Friday, November 23, 2007

A View from the Couch

This is the writing that led me to my name for the blog...the balcony is an online community of movie lovers that I have belonged to for many years now. I wrote this in August 2006 while recovering from surgery.


Due to a series of circumstances that I just won't go into here, I have spent much of the past month in hospital beds, my own bed, and finally my couch. While much of the time has been spent in a medicated haze, I have had the opportunity to view a great many movies. Not new ones, due to the lack of a Netflix subscription and/or willing souls to make a video store run for me, but whatever I could find on the pay-per-view, HBO, Showtime, Turner Classics and my own library.

It has given me an amazing opportunity to rediscover some of my favorites and to make some conclusions about movies in general - at least as they apply to those of us here in the balcony. I don't presume to understand the general public's movie decisions in the least. But I've "known" a good many of you for over a decade and feel safe in making the following statements.

1) A Bad Movie - is universally bad. This is a film with no redeeming features. Not a pretty face, no pretty clothes, no good scenery, horrible script, predicable story, and wretched directing and acting. These get about 20 minutes of my time to make their case - then I change the channel. It's been a long time since I went to the theatre to see a truly BAD movie. They abound on daytime and late night TV.

2) An acceptable movie is a variable thing. Movies which I would not find acceptable in a fully sentient state, are marginally acceptable when I am fading in and out of consciousness, up and down in pain levels, and just need the sound of a human voice. Acceptable films over the past few weeks have included - Kingdom of Heaven, Melinda and Melinda, Matador (which I slept thru the middle of and still managed to find the thread of the story when I did wake up) Without Limits, and Must Love Dogs. I imagine I will be adding Mr and Mrs Smith to the acceptable list later tonight after it "premiers" on HBO.

3) A good movie is personal call. For a movie to be "good" to me, I need a decent script, good acting, competent direction, well composed picture and interesting (not necessarily pretty) faces to look at, and something that engages my attention - that makes me want to stay awake and see what will happen next. We may disagree here in the balcony about what made a movie good or what would have made it better, but we are surprisingly quite accepting of one another's categorization of a movie as GOOD. Good Movies I have seen - Munich, Walk the Line, Downfall, All About My Mother, and a whole cadre of older films that I can't even begin to remember - Dark Passage, Camille (Garbo), Meet John Doe, Tess of the Storm.

4) The line between a Good Movie and A Great Movie is almost impossible to describe. But here's an experience that summed it up for me. I was watching WITNESS for the twelfth or fifteenth time. I didn't need to know the story - I already know the story. I didn't need to watch the action. I knew what the action would be. So there was a certain freedom allowed in simply sitting back and letting the movie show me what it had that might be new to me. And there it was. John Book is on the phone learning that his partner has been killed. All we see is the back of Harrison Ford's head in that ridiculous straw hat. All we hear is the voice on the other end of the line. And for a good 30-45 seconds, that's all we need to see. The back of Ford's neck tells us everything we need to know. The tension in his body rises and so does our own. And I thought - "How courageous of Peter Weir to trust the back of Harrison Ford's head. How courageous of Harrison Ford to trust Peter Weir. How courageous of the camera to stay with him. And God I Wish Peter Weir Made More Movies." I started to think of those kind of discoveries I've had over the past 10 years learning along with you how to watch and rewatch a movie. I personally can't wait to watch The Godfather and Godfather II again. And I challenge those of you who, like myself, will not be coming to it fresh - but with a history of viewings - to surrender that history. Sit back and let the movie show you something new. You may find yourself falling in love with Francis Ford Coppola all over again.

And THAT, for me, is what makes a GREAT MOVIE.

Happy Viewing -

1 comment:

Bridgete said...

How funny I read this today. In making my queue on Blockbuster, I realized I've only seen the first Godfather. So I was thinking when I'm home (since you have all three) we should watch the whole trilogy. And here you are mentioning you'd like to watch them again. Granted, you only said the first two, but still.