Moviegoing in Days of Future Past

The temptation to make this a tirade that meanders for far too long, waxes poetic finds any and all tangents and beats them to death several times over is great. However, with a few days I have been able to ponder the impetus for sitting down and writing this in the first place to the reasoned, cautionary bit of friendly advice was meant to be in the first place. In other words, please don’t take this as get-off-my-lawn but rather a necessary suggestion on course correction as we proceed through time as moviegoers.

The impetus was, as has been the case in the past, something overheard while leaving a theater. This time it was rather innocuously, and I must admit rather enthusiastically, a parent saying, mere moments after the end of the new X-Men film “Now we have to wait two years for the next one; X-Men: Apocalypse.”

This little moment struck me in so many ways as a microcosm of the current state of moviegoing, and entertainment in general. It was mere seconds after the film had ended, the experience not yet fully absorbed, but already the next one was anticipated and longed for. Clearly, there’s a positive to that. However, there’s a certain lack of even “stopping to smell the roses” indicated when one cannot walk out of an auditorium and wait five minutes before pondering the follow-up.

Hugo (2011, Paramount)

Perhaps the acuity of this particular observation was amplified because it was a parent and a kid (or kids). I distinctly recall not knowing what was coming out far in advance as a child and the surprise seemed to add to the magic. I’m not saying I don’t anticipate things for a long time now, but I still very diligently try to preserve mini-surprises like trying to only see trailers at the movies. I also don’t play the whole teaser to a trailer game.

The impact of this particular moment was further amplified by the fact that I anticipated there’d be another X-Men film but I honestly had not read up on it and didn’t even know a title. I fully understand that we live in a day and age wherein untitled projects from studios getting a slot three years down the line is news, and press releases including initial synopses get ubiquitous coverage, but I don’t want to look forward to all things at all times, so X-Men fell through the cracks. Not that I’ve had a big issue with any X-Men film. Perhaps it’s due to a subconscious desire to have Sony and Fox fall asleep at the wheel, or strike a deal, to unify the cinematic Marvel universe that I don’t diligently follow their plans.

Another reason this moment jumped out to me was that in my blogging I try and strike balance in what I cover. I try and keep current but also not forget cinematic achievements and glories of films past. It seems that the old struggle (for lack of a better word) was to not ignore the past as a film enthusiast. Now with the evolution of Internet coverage it seems at times a struggle to give adequate focus to the present.

Is it possible that all this short-sightedness has unexpected positive side-effects, such as more films being “rediscovered” after being too quickly summarily dismissed and/or ignored? Sure, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Look, I get that there’s a glut of information out there, and I don’t want to sit here and preach that we should be ignoramuses. I am perfectly aware of my bad habits. For example, I hate casting rumors and prefer confirmations, but I read both. I think my best advice to dealing with an excess of information is that there is a time for everything. So if you love a series you will read about what’s next regardless, but save your thoughts and longings for further installments for an adequate time after seeing the latest. Give it a moratorium.

X-Men: First Class (2011, Paramount)

Going back to the specific example that was the catalyst for this piece: I loved First Class a lot. So much so it ended up very high on my year-end list. My watching Days of Future Past was a lock based on how much I liked it. I saw news tidbits and they slipped in-and-out of my consciousness, as it was a film I wanted to see regardless. The trailer enticed me. I liked it quite a bit. Only today five days after seeing it did I start to read up on the stinger that closes it out. Granted it was a longer moratorium than is needed, and it connects to this last film, but it does foreshadow.

Everything is cyclical and going against the current, or trying to change is single-handedly, is foolhardy. A certain amount of information has always been available to film lover. It’s just that, like with everything, the Internet has democratized it and moved it out of the sole purview of the trades. I have more frequently lately had to check Fandango to see “What’s out this weekend?” It’s something a while ago I may have been embarrassed to admit, but I’d rather check it to see what’s out this weekend than know what’s out this weekend so I can see what I have to look forward to two or three years from now.

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Cinematic Episodes: Introduction

Themes are sometimes difficult to stick to. The way I usually manage to stick to them is by getting a bunch of installments written and ready and then scheduling ahead of time. Themes that I work on extemporaneously have a chance of being more inconsistent, or worse, falling into abandonment entirely.

I say this because I have had it in mind to do this idea for quite some time. I have not made the intention to do this theme known here, just in a few conversations. The main reason I’ve not announced this one to try and get this one started, and to give themes I do not consider to be done, some staying power.

Without much further ado, the idea I purport to embark upon is one I call Cinematic Episodes. This would be another cross-medium post wherein the link between cinema and another medium is explored. I have written about adaptations, films in books, characters in comics and other arts hitting the big screen. However, I recently have started to consider some of the technical, and in some ways, narrative similarities film and television have always shared and are starting to share.

It’s no coincidence that on the day I sit awaiting delivery of Game of Thrones‘ second season that I post this, HBO and other cable outlets have truly blurred the lines more so than most in the past due not only to single camera approach, but also production values and elimination of the commercial break, thus, creating a more cinematic structure that builds its ebb and flow in a more traditional three-act manner than an hour of network television does due to the crescendo to commercial, the precipitous drop upon retuning and then the rise anew.

However, many shows on many outlets come to mind when thinking of the parallels and the current landscape, which I will plumb for the examples I am familiar with. This evolution didn’t happen on its own. I will look back and try and trace, to the extent I possibly can, the evolution of the exchange of ideas.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Universal)

However, it’s not only a technique and structural focus. The first topic I thought of and will likely examine, with what I have access to are the Hitchcock-directed episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. There will be other topics to examine, other specific shows, but I won’t be tiresome in listing them here.

Essentially, any other medium in relation to cinema is worth taking a look at. I’ve always viewed film as a culmination of all the other arts since the advent of sound. With the introduction of sound elements of theatre were further added, music was added as a permanently affixed appendage rather than a variable live element, through the ages an artist’s touch in framing and composition, be it in color or black and white, has been needed. As any new form of communication and/or artistic expression has come about, film has been challenged, however, it perseveres both by adapting itself and also by an eventual embracing and exchanging of ideas and symbiotic influence. It’s been illustrated before with the rise of radio and then with television, the internet is the next frontier, but that landscape is still a bit nebulous. Film is not yet truly threatened or totally changed, similarly those making content for YouTube and other such sites are progressing, pushing back and breaking through but, still being in process, the changes are not yet as evident.

Television being the middle child of “Threats to Film” has firmly established its foothold as a fixture, mostly due to its varied nature of content and usage, but on the entertainment side it remains vital. The last thing that bears saying is that the fallacious “which is better” arguement will not be found in this space – and considering the main focus of my site I doubt you want to read such an anti-climactic piece. As many similarities as I will find, and as many cases of shared influence I will illustrate both films and television work, or don’t, due to completely different reasons. If television is in a halcyon it’s certainly not due to the networks. It’s a bit like the major/indie dynamic in film. What’s pushing the envelope and advancing episodic visual storytelling is basic and prime cable original content.

The Hitchcock piece will likely be the first. I have a definitely viewing list for that and taking an auteurist approach and looking at a different kind of show is actually one of the better easier way to start such a comparative analysis. Stay tuned.