category -- what's the movie with the highest IMDB movie that you absolutely can't stand? I haven't done an exhaustive search, but at 8.4, Some Like It Hot just might be my personal #1.

GrandpaMark said...
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Ann Althouse said...

@markw what's your problem with this movie?

Trying to guess what someone who hated it might think...

Squicked by the pandering of Marilyn's sexuality.

Unbelievable ability of the two men to dodge bullets and pass as women.

Cornball message about falling in love.

Narrative for the straights built on top of winking by insiders.

Did I get it?

Julie C said...

MarkW -
Forrest Gump and American Beauty, both highly ranked by IMDB. Hated both.

My husband and I put movies into two categories: those that really should be seen in a theater and those that can wait for on demand at home. Category one is getting mighty slim these days even though the big blockbusters seem to require a theater experience. We just don't want to see most of them.

The only problem for me is that watching a movie at home means I have ample opportunities to do other things at the same time: fold laundry, go through the mail, clean out a junk drawer ... my husband hates it when I can't just sit and watch a movie.

LoafingOaf said...

@David You're right that for a lot of people not having to talk is a plus.

@vicari valdez
"how on earth are you supposed to get to know the person when you're both sitting in a dark room, staring at a screen and not talking to each other? if a guy takes me to the movies on a first date: DEAL BREAKER."

Deal breaker? Couldn't you just say, "I'd love to go out with you but we can find something better to do than a movie"? Pretty odd if you'd allow a guy to take you to the movies if you consider it a deal breaker. Speak up or don't go out with him. And if it's a deal breaker that he even suggested it, he wasn't gonna get anywhere with you anyway.

And if a guy is taking you to the movies the movie itself is only 90-120 minutes. I'd assume there'd be more to the date than that, even if it's just dinner, a coffee shop, or playing air hockey in the lobby or something.

And during the actual movie you can learn about a person. What if you find your date making loud comments to the screen, or throwing her trash on the floor, or talking on a cell during the movie, and so on. And you can learn about each other when you discuss how you both felt about the movie.

There's also nice things that can happen when you're sitting in the dark next to each other. I still remember when I took a girl to the movies in high school and she started playing with my hair, and then using parts of me as an arm rest. It made me relax and feel comfortable with her, and not afraid to kiss her later. And I also had the length of the movie to think about and prepare for after the movie. lol

That said, I agree it's not the best date idea. Activities together where you get your juices flowing and are laughing and stuff seem best.

St. George said...

Revival house flicks are where it is at.

I saw "2001" a few months ago.

Best scene: After Dave returns to the ship after HAL has murdered everyone else, the computer says, "Look, Dave, I can see you're really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly and take a stress pill and think things over."

Audience burst out laughing. In 1968, "stress pills" had yet to be invented.

Going to see "Casablanca" soon.

"The last time we met was the day the Germans marched into Paris. Not an easy day to forget. I remember every detail. The Germans wore grey. You wore blue."

Play 'La Marseillaise' Play it!"

LoafingOaf said...

@MarkW "what's the movie with the highest IMDB movie that you absolutely can't stand?"

#58 American Beauty

Never saw Some Like It Hot.

MarkW said...

"Trying to guess what someone who hated it might think..."

Read some of the 'hated it' reviews on IMDB -- they're pretty spot on.

For me, the humor is lame & obvious and not funny. And 2+ hours of unfunny comedy is pretty painful. I'm not a big Marilyn Monroe fan, but she was fine in 'Monkey Business' (a much better movie). And I don't know why 50s audiences found the whole 'Uncle Miltie in drag' shtick hilarious, but do modern audiences really find it funny? I mean really? Or in this case do they feel like they should find it funny because it's a 'Greatest Comedy of All Time' candidate?

Bruce Hayden said...

I went to a lot of movies when my kid was in K-12, but only one or two with them since. For them, it is still somewhat a social experience, the first viewing of popular movies. And, for that generation, that probably means some sort of fantasy. I esp. liked the unlimited refills on popcorn that you could get until fairly recently (with purchase of the biggest container). A chance to pig out a couple times a year with your kid.

I think that I prefer movies now on TV, computer, or, now my iPad. Have a NetFlix membership, and that means that I eventually get to watch most movies and many TV series when I want to, where I want to. And, can stop in the middle, and come back later (I probably have 3 or 4 videos bookmarked as partially viewed by them right now).

I also, like Ann, love to read (arguably advantageous for getting through law school). For the most part, I prefer reading, and often commenting on blogs like this, to watching either TV or a movie. Have both Nook and Kindle apps on my computer, iPad, and iPhone, and share of them with my kid (who bought a lot of the stuff we share an interest in for their semester abroad). Still like paper books, but with thousands in storage, and finding that I rebuy them on occasion, instead of digging through the storage to find them, I seem to be moving more and more towards electronic books.

I think that if I were with someone who loved going to movies, I would go more often, but my SO can't physically sit that long, even if the seats in a theater were more comfortable. So, we don't go, which means that I don't go, unless with someone else, which she disfavors, unless it is my kid.

Do I miss movies in theaters? No. Not even close.

gadfly said...

The last time I went to the movies was 2006, I think. The movie was "Hitchhiker's Guide" at a popular 16 screen venue. Never again. The assault on my ears from the rock concert attuned sound system left my ears ringing when I laid down to sleep that night.

Besides that, the small-sized theater was me far too close to the huge screen to properly enjoy the movie. Finally the cinematic attempt to combine all five books in Douglas Adam's "Hitchhiker's Trilogy" failed. It is no wonder that he died during the production of the movie.

Conserve Liberty said...

I love movies. I love theaters.

I just can't stand the other people in theaters.

Alex said...

The biggest problem I have is the entire multiplex experience is not geared toward total immersion. So they want to sell me a drink and keep coming back for more snacks and drink. That means I have to go pee several times during a 2 hour movie as well as spend 10-15 mins in the concession line to get another drink/snack. So I easily could miss 30-40% of the movie in the bathroom and concession line.

Who thought this was a great idea? No thanks, I'll watch at home on my big plasma TV(46") and take as many breaks as I want without missing a moment of the film/TV show.

rcocean said...

Meade found it too long? Well, 2 hours is rather long for a comedy. "Duck Soup" is 68 minutes, "Its a Gift" 73. Most comedies before 1950 were 100 minutes or less.

Saint Croix said...

Meade had never seen it. Afterwards, he said it was too long. Too long! This is a movie that tells a great story — 2 men running from mobsters fall into parallel romances — with economy and zest, and still it's too long.

We're in a culture that speeds everything up. Faster and faster and faster and faster.

I bought a box set of Maverick and Leverage the other day. These are both great shows about outwitting people and running a con. One was from 1958 and the other was from 2008. 50 years apart.

Leverage makes Maverick seem slow. Everything about the 2008 show is quicker, faster, more rapid. More stuff is jammed in. The cuts are way quicker, there are a lot more scenes, more story, more jokes.

Quicker, quicker, quicker!

All our cinema is like that. It's given us all ADD. We're an ADD culture, addicted to speed.

Maybe it's changed the wiring in our brains? We process information faster. We get bored more easily. We can't stay on subject, focus, or concentrate. But we learn at a faster pace. We accumulate knowledge at an amazing rate of speed. We're smarter and more shallow simultaneously.

Unknown said...

I love movies. I am going to go see RIDDICK in Imax today.

Almost Ali said...

I'm forced to remember when I was last in a movie theater; 1984. And it wasn't of my own volition, but because of a date with a beautiful girl. She was a dancer, and the movie was "Breakin'" - about break-dancers/dancing. Wikipedia now refers to Breakin' as "cult" movie, which I suppose makes me a cultist.

The star of the movie was a pretty girl named Lucinda Dickey, which I mention because it was unusual to see a white girl breakin'. Because white girls can't, and she didn't. Although she wasn't hard to look at. According to Wiki she also retired from acting in 1990.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to imagine the price of a movie ticket today.

GrandpaMark said...
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GrandpaMark said...
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rehajm said...

As a young adult I was a voracious movie goer. Movies were cheap entertainment. The price of student admission gave you 'access' to the googleplex, so I saw everything- action, drama, comedy, the classics, the crap. At the art house- Monty Python festival or the 10 hours of Shoah. With a gaggle of friends, with family, or alone. Loved it all. Which stuck with me into adulthood. Though the last few years of Hollywood sanctimony has broken the fourth wall. No more movie theatre, and very little at home, unless it's from a different era.

and for MarkW- The Dark Night

Freeman Hunt said...

MarkW, I can't beat that. The IMDb Top 250 does seem to get iffy at 8.4 though.

I can't stand that The Departed is up there but not Infernal Affairs, the far superior movie that it is a remake of.

I like to watch movies at home where I can get up and walk around. The theater is a nice place to watch a movie with friends. No one has to host, and no child's sleep is disturbed.

MarkW said...

Julie C said...
Forrest Gump and American Beauty, both highly ranked by IMDB. Hated both.

Right, Forrest Gump -- I couldn't stand that one either. And it gets an 8.7, so guess I it's my new '#1'.

Freeman Hunt said...

I love The Apartment, but I'm not a big fan of Some Like It Hot.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Almost Ali: the movie was "Breakin'"

The sequel was better--Roger Ebert gave it three stars. Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo is still being talked about in popular culture, though not in the way its creators anticipated.

Gabriel Hanna said...

The IMDB ratings seem biased toward recent movies. I don't see how Django Unchained gets the same rating as Citizen Kane or even The Shining.

Highest rated movie I think was dumb? North by Northwest. Especially when the crop-duster chases him. That did not make a lick of sense. What was it trying to do, crash into him? I learned later that Hitchcock's original conception was a tornado that chases him--eventually cooler heads prevailed, but the crop-duster is not much better.

Freeman Hunt said...

I missed Forrest Gump and American Beauty when I scrolled through. I don't remember anything about Forrest Gump, apart from the cast.

What movies would you only watch again if someone paid you $1000 to do so?

Rocky Horror Picture Show, the most annoying movie ever made, is on that list for me. I'm not positive that $1000 would do it. It might take $1500. I'd watch The Hours again for $1000.

Julie C said...

One of the problems with Some Like it Hot is that it's just too damn long.

I guess it's a sign of getting old that I do check first to see how long a movie is these days ...

I worked in a movie theater during college. One of the perks was seeing movies for free and getting passes to see movies at other theaters. A movie like The Deer Hunter is great in a theater - I don't have fancy surround sound at home so watching there you would miss the incredible sound effects. I think I saw it six times in the theater.

Carol said...

In 1968, "stress pills" had yet to be invented.

Oh, they had their pills back then. They were called tranquilizers.

As for Forrest Gump, that would have been an ok movie if they hadn't made him out to be sooo dumb. Just because someone has less than stellar intelligence doesn't mean they act like a moron. There are a lot of good but unintellectual guys out there, doing the heavy lifting much of the time, but they don't carry on like retards.

St. George said...

The purpose of the crop duster in "North by Northwest" strafing Cary Grant was to entertain the moviegoing audience.

The movie makes little sense. In Hamlet the phrase before "north by northwest" is "I am but mad."

Don said...

Once upon a time there were rumors that somebody overcame your resistance to going to movies, and you even accepted an invitation to go to a movie!

Concerning the movie currently under discussion, I never saw the movie Some Like It Hot but I *loved* the stage version Sugar.

LarsPorsena said...

Back in the old days the way they dealt with over-long movies was called the 'Intermission'.

Almost Ali said...

@Gabriel Hanna,

Thanks for the link. Aside from the Lucinda Dickey silliness, however, I really enjoyed the break-dancing and music in the original ("Breakin'").

Another favorite is Flashdance, despite its improbable storyline (re teen-girl welder. Come to think of it, now they're even talking about a girl Fed chairma..woman)

Meanwhile, from the movie Breakin’ here's ”Turbo” doin’ the broom dance...

tim maguire said...

I like the idea of movies. The problem is, the movies themselves generally suck.

Rick Lee said...

Back in the 80s when my wife and I were first married, we often went to 3 movies in a weekend. God we loved going to the movies. Gradually, the people around us started spoiling more and more movies and I got into too many spats with those around us and we finally got down to 2 or 3 trips to the movies per year. Since we got the big screen tv at home, it hardly makes sense to go out now and sit with jerks to watch a movie.

Peter said...

When watching movies in a theater, sometimes I'm just daydreaming and then I realize- there's no "rewind"!

And so-called "documentaries" are worst of all- it's just so much easier to argue with a book, not so easy to argue against the huge sound and immense image of a movie. At least at home I can stop it for awhile to think/argue with the author about what's been shown.

When when watching a "documentary" I always want to force the camera to show me something that's just off-camera and, of course, I can't- it's not my camera.

Why aren't "documentaries" called what they are, propaganda?

With fiction, with most movies I get the sense that the emotions have been as over-amped as much as the sound. Novels offer some subtlety in character interaction, movies seldom do- it seems emotions are just blasted at the audience, as if the audience is too dense to 'get it' otherwise.

John Constantius said...

I enjoy going to the movies, I'd say my wife and I go see one about every two months. I might see one on my own if she's out of town and it's something I know she's not interested in (e.g. Star Trek).

Like Julie C we only tend to see certain types of movies in the theater -- generally big action or FX spectaculars where the big screen heightens the movie's impact. Everything else we just watch at home on demand. We also usually wait at least a couple of weeks into the movie's run so that there aren't too many people in the theater with us.

While I've loved some recent movies in the theater like The Avengers, Hunger Games and -- so help me God -- the final Twilight movie (my wife's idea), I'm not sure any hold a candle to the impact of the original Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was a little boy when I saw those in the theater and they've lived forever after in my imagination as *OMG The Best Movies of All Time*.

Some Like It Hot? Eh. I didn't like Mrs. Doubtfire either. I just don't find drag comedy that funny.

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