I love movies, and not just happy ending, superficial feel good films. Such films have a time and place and it’s not always, and certainly not award winning. On the flip side, I don’t have a lot of love, and perhaps only a vague appreciation for films that are an ode to misery. They make me a little annoyed, in fact.
The only film of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (#SBIFF) that I watched was Detachment on Saturday Morning. Who knew there were 8 am films? I went because I made tentative plans to meet a friend and I’d hate to be the one that bailed… I had no clue what the film was about or who was in it, so at about 7:30 I pulled up the trailer on my phone and saw that this movie was with Adrien Brody (whose face makes me sad), and Marcia Gay Harden (you’d know her if you saw her) – she’s one of my favorite (supporting) actresses. Additionally it was by the producer of The Hurt Locker – an excellent film. I figured it might be good.
If you ever saw Half-Nelson, that’s a little of what it was like. A lot of people liked Half-Nelson, come to think of it, that movie makes me think of Blue Valentine (another Goslin Film). Detachment was a film was about a substitute teacher and his story and his efforts to help those around him – when in fact he’s equally in need of help. In the meantime, everyone and everything around him is screwed up. (Don’t know that’s the writer’s description but it’s mine.) My favorite thing about movies is the writing. I understand the most traditional quest centered plot – be that internal or external. I don’t however, understand plots that don’t move a character out of his or her misery at any point, or very seldom.
This kind of self-pity plots or plots surrounded by our self-created or other created misery and shortcomings are popular and the evidence was American Beauty and its 1999 Academy Award. I don’t like these because they glamorize a certain state of mind that is not one that we should seek to perpetuate. In short: I don’t believe that we’re all that fucked up. I really don’t. I believe there are challenges in life, and some we do well at, some we don’t and we either learn, or repeat the mistake until we do it better.
I don’t mean to say everything is perfect, but often I find people exacerbate their own experience, and perpetuate its difficulty perhaps on purpose. Additionally to one’s own struggles, it is easy to internalize and not just empathize with nearby struggles, but that’s dangerous to the state of the self.
I love movies, and I spend more time than the average movie goer, thinking about things that are well done (again, mainly in the story) and about the film’s meaning. Obviously somebody wrote them, and a lot of people spent a lot of money and time to produce them, so the message independent of the genre, has got to be worth at least pinning down. Sure, the hangover has no message but then again, I don’t really watch comedies… I think my point is: supply/demand. We get more of what we consume, and I don’t know why there is (I find most often among Americans) such a high rate of consumption and glamorization of odes to misery. I’m not a fan.