Thursday, June 25, 2009

Just Wondering

I'm just wondering: am I one of the few people left in the world who has an imagination? I can't believe this is so, because I seem to meet so many wonderfully imaginative people all the time (through blogs and books and articles and at teacher conferences and art galleries, etc.). However, I am beginning to think that perhaps we are an endangered species. Perhaps I'm just living on my own little island in the Galapagos, or something, and think that the whole world is full of giant tortoises when there are really less than 10,000 of us in the world.

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I have been watching movies (having DVR-ed practically to the max while we take advantage of the free movie channels Bob managed to get for us for three months when he was negotiating with Direct TV). Glad you asked. Some of you may recall that I'm not a big fan of extraordinarily graphic movies. What's really annoying, though, is that so many movies I've seen that have come out in the past five years are ones that inspire "fan-dom" on my part, so then I end up being torn, having to say things like "Pan's Labyrinth was a brilliant movie. I loved it -- well, except for all that hideous violence." or "Well, Deception was just terrific, so much better than I expected. However, I couldn't have gone to see it alone. I needed someone who was willing to keep his eyes open throughout the whole thing, to let me know such minor things as who actually ended up dead."

And that's one of the major problems with all this violence, isn't it? The most recent "great but horrible" movie I've seen is Eastern Promises. It did not start off well, as a man gets killed in a hideously violent way in the very beginning, and I had to close my eyes. Not a great way to begin a film that is full of mystery and intrigue: not being sure yet who the "good guys" and "bad guys" are and whether or not this man you think is about to be killed is going to turn out to be a major character in the film. If you shut your eyes, you have no idea if he really did get his head cut off with a barber's razor or if he managed to escape and cut someone else's throat with it. Why would a director/producer want to do that to the viewer?

We Galapagos tortoises really just don't need that graphic detail, and there are some things in life we'd rather not see. All you need do is show me the razor poised at the man's throat. Then, you can show me a body posed face down by the barber's chair, those who weren't killed standing over it, so I know exactly what happened. I can fill in the slit throat, the blood, etc. myself (which is what I ended up doing anyway, since my eyes were shut).

Then there was the cutting off of the fingers scene. It seems no movie today is complete without either a hideous torture scene or someone losing fingers or both. (I'm waiting for Ratatouille II to come out with its scene in which the rat loses all his fingers.) One of the characters in the movie is told about the little operation that is about to be performed and is warned that he'd better leave the room. Couldn't the movie audience have been spared as well? Or couldn't we at least just have been shown the finger-cutting tool without having to see it in action?

As far as I'm concerned, all that graphic detail ruined an absolutely brilliant movie. It was: fantastic premise; lush cinematography; ironic juxtaposition, beautifully crafted; and superbly acted, not a weak character in the whole thing. I'm not even someone who considers myself to be extraordinarily squeamish. I've seen my fair share of brutal films in my life (like A Clockwork Orange and the original Mad Max. Remember that wonderful scene at the end, when Max throws the guy a saw -- I won't spoil it for those of you who haven't seen it? Well, that's the sort of "suggestion" that's now missing from movies. Today, we would have seen exactly what happened to that guy, leaving nothing up to the imagination), but movie-makers seem to be trying to outdo themselves with horrible gore. You know how bad Eastern Promises was, because even Bob, who will usually sit through anything and claim it wasn't as bad as I think it was, noted it was one of the most violent movies he's ever seen.

When I was a teen, I used to read books and be somewhat afraid to go see the movie, but that didn't stop me from heading out to the movie theater to see the likes of The Amityville Horror or The Shining. 99% of the time, I'd come away from the movie, saying to my friends "It wasn't as bad as I'd imagined it reading the book. They never show all the worst stuff." I don't think I could say that anymore. We've reached some turning point in which it seems the focus is often "the worst stuff." I'm convinced it's because we are no longer a society of readers. We spend our lives having everything laid out in plain view for us, and we've lost our ability to be shown a murder weapon, to see a victim, and to be able to put two and two together to figure out what happens. Yes, movie-makers are going for shock value, but I also think they feel it's necessary to portray exactly what happens, because either they don't have the imagination to do otherwise, or they don't believe their audience does. One more reason to forgo the movie for the book (as if I needed that).

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for this tortoise who could easily give a human child a ride on its hard, humped shell to head down to the water for a little deep sea diving. The water is crystal clear, and I'm lumbering through the sand to get there. (Apologies to all those of you who needed a video in order to picture that.)


Anonymous said...

I would love to lump myself in with the beauty of the tortoises but it's mostly because gore, in any form, is too much for me. I've never seen a Halloween or Mike Meyers - my imagination and my involvement in the film won't allow me to. I feel like I'm the one getting chased! And, I must agree that I prefer to see the barber's blade and the survivor standing over the chair versus the actual beheading or struggle that results in death - my imagination is enough for me. And at the end of the day, enemies + barber's blade + tussle = death of someone, so spare me the graphics.

Stefanie said...

I am very slowly clapping my tortise-ian hands together. The violence is one reason why I seldom go out to movies. If I suspect a movie may be really violent I make my husband screen it for me first because I tend to get nightmares. I didn't used to be like that, but for some reason Robocop put me over the edge and I have never been the same again.

On a side note, tortoises are land-dwelling so you will need to magically transform yourself into a sea turtle before you go for that swim. I'm sure you can do it though, you have a great imagination :)

Nigel Patel said...

I have a coworker who for a few weeks would bring in a TV & movies on slow Sundays. These were the most hideous film I have ever politely ignored.
When he was waxing enthusiastic about seeing some new "Transformers" movie it hit me, he's still twelve.
He's big for twelve.

Charlotte said...

I'm with you, Emily, I can't do gruesome. Having read all of the Harry Potter books, I found the first movie almost too scary to watch. I think I'll stick to books, where I get to choose the images in my head and not have them put there by a director looking for maximum impact. Let the imagination rule!

Emily Barton said...

Sara, I have seen Halloween and a bunch of those other old slasher movies, but you couldn't pay me to go see any of the slasher movies coming out today. Halloween, although gory, was scary in a fun way. These new things like Saw just sound sick to me. Yes, spare us all the graphics, please.

Stef, oh yes, that's me: the tortoise with a scuba tank on her back, in love with a turtle who is luring her to explore the place from which Darwin says we all came.

Nigel, oh no, don't tell me that even twelve-year-olds no longer have imaginations.

Charlotte, you've just given me a great new slogan: "Let the imagination rule" indeed!

Dorothy W. said...

I agree! I can't stand violence and will cover my eyes in a theater when it threatens. I also don't do well with suspense, so that's a whole lot of movies I find myself not interested in seeing -- which is too bad because as you say, I'm sure some of them are very good.