Why bother with another pop-culture bitch-fest? Because I really used to enjoy going to the movies.. and now, I don’t. Growing up a significant part of my childhood involved going the theater and seeing stuff like: Ghostbusters, The Goonies, Weird Science, Vacation, and so forth. And I still enjoy these films, and not merely because it’s all Vintage Store-ironic and reminiscent of my childhood, but because these are endearing, well-made movies that have aged well. And no, none of these examples are amazing, revelatory works of cinematic art. They’re just good, fun, well-made movies with well-developed characters and simple, easy to follow story arcs. And of course maybe I’m just becoming the embodiment of Dana Carvey’s SNL Grumpy Old Man with all this shit. If so, enjoy anyway.
I guess it took what a self-absorbed semi-hipster would call “introspection” to explain why for the past 10 years I could list off all the times I went to the movie theater on less than my 10 fingers. It sure sounds like arthouse dickery to proclaim that modern film-making has become formulaic schlock… pandering attempts to reel in the widest audience possible, coherent story-telling be damned. But a recent slate of “indie” movies are some of the worst offenders, offering their own brand of pointless formula and cliches that offer infinitely more style over substance (How many n’er-do-well 30 something protagonists with existential crises do we need?)
But enough with the pseudo-intellectual justification for my avoidance of movies. Here’s why they suck, very simply put:
1) Shitty, self-absorbed characters
Red Letter Media hit the nail on the head in the very first 5 minutes of the very first Star Wars Prequel review (yea, I’m going here again) in explaining why it was impossible to emotionally connect with these movies. The characters fucking sucked. Was there anything remotely relatable about Qui-Gon fucking Jinn? Sarcastic and bored Obi-Wan? Natalie Portman with a weird British robot voice? That annoying kid playing Anakin? Need I mention cocksucking Jar-Jar?
Maybe unless you’ve been lobotomized, it should be pretty obvious that Storytelling 101 involves a character or characters one can relate to and then invest into emotionally. So who does anyone relate to in any of the 3 prequels? Even my friends who claim they actually liked these films can’t answer that question. It’s because it can’t be answered, because the characters suck.
The SW prequels are an extreme example, but it’s part and parcel of way too many recent movies.. particularly ones geared at young people, which is troubling on many levels. For instance:
The “Paranormal Activity” movies. I’ve now seen the first 3 of these, and several knock-off straight to DVD versions. (which incidentally, are basically impossible to tell apart because of the very convenient dirt-cheap productions costs of this style of “movie”) The first one was clever and different, kinda, if you forgot Blair Witch. But then since it was successful – and oh joy – cheap as all fuck to produce and cast, they now crank out the same shot again and again in form of sequels, offering basically nothing new from the 1st one.
While I was mildly entertained by the 1st one, I was bored stiff from the rest. And there are 500 reasons, not the least of which is that literally 90% of these movies involves watching home security camera footage of literally nothing, waiting for the next startle to occur.
But they could be at least a bit more compelling if you cared about the characters. And I guess maybe you kinda do, a little, in the 2d one, because it involves little kids and kids in movies are generally innocent, if gratingly fucking annoying. But the rest are upper-middle class suburbanites that prattle on about suburbanite shit like new sedans and needless crap their kids want them to buy. None of which is central to the plot. Really compelling shit.
That doesn’t even get to the horrific slate of rom-coms and raunch comedies. Where vapid, self-centered, mean-spirited one dimensional characters are celebrated. And that’s troubling. Are Bridesmaids and The Hangover movies popular because these insipid child-like narcissistic assholes portrayed on-screen somehow connect to these large audiences? What about Adam Sandler films, where cruelty, racism, and physical harm at the expense of others is celebrated like fucking Christmas?
Keep in mind I’m not even talking about the pathetic scripts, plots, and bad acting. Just the very nature of the characters. I’ll get into very specific examples of why characters and character development is so important, citing 2 legendary modern films, and comparing them to, yes I am fucking going here again, the good old Star Wars prequels. Then I will follow-up this new (I just decided) “Fuck Movies” series with explanations of why bad scripts, bad blocking, and cheap production keep me away from the theater. As if you cared.