Evening comes, and a friend says, “We should go see a movie.”
You look at the list of films.
Nothing looks interesting or pallatable to your tastes.
What do you do? Do you stand for your artistic and aesthetic standards? Or do you enter the darkness of the theater, hoping the film is better than the trailer appears, all for the sake of friendship?
The movie theater is as much about social gathering and atmosphere as it is about the cinematic experience. We gather, we sit, hopefully enraptured by a story, and then we leave and discuss the film.
And, who is the first one who admits the truth? Who is the first one in the social setting to admit this film was terrible, and all of us just wasted our time and money?
Some groups, this is possible with. Others, this can lead to rifts and divides.
Some friends will see the positive in all things, and refuse to let a movie just be bad. “Well, I thought this 90’s pop culture reference in a 2013 new release for children was hilarious,” even though the 90’s reference is beyond the children the movie is aimed for.
Other friends will embrace the terrible and the rest of the evening is spent riffing on the lack of thought, or the over-thought in the film. This is the kind of group and film that is better in a home setting, where everyone can participate in the Mystery Science Theater-style commentary. For example, the other night my mom, sister, and I were watching a 2012 action film. Every time the main hero would leap across a large gap, which was often, we would shout ‘Parkour’. Granted, this is the same group I watch American Idol with and we play a non-alcoholic drinking game every time Randy Jackson says, ‘In it to win it,” “Best performance of the [night, show ever, in the universe, etc.]”, “You could sing the phone book.”
Sometimes, I’m the culprit who dragged everyone to the movie. In my younger, less wise years, I did this with Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. The trouble is, Episode III is a movie only a Star Wars fan can love, and this group lacked Star Wars fans. The other night, I did this to my brother and sister. Fortunately, the movie was at the $3 second-run theater in town. Out of politeness, we held back giggles as everything in the film unfolded in the most generic, unoriginal, and expected way. While this led to a fun discussion on the way home, I was a touch disappointed I had suggested the film.
Others, I wish I could unwatch. This is the most difficult when other people in your group happened to like and love the movie.
The best, and most rare, are the unexpectedly good. You may enter with low expectations, but exit satisfied. It’s not necessarily a great movie, but at least enjoyable. A prime example is Cowboys and Aliens. While my expectations were less than high for the film, I was still pleasantly surprised. I still don’t think it is a great film, but it is a lot of fun. For about 2/3rds of the movie, it’s a great western with Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford glaring at each other. Then, it remembers it’s supposed to have aliens, and the fun diminishes. Still, for a movie I went to see because a friend wanted to hang out, it was a good time.
Despicable Me is another example. I saw it on a day out with my youngest sisters. Despicable Me should win for the absolute worst trailer for a good movie. The trailer has nothing to do with the story, and does not capture the wit and charm of the film, and the excellent substitution of a nose for a unicorn horn. I’m now looking forward to Despicable Me 2, and hanging out a little longer with the minions.
So, here’s a salute to all of you who have plugged your noses and stepped into the unknown, unwanted film for the sake of friendship. And here’s hoping you’ve found something surprising and fun along the way.
What’s the best movie you saw for social purposes? What’s the worst? Why do you choose to see a movie? What’s the best film to make your own commentary for?