It’s a week night; you don’t have any idea what to do with your evening. You’ve exhausted your book list and to be honest you are just too tired to make the effort to do anything else. So you turn to the biggest elephant in the room; your widescreen television.
Your portal to leaving behind the annoying aggravations of your daily stresses, beckons you from the corner of the room. The non-judgemental friend that never answers back, that just wants you to kick back and have some fun. Just leave it all behind.
The world of work these days can get pretty tense. You become a ball of tension at the slightest thing and you don’t even realise. Before you know it you are suffering from hyper tension or worse you get a nervous eye tick. Who wants to be that guy…?!
So what do we do? We turn on a machine, we put on a film or we watch a programme. We may even watch that favourite film from the 80’s that will always be our favourite and has the same calming affect on us as a cat sitting on our lap. But why do we do that? Not everyone loves sport, or reading, or cooking. But everyone loves film.
Welcome to our modern world; where film is the currency of our intellectual debate. Or better still, releases us from our commitments, our fears and the anxieties of our lives.
For me, I love spending time on YouTube watching short films that are made by anybody. I think it is such a shame that the Short Film is not more accessible to us. You need to attend a film festival or download them to see them. How could a short film, no matter how amazing it may be, compete with the 2 or sometimes 3 hour masterpieces that are shoved in our faces every 10 minutes during commercial breaks? We are searching for escapism yes, but we have so much to chose from we fail to see the true quality that is out there. Just because a film might only be 10 minutes long, it doesn’t mean that it can’t blow your mind just as affectively as an Oscar winning one might.
Jerry Seinfeld once said “If I wanted a long, boring story with no point to it I have my life”. I think that when a short film is at its best, they are the exact opposite of something with no point or no meaning. Short films are very much like short stories; they are the poetry of their craft. I don’t mean to take away from the very brilliant movies that have been made because I have a long list of those. But brief narratives are like a gorgeous bottle of wine, so concentrated and intoxicating that they take our breath away. The greatest short films tell more in as little as 7 minutes than many feature films that are out there today. Their form is much freer and they are less subjected to the “norm” of conventional storytelling patterns. Here is a YouTube link to a short film that won an Oscar this year:
“There is simply a need to experience more meaningful, life-enriching stories unfolding on the screen.” – Richard Raskin.
That quote broken down into its simplest form, for me, is why film matters. Why film is our most purest form of escapism. And for as long as we all enjoy the thrill of going to a cinema and sitting down to watch a film, and having our thoughts changed or our emotions taken on a roller coaster – film will still matter. However, I think Hollywood is running out of interesting or compelling stories and we are now turning more to television drama series to get caught along in the drift of more complex watching. I was shocked to see Matthew McConaughey cast in an HBO series called “True Detective”. Not because I felt it was beneath him or anything, but because he is one of those predominantly used screen actors. Of course, he has won his Oscar for his amazing work, but is it a sign of what I mentioned earlier? Are more “big calibre” actors turning to more broad and fresh television series because film has become so muddled in its own genres that there doesn’t seem to be any originality anywhere anymore?
Can you remember the first time you watched Ghostbusters? The sheer craziness of the script of this film would make you think that it would never reach production, but guess what? It did. And kids and adults all over the world went nuts for it. The theme song added to the hype and it spread like wildfire.
Or how about when you saw Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”? Maybe it was when you seen “Clockwork Orange” for the first time? What happened with this film, and what Stanley Kubrick did in this film, is probably just short of genius. He managed to change the way we thought about movie brutality, but also how we heard “Singin’ in the rain”. Maybe like me, all you ever wanted was to take a spin with Marty McFly and Doc, and you still secretly want your own hover board.
For me, cult films are as good as it gets and they are my escapism. I remember the first time I watched “Donnie Darko”. It was so incredible for me. I became obsessed with it because it wasn’t to be watched; it was to be solved. I also didn’t mind watching Jake Gyllenhaal for 122 minutes. I could tell you about this film and what I think the message is about, but I’m afraid I would be wrong. It is the most frustrating movie because it makes me want closure. But thats why I love it.
While we have Hollywood to thank for all of these tunnels and portals of escapism, they do ignore the countercultures sometimes and one amazing example of that was when “Easy Rider” came out in 1969. The people and actors involved in this brilliant movie completely shook up the industry with this portrayal of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. And when they did so, they completely destroyed “Born To Be Wild” for all future generations.
I wish there was a cinema somewhere that screens all the great movies.
How about the time you saw Darren Aronofsky’s “The Black Swan”? I bet you sat there drawn in by the beauty and strife of a ballet dancers life as it lay before you and then you burst out laughing when Natalie Portman’s legs snapped in half to resemble a swans. Sure, his films can be humourless, pretentious and just downright ridiculous, but thats why you liked it? Right?
Or maybe it was the first time you saw “Reservoir Dogs” by Quentin Tarentino. Back before he ruled the world, Mr. Tarentino was just another guy at the film festivals trying to achieve validation for his amazingly crazy creations. What he achieved by creating this movie for us is something that will probably never be seen again; he made Reservoir Dogs the movie genre of the year in a film industry that was so high-brow at the time that he barely received appreciation for it. It wasn’t until the video cassette tape of the movie went viral that he began to achieve what he was put on this earth to do; completely rocket launching the independent film movement by proving that indie movies can be fun. And in doing so he was able to make even more masterpieces of escapism for us to enjoy and also to pave the way for more independent-minded film makers in the world.
Of course it doesn’t have to be these artistic genres of film that capture your attention. It could be something completely different to any of the films I just mentioned. Maybe your genre is something from Tim Burton, Catherine Hardwicke or maybe you like to escape into the film versions of the Marvel comic books. Maybe your favourite films have spilled over into your individual musical taste and it comes with its very own epic soundtrack. This could be spoken about in a whole different article in itself and is usually referred to as a “needle-drop” – songs that play during those pivotal scenes, where there is no one only you, the screen, the music and your goosebumps. And maybe thats what makes it unforgettable for you.
My Mother always reminisces about her favourite films, but it isn’t so much the films that she remembered. It was the memory attached to them; her sister Rosie used to sneak her out of the house, buy her a bag of penny sweets and take her to the cinema.
A work colleague told me how he thought “Saving Private Ryan” was the best film he had ever seen, yet when he took his wife to see it, she turned to him outside and said “That was the greatest load of s**t I’ve ever seen, all of his brothers risk their lives to find him, they all get shot and then he doesn’t want to go home”. Some of us just look for the first layer of a film, we don’t see the cinematography, the acting, the set design or indeed the sub-texts or underlying messages that the director is trying to get across to us. And thats ok, because film has that certain freedom to it. It doesn’t force you to like it, hate it or love it. It is what it is, and it is one of the best mediums of entertainment that we have.
I love how my favourite films make me feel. I love how Edward Scissorhands made me think about how we treat other people that may be different than what we view as “normal”. I love how I laughed until I cried when Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon dressed up in drag in “Some Like It Hot”. I loved how “Sleepless In Seattle” was almost prophetic in how our daily relationships are conducted with each other today. I will never forget how “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” touched my heart so much that it changed me, and also how irrevocably in love I fell with Johnny Depp after watching it. I loved how “Dumb & Dumber” made me appreciate friendship, even in its most stupid forms and I loved how “The Wedding Singer” made me believe in the Robbie Hart’s of the world. It showed me that if you wanted something to be make believe, it could be, but also that what we thought about didn’t have to exist just in our imaginations.
Our imaginations are an important and integral part of who we are and film just doesn’t shake up our mundane Monday to Friday, it does so much more than that for us. It can make the sad person smile again, it can make the materialistic and unsatisfied count every blessing they have. It can reduce a man to tears and a woman to roaring hysterics. It brings families together, and makes magic happen in the front room of your own home. It takes us on a journey through both the agony and the ecstasy of being a human, in all our complex forms. It helps us feel sensations and emotions that we might not get to experience in our own lives. It can also remind us of what we are capable of, and also to show us that we aren’t alone in struggling and wrestling with life’s eel.
So, from the 7 minute short to the 3 hour movie, film will always be the number one escapism we turn to and precisely why Walt Disney will always be right when he said that “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age and dreams are forever”.