For more than a year, I've had disdain, disgust and disinterest in movies. (Lots of dis-ing.) I haven't always hated movies. In fact, it was one specific experience that led me to give up on movies altogether. I've continued to let my children watch movies and have watched some along with them. But on my own? I've only seen two movies in the theater over since February of 2010 and I felt like a bit of a hypocrite both times. I just don't want any part of an industry that takes the best our culture has to offer in literature and perverts it. Movies take great ideas and turn them into mental fast food. Over time, I've all but stopped paying attention to what movies are even coming out because I know I'm not going to watch them. Instead, I've found creative, engaging, thought-provoking television shows to watch. Many of them are BBC productions, several are science fiction.
Imagine my surprise and delight to have recently happened upon two clever, original and entertaining movies. One, surprisingly enough, was Easy A. The cover doesn't look appealing at all:
It looks sophomoric, trashy and immature. Instead it's subtle, funny and wise beyond its years. It took a classic novel (The Scarlet Letter) and made it thoroughly modern and relevant. The other thing this movie did (which I find so rare in today's movies), is assume the viewer has some intelligence. Today's movies feel the need to spell everything out for the viewer, dot every I, cross every T. Old movies - great movies like Roman Holiday - gave the audience credit for being able to fill in some gaps. Easy A does the same. It references Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mark Twain without explicitly detailing the link. It cleverly gives a nod to classic 80s movies while acknowledging that the main character doesn't live in a John Hughes movie.
Here's what I want from entertainment - be it books, movies or television - I want something that makes me think, that makes me feel, that lets me escape my real life ever-so-briefly. But I want it to be well done. Otherwise, I can't escape at all because I'm too busy being frustrated at being talked down to.
Many children's movies are especially bad about talking down to their audience. There seems to be an assumption that children can't fill in any blanks - which is far from the truth based on my experience. My daughters often connect the dots in ways that I might have missed entirely without hearing their viewpoint. They are able to see possibilities that I would miss because I'm so ingrained in my own way of thinking. A children's movie that's engaging, beautiful to watch and touches on great art? That's a good summary of Secret of Kells. I'm not sure how Netflix, in their logarithmic formulas, decided to recommend this movie for my family. But they were dead on. Unlike Easy A, the cover of this one drew me in:
But even more than the cover, the title drew me in. Could this movie possibly be about the Book of Kells? It was worth watching purely to find out. Once I started watching, the animation style so captured my imagination that there was no way I was going to not watch it. Animated movies and television shows have never been my favorite, but this movie was drawn in a completely unique way. It was like a well-done graphic novel come to life. (My middle daughter B has a lovely drawing style akin to cartooning and this movie was food for creative thought for her throughout.) I'll be honest that the plot for the movie wasn't as strong as I would have liked, but I was willing to forgive that because it did revolve around the Book of Kells.
I first saw the Book of Kells in January, 1994 at Trinity College, Dublin. It was beautiful. The next fall I wrote a paper on it as a part of a Medieval Art and Architecture class. The anthropomorphic shapes seem so alive, so ready to leap off the page that I could look at them again and again. And seeing a movie where the shapes could do just that was beautiful.
So from two different fronts I'm seeing a glimmer of hope for future movie-watching. Maybe I shouldn't write off the entire industry after all... Is there a movie you've seen recently that I should watch? Because for the first time in over a year, I might just be willing to give it a try.