Me and the Movies

Today’s post comes to use from Steve.  Photo credit:  CNN.com

I fell in love with movies when I was a kid. Every Saturday I’d walk six blocks to the Capitol Theater, a dime and a nickel in my jeans pocket. The dime bought a ticket good for two movies, usually two cowboy movies or two Tarzans. The nickel got me a box of Mason Dots. When empty, the Dots box functioned as a rude sort of horn so I could signal my disgust when a cowboy hero smooched his girl.

In 1953 our family got a television set so we could watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. We went on to fulfill that classic Fifties cliché: we bought TV trays so we could eat TV Dinners while watching TV shows. But nobody in our family cared much for television. The programming back then was limited and lame. I much preferred movies.

I saw several wonderful films in the years just before and after graduating from high school. A short list from that time would include: The Apartment, Tunes of Glory, Lolita, Wild Strawberries, Bridge Over the River Kwai, Seven Samurai, The African Queen, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, To Kill a Mockingbird, Wild River, The Miracle Worker and Tom Jones. Those movies convinced me film-making at its best can work wonders.

Decades later I mostly gave up going to movie theaters because by then I had a superb home theater in my basement. I compiled a library of films on tape or DVD disks. In the 1980s movie rental shops suddenly sprouted like mushrooms after a rain. I welcomed them because I loved watching films in the comfort of my own home. At the checkout counter at Blockbuster a clerk once mused, “You’re a good customer. You’ve rented over 200 films from us this year.” I gulped. Blockbuster was one of three rental shops I was using that year.

All of that has changed. I now struggle to find one film a week worth viewing. In the past I waited impatiently for each week’s new rental offerings. When I joined Netflix I had nearly two dozen films on my queue. Today my queue has only three movies, and my expectations are low for two of them. The irony of this is that I have more free time now than at any time in my life, and yet I struggle to find films worth watching. I wonder how things came to this.

Perhaps watching several hundred movies has spoiled me. After seeing so many films they begin to look the same. Plots become formulaic. Dialogue becomes predictable. As a writer I can see how film writers manipulate plot lines and character to produce crises that feel phony or forced. Actors who once seemed fresh can become boring after you’ve seen them in similar roles several times. Maybe I’m jaded.

Or maybe Hollywood has mostly stopped making films that could interest me. I want to blame Star Wars. Ever since Star Wars rewarded its makers with incredible ticket sales, movie companies have struggled to produce a few incredibly expensive movies. It now costs between 200 and 300 million dollars to make a summer hit film. Production houses concentrate on films that appeal to teen boys, including teen boys all around the world. And movies seem obsessed with zombies, spacemen, dinosaurs and superheroes. Any good idea for a movie is sure to be franchised . . . and quite a few bad ideas, too.

Last week I read an article celebrating “the new canon,” the twenty-three best films made since 2000. I hoped the article would point to promising new films for me. Instead, the list was filled with films I had seen and didn’t enjoy. Most film on the list struck me as bleak, cynical and violent. I was startled by how differently the author of that article and I felt about these films. For him they were modern cinematic classics. For me most of the new classics were unacceptably gloomy and ugly.

In spite of efforts to avoid gory movies, I sometimes goof. A positive review caused me to rent a film called John Wick. I’ve never seen anything so bloody. Wick kills 77 people. Of course, there will be a sequel. I just read that the body count in John Wick 2 is 128, which is just what I would have predicted. Any guesses on the body count for John Wick 3?

Has your taste in films evolved over time? Do you have any favorites to recommend?

 

45 thoughts on “Me and the Movies”

  1. Exactly right for me re films since about 1995. They do not make Sandy romances any more either. You did not lust animation as part of the movies that miss me. I survive on the BBC on Netflix and prime. I look also for quirky movies. Latest find is A Bird of the Air on prime. As for BBC, Coastal Railways with Julie Walters is delightful. Typing blind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve got two romances you could consider for Sandy. A few years ago the film Brooklyn was a delight. I could talk on and on about it. I kept expecting it to veer off in the direction of most Hollywood movies, and it kept fooling me.

      On Netflix recently I watched a sweet and surprisingly likable rom com: All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Based on a YA novel. It was fresh, natural and easy to like. I recommend it for Sandy.

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  2. I wonder, though, if this is an age/maturity thing. As I recall, my parents stopped going to movies as they got older, and rarely watched anything on tv except news and baseball.

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      1. Some of you might have picked up on a silly obsession with me: I am fighting, really fighting, the tendency to become a predictable geezer who can’t stand all the ways the world is changing. As a kid I saw so many adults who suffered from a hardening of the attitudes. I swore I wouldn’t go that way myself. And now I hate modern pop music and many modern films. Ugh! Bleh! Dammit!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I think your observations about what is being made are correct – not that you are spiraling down the geezer chute. Most of the types of movies that I don’t like, I have never liked!

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  3. Rise and Go To the Movies, Baboons,

    Movie interests change with age. There are movies made now that I just love, but they tend to have changed formats—there are some documentaries that are marvelous. When I was a kid, documentaries only appeared on PBS. Now they tend to end up at art houses like the Edina Theater or the Lagoon. The most recent example is RGB. That was inspiring and interesting (about the life of Ruth Badger Ginsburg). Several years ago there was another doc about a back up singer who was so talented.

    Traditional movie or TV topics are changing. I don’t have much interest in vampires or fantasy/sci-fi. But some movies are still engaging to me. The remake of True Grit that came out 5 or 6 years ago was very good. I have to be very motivated to see something in a theater now, but a movie like LaLa Land was wonderful in a theater on a big screen. I also enjoyed The Post with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep.

    A lot of the really good scripts and actors are now showing up in the venues of Prime, Netflix, or Hulu. I watch a lot of those. Watching network TV has nearly disappeared for me, because they either show up at a more advantageous time on Hulu, or they do not interest me at all.

    When we look back at movies of the past, we remember those that were of high interest or that were excellent. We don’t remember all the poorly made, badly scripted ones.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Jacque: you and I are eerily the same in terms of taste in films and TV. I know I’ll like Notorious RBG. You might know another documentary biopic came out this year. I had no interest in it, but now I’ve read reviews that make it clear I will like it a lot. I think the title is Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and of course it is about Fred Rogers. Give it a chance if you get the opportunity. In many ways Fred Rogers is the perfect opposite for Donald . . . aww, hell, I can’t type his name.

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  4. Prime has lots of independent movies which I search for quirkiness and simple stories. It was there I found the Station Agents, which they took offf so I bought it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Prime has wonderful documentaries about art Made in Great Britain. I also watch movies on prime from other countries, just to see their culture and point of view. Russia has fascinating comedies. Iceland does excellent movies of all sorts. One about two old brothers and their sheep and hoof and mouth disease is stunning. But prime dropped it. A fiction movie.

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  5. First question, how has my taste evolved: nothing dark anymore, no action movies. Not fond of big str movies, movies made just to show off the stars, Hollywood as a whole I dislike. Have not seen very many Oscar nominated movies in the last decade. Many of these changes are because other things are available. My daughter and family go to all the hot super hero and animation movies, in large part to do something as a family. I lov d going to movies with our children. Some shoddy stuff but fun to watch them watch.
    With grandson here I am aware of current kid programming. Countries share the shows, redubbed. He watches Japanese, Spanish, and English shows. Some of the English shows are redubbed and some not. One of the Spanish shows is redubbed in England with Stephen Frye as Narrator.

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  6. The same week I saw that miserable John Wick movie I revisited Key Largo, the film that brought Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall together. They get trapped with some hoodlums in a little resort that is being battered by a hurricane.

    When I watched Key Largo I was almost stunned by the natural plot. Humphrey Bogart kills several of the gangster thugs, ending by killing Edward G Robinson, the leader of the gang. How does he kill him? He shoots him, shoots him just once. And it was so damned odd that the villain died after taking one shot like that. Of course, one bullet will kill people, but that’s not the way it is done in Hollywood now.

    Killing villains in Hollywood is a highly orchestrated thing today. The hero starts by killing the least impressive thugs, proceeds to killing the more accomplished thugs, then has an epic battle with the main villain. The hero kills that one . . . but wait, the villain comes back to life! Most films of this type now require the villain to come back to life once or even twice (remember Hans Gruber in Die Hard). In any film where there are a bunch of bad guys, the end of the film is a process of working up the leadership ladder, killing thug after thug, until the very worst thug is killed (two or three times).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m not, and never have been, a big movie-goer. Accompanying Robin, I see no more than a half dozen theatrical films a year. Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t go at all. I don’t do violent or gory movies, war movies, gangster movies, action movies and seldom do I see science fiction or fantasy in theaters. Contrary to the argument that it’s an artifact of getting old, I have never been interested in those themes. At home, Robin usually chooses the movie. About half the time, I lose interest partway through.

    Despite that apparent ambivalence, I do have favorite movies and movies I’ll watch anytime. We have a collection of food oriented movies, enough of them to put together a film festival:
    Tampopo
    Big Night
    Babette’s Feast
    Tortilla Soup
    Ramen Girl
    Jiro Dreams of Sushi
    The 100 Foot Journey
    Mostly Martha
    Chocolat

    The subject of favorite films has come up on the Trail before and my list hasn’t changed much:
    Local Hero
    Cold Comfort Farm
    Midnight in Paris
    Oh Brother, Where Art Thou
    Time Bandits

    I recently watched the film version of The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. That was quite entertaining. Also the film version of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Both were fairly true to the books.

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    1. Like many of those. Last two especially. Plus A Man Called Ove. All Three were much better than I expected.
      Like the food movies for using food as a metaphor to a greater story.

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    2. Many Taiwanese movies, and they have an excellent film industry, include food as a key element. My guess is that when Chinese cooking meets affluence, you get a strong food culture. My favorite food movie is about a Taiwanese retired chef who cooks each weekend for four daughters, who are not fond of the ritual. It is about old farts versus youth. Cannotthink of its name or dig it up.

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    3. I recently watched the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society film and thought there were significant discrepancies from the book. But I still watched it all the way through.

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    4. A good foodie was the kid from India who lived across the street from the 4 star restaurant and the snooty owner
      He made an omelet and impressed her. What was the name?
      2 or three years ago
      Good flick

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    1. A German film about a German, tuba playing,salt miner who becomes obsessed with zydeco music and travels to Louisiana and dies there. It is wonderful.

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  8. I agree there aren’t a lot of good movies these days. I don’t think they write dialogue like they used too. And I’m trying not to be a cranky old man either.

    Notorious RGB was good. As we Mr Rogers Neighborhood!

    I don’t go in for the action shows or plethora of cop shows on TV. I know sometimes they’re just supposed to be “fun”, but I don’t like the jumpy fast action camera editing. Too busy.

    I got ‘The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming’ from Netflix recently. That was fun.
    We’ve started watching ‘Grace and Frankie’ with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. Some interesting characters and I think will be good.
    The movie ‘Wall-E’ is good. And ‘Up’.

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    1. (Distracted while typing). Mr Rogers Neighborhood WAS good.

      Kelly likes the cop shows. She says she likes the characters even if the plot isn’t always that interesting.
      I can’t stand all the reality shows on TV now. Or the Dancing or talent shows. Too much false drama with the fancy lighting and dramatic music making it overly suspenseful.
      I have enough drama and suspense in my life I don’t need it there…

      Yet there are some TV shows we like.
      I really liked ‘The Middle’. ‘Speechless’ had some good stories and characters. The writing on ‘Modern Family’ is good and we like those characters.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Here are a few of my go-to movies these days:
    American Dreamer (Tom Conti, Mary Beth Williams)
    Dial M for Murder (Ray Milland, Grace Kelly)
    Moonstruck (Cher, Nicolas Cage)
    Laura (Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb)
    Jumpin Jack Flash (Whoopie Goldberg)
    Father Goose (Leslie Caron, Cary Grant)
    To Catch a Thief (Cary Grant, Grace Kelly)
    Salt (Angelina Jolie)
    Frozen
    Murder at 1600 (Diane Lane, Wesley Snipes)

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  10. I am an avid movie goer though it is getting harder and harder to find movies that really grab me. Loud, gimmicky, quick-cut edited movies are not appealing anymore. Most of the over-hyped comedies leave me cold. I prefer the Indie/art house types movies these days – I like a real plot, real dialogue, three dimensional characters, and less CGI.

    Among my favorites over the years (not necessarily in order):

    The Great Escape (Steve McQueen & James Garner)
    The Princess Bride (Fred Savage & Peter Falk)
    The Shawshank Redemption (Tim Robbins & Morgan Freeman)
    Lawrence of Arabia (Peter O’Toole & Alec Guiness)
    The Secret of Roan Inish (Mick Lally & Eileen Colgan)
    Ever After (Drew Barrymore & Anjelica Huston)
    To Kill a Mockingbird (Greg Peck)
    A Fish Called Wanda (John Cleese & Jamie Lee Curtis)
    The Visitor (Richard Jenkins)
    The Philadelphia Story (Cary Grant, Kate Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart)
    and too many “old” movies and foreign language films to mention.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Anything with Alan Rickman or Philip Seymour Hoffman is worth watching at least once. I’m sure I’ve recommended Flawless on the blog in the past.

    I also liked The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming and a number of other Alan Arkin films.

    Shirley Valentine is a perennial favorite too. And the old Katharine Hepburn movies, especially The Lion in Winter.

    Haven’t kept up very well with the current movies. I don’t have cable or streaming options, so it’s off to the library to look for DVD’s, and I don’t get around to it that often.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I love movies and my likes are getting broader
    Turner clsssic movies is my favorite channel
    But I go with my mom every Tuesday and the good ones are out there
    Juliet naked this last week was good
    Go to the artsy stuff if the stupid stuff is at the other theaters

    I love tom hanks, he reminds me of jimmy Stewart
    I like johnny deep and gene wilder, Paul Newman, jack lemon, and Denzel Washington, in the old days john wayne as well Tracy and Hepburn bogie and Bacall Bette davis and Bette Miller, Judy holiday bing and bob Cary and Sophia, all Hitchcock’s,all Cohen bros all frank capra, all musicals especially Rogers and Hammerstein and all Gershwin shows, all Cole porters musicals fiddler on the roof music man, wizard of oz, and with my wife jaws, aliens, close encounters, I love the old Andy Griffith movies, Marx brothers, laurel and hardy, gene Kelly, Fred and ginger cyd Charisse, Danny Kaye, Rita Hayworth, West side story to Killarney mockingbird, somebody up there likes me, I used to:like Clint Eastwood but since I discovered he’s a person I don’t like his his movies dropped a notch Walter Brennan too, I still like Gary cooper, Gregory peck warren Beaty, Paul muni, richard dryfuss, bill Murray, Martin Scorsese, the bloody guy from 12 years a slave, barbara Streisand, et and the summer of 42,forest gimp, and my favorite is still jimmy stewarts Harvey.
    Tv today is the deal. The Emmy show the other night listed the magical miss maisel, is great like Frankie and grace
    Suits is great, stranger things, Mozart’s in the jungle, I hear good things about others but no time, I record cbs Sunday morning got ken burns, Mayo Clinic special last night Colbert nightly, and Claudette colbert, clark gable, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman,

    oh I love the movies

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I have been an avid movie goer my whole life. My father would pick me up after school on Fridays and take me to the movie. I then passed on my love of movies and photography to my son who is in film school right now. My favorite all time movie is “Rear Window” with Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart. They just don’t make them like that anymore but I keep searching.

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