My mother loves to talk about the golden age of Hollywood. She describes going into the movie theatres of her childhood and being swept away with Fred Astaire, Clark Gable, Judy Garland and Esther Williams. Her theory: those films made the viewer feel good. The music, dancing and wholesome love stories gave the audience hope and buoyancy. Throughout a lifetime of this repeated conversation I found myself internally (and all right, often externally) rolling my eyes in an unwillingness to accept this viewpoint. I enjoyed gritty dramas and wry Woody Allen comedies. As a collage student I sat through midnight showings of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Godfather” marathons. I entered eagerly into discussions about the technique of Ingmar Bergman and subliminal messaging of David Lynch. However, I am beginning to wonder if perhaps my mother was right all along?
I recently watched a violent movie on television about a group of young people caught up in a Mexican drug cartel. It was an exciting, well made and I suspect a very accurate portrayal of that seamy world but when the picture was over I was exhausted and depressed. There was a time when I would have been intrigued by a glimpse into such a dangerous atmosphere, however, now I feel impatience with the foolishness of the characters decisions and their horrific consequences. What has changed in me? Is it merely that I am getting older or has my taste naturally flipped? I have always gone to movies with a great interest in what was being made and how cinema reflected the consciousness of the times. I think I went into one movie theatre all summer long and I hated the movie and could not wait to go home!
I remember there was a Dan Brown thriller being released several years ago and while discussing it’s upcoming arrival with an elderly parishioner she expressed surprise that anyone would want to subject themselves to such material, “Why would you want to put that into your head,” she questioned? I must admit that when I see previews for horror films on television – flashes of chainsaws, blood and screaming teenagers, I must agree with my parishioner. Two hours of that and you would never get me out from underneath my bed! Perhaps it is because I am already bombarded with terrifying images of cruelty and injustice in the news that I find myself craving Julia Roberts in a romantic comedy or James Bond stylishly subduing the enemy in a perfectly cut tuxedo. For whatever reason I need recreational material that makes me laugh, displays beauty and perhaps even gives me some crackling dialog to dwell upon as I drift off to sleep. I hate to admit it, my mother was right, if I am going to spend my time looking at something I want it to raise me up…..so I can do the same for you on Sunday.