In Pursuit Of Meaningful Experiences: Movies

January 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

picture courtesy of muerdecine

Ah, movies. I hold movies in high regard in terms of cultural significance, even for the fact that I usually watch less then 5 on-screen movies a year. At an average screen time of 90 minutes, films are a considerable investment for time. When it comes to film, the majority of my consumption instead, comes from DVDs of films past. Colin Marshall suggests that for any aspiring quality-film goer, they can apply two criteria to their film selection process:

1. go old
2. go foreign

Unconsciously, I have been applying the former much more than the latter. Being a Singaporean, I’m not sure if American films should be considered “foreign”. Probably not, since they’re mainstream cinema. The National Library at the Esplanade (The “Liu Lian”) stocks some of the best American and Asian films from decades past, and I have been reaping the benefits of having premium membership.

The movie screens near you may be playing the latest blockbuster hits this week, but I believe everyone has their own niche interest in film if they know how or where to gain access to them.

Back to the idea of films being culturally significant. Films don’t get as much respect as books do, don’t they? Films can be equally as life changing, and has impacted how we live our life in the 20th century. Brett McKay puts it this way:

“And for better and for worse, film has had a huge impact on masculinity in the 20th Century. Movies have produced archetypes of manliness that many men judge themselves against today. To view how male characters of cinema have been portrayed over the decades, is to see clearly the ways in which our perception of masculinity has changed and continues to change.”

Paul Newman

My own interests tend to follow directors and actors. An actor’s choice in films (or the lack of it) in his or her career can be worth looking into. Paul Newman mentioned during the Actor’s Studio interview that he “stole little pieces” every character he played into his own personality. Specifically, Paul mentions that those leading male roles of his famous 50’s-60’s movies like Luke (Cool Hand Luke), Brick (Cat On A Hot Tin Roof), and Eddie Felson (The Hustler) were all “damaged goods”: hurt men.  Very different from the strong silent types that were John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, of the late 40’s and early 50’s.

In Hud, Paul plays a despicable, selfish, and lust-driven cow rancher, but still somehow comes across in the end as charming. Paul likes to say that it might be natural that men and women would be attracted to the bad boy image of Hud. He hets the girls, lives a carefree life, guys look up to him. Paul warns that Hud’s tale is a cautionary tale. Because Hud is nothing but an empty shell.

You want to root for the hero, and he’s got his tale to tell, sometime not with words.

Munich

During college, I wrote a paper on mass media effects and impact. I chose Steven Spielberg’s Munich. The film tells the tale of a Mossad agent that is sent throughout Europe to hunt down those responsible for the murder of 11 Palestinian athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games. I had watched the movie no less than six times to write the paper, and like any other writing exercise (including this one), I had difficulty putting pen to paper. Mostly because the themes that revolve around it are complex, and invoked a lot of emotional stir-up within me. The obvious one was the larger idea of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the director’s idea that tit for tat will never resolve the issue. The second was the theme of revenge, or the desire and satisfaction of getting it. Like Park Chan Wook’s Revenge trilogy, the movie explores the desire for revenge and the means of getting it. The end result is some stunning visual scenes that involve the assassinations. Upon completion of my paper, I swore to never watch this movie again for at least five years. This movie resulted in many sleepless nights.

But that’s a meaningful experience from a culturally  underestimated and inexpensive medium.

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