Monday, January 09, 2006

No need for a search party....I'm just at the movies.

This post may sound hypocritical coming from someone who spent roughly 270 hours of 2005 sitting in dark movie theaters. But hear me out.

I finally went to Munich tonight. The Spielberg movie, not the German city. Big difference. It was depressing as hell and ethically ambiguous, with a big dose of extreme graphic violence (if Alfred Hitchcock and Quentin Tarantino somehow made a Jewish baby, THAT would be the Steven Spielberg that made this movie).

In other words.....the movie was nearly perfect.

There was just one little snag.

At about the 105 minute mark, I got this nagging thought in the back of my mind : "Wow....I feel like I've been sitting here for a looooong time. And it doesn't look like they're gonna wrap this all up anytime soon. hmmm."

Followed by: "Yeah. It's official. This is a really fucking long movie."

At that precise moment in any film...the filmmaker has lost me. It can be a really great film, with a crackerjack ending, but suddenly, I'm not IN the movie anymore. I'm sitting in a theater seat. The thermostat is probably either too warm or too cold. I need to pee. There are people coughing and talking and generally irritating me. And no matter how much I loved certain characters 15 or 20 minutes ago, I'm starting to wish they would "just die already and get it over with! Geez!"

In short, the magic is gone for me.

This seems to be happening more and more frequently too. Cinderella Man, Legend of Zorro, King Kong, Narnia, Harry Potter, the list goes on I'm sure. (Walk the Line should probably be included too...but I have to recuse myself from judgment on that matter, due to the Joaquin Phoenix factor. I could watch Joaquin Phoenix swatting flies and doing the Hokey Pokey for 5 hours straight, walk out and get in line for the next showing. I'm biased like that.)

I like going to the movies. Obviously. Unlike 99% of our society, I have no qualms about going to movies by myself (I actually prefer it that way most of the time), so sometimes I just go on a whim. Between appointments. As a reward for spending money on unsavory things like groceries, or clothes. Just, whenever I have a couple hours to kill. But lately, it's getting harder and harder to do that.

Seriously, if I decided to go see King Kong again on a whim, I'd have to call someone and let them know, lest people think I had died or something. Going to movies isn't a whim anymore, it's a fucking commitment! I have to clear my calendar to fit them in. I don't dare go to a 1:00 show on my weekends to work, because I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to get to my job by 4:00.

I think a lot of filmmakers have forgotten the #1 rule of entertainment: "Leave 'em wanting more." If you're going to make a 2.5 or 3 hour movie, you better make it so engaging that the thought of checking my watch never even pops in my head. I better walk out of the theater wishing there were at least 20 or 30 more minutes I could spend in that masterfully spun tale. I just don't see that happening.

Personally, I blame Titanic for this trend of ass-numbingly long movies. Titanic was long. People loved Titanic. Therefore, people love long movies. Hollywood logic. Myself, I hated Titanic. And if had to spend one more melodramatic minute on the "Ship of Dreams," I would have no doubt had an aneurysm.

Don't get me wrong. I LIKE most of the long movies I've seen recently. I enjoy them. I'm glad I saw them. I think they were, for the most part, worth the money I paid to see them. But I don't think they'll wind up making my list of my favorite movies ever. Any glowing review I give them is going to be marred by "It was really long though." And that's a shame.

So, filmmakers: I give you 2 hours. 120 minutes to make your case. By that time, you should be blowing my mind. Otherwise, I'm probably going to be thinking about how much I have to pee or whether I remembered to mail my car insurance payment during the brilliant cinematic conclusion you spent so much time and effort on. Blow me away with your genius, or wrap it up and call it a day.


Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

Yeah, who said that a movie should not exceed the endurance of the human bladder? Certainly not without an intermission. Has that lesson been lost in Hollywood?

January 10, 2006 12:59 AM  
Blogger Phillip said...

hence my loathing of peter jackson...

generally i can't see a movie in a movie theater for this exact reason. you can't pause the movie to take a break or take a piss or whatever, and when the time comes that i have to relieve myself i can think of little else.

you're absolutely right -- when you become conscious of the fact that you're in a theater watching a movie and are no longer immersed in the story then it's gone on too long.

January 10, 2006 6:23 AM  
Blogger Flamingo Jones said...

Yes, exactly. And I have this thing about missing even a minute or two of a movie...I don't do it. No bathroom breaks, no refills...nothing. I'm in it for the long haul. Unless I've seen the movie at least 2 times before, or it is King Kong.

So, these long movies can be torture.

January 10, 2006 8:11 AM  
Blogger Ian McGibboney said...

Maybe it's the journalist in me, but if someone's talking and they aren't particularly complex, I generally get the point they're making long before they finish the sentence. Same goes with movies. In writers' workshops, you're told to make your point in very unobtrusive ways, particularly if you're writing a play or screenplay. This minimizes unnecessary exposition and forces you into creative ways as to how to include everything that is necessary.

I'm no expert on Peter Jackson myself, as I haven't seen any of his movies. But he does seem to have ushered in the age of the three-hour movie in a big way. And given that our current national attitude is, "too much of a good thing is even better," then it's no surprise that this is happening. That doesn't excuse it, though. Three hours is too long to do anything without a break.

January 10, 2006 9:46 AM  
Blogger HappyFunBall said...

So, if I invent the 3-hour movie catheter and hang up the vending machines right next to the soda pop dispensers, I'm likely to make a million overnight. Bitchin'.

January 10, 2006 9:46 AM  
Blogger R said...

I find that my ass starts to get sore if I sit through a long enough movie. I don't mind the movie length, because I could sit through hours of LOTR battle scenes and Legolas owning up orcs with his bow or dinosaur fight scenes or fighter jet dogfights set to awesome eighties pop guitar rock.

What they need to do are replace those uncomfortable seats with plush heated leather recliners. Damn yeah, that would be the bomb.

January 10, 2006 1:53 PM  
Blogger Murph said...

Even though I like movies that are justifiably long, I'd have to disagree that TITANIC ushered in an age of long movies. November-December has long been the time to release 3-hour movies because people, presumably, have more time to see them. It's been going on as long as studios have started thinking about "release dates". There is some truth to the idea that studios confuse long with good because so many of the most cherished movies are very long (GODFATHER, GWTW, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, etc), but just as many (KANE, CASABLANCA, OZ) clock in under two hours.

The length problem for me comes in on shorter movies. It's more the movies that should be 90-100 minutes long (like WEDDING CRASHERS) but are 120-130 minute sloths that bother me, because this is story homicide (ficticide?).

Plus, one must always keep in mind that theater owners tacking on 20 minutes of advertising before a movie affects the "feel" of the main attraction. Had I seen WALK THE LINE on its own, I may not have noticed the length so much, but since I saw it with 20 minutes of previews, it became almost a 3-hour movie.

January 10, 2006 2:10 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home