There’s an old saying: “If everyone liked the same things, who’d dance with the fat girls?” This applies to everything – food, furniture, wallpaper patterns, compatible friends and lovers. And, of course, movies.
Different tastes I completely understand. In spite of my dislike of the Farrelly Brothers, their movies continue to make buckets of money. Obviously, neither of the Farrellys are calling me on any sort of regular basis to ask what it would take to get my butt in a theater showing one of their latest excess-fests, and that’s perfectly fine. We’ve agreed to disagree. I prefer a different-sized dance partner when it comes to their style of humor.
What blows my mind is when I seem to be one of an infinitely small group of individuals on the planet whose opinion of a certain feature is entirely different from that of the rest of the population. Anyone remember the movie “Heat”? Not the Burt Reynolds train wreck from the ‘80s, but the bloated crime drama that boasted the historic first on-screen meeting of Über-thespians Robert “You talkin’ ta me?” DeNiro and Al “Am I talkin’ to you?” Pacino. I was so excited to see these two actors on screen together, I just knew my eyebrows would singe from the intensity. Instead, I found myself wading hip-deep in melodrama and over-acting that would make the Keystone Cops cringe with embarrassment. By the time the two giants of the pretend game finally showed up in the same frame, I was breaking plates over my head to stay awake. And once their scene was done, I was left with an overwhelming sense of ‘So what?’
However, everyone and their mother raved about that movie. They couldn’t stop talking about it. I was beginning to think I’d seen a different film, somehow. I kept saying “The one with Val Kilmer, right?” And they’d nod emphatically while their eyes glazed over as they talked about the sparks that erupted during the classic “meeting”. For my money, the only sparks came from my bone-dry lighter as I tried desperately to burn theater down.
That’s just one example, of course. I could go on for days – as anyone who knows me can tell you. Others leap immediately to mind. One in particular. One biggie.
Nothing, friends, absolutely nothing compares to the fistfights I get into over one of the single most revered films ever made. There is a horror movie that both geeks and fan boys agree on, a movie even non-movie buffs enjoy. Considered to be more frightening than seeing your grandmother naked, more stylish than a gay fashion show, and since it’s release in 1980, countless historians have dissected, analyzed, ingested, absorbed, laughed, cried and become one with this movie. And what is this alleged movie worshipped by one and all, the cinematic all-father? None other than Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”.
I can’t see this movie for dirt. (Having once uttered this statement in a crowded room, I barely escaped with my life.)
Part of my problem is that (*gasp*), I don’t care much for Stephen King – though I do remember enjoying the book many moons ago. After repeated viewings, the movie still leaves me completely cold. And after encountering … well, everybody, I’ve started to wonder if, again, I somehow managed to see a completely different film. Thanks to some bizarre rip in the space-time continuum, everyone else in the world has seen a good version of “The Shining”, while I wound up with a crappy cut. That’s the only explanation for it. Because everyone and their pet ocelot has tried desperately to show me the error of my ways. But I don’t like this movie. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t find it particularly scary. Shelly Duvall fails to evoke any sympathy from me, and I fully expect Jack Nicholson to go off the deep end as soon as the credits stop rolling. One step over the threshold and he’s a snarling, drooling beast. And that’s pretty much what happens.
‘But, God! Doesn’t the movie evoke feelings of isolation and claustrophobia?’ Yes. But so does getting stuck in an elevator, and that’s not much fun either.
My main problem with the movie is, again, with the exceptions of “A Clockwork Orange” and “Lolita”, (double *gasp*) I don’t care much for Stanley Kubrick, either. I’ve tried – Lord knows I’ve tried – to get into his movies. They’re masterpieces, God knows, and any frame from any of his films are suitable for framing. I truly feel that with each and every one of his films, Kubrick had set out to make art, and by gum, he did. Trouble is, for me at least, he didn’t make movies. He made films, see, and there’s a big difference.
I don’t think Kubrick understood movies. To be sure, he understood everything there was to understand about film. Film, in it’s purest, most pretentious sense, is art. Art enriches the soul. Art separates man from the animals. It is caviar when compared to cheeseburgers.
Having sampled both, call me a Philistine, but I prefer cheeseburgers.
Art, like trash, is subjective. I can recognize art and enjoy it, and I can recognize trash and still enjoy it. That doesn’t mean I want a steady diet of either.
Obviously, my opinion of “The Shining” is just that: opinion. And while much of the continent is now screeching, “But you’re wrong!!” I stand by my words. I don’t get “The Shining”. It has some excellent Steadicam shots, but it isn’t scary. It isn’t even particularly interesting. To that same extent, I didn’t get much out of “2001”, “Paths of Glory”, or “Barry Lyndon”, or roughly one half of A.I. either. Except for maybe a good nap and a stiff neck. (Upon being harangued for not having seen “Eyes Wide Shut”, a good friend insisted to me that I had to see the film, “Because it’s Kubrick’s last movie!” I replied, “I want that in writing.” Having since seen “Eyes Wide Shut”, I will pay good money to having the images sucked from my memory.)
So there you go. Somewhere, out there, are any number of movies that exist in a certain form for virtually everyone else, except for me. Someday, I hope to see the versions of these movies that everyone else has seen, and maybe I’ll understand. Until then, I’ll sit here, wondering what the heck was so damned cool about “Heat” or “The Shining” or even “Gone with the Wind.”
Excuse me, I hear some angry villagers at my door…
Mike Watt attempts to explore all the things that make Geek culture great, as well as pointing out all the things that make Geeks genetically superior to all other humans. During the course of this exploration, he may undoubtedly have to reveal horrid truths about Hollywood and Mainstream Cinema, as they compare to the riches of independent filmmaking. Ultimately, he hopes to bring higher awareness of and respect to Geek Culture, as well as secure a hefty book deal and the accolades of his (richer) peers. Feel free to lavish him with affection (or bitch at him) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Posted on September 10, 2003 in Features by Mike Watt
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