Over Film

I don’t watch many movies at the cinema these days. Time was, I’d see one a week, sometimes two. So much cool stuff to see and pick over with friends afterwards. Good times.

Now, not so much.

I find it hard to believe movies have changed for the worse. My peak moviegoing was in the cultural nadir when Independence Day and Godzilla were chart-topping extravaganzas. Nor a lack of choice – Wellington’s lost a few screens since then, but not many with the arrival of the Lighthouse and the expansion of the Penthouse and Paramount.

And I just don’t have much enthusiasm for filmic expeditions these days. I like it when films show me something I haven’t seen before, Inglourious Basterds for example, but I didn’t chase down Antichrist when that (incredibly) got a cinema release.

And now, the new International Film Festival programme arrived, and I can find precious little in it that calls to me.

What is up with me? Someone fill me with the romance of cinema again please!

This Tuesday is a rare cheap-film-night when I don’t have sporting commitments. Tell me, O sages, what is worth going along to experience? (See what’s playing in Wellington here.) Or should I just stay home and read a book?

22 thoughts on “Over Film”

  1. Sorry! No romance of cinema from me. I hardly watch movies any more, and it’s even more rare that I’ll go to a cinema to see one. I guess I just like watching shows at home more. Now that I’m not really looking for an excuse to get out of the house for a while, there’s much less pull to go out to a film.

    I think there’s so much good TV now (mostly not on NZ TV though), that I don’t need to go see movies. I much prefer the TV format as well, with longer character development, but shorter blocks of time.

    We did watch a bunch of movies a little while ago though. We restricted ourselves to only movies from the eighties and nineties, and it was awesome. Jurassic park is surprisingly good, still. So is Die Hard. Just really well-made genre films.

  2. I know what you mean, I’m feeling that way about theatre at the moment … just haven’t been motivated to see anything. As for the Film Festival …

    Four Lions, if you don’t see anything else this festival, see Four Lions (it’s so far my choice for film of the year) …

    Ooh and A Prophet, which I’ve yet to see but everyone I respect is raving about it!

  3. Count me in as one of those not moviegoers, mainly because of time and planning issues (when you are with ‘issue’ yourself you’ll see!), but also because my last few experiences were just not great. I’m not one of those people who’ll yell at the projectionist from my seat if the focus isn’t just so (I don’t think I could tell to be honest), but I do object to watching a movie somewhere like Reading and paying to have texters, teens and toddlers doing what they do so well around me. Okay, it was Harry Potter and not something Art Festival-like, but I shouldn’t have to settle for a poor viewing experience just because I’ve opted for a populist movie!

    As winter and household budgets have drawn in we’ve rediscovered movie rentals, and with those and some good telly right now, we’re quite content 🙂

    As for this year’s festival I am rather intrigued by the opener; I don’t think Morrieson’s been served too badly with film adaptations.

  4. simon: jurassic park? i didn’t like it the first time around. well, that’s not quite right – it’s a great 2/3 of a rollercoaster ride but badly needs a final act. and yes, DVD rental has had a resurgence in our hoose of late…

    sonal: Four Lions. Noted. A Prophet. Noted.

    Jet: oh lordy, the textpocalypse is real. cal likes to tell the story of one time I turned around and used *extremely* harsh language to silence two nice old ladies quietly chatting in the seats behind me. I can’t imagine what I’d be capable of in the new cinema experience. Eek.

    And indeed the opener of the Fest deserves mention – Jason Stutter opening a festival! These are strange times indeed!

    Jon: at the moment, nothing at all appeals to me. If that changes I’ll be in touch…

  5. I mostly watch movies on dvd now, but I still watch tons of movies. Going to the cinema is just too expensive, especially as no one ever seems to want to go with me since certain friends left the country.

    I am not one of those people who think that tv now trumps movies. I have not yet seen The Wire, which people seem to have an almost religious reverence for, but even the best tv series I have seen (especially, but not only, US-sourced stuff) does not compare to the best movies I have seen.

    The best tv may well compare favourably to Hollywood product, but all tv shows I have seen are still just that – product. The independence of vision that you can get from the best books and movies never seems to be present in the best tv, which even at its “edgiest” always strikes me as striving to please as its first priority.

    The only shows I can really think of that make it as capital-A Art are The Prisoner and Twin Peaks, both extremely rare examples of tv shows which were made from one person’s specific and distinctive viewpoint and seemingly with no requirement to satisfy committees, executives or advertisers.

    If anyone can point me to even a single tv show which they would rank with even the weakest films of Ingmar Bergman or Akiria Kurosawa in terms of quality, please let me know. I remain dubious that such a thing will ever exist.

  6. I seem to have temporarily forgotten the work of Dennis Potter. There’s one huge strike for the potential of tv. Are there any other shows as good as his best work? (My favourite was The Singing Detective.)

  7. I saw The Losers and The A-Team recently and enjoyed both for what they were, but I doubt either would convert you back to the movie-going experience. 😉

    Last year (I think), I saw Wilby Wonderful at the Paramount after having seen it on DVD maybe half a dozen times. Seeing it in the cinema was a revelation. It’s not an effects film at all — more of a quiet day-in-the-life — but the sound and the acting were just incredibly vivid on that scale. The experience convinced me that there really is value in seeing some films on the big screen.

    (I pretty much only go to The Empire these days, though. Wouldn’t bother with Reading. It makes me feel eighty years old to have to lean across and hiss, “Would you please STOP TEXTING!”)

  8. There needs to be tech that stops cellphone signals getting in & out of movie theatres. If it’s really so urgent that you need to be contactable, don’t go to the movies.

  9. The Secret in their Eyes.

    Pearce – yes the Wire is the obvious exception, I’m sure others have proclaimed its merits. But even that, despite many well-formed shots, doesn’t have the cinematographic (?) sweep of a proper film. In the end they are just different media I guess.

    There’s a lot of other tv I like, but I think that is partly enjoyment from getting to know characters through a long story – probably that enjoyment makes me forgive the standard cliches even the best shows trot out.

  10. I *love* movies, but haven’t seen a movie for a while… busy and broke. I’d say choose something that you know won’t translate well to small screen and let the images wash over you… you don’t get that hugeness and colour and movement from anything else… even, most of the time from real life. When I saw ‘Before the Rains’ after 2 years with no movies, it was breathtaking (actually suspect cinemetography in that was very good anyway, but I was awestruck!

    Hey… I dare you to come to the movies with me sometime and be unenthusiastic… bet you can’t!

  11. If the film; “Evil in the time of heroes” comes to Wellington you are ordered to go see it, it will restore your love of greek comedy zombie movies….

    Truly hilarious.

  12. Steve: a certain horror-mad Edinburgh resident has advised me that Evil in the Time of Heroes is “funny-sh but quite poor” and “like hanging out with a little kid who’s drunk too much Fanta.”

    Do you have different intel? (And perhaps you’re not the Steve I think you are?)

    Ben: in the long-term character thing, I think tv series are closer to novels than to movies.

    Perhaps this is a reason why anthology series seldom take off – they seem like a natural for tv in so many ways, but without the pull of continuing characters (especially now that series bother with character development, which certainly did not used to be the case) people have less incentive to keep tuning in.

  13. Pearce: yep, ’tis a different Steve, a fellow Edinburgher though

    And what anthology series have taken off? Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and… any others?

  14. I’m worried that I’m misunderstanding you, Morgue — are you disenchanted with the act of communal cinema-going, the film format (self-contained story between one and three hours long), or the sorts of stories that tend to be told in film (e.g. the fetishization of the Hero’s Story and the near-abandonment of the iconic, pulp=style hero)?

    Looking at No Remote, I might go and see “The Hedgehog” (French film about an 11 year-old girl deciding whether or not to kill herself on her 12th birthday — IMDB says “comedy”), if it weren’t on at 5:30pm in Petone. I’ve heard “Winter in Wartime” is good, and I’m kind of curious about “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky”, though not enough to go out. 🙂 I could imagine happily seeing Micmacs, though I’ve been burned by so-called French Comedy before.

    “The Full Monteverdi”, on the other hand, sounds exactly like the kind of movie I don’t want to see. 🙂

    There are plenty of films that I would see if they were in the Festival, so I was in town and in a movie-watching mood, knowing that I would be seeing it with a bunch of people who were in a similar mood: “The Secrets in Their Eyes” looks like an interesting crime thriller, for example, and I’ve heard good things about “A Single Man”, and I’d probably enjoy “Paper Hearts”. Oh, and we worked a little on “The A Team”, so I guess I should talk that up.

    But… I just don’t go to the movies very much, and it’s not that easy to set aside that chunk of time to watch a film (since watching several episodes of TV feels like less of a commitment). That said, I’m thinking about getting the Rialto channel and some sort of PVR, but I feel in no tearing hurry.

    Um… but all this might not be relevant, depending on your answer to my original question.

  15. Morgue: there have been a few, e.g. Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Hitchhiker, Tales from the Crypt, Thriller, Tales from the Unexpected.

    I think it’s interesting that the successful ones often have a horror theme. This might be simply because it’s hard to tell a good horror story as a conventional continuing-character series. Unless you’re doing something like The X-Files, where the main characters are investigators dropped into one-off stories where everyone else is expendable, you just don’t have the thing that makes horror work best: genuine risk to the characters.

    With non-anthology horror-orented tv, if you know that Buffy, Willow and Xander are not really going to die (and even if they do they’ll be brought back from the grave in the very next episode) the story is that much less scary. There’s a comfort to this kind of continuing-story tv.

    For me it’s yet another reason why film has an edge over most tv. There’s going to be another episode next week, so how unpredictable can it really get?

    Especially when you factor in things like actors’ contracts (an actor is unlikely to sign to a tv show if they’re unsure whether they’ll still be around next week – one of the reasons so many decent actors are now on tv is simply because it’s regular employment) and the inability of networks to keep secrets (if you already know an actor is leaving, you’re unlikely to be surprised if their character is killed off – and you’re not going to be worried about other characters being killed off, because they aren’t leaving).

    Tv is safe, almost without exception. It’s comfort-entertainment. The only reasons for this are because of commercial concerns – but almost all tv is made as a commercial concern. It’s a major limitation, in my opinion.

  16. Could you argue that things like Lifetime made-for-TV movies are effectively anthologies? Similar themes, same company, same timeslot…

    (I’m not the target market, and we don’t get the channel here, so I’m just going off internet commentary.)

  17. @ Pearce – Yep a different Steve, that sounds like a great description of the film, I wouldn’t say it was a great movie as it’s not, what it is lots of fun and it made me come out smiling and recreating scenes. In some ways it reminds me of Big Trouble in Little China which again isn’t a great movie but one that I can watch over and over again.

    @ Morgue – go and see A Prophet, it is a good movie.

  18. Pearce – Re – Evil in the Time of Heroes, it is EXACTLY the film you want to come on at 2am during a Movie Marathon. Sloppy and silly and served up with lashings of SUPER SEXY Billy Zane for good measure. Chris’ appraisal is fairly accurate, but I think he went to a press screening at 9am with po-faced journos, whereas I was at a midnight screening surrounded by a gaggle of horror enthusiasts – with some films, context really affects your experience.

    Morgue – re NZFF – anyone with affection for Edinburgh should see The Illusionist. It’s by the director of Belleville-Rendevous, based on a Jacques Tati script, and whilst not a perfect film by any stretch, its depiction of Edinburgh is beautiful, accurate and dripping with affection for the town. It’ll instill some Caledonian homesickness.

  19. I think that in about a few years time you will reconnect with your love of the cinema when guiltily you leave the little one in the capable care of a friend or relative to “sneak” away to the cinema to see some “quality” movie like Avatar.
    I bet with a few years of limited visual stimulus that you will love even the crappiest of movies that you actually get-to-see-in-cinema.

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