Film shouldn’t be a speed reading exercise

Conceived and written by @LeeArnoldMWF

I think I’ve figured out why I like old movies and b-movies more than I do most mainstream modern film releases.

All these years I’ve blamed everything from CGI and crappy story lines, to over-commercialization and modern acting preferences.

When it comes down to it, the problem lies within structure of the films themselves.

The things I can point to in classic films that I enjoy, are similar to the things I often find myself pointing out as values I appreciate in modern films when I see them.

Generally, the movies I like don’t have a lot of action in them, unless of course we’re talking about highly-choreographed kung-fu where a student has to whip his master’s ass, or in some instances blaxploitatoin where the man has to be taught a lesson, but most frequently the low budgets of the films I like come into play and zap them of any real action sequences.

The sets are minimalistic, basic, and neatly contained.

For example, I love Reservoir Dogs.

It has a little action in it, a few basic set locations that dominate the film, and its heavy with narration, which brings me to my other frequent love of classic films over most modern releases – dialogue.

I like a wordy movie. I think in words. They flow through my mind all day long, so I can relate to things that are expressed in words far better than I can relate to things that fly past the screen at 100 miles per hour with automatic weapons sticking from the windows firing in all directions. I’m happiest watching a Woody Allen movie, Kevin Smith movie, or some other director/writer often accused of being a little wordy, like Quentin Tarantino or someone like that.

Words are the language of the mind.

Don’t believe me?

Think about something right now.

Go ahead.

I’ll wait…..


Now, when you thought about something, were your thoughts a series of images in your head, or was it more like simply talking to yourself with a bunch of words?

I’m betting it was words. Words make more sense than images do when it comes to conveying a clear message. Naturally, they are both open to interpretation, but I’ll wager words are more frequently interpreted the way the creator wants them interpreted than a series of images.

The films I’m obsessed with lately are films that debuted in the 1930s and 1940s, a point in cinema history where the art form was morphing from directors and actors putting on stage performances for the cameras to record in what was still a relatively new medium. Turn on TCM any given afternoon and watch a film from this era and observe if the production doesn’t take place in two to three different rooms, where the scenes are shot where we see all three walls and every actor’s entire body for its duration.

My favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie is “Rope.” In Rope, a man is murdered and placed into a large chest. The chest is then covered with a table cloth and used as a service table during a party hosted by the murderers. The film is designed to look like one, long continuous shot. And for the most part that is how it looks, but an astute eye can catch the points where Hitchcock would hold on an inanimate object for a second too long for a natural flow. However, you will see there are some amazingly long shots recorded as live-interaction between the actors. Sure, sure, you can claim all movies contain live-interaction between the actors, but we don’t often see interaction like what is seen in Rope, where two actors engage in a conversation that goes on for five minutes or more without a cut.

These films don’t feature quick editing, blaring music throughout each sequence, and 20 camera angles presented during just one conversation.

The shots are long, the scenes are longer, and it creates the illusion the film is dragging along, unlike the current philosophy of don’t dwell too long because the audience is too dumb to pay attention for more than 10 seconds at a time.

Films are just another way of telling a story.

When a storyteller is telling his story, be it in film, on paper, on cave walls, or on canvas, the importance lies in the details of the work.

I guess I’m just more partial to things that move a little slower and more deliberately. In that sense, I am a remedial film connoisseur.

When I sit down to watch a movie, I want to watch a movie. I don’t want to be subjected to a speed reading course.

I guess I’m just a remedial consumer of the medium, and that’s alright with me.

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