No More Half-Baked Schlock: A Call For Higher Expectations

Remember Woolf's Good Fisherman
virginia-woolf (1)
We deserve better. Creative Commons

I’m one of those assholes that spends the majority of his time at the movies. But not like in an impressive, meet up with some cronies at a cafe and discuss after kind of way. I sorta traipse to my local cinema in a doleful haze, sit down while the movie happens in front of me, then trudge back home and try my best to intellectualize what I just saw. That used to be a much easier thing to do. I would’ve stopped trying months ago, but I lucked into a job that pays me to keep giving it a shot. However, the problem I habitually run into when attempting to write meaningfully about this schlock is most of it feels incomplete. The best ones are more akin to promising first drafts and the worst ones are unapologetic commercials for more shlock yet to come. No one else seems to notice or care that we currently live in a time that demands we pay more money for less movie.

And I’m not talking about length, mind you. All this shit, as a rule it seems, has to be three days long. $17 to watch CGI excrement clang and bang for two hours ain’t a deal, it’s a fucking nightmare. Irreverence isn’t a shortcut to wit, making your plot apocalyptic doesn’t guarantee stakes, and a poorly staged action scene is still a poorly staged action scene even if it’s set to your favorite song from the eighties. I may not possess the craft, intelligence, or imagination to ever make a good picture, but I know what one is supposed to feel like when I leave the theatre. A good film sends you home with something more than just tinnitus.

I make no distinctions of quality based on genre alone. A competent filmmaker is never tasked with the obligation to say meaningful things. The only sound measure to rely on when evaluating art, of all kinds, is whether or not the creator says things meaningfully -- intellectual honesty. Does this work have something to say? Does it say it with clarity? Conviction? Or is it just fucking loud and pretty, like a bad date?

The onus doesn’t fall exclusively on creators, who find themselves at the precarious mercy of commerce. You keep paying to see the thing, they keep making the thing -- simple. Sorry, God isn’t gonna swoop down and ensure movies like Loving Vincent get mass distribution. Only our hard earned cash can do that. But first we have to raise our expectations for this stuff. You deserve better schlock comrades. You deserve movies that are at the very least finished. Shared universes are all well and good, but I go to the movies to see movies not to make down payments on future ones. Beginning, middle, end. If your movie doesn’t have those three fundamental things, ask for your money back. Don’t let these foggie weiners hornswoggle you. And for the love of Jane, stop writing think pieces about how transformative this nonsense is.

All the hyperbole is beyond maddening. “Genius”, “Brilliant,” “Game-Changing,” pump the monkey-fucking breaks. George Orwell, by his own admission wasn’t a genius and he wrote 1984 in addition to some of the best essays to come out of the 20th century.  

I’ll keep this brief because I have to cry in a Denny’s in an hour: Virginia Woolf’s A Room Of One’s Own. I won’t natter on about what an incredible essay it is, as I’m sure you're already aware, and if you’re not, I’ll only recommend that you give it a read. At any rate, there’s this line in it. It’s not really an important line in terms of what the essay as a whole aims to say but it has always stuck out to me. Woolf describes an unfinished thought, brilliantly likening it to a scrawny fish. “The kind of fish that any Good Fisherman would put back in the water, that it may grow fatter and one day be worth cooking and eating.” 

I’m not an artist or really even a writer, but that line perfectly emphasises the importance of precision of expression. Art can only be impactful when it’s cogent. When it’s fat. Don’t be so eager to digest unfinished work. Toss it back until studios give you something worth eating. I happen to be taling about movies at the present but I mean to stress that virtue in every sense. This is where it begins. Complacency should not be tolerated in any form. Take it from me folks, a mentally ill hack that frequently cries in Denny’s: movies suck now and your going to die one day. Oh and go see The Last Jedi. It’s pretty good.

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