This may sound like an unimportant statement, but as a newly minted screenwriter, I was starting to worry that I seemed to dislike every movie I watched in theatres or via Netflix.
Now, I must admit that I have spent much of my life as a hypercritical asshole, a picker of nits most egregious, so it perhaps came as no surprise that a movie had to be pretty solid to impress me…but when you go through dozens of movies and find all of them meh, you start to worry. Or at least, I did.
You see, I slowly began to doubt my own understanding of what makes for a good film, or more importantly to me, a good story. And as someone who has decided to be a professional storyteller that is a worrisome doubt to have.
The recent fare that I had heard wonderful reviews of or that had won awards:
- Blue Jasmine – good performance by Cate Blanchett in a completely forgettable movie
- The East – incredibly slow melodrama in which none of the characters was note-worthy and a moral dilemma on which the screenwriter and director refuse to take a position
- Life of Pi – hated the book, bored by the movie…would have been more likeable as a Disney flick
- Vicky Cristina Barcelona – boring people with no ties to the real world (like a need for money) screwing
- Noah – missed opportunity to explore the more interesting character of Tubal-Cain
- Dom Hemingway – a wonderful portrait of the eponymous character, a terribly flawed story (my thoughts)
- Enemy – 2014 Cdn Screen Award as Best Picture, thief of 90 minutes of my life (my thoughts)
I have many colleagues who will defend some or all of these movies to the hilt and yet I found each of them somewhere between seriously flawed and downright insulting.
Clearly, I was the problem. In my zeal to craft my own stories, I had become myopic on what a good story is, what good characters are.
And then I watched The Boy In The Striped Pajamas.
Wow. I was blown away, not just by the subject matter, but by the story itself, the unique perspective and the richly drawn characters.
Sure, there were one or two small moments where I tilted my head askew, but they did not linger. Nor did they snowball in my consciousness as they were few and far between.
Last night, I watched The Reader.
Not as blown away, but still enthralled. Rich characters, slow revelations, palpable conflict both within and without.
I don’t hate movies.
I have no time for movies that fail…and more importantly, I aspire to and am inspired by movies that succeed.
Doubts remain, but thankfully, they have diminished.