An excuse not to read
R.J. Stempak | Monday, April 11, 2016
The abundance of unfunny comedies, repetitive action blockbusters and unoriginal sequels coming out of Hollywood in the past decade has led many people to disregard the movie as a shallow form of entertainment or simply an excuse to not read a book.
I have watched about 25 films since the beginning of the school year. Like most people I enjoy movies, but I never sought to watch the movies that have been considered the greatest of all time, instead content to watch the most recent block of movies released in theaters.
In my journey through the most well-acclaimed movies of all time, I found an appreciation in film as a medium, looking beyond the acting to notice the nuances of cinematography: from the framing and the lighting, to the imagery and symbolism. The mastery of a scene requires just as much skill and talent from a great director that writing a perfect chapter demands from a great author. Where an author lays out a blueprint for a world that a reader must make real with his imagination, a movie director must convince his viewers that the world shown on the screen is real.
Although watching a movie is a more passive experience than reading a book, great movies will force you to re-watch and analyze every scene to understand the deeper meaning conveyed in the film. What makes certain movies great is not so much in the complexity as it is the poignancy and originality in making a statement about the human condition.
Some of my favorite films all do this, but they all do it in a different way. “Fargo” uses the backdrop of bland Midwestern life to highlight the depth in the motivations and desires of the film’s seemingly simple characters. “Lost in Translation” is a story of two Americans in the beautiful and mesmerizing city of Tokyo, both lost in the culture of the foreign place, as well as both weary and confused about their place in life. And finally, “Apocalypse Now” utilizes the backdrop of the Vietnam War and intense sequences of dramatic lighting to capture the descent into the deepest and darkest places of the human mind.
These three movies, each in their own way, showcase the power of filmmaking as a medium of artistic expression. Just as much as their hardcover counterparts, movies convey ideas through symbolism and imagery. Instead of making careful use of every word and sentence placement, movie makers must carefully set up every inch of the frame and depict their subjects in ways that will convey unspoken ideas. The subtly and ingenuity found in scenes from great films is just as impressive as any great work of literature.
Movies have not lost their ability to educate and perplex their viewers, it is just easy to notice how many movies are unable to pull it off. Instead of using this idea to suggest that movies are failing as a form of art, use the quantity of bad films to appreciate a true masterpiece of a film when one comes along.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.