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September 14, 2012 6:56 PM   Subscribe

From Russia With Love is not unsophisticated. You are. Matt Zoller Seitz on whether older films are corny. [the comments are also worth a read]
posted by shakespeherian (201 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
From one of the comments: "In a time when more movies are more easily available than ever, we have a generation who's actively opposed to experiencing anything but The New."

Ummm, yeah. You could also expand 'movies' to just about everything.
posted by Ickster at 7:10 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Makes me wanna see some Bond. Connery-era Bond, which is the only Bond I've ever viewed. I've avoided all his predecessors.

I loved it for the cool gadgets and weapons and gizmos, of course, and for the exotic locales, which I believe were some of the very first sparks of what became a wanderlust later in life. But yes, it's that erotic daringness that Seitz mentions that was absolutely thrilling to me when I saw my first Bond movies as a pre-teen. It was a glimmer of the adult world that I was only starting to dream of. Connery and his bevy of women sped up the dreaming process quite a bit!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:11 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Methinks you mean 'successors'.
posted by Ickster at 7:13 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've avoided all his predecessors.

D'oh. Obviously I didn't mean "predecessors".

Need more coffee.

still, I'm delighted that I was able to spell predecessors accurately
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:13 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ickster, jinx.

Very kind of you, though.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:14 PM on September 14, 2012


Barry Nelson is furious at you right now, ickster.
posted by jaduncan at 7:14 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I noticed that comment too, Ickster.

I was taken by the comment that pointed out that Singing in the Rain is making fun of movie conventions from an even earlier generation.

Rejecting the old way of doing things and embracing a new way of doing things is sort of the eternal cycle, isn't it?

Alfred Jarry wrote something like "and we too shall become old and fat and the firechief will present their mustache to us on a golden platter and a whole new group of young people will arise to tell us we're wrong and rip down everything we created and that is how it should be."

That all said, one good way to help an audience get into an older movie that they're not natively inclined to get into is to provide context for them before they watch it, as opposed to excoriating them for not getting it after.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:15 PM on September 14, 2012 [16 favorites]


I teach Aesthetics of Film from time to time, and I quickly discovered that I hate showing older films to my students for exactly this reason. Undergrads can be terrible audiences. They chuckle in a mocking way, they yawn loudly during slow scenes, they make jokes. It is unbelievably rude. I've now taken to a little lecture beforehand: try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who would think this film is a masterpiece. And if that doesn't work: no matter how silly you think the film is, there are always some students who find the film moving. Don't diminish their enjoyment by heckling.
posted by painquale at 7:16 PM on September 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


“Why pay twelve bucks to see an old movie in a theater, then sit there the whole time and act superior to it?”

Because they enjoyed doing so, I suspect. I love the Bond films, but the main appeal they have for me is their unreality and archaism, and the incongruity of someone doing an unreal thing very seriously is one of the fundamental building blocks of comedy.

There is something to be said, however, for not ruining everybody else's good time with your own bemusement.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:20 PM on September 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


Ahhh, this is pretty common with most kids and, I dunno, about half of all adults. I wouldn't gnash my teeth too much over it. Or dubbing, or aspect ratios, etc.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 7:22 PM on September 14, 2012


I love old movies especially ones from the thirties and forties but I can see how you have to adjust your frames of reference to be able to enjoy them as they were enjoyed when they were new.
posted by octothorpe at 7:22 PM on September 14, 2012


The biggest realization I've ever had about old things was when I realized that the people who created them were exactly the same as people today.

While we have more knowledge and information than people who lived before us, the people of previous generations were just as smart as we are, felt the same things that we do, and were trying to accomplish the same things we are.
posted by Ickster at 7:24 PM on September 14, 2012 [37 favorites]


Damned. Fucking. Straight.

And I've been someone guilty as fuck at not engaging with a classic film. I once went to a midnight screening of "Saturday Night Fever". This film is, yes, terribly outmoded and features more than a few anachronisms.

But, damn, the movie is serious about what it is portraying, with its working class slackers wanting to be sex and dance kings for the weekend, but secretly wanting to grow up and have kids. The movie deliberately leads us through what appear to be harmless tatty scenes so that it can shock us later when the slouching and nearly incoherent rage of one of the characters sums up the darkest failures of "the 70s" I have ever seen in a film of the era.

This ironic stance has got to go, and soon. At least, before I fucking kill the chick who guffawed through the entirety of "The Man Who Wasn't There". Sure, the film has moments of dark humour, but when a characters muses internally about the nature of being a small-town barber, this is not your cue to bust a fucking gut.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:25 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know — though I have certainly also been aggravated by discomprehending audiences too, I think this attitude about "sophistication" is also pretty narrow in its own way. It's not necessarily wrong, naively self-congratulatory, or jaded to enjoy an outdated aesthetic in a different way than its contemporary audiences would have; it just all depends on not having contempt for the material but instead wanting to celebrate it. You can camp it up and laugh in some of the "wrong" places as a kind of revivalism, too, not just out of superiority. I've had some of the best filmgoing experiences of my life among audiences prepared to do both, to laugh and to celebrate, at the same time — any '40s B movie at the Film Forum, e.g., draws a crowd that wants to enjoy the film in both ways. Why would we want to limit ourselves to just venerating art — and why shouldn't we allow any humor into our sense of its historical distance?
posted by RogerB at 7:28 PM on September 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


we have a generation who's actively opposed to experiencing anything but The New.

This isn't really my experience at all. My sister-in-law is 21, and while she and her peers are going through a mocking irony phase (like WE ALL DID), I am also continually, pleasantly surprised at their continued absorption of quality historical media. When I hit the age of "New New New" I gave up listening to my parent's Fleetwood Mac or Michelle Shocked albums. My sister-in-law's cohort hasn't given any of that up, and are on their own discovering great things that were lost even to my mini-generation.

And you know what? I was born post-post-modern. I can engage with a movie seriously and ironically at the same time. If my reaction in the theater is ruining your fun, then watch it in the comfort of your own home. Or as Joey Michael suggests, recognize that we might not have the right context, and teach us.
posted by muddgirl at 7:30 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a young teenager, the Bond films were sophisticated, dangerous and sexy.

In my twenties they went from comically sexy to unwatchable. That was when I had to laugh out loud as a self-defense against the memories of enjoying the films in earnest.

In my 30s, I don't particularly care for the films, but the books are a fascinating cultural time machine.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:37 PM on September 14, 2012


Christ, what an asshole.

Someone should tell this uptight disapprover-of-other-people's-joy that James Bond is camp. It was made that way. Knowingly.

That it is now, in addition to being camp, also kitsch, well, so fucking what? It's not exactly Shakespeare.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:39 PM on September 14, 2012 [22 favorites]


Things don't get a pass on quality for having been revolutionary at the time. Revolutions keep happening and things keep getting better. Some things hit a note so timeless they survive forever (Shakespeare, Singing in the Rain, "Hotel California") and others (Connery-era Bond movies) are doomed to be rendered quaint by the improvements in the art form that came after them.

Which is not to say that they are unenjoyable. The right context or the right attitude (and ironic bemusement counts, too) can help you enjoy almost anything. And there is certainly artistry to be appreciated.

But "The Dark Knight" is worlds better than any Connery Bond film. And, though it's not like I'm the final arbiter of these things, I strongly suspect that anyone who disagrees is in factsuffering from nostalgia.
posted by 256 at 7:39 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


How is this not just a "you kids today" rant?

Singing in the Rain was corny, and not just in its tributes/call outs to older tropes. It is dated. You couldn't make it today without a lot of changes (though it might be interesting to try). You can maintain that it's an important film for reasons x, y, z, but you can't just drop it cold on a bunch of kids unfamiliar with the conventions of movie musicals of that era and not expect them to be a bit baffled. And people, young ones especially, often deal with the discomfort of the unfamiliar by mocking it.

If the real gripe is that general movie audiences and undergrads don't know much about older films, well, good luck with that. Enjoying older films and books is always going to be the realm of a small set of people.

You can't take a bunch of Americans to a kabuki theater and expect them to "get" it, even if it's translated for them, because it's an art form with many complex conventions they haven't been exposed to. So maybe the professor in the story should have had a discussion first, given the students some questions to keep in mind, asked them about movies they had seen that might be considered as similar to this movie in some way, etc.

The first time I ever saw a silent film as a kid, it baffled me. Why was it so blurry, so overdramatic, why did everyone wear white makeup and move jerkily? Why didn't the actors act more like real people, instead of fainting and raising their eyebrows? All of those things can be explained with a little context, but are otherwise alien.

Gene Kelly musicals are not exempt from this, nor Sean Connery Bond movies. The jokes, the clothes, the music, the plot twists all relate to the time the movies were written.
posted by emjaybee at 7:39 PM on September 14, 2012 [15 favorites]


It's a sophomore's insight.

This reminds me of the first time my sister went to a ballet. She couln't stop giggling at the thuds every time a dancer landed from a jump.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 7:40 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had a film prof back in the 80s who, when asked in an intro film class if Tron would be considered cyberpunk, answered "I guess, if you're a weenie or a wuss".

Sometimes the audience is unsophisticated, but that doesn't exclude the prof being kind of a jerk.
posted by mazola at 7:40 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sometimes the audience is unsophisticated, but that doesn't exclude the prof being kind of a jerk.
At some point, you need an art professor who is kind of a jerk, full of themselves, and completely wrong (from your point of view). That's a great jumping off point to developing your own theory of How Shit Is, which is far better than just regurgitating the popular critics.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:44 PM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sometimes the audience is unsophisticated, but that doesn't exclude the prof being kind of a jerk.

But amusingly correct in this case. What's Mefi if we can't appreciate a little snark?
posted by jaduncan at 7:45 PM on September 14, 2012


But Bond flics were always kind of camp.

As for that class laughing at Singing in the Rain, that professor failed the class by not preparing them. If they'd seen other clips of Kellys amazing routines, know that Debbie was Leia's mom, knew a bit of how much controversy there could be in color and sound sync, something about vaudeville and old Hollywood politics, they would have 'got' the jokes.
posted by sammyo at 7:47 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Back in the day, people were more sophisticated, music was just the right volume, and you could buy a malt for a nickel and still have two cents left over for liver sandwiches, also I never had to work and when I cried, someone put a boob in my mouth and food came out of it!
posted by Behemoth at 7:49 PM on September 14, 2012 [23 favorites]


I missed this the first time through:
Images like that aren’t cute. They’re primordial. The Jean-Luc Godard quote “All you need for a movie is a girl and a gun” sums up the franchise in twelve words. Films like this are cheeky erotic daydreams. The idea of somebody sitting through a cheeky erotic daydream with a smirk is just sad.
Whyyyyy do criticisms like this always come down to insecure masculinity? There is nothing sacred about your erotic daydreams.
posted by muddgirl at 7:52 PM on September 14, 2012 [28 favorites]


What sammyo said. You can't just dump entertainment or art from bygone times on people without establishing a frame of reference. Especially if the purpose is analysis to find some deeper meaning.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:55 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The solution is obviously to first show them some Flint
posted by Tom-B at 7:58 PM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


When I was a kid in the 80s I watched Marx Brothers movies with my jaw on the floor because it is timeless, brilliant work. James Bond isn't, so it comes across as campy and goofy. Even good movies like the Wild One seem ridiculous now, while Apocolypse Now still retains the gravitas that made it a hit. It's hard to predict what will outlast any current era, but it has little to do with forcing children to revere something just because you had the misfortune to take it seriously when you were a kid.

If there is an objective measure of quality in art, it is: relevance/time.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:59 PM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


we have a generation who's actively opposed to experiencing anything but The New."

Ummm, yeah. You could also expand 'movies' to just about everything.


I don't know about movies, but this is completely false when it comes to music. This generation is vastly more interested in older music than anyone I knew when I was their age. I sure never listened to my dad's music the way my teenagers listen to mine.
posted by straight at 8:01 PM on September 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


//This generation is vastly more interested in older music than anyone I knew when I was their age. I sure never listened to my dad's music the way my teenagers listen to mine.//

I have to agree with this. My 18 year old son's YouTube playlist is all Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath. Metallica, etc.
posted by COD at 8:09 PM on September 14, 2012


In 1996 I went to see 'Night of the Hunter' at the Castro Theater on Castro street in San Francisco. It was a weekend matinee showing. The auditorium was packed for the showing. The audience reacted as described in this beautifully-written piece by Matt. Now I admit that I think Charles Laughton's 'Night of the Hunter' is a film masterpiece that plumbs the depths of what's best and worst in humanity, and it scares the shit out of me every time I view it. As the audience was leaving the auditorium after the showing was over, I sat there in my seat, unable to rise, stunned by their derisive behavior and their unwillingness to appreciate this masterpiece. I began crying, I couldn't stop myself. I realized that these audience members who behaved so badly were dead inside. Never have I felt so alienated from the rest of 'humanity.' I was in emotional shock.
.
Out in the lobby of the Castro Theater, I walked out still crying and happened to be seen by 2 elderly women that I passed closely. They were strangers to me. We three exchanged looks and I explained why I was crying. These two white-haired gals who had been young nymphs during World War II then asked me to accompany them to a nearby coffeshop where we all sat with coffee and treat and gave each other comfort with words. Thanks to them I was able to pull myself together.
.
I haven't viewed a film in a movie theater since August 2002. Using DVDs from my public library (including extensive Inter-Library Loan services), since my experience at the Castro Theater I have vastly expanded my film literacy, scope and knowledge, which was already extensive at that time. I have been a dedicated and serious student of film for the past 42 years, but the last five years have been especially enriching. No matter how deeply I study film in all its manifestations and eras, there is always an undiscovered delight still awaiting me. For example, incredibly, only within the past 36 months did I discover Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger; the works of Jacques Becker, and the body of work by actor Jean Gabin. An unwillingness to appreciate, understand and engage with films of all eras denies such deeply enriching experiences to those who are unwilling.
posted by Galadhwen at 8:09 PM on September 14, 2012 [22 favorites]


It's a matter of degrees. Sounds like there were a lo of hillbillies that day. But even i can't help but laugh when Shelly Winter's neighbor declares "she needs a man" and then they cut to that shot of Robert mitchum's train.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 8:21 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess I don't see why an external show of what might be called 'ironic detachment' while in a public space indicates "an unwillingness to appreciate, understand and engage with films of all eras."

Going to a new movie in a theater is an exercise in frustration (ask me about watching No Country for Old Men on opening weekend sometime). "People suck" is not a very interesting thesis IMO.
posted by muddgirl at 8:22 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, he's right, but it's always been that way and always will be. It's about maturity and experience. When you're young and dumb everything old is lame. I mean, when all of history has just been leading up to you and your generation doesn't that just make sense? "Why weren't those people cool like us? Prolly the lack of iphones and internets."

The biggest realization I've ever had about old things was when I realized that the people who created them were exactly the same as people today.

While we have more knowledge and information than people who lived before us, the people of previous generations were just as smart as we are, felt the same things that we do, and were trying to accomplish the same things we are.


I'm just repeating this whole thing because that's it.

James Bond was supposed to be campy and silly. People who point that out as flaws are the same as people who say "look at all those stupid pro wrestling fans that think it's real". Someone doesn't get it, and it's not the fans.
posted by bongo_x at 8:29 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


"People suck" is not a very interesting thesis IMO.

I think that the specific point of obnoxiousness here -- the way that the apparent visceral discomfort produced in many people by films (or whatever) that don't conform to the standards of current product (or "conventional" product, maybe, as you point out with your experience of seeing No Country) then gets sublimated into easy mockery and disengagement -- is pretty darn interesting, actually.
posted by junco at 8:35 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm a diehard MSTie, and I've found that it has taught me some bad behaviors regarding moviewatching, that I've had to unlearn. There are movies that deserve it and movies that don't.

Once in a while it can be fun to treat an undeserving movie like it deserves mockery, as the RiffTrax guys did with Casablanca and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but only if you go into it knowingly and with an appreciative audience.
posted by JHarris at 8:35 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I quickly discovered that I hate showing older films to my students for exactly this reason. Undergrads can be terrible audiences. They chuckle in a mocking way, they yawn loudly during slow scenes, they make jokes. It is unbelievably rude.

I do not mean this glibly: doesn't this kind of come with the territory? I mean, you're in a room full of people whose primary neorological interest is sexual display. I know I look back on basically half of my behaviour (I'm being generous to myself) between the ages of 16 and 21 as being inexplicable to me now in any other context other than that I was trying to attract mates. Poorly.

Again, not glib: We posture like peacocks at that age. If someone once thought the ironic chuckle feather was a pretty feather, we haul that one out at every opportunity.

(That said, I once saw The Godfather in a rep theatre and I wanted to do grievous bodily harm to the hipsters down front who laughed knowingly when Michael closed the door on Kate and condemned his mortal soul to a living hell. Because how banal, right?)
posted by gompa at 8:35 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Singing in the Rain is so perfect and timeless (while still being timeful) that it's brilliant even when performed by Paddington Bear!

also, Marx brothers and Chaplin.

Seriously: how can anyone claim to be a film student if they are incapable of understanding historic film?
posted by jb at 8:36 PM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


When I was a kid, I loved the Looney Tunes cartoons. They were just done with pitch-perfect timing and great comedic construction. What I didn't realize was that a lot of the cartoons were also sophisticated takes on the pop culture of the time. I didn't have the context to get most of the referential humor in them. But it didn't matter, they were built on the solid ground of gags that never stopped being funny.

I'd submit that the problem with the pseudo-sophistication of the Bond movies is that they are transparent juvenile fantasies, and to take their version of sexuality seriously is to mistake an adolescent's view of sex for real life sexuality. For fuck's sake, this is the franchise that named a character "Pussy Galore." So whatever the person writing this essay thought was sophisticated, really wasn't. The Bond films were deliberately arch and can be enjoyed as camp, but if you want to take them seriously on their merits as sophisticated films then they'll fall apart, there is too much Cold War bullshit, too much silliness and the attitudes toward sexuality are positively laughable. But they are fun on the face of it.
posted by graymouser at 8:37 PM on September 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


(By which I mean -- you already like it and have seen it enough, and are just looking at it as either a kind of celebration of the movie, or an intellectual exercise. There are lots of ways to enjoy movies. The question is: are you spoiling anyone else's enjoyment in the process?)
posted by JHarris at 8:37 PM on September 14, 2012


with a nod to the original poster: a film student who doesn't understand classic film is like a literature student who thinks the "thees" and "thous" in Shakespeare sound dorky.
posted by jb at 8:38 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Kids these days are so engaged" is the new "kids these days are so detached." Guess what, tons of us were listening to older music when we were kids, just like tons of them today are not. Your personal experience does not and cannot define an entire generation.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:45 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I absolutely agree with the sentiment, but I think the quote he pulled from the film prof misses the mark:
You have to decide to be OK with whatever the film is doing at any moment. You have to decide to accept it as normal, and decide to care about what’s happening even though it just suddenly turned into a different kind of movie.
Because, no, you don't, and I actually think that a lot of the problem was that people speaking up in class were afraid to be the one person in the crowd who wasn't ironically detached, so the people who liked it kept quiet. I've been in situations like that many times as a student. But, for those who bandwagoned on the supposed corniness, if their first exposure to Singing in the Rain was catching it some night on TV when they were all alone with no group pressure, chances are much better that they'd enjoy it and not let that "lol corny" shit get in the way.

The biggest barrier I've seen in trying to get friends to watch old movies is the difference in pacing, not a sense of corniness. You can't tell me that people nowadays are that affected by corny dialogue and situations when Two and a Half Men was so popular, but it's hard for people now to hang with the pacing of older films. They get bored quickly because honestly, the pacing of mainstream films has ramped up in a way similar to the loudness wars in the music business.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:47 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I sympathize with the professor in the second part of the article.

I feel the same way when I show people Megaforce for the first time.



Ok. maybe not Megaforce; but Krull, certainly.
posted by chambers at 8:51 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd argue that plot pacing has slowed down while the pace of editing and the number of scenes has ramped up significantly. How many cuts to a new location were in The Dark Knight Rises? Like eleventy billion, but the movie was three hours long and no more happened in it than in a 100-minute Bond flick with like twelve scenes.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:52 PM on September 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


If you think this is bad, try being a guy who grew up on radio drama in the seventies, while everyone else was into Charlie's Angels and bad, bad movies. I'm a connoisseur of Jack Benny's silences and the homoerotic charge between he and Rochester, an ever-boy fan of the golden age gee-whiz of X Minus One, an afficianado of the blowhard charms of Gildersleeve, and a lover of the crawly imagined monsters of Lights...OUT. And my, oh my, what Jean Shepherd's late night storytelling, albeit via open reel tapes shared by the luminary monks of the holy Excelsior, did to my head. If you know his work beyond the Xmas movie, you will see a lot of the man in how and why I write.

I have tried to share this love over the years, but I've gotten a lot of goggle-eyed disbelief.

Mr. Benny goes quiet, just right, and I'm rolling on the floor. People stare.

"Yeah, I guess that's kinda funny..." they say, and it trails off into that quizzical place where humoring takes form.

Aww, never mind.

I get it, I love it, and there will be few people of my age or younger who do, and fewer still as the days roll on.

Sigh.
posted by sonascope at 8:54 PM on September 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


"You're not enjoying James Bond right" is a pretty embarrassing position to hold. The guy even maintains that the movie is "pure escapism—action scenes strung together by cheesecake, gadgets, and banter." We're not talking about yobs failing to understand Orson Welles here.

Today's kids didn't invent ironic detachment. At the same time the Bond films were starting, kids were reading Mad Magazine... which taught how to roundly mock movies, TV shows, their elders, Western civilization, etc.

I love Connery's Bond, but, shrug, I'm old enough to. Spectacles age pretty quickly; I wouldn't argue with someone who prefers Daniel Craig's Bond. (Those other guys in between sucked, though.)
posted by zompist at 8:56 PM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


If my reaction in the theater is ruining your fun, then watch it in the comfort of your own home.

Nope. You have it backwards. If you want to laugh ironically or otherwise audibly demonstrate how above it all you are, stay home. Netflix it, drink up, and have at it.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:56 PM on September 14, 2012 [20 favorites]


I'd argue that plot pacing has slowed down while the pace of editing and the number of scenes has ramped up significantly.

Definitely a distinction worth pointing out, because yeah, I don't think many modern studios would release a film with a fast-paced plot for fear that they'd lose the audience.

I do quite like fast-paced editing when there's a point to it (Scott Pilgrim, etc), but it's usually just stimulation for stimulation's sake.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:57 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The James Bond of From Russia with Love was every single bit the of the moment blockbuster as any more recent films -- the Spider Man reboot or Avatar or whatever. It was made to appeal to the tastes and interests of the people of the year it was released and to appear oh so slightly futuristic. For it to appear quaint and out of time to people 50 years later is not surprising. It probably felt pretty quaint and out of time to people even 10 years later.

Yes, many of the Bonds have some bits of good film making in them, but they are primarily built around gadgets and fashions and bits of flash that are entirely contemporary to the era in which they were made. They were not crafted to be timeless and to expect that people would find them timeless is silly.

They can still be fun and engaging, but they can't help but be mired in what people in the 60s thought was sexy and cool, and that's inevitably going to distract modern audiences. It's a bit like looking at those postcards from the Paris World's Fair of what life would be like in 100 years, or reading predictions about technology in the year 2000 written in the 50s. We all know how things actually turned out, so those things end up seeming slightly ridiculous.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:59 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


This talk of pacing makes me want to watch Broken Flowers of all things, just for the long slow spaciness of it. Jarmusch can let a film breathe when it needs to.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:59 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


or "conventional" product, maybe, as you point out with your experience of seeing No Country) then gets sublimated into easy mockery and disengagement -- is pretty darn interesting, actually.

My experience watching No Country was pretty similar to my experience with watching Dark Knight on opening weekend. I just cared more about No Country. That's the interesting story, to me, because I can control my own reactions while I can't control the reactions of others.
posted by muddgirl at 9:05 PM on September 14, 2012


Nope. You have it backwards. If you want to laugh ironically or otherwise audibly demonstrate how above it all you are, stay home.

Again, this is asking people to control their reaction, rather than trying to control your own. More power to you, but it's a Sysiphean task.

If I want to watch a movie without any other influence. I can watch it at my house. If I want to accept that other people are different from me, and will engage with a movie differently than I do, then I can watch it with other people. I can't watch a movie with other people and demand that they revere what I revere.
posted by muddgirl at 9:09 PM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


There have been so many send-ups of the early Bond flicks that there must be some young members of the audience who are in fact laughing at an Austin Powers reference that they finally understand. Plus they probably smoked some drugs before the show, much stronger than the drugs of yore. That may explain some of the ironic detachment, too.

People laughing through Night of the Hunter, though, that's just bad. There's probably some explanation, though. Even the members of an audience and a generation are individuals, who knows what they're thinking.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:16 PM on September 14, 2012


I realized that these audience members who behaved so badly were dead inside.
With the caveats that I'm not a film buff, don't know the specific film, and wasn't there that night and so don't know how it was: dead inside?

Really? Dead?

I would submit to you that people can not get or enjoy the things you like without them being "dead inside."

Good grief.
posted by kavasa at 9:18 PM on September 14, 2012 [18 favorites]


Yeah, like I implied before I'm really interested by this idea that there's a moral element to media - that if you don't enjoy something the same way I enjoy it, you're wrong.
posted by muddgirl at 9:20 PM on September 14, 2012




A comment from whelk's link:
These girls are so much more attractive than the ones that think they're sexy these days
e.e
posted by kavasa at 9:31 PM on September 14, 2012


I can't watch a movie with other people and demand that they revere what I revere.

There's a difference between "not revering" and "acting like an asshat." If you don't like something, you can express that dislike in a thousand different ways that don't disrupt the experience for someone else. See also: don't text in the theater, don't talk on the phone in the theater, don't smoke in the theater. We request people restrict behavior in many different ways while watching a movie. This isn't any different.
posted by incessant at 9:35 PM on September 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


kavasa: Yeah, if you haven't seen Night of the Hunter, it would be hard to understand the comment. I'm not sure I would go as far as "dead inside," but definitely missing something. That is one of the most terrifying films I have ever seen. This is the first time I've heard of anyone (and by that I mean the Castro theater audience, of course) not getting it.
posted by bardophile at 9:37 PM on September 14, 2012


I like how the conversation in that scene I linked to ties into our discussion.
posted by The Whelk at 9:38 PM on September 14, 2012


acting like an asshat.

I don't consider "laughing at points that other consider to be inappropriate" to be "acting like an asshat." If they're talking during the movie, the movie theater should deal with them. If the movie theater won't, don't patronize that theater.
posted by muddgirl at 9:39 PM on September 14, 2012


This is the first time I've heard of anyone (and by that I mean the Castro theater audience, of course) not getting it.

And I still don't see the connection between "not responding the way I respond" and "not getting it", unless my experience is considered to be the only experience.
posted by muddgirl at 9:40 PM on September 14, 2012


Yeah, like I implied before I'm really interested by this idea that there's a moral element to media - that if you don't enjoy something the same way I enjoy it, you're wrong.

I think this to some extent. I don't think that it's about enjoyment though. I think that people who consume media only in particular ways are criticizable because they are unwilling to use movies for reasons other than enjoyment. Watching films that aren't meant to just tickle the lizard brain can be hard. I have to make sure I don't have a computer or a phone nearby that can tempt me to surf when I get bored. And then, I need to imaginatively project myself into the film, explore the world with curiosity when I get bored rather than becoming lazy and pulling out, and attempt to empathize with characters who are unlike me.

Imagination, curiosity, and empathy are all marks of a virtuous character. If someone does not want to actively try to throw off their laziness and exercise these faculties, then fine, but I'll think they are letting intellectual laziness overcome them, and they are less likely to be empathetic, creative, intellectually courageous people.
posted by painquale at 9:40 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Kids these days are so engaged" is the new "kids these days are so detached." Guess what, tons of us were listening to older music when we were kids, just like tons of them today are not. Your personal experience does not and cannot define an entire generation.

No. "Back in Black" was released in 1980, 32 years ago. Name one song from 1948 that was even remotely as popular in 1980 among teenagers as "Back in Black" is today.
posted by straight at 9:43 PM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Name one song from 1948 that was even remotely as popular in 1980 among teenagers as "Back in Black" is today.

TBH a lot of that has to do with marketing though.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:45 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Singing in the Rain is a classic for good reasons, and it's a pity if people can't see what's going on there well enough to enjoy it.

But Bond? Of course people today mock it derisively! It's chock full of everything that was most mockable and worthiest of derision in the time when it was made, and offers little that couldn't be provided just as well by any current blockbuster.

I'm all for being willing to engage with work from the past, but you know, sometimes we put the past behind us for a reason.
posted by moss at 9:48 PM on September 14, 2012


TBH a lot of that has to do with marketing though.

So teens in 1980 would have been including Bob Hope and Perry Como on their mix tapes with Van Halen, AC/DC, and Queen if those gents had only had a bigger marketing budget?
posted by straight at 9:54 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


The professor was an idiot. The constant breaks with realism in musicals are not a yardstick of sophistication, but part of a genre language and conventions, and if you show it to people unfamiliar with that niche language and they're thrown, big fat hairy deal, what did you expect? If someone speaks five languages but not English, only an idiot or an asshole would speak English more loudly and enunciated and then claim they must lack sophistication when that doesn't work. You find some things you both understand and build on those. I get that it's frustrating if it looks like they're not matching your effort, but you're paid to deal with that.

OTOH, if the prof wasn't sincere, more like a bluff as a kind of slap in the face to get some focus happening, then fair enough.
posted by anonymisc at 9:56 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a difference between "not revering" and "acting like an asshat."

There's also a difference between doing rude things in a theatre that have nothing to do with the movie and having a different reaction to a movie than might have been intended.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:56 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing that's really interesting to me and I wind up thinking about a lot is just how much pop culture is effectively obsolete, even stuff that's still on in syndication. Just for example, pretty much every episode of anything where a car breaks down and the characters have to go for help seems bizarre in a world of cell phones. I was watching something at the gym a few days back and the entire plot revolved around one character meeting another as they got off the plane at the actual gate, which seems so bizarrely distant from modern air travel it almost reads as a joke. And then there's things like having to wait around the house for a call or comic misunderstandings based on people that keep missing each other or a group of people trying to meet up and things going hilariously awry and that sort of thing.

As for The Young Folk, I dunno, I go to regular screenings of old movies and there always seems to be a fairly good crowd of The Young Folk. I think cable's constant hunger for new content and, of course, Netflix makes classics a lot more accessible than they were when I was a teenager. Even if I'd wanted to watch Singin' In The Rain, that would've depended entirely on either the Hollywood Video by my house having it and having it in stock or me paying what was a fair chunk of change for a VHS copy at one of the movie stores, assuming it was out on VHS and they stocked it or could order it. Whereas I could pay $2.99 and watch it on Amazon Instant Streaming right now. But yeah, you have to give them some context.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:57 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I liked way too many 40s cowboy songs in High School in the 90s...
posted by The Whelk at 9:58 PM on September 14, 2012


So teens in 1980 would have been including Bob Hope and Perry Como on their mix tapes with Van Halen, AC/DC, and Queen if those gents had only had a bigger marketing budget?

That's not what I mean. I mean take a couple solid decades of car commercials etc. associating a certain kind of music with a certain attitude and form of rebellion and teenagers are going to eat it up. No one tries to use Perry Como to convince you that driving a Cadillac makes you a threat to the status quo in any way, either.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:08 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I saw Night of the Hunter that same weekend as Galadhwen. I just left the theater pissed. At the audience. If a character expressed sentiment everybody snickered. Quite immature behavior as far as I know. Some people now complain that films are all made for 15 year olds and younger. Given how audiences behave watching films once made for adults it would seem so.
posted by njohnson23 at 10:14 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


This essay is a conflation. Matt Z.S. quotes something insightful which his professor said about 'Singing in The Rain', and he tries to attach the concept to a lesser Bond film, and the concept doesn't really swing for me.

Unlike most critics, I thought that 'From Russia With Love' was the worst of the jazzy 1960's Sean Connery James Bond films, mostly because the young honeytrap he was designed to fall in love with was rather deep and sensitive in the Ian Fleming book, kinda like the doomed heroine in 'The Spy Who Came In From The Cold', but in the movie version she just comes across like a generic call-girl.

Though Lotte Lenya is, as always, pretty cool as the evil spymistress Rosa Klebb.

My favourite jazzy 1960's Sean Connery James Bond film is: 'You Only Live Twice'.
posted by ovvl at 10:30 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, would love to explain what the text on the knuckles means to those bad kids tittering at Night of the Hunter...
posted by ovvl at 10:37 PM on September 14, 2012


I like the more realistic bits of derring do in the early Bond films. I forget which one it is, but there's a scene where Bond is being tailed by some dumb muscle. He pulls off the road and sets a "trap" for them that consists of basically just trying to get in the first punch, so he can beat them up and get some information. No special effects or superpowers, just craftiness, bravery, and table-turning. The Bond films were never pure spy movies in the first place, but I hate the way they replaced the spycraft parts with Sharper Image demos. Goldfinger is good and Dr. No is fun and the rest are pretty fucking schlocky.

Another scene that was surprising is in the end of Dr. No when our heroes have to climb down a dock and jump on a boat. It looks pretty dangerous and athletic, and they just show them doing it in one take. (I guess what I'm saying is, why isn't Statham Bond yet? Fuck please just not Cumberbatch.) It was easier to get the audience to imagine what it would be like for those things to really be happening. Though it's easier now for movies to put the camera in the action, so you have something like just the car crash scene in Rachel Getting Married is more exciting to me than all the shit in Ronin.

As for Singin' in the Rain. I don't think it's a big stretch to call college kids you find in the seats of an intro film history class unsophisticated. I think just throwing a musical at them without any prep is a mistake. Singin' in the Rain is still very good; it floats above the incident unbesmirched. I like how it maintains a meta-entertainment theme that gives everything more depth. Like, I'm not sure if I'm really supposed to be laughing with "Make Em Laugh" or not.

Now, The Band Wagon, that can be left where it lies in the back of the vault just fine.
posted by fleacircus at 10:40 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing that's really interesting to me and I wind up thinking about a lot is just how much pop culture is effectively obsolete, even stuff that's still on in syndication. Just for example, pretty much every episode of anything where a car breaks down and the characters have to go for help seems bizarre in a world of cell phones. I was watching something at the gym a few days back and the entire plot revolved around one character meeting another as they got off the plane at the actual gate, which seems so bizarrely distant from modern air travel it almost reads as a joke. And then there's things like having to wait around the house for a call or comic misunderstandings based on people that keep missing each other or a group of people trying to meet up and things going hilariously awry and that sort of thing.

I’ve heard people say things like this before and I don’t get it. What about movies that take place in the Roman Empire, or the Antebellum South? They don’t have mobile phones either. Things change, movies are of their time.
posted by bongo_x at 10:41 PM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously: how can anyone claim to be a film student if they are incapable of understanding historic film?

If they're students, especially freshmen, they're only just learning to understand these things. I was a literature student and I was pretty incapable of understanding Shakespeare until someone taught me how.
posted by asnider at 10:54 PM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


MZS has been my favorite movie critic since he wrote for the NY Press in the 90s, and though I think the Bond films are maybe not a hill worth dying on, this is so spot on it should be written on every wall:

It’s up to the individual viewer to decide to connect or not connect with a creative work. By "connect,” I mean connect emotionally and imaginatively—giving yourself to the movie for as long as you can, and trying to see the world through its eyes and feel things on its wavelength.

I hate hate hate the modern internet-cultivated tendency to approach every movie as an opportunity to demonstrate one's immunity to corniness, or snark about outdated sexual mores, or show off how many edits you can follow, or any of the million other things that modern-day narcissists do to avoid having to imagine themselves in the consciousness of another person who is different from them.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:08 PM on September 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


I like the more realistic bits of derring do in the early Bond films.

That fight on the train in From Russia With Love. So good.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:15 PM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


This argument is kind of a seductive one for those who treasure old things -- films, musics, literature, what have you -- because it flatters them that their interest, nay, their passion for these old objects is unique, special, and superlative, and that they are clinging to a raft of sanity adrift in a sea of ignorance and foulness. I am seduced by the argument myself.

Then I remind myself that there are plenty of people half my age or younger who love old films and music, and I look at all the carefully, lovingly, obsessively tended tumblr sites dedicated to nothing but, say, the French new wave, or Victorian art, or anything else that I have convinced myself that young people either mock or hate or shrug their shoulders at, and I remember that what has been will be again, and nothing is new under the sun.
posted by blucevalo at 11:41 PM on September 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


This is as good a place as any to drop a link to wuwei's Bond vs. Bourne post from two years ago (and recently highlighted on Best of Metafilter).
posted by radwolf76 at 12:17 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The fundamental problem of this behaviour is that these people are saying "this is stupid, and anyone who enjoys it for its own sake is stupid". It's a form of bullying. The point of cinema is that it's immersive, and anyone who deliberately spoils that immersion for other people is doing it wrong - it's no different from smoking a cigar or farting odiferously in a restaurant.

And at least Goldfinger is far superior to the Nolan Batman movies, which (though I enjoyed the explosions very much) are serious in that pompous, adolescent way that metal can be serious - the kid who thinks that because his latest widdly riff-fest has lyrics about nuclear war, he's suddenly as important as Beethoven.

I think that film studies lecturers ought to spend their time tearing apart modern movies - over the last twenty years mainstream movie screenplays have gone from workmanlike to almost totally incoherent. And then make them watch Last Year at Marienbad and Stalker back to back with an instant fail for anyone who says anything at all during the screening.

I don't care whether it would change anyone's mind, I just think it would be funny.

Heh.
posted by Grangousier at 12:50 AM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


FYI I've found articles like this much more enjoyable if you don't read them as social critiques and instead read them as personal advice - if you find yourself laughing ironically at something, ask yourself if there is something valuable there that you're missing. Obviously, sometimes there isn't. This is good advice, and I think that his examples are simply illustrations of this point.
posted by The Ted at 12:58 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I bet artists during the Renaissance had a few good laughs at the expense of mideval artists who painted those flat, child-like battle scenes, not yet knowing about perspective & such.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:06 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess the question is "what is film for? I know it's tempting to believe that film is for, like, serious study and reverence and constructing a narrative about cinema, and having a consciously complex and sophisticated response based in a nuanced understanding of the past - that film is for film nerds. But the older I get the more I feel like that would be a huge drag, everyone sitting around responding to movies exactly as we've learned that educated, implicitly white, implicitly male, implicitly upper middle class viewers should, with a huge dread of appearing naive or incorrect.

Look, getting all fussed because some kids don't get Singin' In the Rain is just as much an anxiety/status/performative response as laughing at Singin' In the Rain. It's a classic! Don't they know that? Don't they have the skills to appreciate it? What is the world coming to? Why don't other people react to things the way I do? I'd argue that actually "why don't people understand that this is a timeless classic is also a young person's response - once you have a secure sense of self, you don't need universal approval of what you like in order to feel at home in the world; you can accept that you don't and can't live in a world that matches your worldview, or even celebrate the sort of becomingness of the world, the way things are repurposed, the way the world is larger than you, the enormous drive to be and experience that animates people. If anything, that's what is great about film - that you can amuse a large group with just a reel of celluloid (or whatever the kids use nowadays) in a large dark room - potentially, at least, you can amuse people with film without hurting anyone, you can tell stories that exceed what people normally think and experience, you can tell stories that in a racist and misogynist society challenge racism and misogyny. Film can be so much to so many! That's what makes it exciting.

(When I was in my late teens and very early twenties, I was miserable almost all the time. It's true that a film which could take me out of myself was a gift from the heavens, but judging society based on a depressed, lonely, frantic nineteen year old's inability to stay awake through a Kurosawa film would have been a mistake.)

Another thing - you know, one reason I don't like Bond films is that they're sexist and creepy. Another is that, although they're not especially retrograde for their times, they're racist and Orientalist. Now, I wouldn't pay $12 to sit through one, I grant you, but if I found myself in a room where one was playing, I would be extremely uncomfortable and might heckle. Why precisely does a male (and probably white, and apparently straight, and likely cis-, and probably at least middle class) film writer get to insist that everyone display appropriate "sophistication" when watching movies that insult their very existence? Movies are about something - they aren't just pretty patterns. Now, it's perfectly legitimate to get consent - to say that you're going to show a film that is racist, or sexist, or rape-fetishizing, or otherwise creepy - and that the room is a space where people are going to observe the film, so no heckling, okay? But it's not all right to just assume without discussion that everyone is going to be okay with quietly, reverently turning off their "this movie was made by a racist"-dar and just concentrate on the camera angles. Your erotic fantasy is my "this is the attitude toward women that has messed up my sexual response, sense of self and self-confidence all my life", you know?

Also, movies are a social experience - if you want to see a film in quiet reverence, you need either to seek out a theater or showtime where quiet reverence is likely (and those certainly exist) or to watch them at home. It's unfortunate, but you don't get your own private football game either.
posted by Frowner at 2:43 AM on September 15, 2012 [14 favorites]


The Whelk: "Sometimes if I'm feeling low I just put this on a loop"

Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen really knew how to direct a dance sequence (which is mostly just point the camera at the dancers with their whole bodies in the frame and don't cut). Also 4:3 ratio.
posted by octothorpe at 5:03 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I can undestand snickering at dated stuff in a techno thriller. It all depends on the movie, genre and director. Just off the top of my head Carl Theodor Dreyer and Bergman movies have aged better than other films made around the same times, respectively. Not much to snicker at in Cries and Whispers or The Passion of Joan of Arc.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:23 AM on September 15, 2012


Speaking of Donen, when I'm feeling low, I put on this clip and say all Lillian Lust's lines along with her in perfect synchronization.

"Oh, I do so love the taste of honey on a man's lips."

This film is one of my ultimate failures in cinematic evangelism, as I find it one of the funniest things ever committed to film (OMFG Fruney's Green Eye Wash) and everyone else just sort of...indulges me, as usual.
posted by sonascope at 5:28 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Damn, got the line wrong. It's the "smell" of honey. Early morning jitters.
posted by sonascope at 5:30 AM on September 15, 2012


It's impossible for a movie to insult your intelligence - it's just a series of images projected on a screen. It's the writers, the director, the producers insulting your intelligence. Heckle them, if you can. Write them a letter or something. Or you could argue that you were coerced into seeing an intelligence-insulting movie by the professor of the film course you were taking. Heckle them instead. Go to their office and give them a piece of your mind.

Heckling a movie is like a dog barking at traffic, except the dog really doesn't know any better and people do, or should. My theory is that people don't heckle movies because they think the movie can somehow sense their displeasure and react accordingly, they do it so they can be seen by others as adopting a certain position in relation to the movie. It's a performance, a way of defining themselves in front of other people or, if done alone, practising defining themselves.

Heaven forbid people just sit there tapping their fingers and rolling their eyes in the dark and risk other people assuming they were enjoying this totally lame movie. Everyone needs to know that they are not that person.
posted by Ritchie at 5:32 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: a great jumping off point to developing your own theory of How Shit Is.
posted by rdone at 5:33 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, the professor who couldn't handle his class laughing at Singing in the Rain should have come back and screened Dancer in the Dark the next session and seen how many of them were laughing just cause people were breaking into song and dance numbers.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:40 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ah yes, the Punishment Cycle of film: Grave of the Fireflies, Requiem for a Dream, and Lilya 4-Ever.
posted by Ritchie at 5:48 AM on September 15, 2012


Welcome to the Satantango/Berlin Alexanderplatz double feature. Should you require eye-moistening at any point, whimper as best you can around the gag and my TA will be around with some Visine.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:55 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


It has to be said, a group of film studies students who can't pay attention to Singing In the Rain probably ought to be flunked immediately. It's not a question of reverence - it's not a film I like that much or even rate that highly - but if you can't handle one of the most populist movies of all time, there's no way you're going to be able to turn in anything worth marking. Just give up now.
posted by Grangousier at 5:58 AM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, perhaps you could slip Salo: 120 Days of Sodom into this charming little film festival you're planning.
posted by Grangousier at 5:59 AM on September 15, 2012


Welcome to the Satantango/Berlin Alexanderplatz double feature...

... where the warm-up featurette is always Jurassic Bark.
posted by Ritchie at 6:00 AM on September 15, 2012


Or, to bring it up to date, Tideland.
posted by Grangousier at 6:01 AM on September 15, 2012


I am young enough (by which I mean not quite 50) that by the time I was interested in sex, movies were just showing people naked together in bed to show that they were having sex. I remember in my 20's having a talk with someone about The Language Of Film and they told me that showing a train entering a tunnel was Movie Code for "and then they had sex," and I literally laughed out loud.

Then, a few weeks later I found myself watching a black and white Hitchcock flick and it ended with the lead couple on a train, and the very last scene over which the credits started to roll was of the train zooming into a tunnel. And I was stunned, like "Holy shit they really did that."

So there really is a layer of inaccessibility between older and newer movies because a certain line has moved dramatically from codes like that to simply portraying literal things, and there's no reason to be conversant with the code if you grew up watching naked adults visibly humping maybe even without sheets when the director wanted you to know they were getting it on.

So for a lot of these kids watching a 50 year old movie is like watching a foreign movie and trying to make sense of it with your broken high school French. You will miss anything subtle or that simply wasn't included in your limited education, and that may leave the rest incomprehensible.

It is already getting hard to connect with the tension created in some films of a certain age due to the isolation of not having a telephone nearby. Doesn't everybody have a telephone in their pocket? It seems almost incomprehensible that within living memory this wasn't the case.

On preview: perhaps you could slip Salo: 120 Days of Sodom into this charming little film festival

The remake should be made by Brent Scott aka PD.
posted by localroger at 6:03 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, perhaps you could slip Salo: 120 Days of Sodom into this charming little film festival you're planning.

We should get on this, Kleenex could be our big sponsor.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:03 AM on September 15, 2012


I really wonder what kind of Film Studies 101 class has laugh out loud mockery of Singing In The Rain cause I remember seeing it in High School, for a class, and everyone was pretty quiet. I don't think we discussed it afterward tho.
posted by The Whelk at 6:27 AM on September 15, 2012


"Kids these days" have been snickering at out-of-fashion acting styles for a long time. Upstart crows!
posted by Naiad at 6:58 AM on September 15, 2012


Does this mean that if the republicans win, we all get immortality and guns, and Jesus will come back as Sean Connery and free us all? (Zardoz)
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 7:00 AM on September 15, 2012


I guess the question is "what is film for? I know it's tempting to believe that film is for, like, serious study and reverence and constructing a narrative about cinema, and having a consciously complex and sophisticated response based in a nuanced understanding of the past - that film is for film nerds. But the older I get the more I feel like that would be a huge drag, everyone sitting around responding to movies exactly as we've learned that educated, implicitly white, implicitly male, implicitly upper middle class viewers should, with a huge dread of appearing naive or incorrect.

Ugh, god, I know, what could be a bigger drag than having a complex and sophisticated response? Everyone knows that nuance or serious study is for white males!

Look, getting all fussed because some kids don't get Singin' In the Rain is just as much an anxiety/status/performative response as laughing at Singin' In the Rain.

Getting all fussed because a bunch of aspiring film students don't get Singin' In The Rain is not so much an anxiety/status/performative response as an observation that if you wish to be a student of the medium, approaching it with a refusal to understand anything made in that medium before your birth is a pathetic self-imposed limiting of your understanding.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:03 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


So teens in 1980 would have been including Bob Hope and Perry Como on their mix tapes with Van Halen, AC/DC, and Queen if those gents had only had a bigger marketing budget?

I dunno about teens in the 80's, but teens in the 90's managed to get into swing.

Actually, teens in the 80's were already into Ska (right? I didn't notice until the 90s) and Ska comes out of rocksteady and roots reggae.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:08 AM on September 15, 2012


[small] not sure why I capitalized ska.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:09 AM on September 15, 2012


grrr.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:09 AM on September 15, 2012


In 1982 my mind got fairly blown when I heard Les Paul & Mary Ford's How High the Moon on the radio, Peel was playing Robert Johnson and other blues musicians of that vintage alongside the noise-makers du jour, and a favourite party album was Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive. A few years later, one of the five cassettes I made sure I carried with me was Duke Ellington from the 20s and 30s and another was Bessie Smith. In each case it wasn't nostalgia, but because the records sounded amazing. People didn't just listen to Wham and Depeche Mode.

And I don't think I knew anyone who refused to watch movies in black and white on principle - I certainly never heard that opinion expressed.
posted by Grangousier at 7:18 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then, a few weeks later I found myself watching a black and white Hitchcock flick and it ended with the lead couple on a train, and the very last scene over which the credits started to roll was of the train zooming into a tunnel. And I was stunned, like "Holy shit they really did that."

North by Northwest! (It was in color though, unless he ended two movies that way.)
posted by painquale at 7:23 AM on September 15, 2012


painquale, you're right on both counts. It was about 20 years ago and I should probably watch some of those movies again now that I've got the Netflix.
posted by localroger at 7:26 AM on September 15, 2012


> It was easier to get the audience to imagine what it would be like for those things to really be happening.

That's why my favourite part of Mission Impossible 4 was the scene where Cruise is breaking out of the hospital, up on the ledge of the third or fourth floor and nowhere (it seems at first) to jump but into a dumpster full of jagged garbage. The cop chasing him even stops and gestures with his gun; 'go ahead, I dare you.' Later on in the film he's running up the side of a skyscraper and all that other fantastical shit that no-one has even done or will ever do in real life, but he decides jumping into the dumpster is too risky and comes up with a Plan B. It's the one part in the film where I found I could actually imagine myself in his shoes, and because of that it was more exciting than the MegaStunts.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:59 AM on September 15, 2012


> And I was stunned, like "Holy shit they really did that."

I screen a lot of old ('30s-'60s, mostly) movies for a library program, and I continually marvel at how much filth writers and directors managed to obliquely slip into their films.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:19 AM on September 15, 2012


I think "camp" must mean different things to Americans than to Brits. The Bond films were escapist fantasies from the dreariness of 60s and 70s Britain. In British English "camp" is to have an deliberately exaggerated and theatrical manner, it was how pantomime gays behaved. The Connery Bond was lots of things, camp wasn't one of them. The John Inman character in "Are You Being Served?" was camp.
posted by epo at 8:31 AM on September 15, 2012


I think "camp" must mean different things to Americans than to Brits. The Bond films were escapist fantasies from the dreariness of 60s and 70s Britain. In British English "camp" is to have an deliberately exaggerated and theatrical manner, it was how pantomime gays behaved. The Connery Bond was lots of things, camp wasn't one of them. The John Inman character in "Are You Being Served?" was camp.

No, it's the same over here. The gay thing is just a specific facet, though.

There is nothing about James Bond that is not "deliberately exaggerated and theatrical."

Sontag.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:54 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


@Sys Rq, in which case I simply disagree. Is Kabuki camp because it is "exaggeratedly theatrical"? I was young at the time and that is how adventure films of the time were. I think retrospectively declaring them "camp" is another example of sneering when confronted with an absence of contemporary convention, which is the starting point of this thread, so at least people are being self-referential.

Didn't Sontag once write "The white race is the cancer of human history."? I'm sure if you dig deep enough you can find a quote by her for any occasion, doesn't mean it is either intelligent or relevant though.
posted by epo at 9:27 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


And I don't think I knew anyone who refused to watch movies in black and white on principle - I certainly never heard that opinion expressed.

I’ve heard this many times from people. Someone, who may or may not be my wife, used to be like this, but now 75% of what she watches is TCM.
posted by bongo_x at 10:02 AM on September 15, 2012


It's funny how the teacher didn't realise that he failed in engaging with the students the same way they failed in engaging with the film - which in the end was a waste of time for everyone involved. That a film theorist would think that there's a "right" and a "wrong" way to see a movie is in itself pretty "unsofisticated."
posted by TheGoodBlood at 10:13 AM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sys Rq : That it is now, in addition to being camp, also kitsch, well, so fucking what? It's not exactly Shakespeare.

I don't mean this at all in an "elitist" way, but - You realize of course that Shakespeare wrote in a style that his audience would have consider something akin to "camp"?

Funny how accessibility, far more than objective content, changes our perceptions so drastically.



Frowner : Look, getting all fussed because some kids don't get Singin' In the Rain is just as much an anxiety/status/performative response as laughing at Singin' In the Rain.

I would go much, much further than that. The students don't feel any sort of "anxiety" over it, they consider it completely inaccessibly cheesy on its intended level, and interpret that as deliberate a la Ed Wood. It doesn't much matter if the movie "meant" to end up a light-hearted musical comedy or a dark social docudrama - If the viewer only knows flawless special effects, seeing strings connected to flying people in fairy costumes singing about wiggling their butts for fun makes a movie hilarious regardless of content.


Movies are about something - they aren't just pretty patterns.

I think you've hit on what disturbs me most about this whole topic. What you write holds true, but only if the viewer has a suitable frame of reference to decode the intended meaning.

As a programmer, I work with "pretty patterns" that have a much deeper meaning than the superficial layout of the source code; that have a much deeper meaning even than the output of the compiled program. But I don't expect anyone else, not even most other programmers, to appreciate 99% of that.

I see most "critical" artistic disciplines as the diametric opposite of how I view my own work. You have a professor horrified that a group of people with no cultural connection to a work; without understanding of the technical merits of a work; without even any real entertainment-interest in a work - Don't "get" that work?

So why should these students care, other than to pass the course? Getting those students to appreciate all the layers of awesomeness that no one else will see (and might not even exist except in your opinion)? Sorry professor, but that amounts to your freakin' job description. Don't whine about the fall of Western civilization because kids today don't appreciate stupid old movies without years of training, just do your job and give them that training.
posted by pla at 10:40 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


if you want to see a film in quiet reverence, you need either to seek out a theater or showtime where quiet reverence is likely

This was a large part of my takeaway from the article as well. There are films I'm more than happy to have a discussion about, but I'd rather either stop the movie and have the discussion or wait until it's over. Reverence is optional; it's the letting other people approach the movie their own way that's important.

So why should these students care, other than to pass the course?

The other side of that coin is why would you be in a film studies course if you don't care about movies and want to learn about them?
posted by immlass at 10:47 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ugh, god, I know, what could be a bigger drag than having a complex and sophisticated response? Everyone knows that nuance or serious study is for white males!

From the article: Images like that aren’t cute. They’re primordial. The Jean-Luc Godard quote “All you need for a movie is a girl and a gun” sums up the franchise in twelve words. Films like this are cheeky erotic daydreams. The idea of somebody sitting through a cheeky erotic daydream with a smirk is just sad. Why not engage in some daydreams of your own?
posted by moss at 10:48 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


“All you need for a movie is a girl and a gun”

I have to confess that whenever I see that line, I think of this, which probably isn't what JLG had in mind.
posted by Grangousier at 10:53 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Doesn't everybody have a telephone in their pocket?
first prize goes to the person who figures out a way to make engaging cinema about people staring into a shitty little palm-sized screen and sharing canadian obama cat songs
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:55 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was young at the time and that is how adventure films of the time were.

Consider that The Manchurian Candidate was released a year earlier; no one would consider that camp. Dr. Strangelove came out a year after, and was already taking the piss. Perhaps the campiness of Bond was over your head when you were young, but it was always there. On purpose. Really.

declaring them "camp" is another example of sneering

And this is exactly the problem with the article. The fact that other people appreciate a work in a way that differs from your own appreciation does not mean those other people are "sneering." If anyone's sneering, it's people like you and the author of the article, for assuming that any slight deviation from taking everything at face value is somehow an illegitimate form of media consumption.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:55 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


immlass : The other side of that coin is why would you be in a film studies course if you don't care about movies and want to learn about them?

Fair question.

Personally, I would presume that anyone taking a Film History class just wants an easy A in an elective.
posted by pla at 11:26 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


ditto what sys rq says about Bond being intentionally camp. This isn't a case of people coming at this non-camp thing with their future irony. You don't end up with a name like Pussy Galore that way. You just don't.
posted by juv3nal at 11:31 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


only if the viewer has a suitable frame of reference to decode the intended meaning.

Ugh, I loathe this method of art criticism. A story is not a coded message. If an artist had an intended meaning, she would just write that down and distribute it on pamphlets.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:32 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Personally, I would presume that anyone taking a Film History class just wants an easy A in an elective.

A Film History class is not an easy A, and it's very often not an elective so much as the tent pole of a four-year Film Studies degree program.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:32 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Personally, I would presume that anyone taking a Film History class just wants an easy A in an elective.

I wouldn't, because I didn't. I took a film studies class in college because I wanted to learn about film history and see classic movies and understand what made them classic.
posted by immlass at 11:34 AM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, y'all have convinced me! Real life should be way more like Youtube comments! If you look at a 50 year old movie that other people cared enough to make, and I care enough about to watch, and your reaction is LOL BUTTS, then you should inform me! Loudly and immediately! Your opinion is a work of art in its own right, easily as relevant and interesting to everyone around you as some stupid old movie on a big screen, and let no OLD MEDIA types tell you otherwise! LOL BUTTS 4EVAR!


/rolls up lawn, takes it home
posted by hap_hazard at 11:37 AM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I liked way too many 40s cowboy songs in High School in the 90s...

I played the Ink Spots to several prospective girlfriends in my teens. It wasn't, generally, a successful tactic.
posted by tigrefacile at 11:51 AM on September 15, 2012


I still think the train fight scene in From Russia With Love, which takes place in the dark and in cramped quarters, is probably the most Bourne-like of all the Bond fight scenes.
posted by jonp72 at 11:58 AM on September 15, 2012


A lovely, brief response from critic Glenn Kenny here.


"By moral in the context of art I mean a style which executes the deeper social and psychological function of form, as opposed to a particular aspect of vanity called taste. Pop sensibility, pop consciousness, pop sentimentality have been invaluable in clarifying the provincialism and nostalgia that actually permeate a culture that has come to pride itself on sophistication."—SIdney Tillim, "Figurative Art 1969: Aspects and Prospects," as cited by Robert Christgau here.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:00 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was watching an old movie last night, and the audience was so disrespectful, it was a disgrace. Some parts of the film exhibited a few technical limitations of the medium at the time (poor sound quality, hokey acting, etc.), and the audience was howling with laughter. And when asked later why they ridiculed the film so much, they replied that the acting was phony, or overly melodramatic and unrealistic to the point of farce.

Oh wait...that wasn't my experience, that was the exact plot of "Singin' in the Rain."
posted by ShutterBun at 12:06 PM on September 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


“All you need for a movie is a girl and a gun”

When I read that remark or any of the zillions like it, I am reminded that the tacitly supposed "you" is a man, that even though I am a member of a numerical majority, I am considered a minority, that my interests and agency are marginalized not only in serious debate and Serious Art but even in the frothiest of entertainments.

Which is to point out: one of the aspects of appreciating art --- high or low art, populist or esoteric, frothy or dreary --- is to examine the unstated, unintended assumptions upon which it is founded and the expectations its creators presumed they would share with the audience. When the actual audience is distanced from the expected audience by time, geography, demographics, or other factors, the unstated assumptions often become more vividly apparent, even laughably so.

I laugh at points in James Bond movies because they are so clearly the product of somebody's erotic imagination, but not mine, and because they routinely display a societal expectation of women's sexual performance that makes me uncomfortable and even angry. There's a recurring theme in Bond's sexual exploits: the unwilling woman, his forceful grasp, her repeated resistance, and finally her succumbing to his insistent passion and being grateful for it. That's rape culture in a nutshell, and I find it both hilarious and appalling to see it displayed, Bond film after Bond film, as an inevitable part of the Sexy James Bond formula.

Even when the scenes are arguably ironic in intent, as when Bond converts Pussy Galore to heterosexuality in one violent tumble with the mighty power of his penis, it's still the product of a society that filters sexual fantasy through a male viewpoint, and seeing that so blatantly portrayed on the screen makes me titter, either in disbelief or in discomfort, depending on how I'm feeling that day. And also I'm laughing because my brain keeps piping up that they are going to ruin her dusty-orchid suede pants.
posted by Elsa at 12:11 PM on September 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


If you look back at anything that was revolutionary at the time, the stuff that was revolutionary at the time will seem normal and the stuff that was normal will seem quaint. The Matrix was amazing when I saw it, but now they have bullet time in football games. And that's if you're lucky, if you go far enough back the stuff that was revolutionary has been supplanted by something else revolutionary and everything seems quaint.
posted by ckape at 12:13 PM on September 15, 2012


... But, um ... From Russia With Love is actually pretty unsophisticated.
posted by kyrademon at 1:22 PM on September 15, 2012


That's not what I mean. I mean take a couple solid decades of car commercials etc. associating a certain kind of music with a certain attitude and form of rebellion and teenagers are going to eat it up. No one tries to use Perry Como to convince you that driving a Cadillac makes you a threat to the status quo in any way, either.

I think you have the arrow of causation backwards here. Marketers use "Back in Black" because it's cool. "Back in Black" isn't cool because marketers use it.

There were plenty of car commercials in 1980. Marketers could have tried using Perry Como to make Cadillacs seem cool, but they didn't.
posted by straight at 1:51 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is why I go to my local independent cinema less and less. It has nothing to do with "young people" or some sort of warmed-over "discussion" about racism or sexism or something. It has everything to do with being intellectually unable to engage with a piece of art that doesn't fit the pop culture tropes you are acclimated to.

I went to see a double feature of "The Call of Cthulhu" and "The Whisperer in the Darkness," two modern films made in the idiom and style of older films from the 1920s and '30s, the former silent, the latter a talkie. I had seen "The Call of Cthulhu" on Netflix, and enjoyed it as a creepy and effective adaptation. I was excited to see it on the big screen with like-minded people.

It seemed at least half the people at the theater found both films immensely amusing, and in fact, quite the laff-riot. It really spoiled the experience, and I was unable to enjoy the movies like I should because a bunch of stupid dildos decided to pay ten bucks to watch movies they were too intellectually incurious to bother trying to put themselves in a place to watch a movie that doesn't cater their whims.

If you can't watch a movie and not act like a spoiled child be demanding that it conform to your vapid notions of good, get the fuck out. You don't like James Bond or H.P. Lovecraft? Great, no one is saying you have to. But don't bother the rest of us because you're to shallow and/or lazy to try and at least look at as a film and piece of art, and don't try and dress it up in high-handed language.

Also, movies are a social experience - if you want to see a film in quiet reverence, you need either to seek out a theater or showtime where quiet reverence is likely (and those certainly exist) or to watch them at home. It's unfortunate, but you don't get your own private football game either.

I guess I'll just stay at home then, because apparently it's too much to ask that people in a movie theater are there to actually watch and experience a movie, not chortle and show off how above it all they are.
posted by Snyder at 1:58 PM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Snyder, I know what you mean, but there is a moment in Whisperer in Darkness that's terrifically funny AND creepy at the same time. It's when the thing-that's-not-Akeley laughs, with that sort of high buzzing titter. It's great, and exactly the thing that Lovecraft was going for in the story. And we the audience *know*, far beyond what Wilmarth knows, the horrors that pseudo-Akeley are alluding to, and the combination is almost uniquely funny/creepy.

But anyway, both are made by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, who are not averse to having rather a lot of fun with Lovecraft's work. Their brilliant music CDs, "A Very Scary Solstice" and "Ogham Waite and the Amphibian Jazz Band," should illustrate that clearly enough.
posted by JHarris at 2:19 PM on September 15, 2012


... But, um ... From Russia With Love is actually pretty unsophisticated.

What does that say about people who can't engage with it, then?

A lot of people are saying that older films need context and such, and you can't expect people to just be able to relate to the films in the same way. This is true, to an extent, but it doesn't excuse ignorance on the part of the viewer, and as sure as shit doesn't excuse smug self-congratulatory reactions to the film.

If you are going to engage with movies as an art form, and not as a series of moving pictures and sound, it behooves you to at least take into account aesthetic differences from earlier, or less familiar films, and perhaps research as to why. You don't need to have a Ph.D in feelm in order to to do this, (I sure as shit don't,) but just a desire to appreciate the medium, and not take your immediate gut-reaction as the only reaction worthwhile.

I guess if you feel it's a drag to have an interest in the medium, and that it's sexist and racist to even have an interest in film outside of the pop cultural tropes you are accustomed too, then just stick with any of the fine modern films that are currently being made.
posted by Snyder at 2:23 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


JHarris, I totally agree with you. There is no need to to treat the film, or almost any film, with solemn seriousness. There are going to be parts that are funny, or witty, or badass in otherwise more sober films. That's a pretty creepy and uncomfortably funny scene, I agree.

Even having a bit of fun with your source material is cool. It's just that I think you need to respect it as well.

My beef with the shitheads at the showing I saw was when, for example, Wlmarth mixes some Ovaltine, and the audience thought it was hilarious for some reason. "Ovaltine! Durp!"
It was just laughing at something because it seems foreign or old.
posted by Snyder at 2:29 PM on September 15, 2012


Years ago, during my days as a collegiate wanna-be film buff, I tracked down a new independent film playing near me (in Orange County, CA) which I had read about and really wanted to see. I saw it at a standard multi-plex theater with only a few other people there.

It was absolutely rivetting: the dialogue, the violence, the suspense and tension. I was blown away.

A couple nights later, I wanted to see it again. Unfortunately it was only playing at the Nuart theatre in Hollywood, so it would be a bit of a drive, though I looked forward to seeing it with an appreciative audience, which was far more likely there. (the Nuart being well known as an art-house cinema)

What happened next surprised and outraged me. Everyone was laughing! Even during scenes of horrific violence and menacing dialogue! What was wrong with these people? Why didn't they appreciate this film the way I did?

I pondered it for a while, eventually watching it again on video. Then something clicked. In a theater full of people laughing, I was the one who "didn't get it." Even though we all seemed to enjoy the same movie, I was miffed that they were enjoying it for "the wrong reasons."

I get it now. The jokes were there all along, I just hadn't managed to see them before.

The film in question? Reservoir Dogs.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:00 PM on September 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you can't watch a movie and not act like a spoiled child be demanding that it conform to your vapid notions of good, get the fuck out.

But you aren't the sole arbiter of what constitutes "watching a movie" nor of what constituttes "acting like a spoiled child." I too have had movie-going experiences ruined by fellow cinema attendees, but only when those actions are directly against either theater rules or the social contract about behavior in performance spaces have I felt as strongly as you apparently do.

I laughed during Inception [these are not spoilers], at the Penrose staircase and also at the final scene, not because I am a spoiled child or even because I think those scenes those are silly, but because they were both moments that created a weird frisson where my own expectations collided: I hadn't seen them coming, but I absolutely should have.

If you were sitting behind me, possibly you were annoyed by my gasp of laughter at those dramatic moments --- but unless you are the owner of a theater with surprisingly restrictive rules, you don't get to tell me not to laugh at a movie.
posted by Elsa at 3:48 PM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


In any given moment, someone, for whatever reason, might laugh. This is a thing. It happens and there is no problem. When a pattern appears, I can draw a conclusion.
posted by Snyder at 4:09 PM on September 15, 2012


I laugh in movies. I laugh all the time in movies. I may (or may not) bust on movies in the theater. I'm not an unsophisticated film viewer — I'm a pretty sophisticated pop culture viewer.

"I laugh at points in James Bond movies because they are so clearly the product of somebody's erotic imagination, but not mine, and because they routinely display a societal expectation of women's sexual performance that makes me uncomfortable and even angry. There's a recurring theme in Bond's sexual exploits: the unwilling woman, his forceful grasp, her repeated resistance, and finally her succumbing to his insistent passion and being grateful for it. That's rape culture in a nutshell, and I find it both hilarious and appalling to see it displayed, Bond film after Bond film, as an inevitable part of the Sexy James Bond formula. "

I think this is dead on.

Bond is goofy as fuck and pretty gross when you think about a fair amount of it. It may be a sophisticated rape fantasy, but man, it's still a rape fantasy, presented as something desirable and sexy. That's pretty absurd, and absurd things are funny.

It feels like a lot of the linked essay is written in the same tone as if the writer had just explained his "erotic daydream" to me. If someone did that to me, whether I knew them or not, I'd probably laugh at them whether or not they were joking. Complaining that not respectfully engaging with erotic daydreams is unsophisticated is like complaining that viewers laughed all the way through The Devil In Ms. Jones. (Or, you can think of it this way: Everyone's face is ridiculous during sex, when regarded without desire.)

"My beef with the shitheads at the showing I saw was when, for example, Wlmarth mixes some Ovaltine, and the audience thought it was hilarious for some reason. "Ovaltine! Durp!" "

Haven't seen the movie, but that would remind me of the code ring in Christmas Story, and I'd probably laugh too, remembering the joke. I might imagine Wilmarth as having a cabinet full of box-tops.

It's not just old films: I laughed through much of Dark Night Rises (I had probably chuckled at the other new Batmen, I don't remember). Bain's voice was ridiculous. I was already familiar with the source material — and always thought that Bain was a pretty dumb Batman villain too, so in that case it wasn't unsophistication, it was the ability to recognize that I enjoy a lot of dumb things that I think have pretensions of high art.

Finally, if you have to constantly be choosing throughout a movie to be engaged, the movie probably isn't that great. The suspension of disbelief goes both ways — the filmmaker doesn't necessarily deserve an audience's attention or appreciation.
posted by klangklangston at 4:55 PM on September 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Joey Michaels: "Alfred Jarry wrote something like... "

It was Eugene Ionesco, in The Bald Saprano.
posted by idiopath at 5:18 PM on September 15, 2012


In any given moment, someone, for whatever reason, might laugh. This is a thing. It happens and there is no problem. When a pattern appears, I can draw a conclusion.

The pattern is that you keep going to the movie theatre despite the obvious fact that you hate it.

Maybe communal viewing just isn't for you. There are plenty of reasons whole throngs of people (myself included) don't like movie theatres, from popcorn crunching to bedbugs to gouging; maybe this is yours. Maybe Sartre was right about other people.

Good news: Movie theatres are obsolete. They've been made redundant. They're a complete anachronism in the digital age. You don't ever have to go to them to watch anything ever again.

If other people are ruining your media consumption experience, that's on you for inviting them into it in the first place.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:24 PM on September 15, 2012


Years ago, during my days as a collegiate wanna-be film buff, I tracked down a new independent film playing near me (in Orange County, CA) which I had read about and really wanted to see. ... It was absolutely rivetting: the dialogue, the violence, the suspense and tension. I was blown away... Even during scenes of horrific violence and menacing dialogue! What was wrong with these people? Why didn't they appreciate this film the way I did?

You've just described my exact experience seeing No Country for Old Men only there was no epiphany later and when I think back on it now the audience was indeed a bunch of fuckwits who assumed just cause it was a Coen Brothers movie that everything must be hilaaaaaaaaaaaarious even though what they were watching was some real deep disturbing Cormac McCarthy shit.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:00 PM on September 15, 2012


er I somehow managed to miss the "audience laughing" part in what I pasted
posted by nathancaswell at 6:04 PM on September 15, 2012


nathancaswell : You've just described my exact experience seeing No Country for Old Men only there was no epiphany later and when I think back on it now the audience was indeed a bunch of fuckwits who assumed just cause it was a Coen Brothers movie that everything must be hilaaaaaaaaaaaarious even though what they were watching was some real deep disturbing Cormac McCarthy shit.

Y'know the running gag in Family Guy, where Peter hurts himself in some minor way (like bruising his shin) and lies on the floor holding his leg breathing hard and "oooh" ing? And you give it a mild chuckle, then after 15 seconds or so, you think "okay, this has gone on too long now"... And then after 45 seconds you start to get annoyed? And then, after a full two minutes of it, you break out in uncontrollable laughter?

This.
posted by pla at 6:26 PM on September 15, 2012


I saw Singin' in the Rain when I was a kid in the '80s, and I thought it was one of the most hilarious things I'd ever seen. I'd watch the disastrous debut of "The Duelling Cavalier" over and over again. "I am the noblest lady in the court, second only to the queen, yet I am the saddest woman in FRRRAAAANCE!"

Of course, I thought MTV videos were deeply awesome too, so I could be a fan of both at the same time. I also love early James Bond films (mostly) unironically. I remember seeing Goldfinger in the theatre in Belfast in '97, and I was surrounded by fellow fans. It was pretty cool.

So, I spent my youth and young adulthood watching many, many hours of old movies. It was just something I was into. Yet when I finally watched Night of the Hunter about ten years ago, I couldn't believe this was the awesome movie I'd heard so much about. It seemed silly and tiresome. I wasn't scared. I was bored. I found myself cracking some inappropriate jokes (fortunately I was at a friend's house, so only he heard me). Maybe I wasn't in the right mood for it. Who knows?

I'm not sure what conclusion to draw from my experience, except that yes, it is fucking annoying to watch a beloved movie with an unappreciative audience; and yet, at the same time, just because you love old movies, not all old movies will be ones that you dig.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 7:25 PM on September 15, 2012


Okay, well fuck this guy, really. Any teacher who approaches their job with the view of "why don't these students know what I'm supposed to be teaching them" is a bad teacher and professorships are coveted positions that they shouldn't have. For real.

I'm a former film student. I also have trouble getting into old movies. Doesn't mean that I can't, or don't, or that some of my favorite movies aren't classics, but everyone has things that will generally take them out of the experience of a story. For some people it may be excessive violence. For my girlfriend, it's casual nudity. For me, there are a number of things, but tops among them are stilted acting/writing and low production values. Classic movies tend to have these in spades, and so getting past them is a major hurdle to my enjoyment of the stories beneath.

But that's not the issue here. The issue here is that the professor didn't do anything to prime his students for the experience. I saw Singin' in the Rain when I was in seventh grade, in 1994. We had block scheduling and so could fit the film into a class period. Now, I'd posit to you that movie musicals have never been so out-of-time or unfashionable as they were in the mid-nineties, and that seventh-graders, as a group, are by far the least appreciative and all-around worst people in the world, myself at that time included.

We all loved it, laughed at the studff that was meant to be funny, felt the distress where we were supposed to, all of it (well maybe not all of it, we were still kids after all.)

But what made this possible was that our drama teacher, Mrs. Schreiber, had spent the previous class prepping us for it. She explained the issues going on in moving from silents to talkies, the studio politics, the weirdness that this classic movie was coming out as a play (which was novel as hell at the time) instead of the other way around, and Gene Kelly's Kubrick-level sadistic perfectionism. Damn straight we were engaged - the movie was showing off the most amazing dancing imaginable and lampooning the information that was fresh in our minds.

But giving it to people with no context? Let me put it this way. Imagine dropping your grandmother, or someone of great taste and curiosity of that same age, into Scott Pilgrim without context and see how much they "appreciate it on the same level" as you do.

I would argue that, by and large, film techniques have gotten better over the years. We better understand pacing, for one. Yes, we do. It is tempting to claim that younger audiences simply have shorter attention spans, but that's the cynical view that poor films are banking on, and most of the movies from back in the day were shitty too. How many long, languid, absolutely arresting scenes has Tarantino created, for instance? The opening scene of Inglourious Basterds is ten, maybe fifteen minutes of mostly just two men sitting in a rustic farmhouse talking about milk, languages, the philosophy of reputation, etc, and done in a style meant to evoke classic European cinema, but I defy anyone of any age or class who has any knowledge of the holocaust to look away. And that is largely because the psychology and instinct of pacing has developed through the ages, standing on the shoulders of giants, as it were. (It's also because of viewer confidence, which I'll get to later.)

Now, I don't know From Russia, with Love, but I know Goldfinger, which has great moments but also to my mind the most god-awful scene in terms of pacing in all of the films I've ever seen: the golf scene. Slack, no tention, no feeling of real stakes, we just see Connery play what feels like eighteen holes in real time in order to weasel some information out of the target in no interesting way. When compared to the movie of Starsky & Hutch - which isn't by any measure great but which had the benefit of several more decades' knowledge of pacing for a popcorn flick - it is illustrative. The latter film parodies the scene in question, with Snoop Dogg as a clever and appropriate insert for Bond as far as a demonstration for the "impossibly cool" archetype as determined by era. The scene plays much more quickly in terms of screen time. It's not quick-edited or anything, just gets the job done faster while feeling like a golf game. Pacing got better.

Writing and acting have gotten more naturalistic. I won't say "better" here, as it's purely subjective, but in the early days of film both came out of the theatrical school, which plays for the ears more than the eyes, and evolved for the new medium. The writing followed the acting in this regard. Take Ingrid Bergman's intensely intimate performance in Casablanca, for instance, or Robert Mitchum's in Night of the Hunter, neither of which would have played from the stage, but were written as if for it.

(For the record, I respect Night of the Hunter but I don't connect with it, and I came into it with wide open arms. Mitchum's performance was amazing, and some of the shots (like the corpse in the water) were among the most gorgeously haunting I've ever seen, but the rest of it felt like half-a-movie, and I got little out of it. Sorry.

Shot composition has evolved considerably, and not for the better or worse by any measure - things are just different now. Like mentioned above, a single-shot showing people dropping down from a dock onto a boat might have once been exciting but now doesn't play. I'll go on a tangent here, a bit. Hitchcock is not just one of the indisputable masters of the classic era, but perhaps the master. Even to modern audiences, the grand majority of his stuff feels fresh today, even with the more stilted writing and acting styles. (Capra is another good example of this.) As such, I find it illustrative to see what feels jarring in Hitchock's classics.

For instance, the ending of Rear Window. After a hundred minutes or so of the ingenious device of being cramped in the apartment watching everything from close confines, Jimmy Stewart goes out to take action, except that in the transfer to the outside world we move into "standard" cinematic techniques of the times, which haven't aged nearly as well as the rest of the film has, and so what once might have seemed tense now seems suddenly dated.

Another case is with the climax of North by Northwest, where at the time the audience would have been thrilled by seeing the long-shots of the action on Mt. Rushmore, now they feel detached and awkward, and an audience would rather see close-ups.

These aren't problems with artistic ability, but with sensibility, and it's silly to expect people to engage as thoroughly with elements of times past when those same elements are signs of amateurism in the films of their own era.

Which gets me to the issue of confidence. The professor claims that it is the duty of the viewer to engage themselves in the film, and maybe, maybe, perhaps that might be kind of true. But every film, from the very best to the most incompetent student film rejected-festival-entry asks the same in that regard, and some are going to be more rewarding than others. Cinema Paradiso is going to be more rewarding than Epic Movie. Hotel Rwanda is going to offer more than Hotel for Dogs. And even if you disagree with me on those counts it is because you know what to expect from each based upon their title and pedigree.

Every filmgoer comes into each film with a level of trust in what they are to experience. A trust and confidence that it will engage them, connect with them, move them, thrill them. A low level of trust does not mean ironic refusal to engage, but rather trepidation. If a movie is not made in their time, for instance, it may well not be for their time either, might not connect to their experience or their understanding of the zeitgeist. So here again I bring up the opening scene from Inglourious Basterds. I believe that this scene would not be out of place in something by, say, Truffaut, but the same scene would not work as well with modern American audiences, simply because there is not the confidence that it was made for their viewership.

Shakespeare survives in part because his works keep being revived FOR modern audiences. Old movies do not enjoy this benefit. They were made for an audience significantly different than the modern one. Some are great enough to survive that transition. Others suffer some wear. FIlm Appreciation profs are people who devoted themselves to being the absolute best at loving movies and there's no prize at the end for that except to try to pass that love along to people without the same context that they had.

The best professors translate the context and try to learn the new one.

The worst ones write crotchety bullshit like this article.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:48 PM on September 15, 2012 [14 favorites]


jason_steakums: check out Ghost Dog if you haven't already.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:54 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


No. "Back in Black" was released in 1980, 32 years ago. Name one song from 1948 that was even remotely as popular in 1980 among teenagers as "Back in Black" is today.

"Puttin' on the Ritz". Performed by Fred Astaire in the 1946 film Blue Skies, #4 on Billboard's Hot 100 in September 1983.

(Not to mention that rockabilly was huge in the 80's. I knew many teenagers who went from the Stray Cats to Elvis to Johnny Burnette. No one would listen to Perry Como, because Perry Como would not have been cool to teenagers even in the 40's and 50's. That's what their parents listened to.)
posted by oneirodynia at 11:12 PM on September 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Of course, that was Taco's cover version, which most definitely not apply to movies.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:27 PM on September 15, 2012


But that's not the issue here. The issue here is that the professor didn't do anything to prime his students for the experience.

Why on earth would he? He is showing them a film for a couple of hours, not dropping them into the jungle with a knife and a rabbit. Do modern students really need that much hand-holding that they can't figure out on their own:
  • I'm a student in a film history class
  • The teacher has selected this film as part of the curriculum
  • He probably had a reason for doing that
  • Perhaps this film has qualities that are not immediately evident
What's the man supposed to say when it becomes evident they haven't even tried to engage with the film and that he's just wasted his own and their time - "Good job"? "Your assessment is really interesting and completely valid"? Maybe he didn't need to call them unsophisticated, but only because 'lazy' would be more accurate. Probably what he should have said is "Try again. Try harder."
posted by Ritchie at 12:01 AM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


it's kind of gross how whenever you have a thing re: modern media having problems, everyone always jumps to the trendy social morals stuff to defend it

like okay films in 205x are exclusively a repeating loop of a person in black sackcloth standing over a box that's thumping arhythmically under a low rumbling noise, and the thumping gets more and more violent until they slowly take off the lid to reveal a putrefying motionless rabbit

but you gotta adapt, man

posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:26 AM on September 16, 2012


also you don't need to go to a movie theater to see the loop, it plays whenever you close your eyes

progress!
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:27 AM on September 16, 2012


Probably what he should have said is "Try again. Try harder."

Perhaps what he should have said is, "Oh right -- I'm an instructor. Maybe next time I'll do my job."
posted by Sys Rq at 7:10 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ritchie : Why on earth would he?

Because if you've paid for instruction under an expert in the field, that expert should perhaps instruct you rather than ridicule you for not knowing as much as he does?

Yes, the chain of hypothetical student logic you give makes some sense, and "figure it out on your own" certainly does have merit in many circumstances. But mostly in situations where explaining what to look for counts as really, really hard.

When a five minute prep of "Watch for the use of color in this scene, and how even the birds move in sync with the dance over here, and how the din of the market sets the beat for this part, yadda yadda yadda" could have meant an entire class hadn't wasted 90 minutes of their life so the professor could smugly "observe" their reactions - The guy in charge pretty much has an obligation to do that five minute prep.

I think of this in term of every college level chem lab I took... At the start of every lab, we'd do a 5 minute recap of the applicable theory, go over the actual procedure to follow, and the important part here, the professor would spend about a minute telling us which steps to take particular care with. We didn't do anything all that dangerous, but the professor saw no point in having 30 people all get the wrong results because they overheated the mixture by just a few degrees after it turned blue.
posted by pla at 7:33 AM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Makes me wanna see some Bond. Connery-era Bond, which is the only Bond I've ever viewed.

flapjax, if you haven't already seen it, pick up The Rock. They can't call it a Bond movie but it absolutely is. With recent production values, and Connery as B*nd, and it's one of his tippy-top best.
posted by jfuller at 7:51 AM on September 16, 2012


No. "Back in Black" was released in 1980, 32 years ago. Name one song from 1948 that was even remotely as popular in 1980 among teenagers as "Back in Black" is today.

"Puttin' on the Ritz". Performed by Fred Astaire in the 1946 film Blue Skies, #4 on Billboard's Hot 100 in September 1983.


Bzzt. Taco's cover of "Puttin' on the Ritz" was a brief revival (six months, maybe?) of a song no one had listened to for decades. AC/DC's original recording of "Back in Black" has been popular non-stop for over 30 years.

And there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of 30-year-old songs that are more popular among teens today than any 30-year-old song was in the 1980's.

Guitar students today want to learn even older songs, "Blackbird," "Stairway to Heaven," "Dust in the Wind." Students in 1980 weren't clamoring to learn songs from the 1930's.
posted by straight at 8:16 AM on September 16, 2012


The professor explicitly says that he picked Singin' in the Rain to kick off the class because he thought it would be accessible and fun. He had no expectation that students would need any priming in order to get it. That is why he was surprised. That is the whole thing about the article.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:16 AM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Students in 1980 weren't clamoring to learn songs from the 1930's.

Except, y'know, blues.
posted by jfuller at 8:20 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I couldn't put my finger on it before, but something that's bothered me about this thread is that people have focused on changing standards of aesthetics to the exclusion of basic moviegoing etiquette. If a moviegoer has his or her experience spoiled by a heckler, a lot of people in this thread are blaming the moviegoer for feeling offended, rather than putting the blame where it belongs with the heckler. From Russia with Love may not deserve as much "reverence" as Matt Soller Zeitz thinks it does, but that does mean you have a right to spoil somebody's experience of watching it. I don't care if the movie is some Grade Z, 1950s science fiction flick like Attack of the Crab Monsters. If you find the movie laughable or sexist or retrograde or whatever, I would rather you smirk or roll your eyes silently, rather than share your audible snark with audience members who may not share your own judgment about how clever you are. Moviegoing is a collective experience that has some social constraints built into it. There are moviegoing experiences that are less constrained (e.g., performing in Rocky Horror, watching "so bad it's good" movies at a midnight screening, going to a 1970s style grindhouse), but generally, if you feel the need to disturb the experience of others, it's better if you keep it to yourself.

It used to be that the social norms were, that if you wanted to talk loudly and ridicule a movie, you did so at home in front of your VCR or laserdisc or DVD player etc. If I pay money (and possibly a babysitter and other expenses) to go see a movie, I'm damn sure I don't want to hear you acting like the same jackass you act like at home. This is especially the case with a repertory theater, where I would expect people to show some respect about old movies, which is where MSZ probably saw From Russia With Love, not at some multiplex.

If you think I'm being extreme, try flipping the script a little bit. There are lot of current comic-book movies I can't stand, but I'll sometimes end up going to one of them, because I'm going out with friends. Now suppose I was watching Ironman in a public multiplex, and I started loudly complaining about the comic-book plot, the overuse of CGI to cover up crappier fight choreography than I'd find in a 70s kung fu movie, the gratuitous explosions etc. and started yelling about how everybody in the audience should be watching an Ingmar Bergman movie instead. You'd be totally right to think I'm a jerk for acting like that.

Or suppose somebody actually did take Grandma to a movie like Scott Pilgrim. Suppose she started loudly complaining about the noise, the editing and shaky camera movements, and how Scott's girlfriend experimented with lesbianism. I suppose a lot of you would be pissed off too. How is that different than what MSZ described in his essay?
posted by jonp72 at 8:38 AM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


What's the man supposed to say when it becomes evident they haven't even tried to engage with the film and that he's just wasted his own and their time - "Good job"? "Your assessment is really interesting and completely valid"? Maybe he didn't need to call them unsophisticated, but only because 'lazy' would be more accurate. Probably what he should have said is "Try again. Try harder."

I'm also getting a little pissed about the people dumping on the professor for going after the students for failing to engage with Singin' in the Rain. I agree that the professor probably should have done some pre-lecturing to put the film in context, but I think people are assuming that the entire class failed to engage, when it actually might have been only 5% of the class ruining the movie-watching experience for the other 95% of the class. In that case, the professor should not have issued a blanket indictment of the whole class, but students who ruin the learning and enjoyment of other students shouldn't go without blame either.
posted by jonp72 at 8:42 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you think I'm being extreme, try flipping the script a little bit. There are lot of current comic-book movies I can't stand, but I'll sometimes end up going to one of them, because I'm going out with friends. Now suppose I was watching Ironman in a public multiplex, and I started loudly complaining about the comic-book plot, the overuse of CGI to cover up crappier fight choreography than I'd find in a 70s kung fu movie, the gratuitous explosions etc. and started yelling about how everybody in the audience should be watching an Ingmar Bergman movie instead. You'd be totally right to think I'm a jerk for acting like that.

You're right. But that's not remotely akin to what's described in the article: Laughing (which is an involuntary reflex) at the wrong things, and whispering to the friend next to you. Not "loudly complaining," not "yelling"; normal, socially-acceptable movie theatre behaviour.

Don't like it? Don't go there.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:47 AM on September 16, 2012


In any given moment, someone, for whatever reason, might laugh. This is a thing. It happens and there is no problem. When a pattern appears, I can draw a conclusion.

The pattern is that you keep going to the movie theatre despite the obvious fact that you hate it.

Maybe communal viewing just isn't for you. There are plenty of reasons whole throngs of people (myself included) don't like movie theatres, from popcorn crunching to bedbugs to gouging; maybe this is yours. Maybe Sartre was right about other people.

Good news: Movie theatres are obsolete. They've been made redundant. They're a complete anachronism in the digital age. You don't ever have to go to them to watch anything ever again.

If other people are ruining your media consumption experience, that's on you for inviting them into it in the first place.


It is really some sort of achievement to write a comment in which every single sentence is wrong.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:19 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is really some sort of achievement to write a comment in which every single sentence is wrong.

Talk about failure to engage.

Could you explain how anything in my comment that you quoted -- let alone all of it -- is wrong? I honestly have no idea what you're talking about, and from here it kinda looks like you don't either.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:48 AM on September 16, 2012


Happy to oblige!

1. Commenter obviously doesn't hate going to movie theaters; commenter obviously likes it quite a lot; commenter would like other people to appreciate that communal spaces have rules that must be followed for everyone to enjoy.
"What's wrong with people these days?!?! I went to a restaurant last week, and a bug crawled out of my sandwich. Then yesterday I went to a restaurant, some asshole pooped on the table!" "You obviously don't like going to restaurants."

2. Movies theaters are as obsolete as board games, team sports, and coffee shops. So long as people like to consume entertainment and art in a group, they're worth having. Even on a technical level---however big your flatscreen is, it is guaranteed to be smaller than even a small multiplex screen, and if the image can fit into your field of vision without eye movement, the pacing is wrong.

3. If other people are ruining your media consumption, maybe they're being total dicks, rather than you "asking for it".

But then, hearing someone who says he doesn't like movie theaters insisting that movie theaters are obsolete kind of explains everything right away.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:27 PM on September 16, 2012


Commenter obviously doesn't hate going to movie theaters

Right. He just hates the things that he claims always happen there.

commenter would like other people to appreciate that communal spaces have rules that must be followed for everyone to enjoy.

Tragedy of the Commons. Tough cheese.

So long as people like to consume entertainment and art in a group, they're worth having.

First of all, I never said they weren't worth having. Just that they're not worth going to if doing so consistently leads to aggravation, because there are perfectly adequate alternatives.

If other people are ruining your media consumption, maybe they're being total dicks, rather than you "asking for it".


Quotation marks are for quotations. That isn't one. It's perfectly apparent that he's literally asking for the opposite of that. Asking is futile, though. Avoiding it completely, on the other hand, is trivial.

Now: The other six sentences?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:45 PM on September 16, 2012


Tragedy of the Commons. Tough cheese.

Dude, the ToC is the reason laws, rules, and norms exist. Look, I've tossed the occasional loud snarky comment in a dark theatre when I thought a movie deserved it, but the key is occasionally. I've also asked for my money back when a group -- it's almost always a group, and almost always of guys -- was ruining a movie with constant self-congratualatory snark.

It's not black and white, but it does mostly hew to the side of not being a dick. Seeing movies large and on a fixed schedule and with a group of strangers is a very different thing than seeing them on demand on your 80 inch flatscreen alone in your bathrobe.

In some cases the MST3000 party is the reason for the show; think any SF convention screening, Rocky Horror, or the Worst Movies festival a friend of mine helped pioneer. Sometimes there is a group consensus that a supposedly serious movie surprisingly sucks and you will get a spontaneous MST3000 conversion, but if it's just a few people doing the heckling and most of those in the theatre are actually trying to get into the movie, you're not being clever, you're being a dick.

Sometimes watching a good movie with a group is an almost religious experience. My wife and I came out of Twelve Monkeys almost in shock, and it was obvious we were not alone. The stunned silence with which the packed theatre took in Avatar was in a lot of ways more impressive than the movie itself. There's a lot you could snark at in Avatar to be sure, but save that for the SF con screening. Ruining it for people who are trying to enjoy it is just dickish.

If you laugh at a couple of inappropriate scenes that's OK, but if you are constantly laughing at inappropriate places and the people around you are getting annoyed, it is you and not they who are the problem.

Yes, I've lobbed the occasional snarky comment (but only when I was very sure, and I've always been right, that it would be appreciated). But I've also left the theatre and asked for my money back or for ushers to remove people because they were ruining the experience with an endless barrage of banter. The commons are only tragic because there are no rules or enforcement.

At one of the Harry Potter flicks I was seated just in front of a kid who kept loudly telling her father what was going to happen next. Despite repeated shushing by people all around the father didn't say anything to her. Finally, in a very loud voice, I announced, "I didn't realize what a bargain I was getting, I only paid twelve bucks to see this movie in 3D but I'm getting the commentary track too." There was applause. The father said something too quiet for me to make out, and the little girl shut up.

THAT was the commons. But theatres are private businesses who want me to spend my money there, and if crowd pressure doesn't work and someone gets up to complain they will decide whether it is more profitable to accommodate my desire for silence or yours to act out. It's a risk, an expense, and a nuisance to eject paying customers who are annoying your other paying customers, but there is a threshold at which most theatres will sensibly act.

I see the problem with the OP as being rather unusual, because most people don't watch classic movies (and early Bond is certainly classic, in a certain literal sense) with large groups of random strangers, unless it is in a setting like a SF con where audience participation is expected. I can't remember ever being in a regular theatre showing a new release movie where a fraction of the audience too large to be ejected was going all MST3000 on the show.
posted by localroger at 2:39 PM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


You're right. But that's not remotely akin to what's described in the article: Laughing (which is an involuntary reflex) at the wrong things, and whispering to the friend next to you. Not "loudly complaining," not "yelling"; normal, socially-acceptable movie theatre behaviour.

Don't like it? Don't go there.


Laughing is somewhat involuntary, but not totally so. This is not that Mary Tyler Moore episode where Mary Richards can't stop laughing at a funeral, because of the tragic absurdity of Chuckles the Clown getting killed by an elephant who mistook him for a giant peanut. I even have my own account of suppressing involuntary laughter when I recognized that the princess at my niece's birthday party was the same woman as the princess at my other niece's birthday party. But the point is I actually suppressed that laughter, because I wanted to be considerate of my niece's feelings and not spoil the "magic" of a princess party, even though as an adult, I might find it corny. Moviegoers should be similarly considerate of the people around them.

And I wouldn't necessarily call "whispering to the friend next you" acceptable, because it's probably not whispering if other people in the auditorium can hear it. As for this blame-the-victim "don't go there" attitude, the essayist probably saw From Russia With Love in some theater with a name like Ye Olde Repertory and Cinematic Revival House, not some chuckle hut for asshole hipsters. There is no excuse for crapping on old movies in a movie repertory house that is designed to appeal to people who want to watch old movies. A movie theater is not your den; it is not your mancave; it is not your television set. If you want to act like you're in front of your own television set, don't ruin my night at the movies, but stay at home instead.
posted by jonp72 at 3:18 PM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


A movie theater is not your den; it is not your mancave; it is not your television set.

Exactly my point. It's not your home; don't go there expecting other people to behave as if it were.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:33 PM on September 16, 2012


It's not your home; don't go there expecting other people to behave as if it were.

I don't expect you to act as if the theatre is my home, where we pause the movie to take bathroom breaks, throw popcorn at the TV, and make loud jokes at will. We expect you to act like it's a theatre where everyone in the room has some respect for the others who all paid to be there.

You're the one who announced that theatres were obsolete. If you feel that way why don't you stay in your mancave and watch it when Netflix gets it so those of us who weren't raised by wolves can enjoy the show.
posted by localroger at 3:41 PM on September 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


Reading Sys Rq's comment, I recall a story I read somewhere about apartment noise complaints. A commenter posted about how the people next door were blasting music and skating (yes!) in their apartment in the dead of night. They complained, only to have the neighbors snarl "If you don't like it, you shouldn't live in the city!" And the (perfect) response was, "No, dearie---we live in the city, on top of each other, and therefore we all recognize that we have to behave in certain minimally mutually acceptable ways. Doing whatever you want regardless of anyone else wants is what you do in the suburbs."
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:59 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're the one who announced that theatres were obsolete. If you feel that way why don't you stay in your mancave and watch it when Netflix gets it so those of us who weren't raised by wolves can enjoy the show.

1. I do.
2. Sorry to disappoint, but I'm not one of the noisy moviegoers y'all are whining about anyway, and I never, ever have been--not even to get standing ovations for being a self-righteous dick to a little girl who doesn't know any better.

All I'm saying is that jerks have always been a part of the cinematic experience, they always will be a part of the cinematic experience, and this incessant moaning about their behaviour does nothing to change it. Altering your own behaviour, on the other hand -- i.e. partaking in any of the many alternate modes of movie-watching -- completely solves the problem.

I guess maybe I'm stuck on the notion that you all actually see it as a problem worth solving, rather than just something to complain about. Sorry. Whine on, I guess.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:34 PM on September 16, 2012


Could we move on, maybe.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:44 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you feel that way why don't you stay in your mancave and watch it when Netflix gets it so those of us who weren't raised by wolves can enjoy the show.

Hey, come on, now. Romulus and Remus deserve a night out at the movies every now and again, don'tcha think?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:00 PM on September 16, 2012


being a self-righteous dick to a little girl who doesn't know any better.

I don't blame the little girl. I blame the father who ignored plenty of more subtle hints.
posted by localroger at 5:54 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess maybe I'm stuck on the notion that you all actually see it as a problem worth solving

It is a subset of problems which need to be solved, because if we don't solve them as a general set the more important ones are going to destroy our species.
posted by localroger at 5:57 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


not even to get standing ovations

It wasn't a standing ovation, it was applause. Standing in a packed theatre would block the view of the people behind you, and most people aren't dickish enough to do that.
posted by localroger at 6:02 PM on September 16, 2012


> All I'm saying is that jerks have always been a part of the cinematic experience,

Citation really needed here. I've been to, heck, probably a thousand movies in my lifetime, and I can remember perhaps three or four times where loudmouthed assholes tried to ruin it for people - and even in those cases they were eventually hushed or thrown out by the ushers.

To me, going to the movies is NOT about going into a room full of assholes who sneer at the whole thing, and if even 5% of my movie experiences were like that I would seriously curtail my movie enjoyment.

> not even to get standing ovations for being a self-righteous dick to a little girl who doesn't know any better.

It is the responsibility of parents to get their kids to behave in public, and if one of those kids is ruining the experience of many other paying customers then those customers have every right to complain.

Serious question for you - would you allow a child you took to a theatre to make constant, loud comments even after being repeatedly shushed by others?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:03 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


... if you've paid for instruction under an expert in the field, that expert should perhaps instruct you rather than ridicule you for not knowing as much as he does?

I guess it comes down to what you expect out of education. If you tell a student to watch for X, Y, and Z, the risk is that the student will watch for X, Y, and Z and nothing more. I'm not a teacher and so my opinion on this is functionally worthless, but if I were I would prefer to be the kind that teaches a new way of looking rather than new things to look for.

I think it's absolutely okay for teachers to set the standards clearly, even rudely, when a student has a head-up-ass moment. I personally have benefited from this approach when I was a student. Yes, it's humiliating, and at the time it feels undeserved and shocking. But if someone can't learn to accept blunt criticism from an expert and reapply themselves accordingly, the problem isn't the critical expert, it's the person who demands that any criticism be couched in flattery before they will consider it.

And maybe these film history students were in the end really gracious about accepting the teacher's rather mild criticism. Who knows?
posted by Ritchie at 12:57 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


"And there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of 30-year-old songs that are more popular among teens today than any 30-year-old song was in the 1980's."

That's because during the '80s, we were still stuck on the boomer experience. There were shit-tons of songs from the '60s that were popular, and you might remember a little movie called Back to the Future that featured some '50s rock.
posted by klangklangston at 8:41 AM on September 17, 2012


I went to the 10am showing the Saturday of that weekend. He should have come to that one. The small theater was only about half-full, and half of that were families with young (but not too young; i.e., well-behaved) children. Gotta pick your spots, man!

The sound was a bit too loud at the loud end (gunshots) so you could hear the quiet bits (omg, a movie with dynamic range?), but the crowd enjoyed it and a lovely time was had by all.
posted by Eideteker at 11:16 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


There were shit-tons of songs from the '60s that were popular, and you might remember a little movie called Back to the Future that featured some '50s rock.

But teens today are still listening to most of those songs as well. Teens in 2012 listen to songs from the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and 2000s. Teens in 1980 listened to songs from the '70s and '60s, but hardly anything from the '50s (Back to the Future didn't exactly kick off a Chuck Berry revival), and almost nothing from the '40s and '30s.

My only point here is that teens are less opposed to listening to old music than they are to watching old films. I'm surprised that's a controversial observation.
posted by straight at 12:21 PM on September 17, 2012


I called a video store last night to see if they had a DVD of The Empire Strikes Back available for rental (as it's not available on Amazon Instant View) for my kids who'd never seen it.

The teenager who took my call had never heard of it. "Is it a TV show?" I told her to look under Star Wars. She still couldn't find it. "Wait...Star Wars Five? Is that it?"

(My kids were disappointed. They thought Han Solo was a jerk--particularly his "flirting" with Leia--and Luke was an idiot. I think Yoda's the only character they have any interest in seeing more of.)
posted by straight at 12:28 PM on September 17, 2012


"But teens today are still listening to most of those songs as well. Teens in 2012 listen to songs from the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and 2000s. Teens in 1980 listened to songs from the '70s and '60s, but hardly anything from the '50s (Back to the Future didn't exactly kick off a Chuck Berry revival), and almost nothing from the '40s and '30s.

My only point here is that teens are less opposed to listening to old music than they are to watching old films. I'm surprised that's a controversial observation.
"

I don't think that "teens listening to old music" says anything particularly about these teens, and can happily cite a nigh infinite amount of rehashes and pastiches in popular music that demonstrate that what's different is the access, not the music. You can really put a lot of that on the Boomer explosion.

And I work with a lot of kids in their late teens and early 20s, and they're totally up for watching movies from the '80s and '90s (even the '70s), to the extent that I don't think you can draw a reasonable inference.
posted by klangklangston at 12:44 PM on September 17, 2012


And there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of 30-year-old songs that are more popular among teens today than any 30-year-old song was in the 1980's.

It just so happens that I remember the eighties, otherwise known as before the internet....wherein if you wanted to hear a song and it was obscure or old or had god forbid been pressed into vinyl before about 1978, you were shit out of luck. For years I had a long, long list of "things to check the fancy record store for just in case, on that 'going to the fancy record store once every six weeks when I can persuade a friend to drive' trip". Now I can hear those things at home on a whim in front of my computer, and download them and play them at full volume on a good sound system.

The idea that teenagers today, who have not only virtually all songs ever at their fingertips but who have an enormous internet full of information about those songs....the idea that those people are making some kind of proactive choice that shows that they are better than the kids were in the eighties....well, that's just silly.

Now it's true that kids today are probably more sophisticated listeners, but that's because they have more to listen to, not because Culture Is Better or whatever. I'm a more sophisticated listener too, and that's because I have a squillion gazillion songs to listen to and another squillion gazillion "best songs for [thing]" metafilter posts to work my way through.
posted by Frowner at 1:14 PM on September 17, 2012


the idea that those people are making some kind of proactive choice that shows that they are better than the kids were in the eighties

OK, I see what's got everyone riled up. I never said that or meant to imply it.
posted by straight at 2:29 PM on September 17, 2012


I called a video store last night

As a former employe of Blockbuster, I must ask in disbelief, these still even exist?

Or have they just added Voice Recognition and individual numbers to those Redbox machines?
posted by radwolf76 at 6:25 PM on September 17, 2012


Teens in 1980 listened to songs from the '70s and '60s, but hardly anything from the '50s (Back to the Future didn't exactly kick off a Chuck Berry revival), and almost nothing from the '40s and '30s.

Not in my world. 96.3% of teens in 1980 listened mostly to songs released between 1977 and 1980, favoring the latter by far. We knew The Beatles, The Stones, and Elvis and a handful of other things from earlier years.
posted by bongo_x at 6:30 PM on September 17, 2012


I called a video store last night

As a former employe of Blockbuster, I must ask in disbelief, these still even exist?


Do they ever! My husband works at (and writes the weekly new releases/ rental recommendations newsletter for) Portland, Maine's Videoport, 25 years strong and may their banner wave forever!

Thank goodness for independent video stores. It's so wonderful to walk into an actual physical shop packed full of old and new movies, popular or rare movies, a wide range of shows from today and decades past, and --- most of all --- with a knowledgeable and engaged staff of movie-lovers who can help you figure out what movie you're thinking of but can't remember, what movie you've never heard of that suits your tastes for this evening, and which edition of the much-edited Bladerunner you're likely to prefer, because they have every single one of them on hand for you to take home.
posted by Elsa at 1:24 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a former employe of Blockbuster, I must ask in disbelief, these still even exist?

We've got two surviving video stores in little Brunswick, GA, although I don't think either are doing extremely well it's nice that they're still around. One of them actually opened before our town's Blockbuster opened many years ago, and it continues, somehow, to this day.
posted by JHarris at 2:45 AM on September 20, 2012


As a former employe of Blockbuster, I must ask in disbelief, these still even exist?

We were over a year in this little town with nothing but Redboxen, after Blockbuster and Hollywood Video both closed their doors. But then about a year ago we got a Hastings, which is a bookstore/video/music/comics/toys chain that rents videos. It's kind of like a small Barnes and Noble with 1/4 books and 3/4 other stuff.
posted by straight at 7:35 AM on September 20, 2012


Matt has responded to criticism of his original piece, including comments posted here at Metafilter.
posted by Mothlight at 9:29 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, and the criticism is still wrong — it's based on the fundamental position that he can gauge the quality of other people's subjective experience, and then he phrases it like an asshole.

Is it just because in music criticism, we've already seen the last decade largely slaying the dragon of rockism — has that not happened in film yet?

On the idea that some responses are better than others, the answer is "Kinda." Some are better articulated than others, some have more value as criticism than others, some are lazy, sure. But his is a pretty lazy, cranky bit of criticism that rests on some bullshit assumptions about what's universal — most obviously the repeated appeals to his own views of eroticism. (Porn's actually an excellent example for the rebuttal — the response to any porn that a viewer doesn't find arousing is almost universally either laughter or disgust.)

(He also ignores that many people have had the opportunity to see the movie many times so likely have — I know I'm more likely to laugh at things I also sincerely appreciate after I've been through them a couple times. The need for close attention is gone, generally, and it's easier to know when the goofy bits will come.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:53 AM on September 20, 2012


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