Different people watch films in different ways.
Some people like to talk during films, and look, if you’re cool with talking to people and people talking to you during a film then that’s probably okay. Perhaps I’m even envious of you. Theatres sometimes plant paid laughers in audiences for good reason, and I always enjoy a good laugh with others even at the cinema. That’s fine. That’s a shared response. It’s reactions that are not shared that are the problem. Personally, I don’t want to watch a film with someone who needs to talk to me or requires my eye contact at any step of the way, because if it’s a good movie, that’s gonna drag me out of the experience.
I’m not a film buff. If I was I wouldn’t have watched Inception more than five years after its release. But, I have an excuse (kind of). Okay, not really. The thing is, I always knew I was going to like the film, and I guess in some ways that might have been strangely why I didn’t watch it sooner. You know, how sometimes there is that odd popular film that just kind of gets by you, and sometimes too there is that film that someone tells you about and you just have this instinctive feeling you’re going to like it so you won’t settle for watching it in situations where you will probably get distracted. I mean, I’ve seen Inception listed as a movie option on a long-haul flight for example before but thought, do I really want to watch this film that I’ve heard great things about on a screen smaller than a dinner plate thirty centimetres away from my already blood-shot eyes, delirious with jet-lag already, and with the hum of airplane air-conditioning and duty-free announcements droning in my ears?
For me, when I watch a movie I’m either all-in or all-out. If I don’t like a movie I get restless and I’ll prefer to just to abort pretty quickly or sometimes If I’m half-interested to skip through parts. It’s a blessing and a curse to be a writer when it comes to watching or reading other people’s material. It’s a blessing because it gives you the ability to appreciate the intricacy in other people’s work that perhaps the average person doesn’t pick up on. And it’s sometimes a curse because often you just can’t shut up your analytical mind. It comes down to formulas. Formulas in writing are not necessarily bad, because writing is a lot like cooking. Everything you make in the kitchen requires a recipe even if it’s:
That’s still a recipe isn’t it? We don’t usually think about it like that, but if you explain to someone who has never eaten okra before you might make your recipe just as simple with good reason. If you’ve never seen a carrot before you wouldn’t even know if you could eat it raw. But thankfully, a carrot is not a potato.
Yes, formulas. If you’re going to use a formula, just make sure you get it right. How many times has someone baked bread before? Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done again and again and again. It just means that there are less excuses for getting it horrendously wrong. Formula or no formula, just make it tasty! I hate watching movies that I can predict. If I feel I can predict the exact formula of a movie, and there is nothing emotionally engaging to make up for that, then I usually find myself playing a little game. It goes like this: 1) I make a prediction, 2) skip ahead ten minutes, 3)test prediction, 4) If I’m right, I skip ahead another ten minutes and so on, and if I’m wrong maybe I learn my lesson and the film proves itself, or I just give up.
Anyway, when I watch a film that I really like I get completely absorbed like a dream. And that’s the way it should be. A good film, like a good play, or a good novel, should be like a dream that gets you in a headlock and won’t let you go til you’re purple in the face and your legs are numb. This, I feel, goes for comedy and for drama. A recent example of a film that did just this to me was Stranger Things which I binge-watched on NetFlix. Half-way through the series my friend who put me onto the series asked me what my predictions were about what was going to happen and I replied that I didn’t know and I didn’t want to think about it, in case I accidentally woke up from the wonderful dream I was experiencing. Again, to use the cooking analogy, good entertainment should be like a margarita pizza that makes you forget about the rest of the world and concentrate on your taste buds. I really enjoyed Inception, which I also watched on Netflix, but interestingly I found myself questioning something I don’t always question, which is no fault of the actual movie, and indeed quite a credit to the movie, which is credits.
Like I said, I watched Inception on Netflix. And at the end of the movie twenty seconds into the credits Netflix threw an advertisement for a TV series up on the screen and turned the credits into the size of a thumbnail. And I was irritated. Because, you see, after a good dream, you sometimes wake up and need a bit of wind down. If you’ve just consumed a pizza, don’t you also want to just sit for a moment before embarking on that one-hour of intensive yoga you were planning? Why is it any different when it comes to consuming film? Of course, not everyone needs rest time after a film, and that’s perfectly okay. But some people actually enjoy the credits of a film. Some people even stay to the end of the film in the cinema not just because they want to see the extra “bit at the end” someone told them about. I believe everyone is different, and everyone is entitled to their opinion. But what is it with TV and online media channels thinking they can basically talk all over my beloved credits? It annoys me, because I see the credits as part of a film. If the credits weren’t important why did the director decide to keep them there? I wouldn’t stand for a film I’ve paid for to have an ad in the middle of it, so why do I stand for it in the credits, if the credits are indeed still part of the film? I get what they’re thinking: do I really read every single name? Does leaving those credits to trickle full size up the screen somehow pay respect to all those strangers I’ll never know, like their names at least receive glory in the universe or something just by appearing anywhere in time and space? But no, I’m making a stand. Everything is so covered in advertising these days I feel I have to protect my forehead from some advertising exec madly running at me with a hot branding iron out on the open street, and after two hours of investing my emotions in a film experience I would quite like my ten minutes of wind-down time thank you very much. I want my ten minutes of peace after the emotion rollercoaster I’ve likely just sat through without skipping, just as I don’t want a stranger whispering in my ear as I lay in bed on a lazy Sunday morning after I’ve just woken up from a peaceful dream, and still in the middle of happily reliving my fanciful date with Marion Cotillard atop the Eiffel Tower for just a minute longer, ‘Oy, buddy! You know what you should do now? You should watch Narcos!’
Talk about INCEPTION!