Saturday, October 4, 2008

I went in search of some old movies...

How is it that since DVDs replaced VHS in video rental stores, especially chain outlets like Rogers (a telecommunications company), the actual selection in films has dropped dramatically? You walk into a Rogers now and the one thing you notice, aside from the images of horror and porn on the covers, is that overall, the guts have been sucked out of what used to be an alright selection.

Hyperbolically speaking, it is sort of like a Victorian leaving his living room for a few days and coming back to find that his ornately carved and lushly padded furniture has been replaced with Ikea skeletons. Hyperbolically speaking.

It is strange because supposedly DVDs take up less space than VHS. Part of it is the onslaught of video games, which now take up a good portion of the store. And of course an entire side wall must be devoted to gadgetry, and wires and parts for the gadgetry. And another wall for television series.

On top of that is the sometimes dismal ordering of the movies. You can't trust the employees anymore to alphabetize the movies in a particular section; or even to keep the movies in their proper section. Sort of like the way that hardly anyone on a cash register now can count out change if it's given to him or her. We can thank the internet for that, and the surplus of gadgetry. It's not lack of brains but sheer lack of ordinary patience, the inability to focus on normal concrete things - like coins.

Everyone is buzzing and humming like a computer in a thin, pallid present. It's the latest season of this or that television series, and if it's a movie, it's the latest, most vapid one yet. After all, I don't feel like thinking too much tonight. As if anyone ever does on any night. I feel I feel I feel...I feel just like a funny one...Oh! How about this latest Jack Black?

And then there is the alternative for these ones who feel they've been having too much junk food: Documentaries. Since when did the documentary section become relatively inflated? It used to be a weeny sub-section, generally and properly unnoticed. Now it seems to be growing.

Excuse me while I say it: Documentaries' increasing popularity is a symptom of our culture's collective sickness. Documentaries are a chilly blight that comes to wreak havoc on the lowered immunity of fiction's body. Documentaries are intellectual fetishism at its worst. They are one of the reasons for adolescents and young men and young women entitling themselves to the intellectual pursuit as though it were something they themselves could just add on to their disconnected "lifestyle" of culturally nomadic consumption. Hehehehe...Jack Black is so funny...screw you Bush, I'm smarter than Aristotle! I know so because I understand Chomsky! I became a pro on the subject in two hours, and while eating popcorn too. And chai tea non-fat latte.

Documentaries are the worst form of film. I have in mind here particularly the psuedo-intellectual/political/social-awareness type. Yes, even the ones I would agree with. Expelled? Haven't seen it yet. There's its "rebuttal": Expelled Exposed. Haven't seen it, don't care. I'm still waiting for Expelled Exposed Exposed.

That is not to say there can't be any good ones or downright interesting ones, because there are. Hoop Dreams, for one. There are Herzog's. I do not like his documentaries that proclaim to be so. Because they are not. He adds and changes stuff according to his slant. But his films that utilize straight documentary footage and put it together to form a film that is not documentary but ecstatic sorts of filmic poems - those ones I like. Like Fata Morganna and Lessons of Darkness. I've seen lots of good ones. But they are not the apple of film's eye. They are not its brains or heart or hands or feet or back.

Fictional representation, even when based on true stories, is the home of film. Do you remember those years 2001-2003? Those years that were connected by something so sprawling and immersive and enchanting and deep on movie screens? What was it that excited people so, barely containing themselves to see the next one? Ah, the sprawl of first seeing The Fellowship of the Ring! And going back to see it again. And again. And anticipating the others. Yes, there was quite a bit that was done not very well with these films (in fact some days I'm inclined to say their virtues are minimal), and some that was done just really badly, but because they are the Lord of the Rings and sincerely so...well, even if they did everything in their power to screw it up, they probably still would have ended up with good films, given they retained the story's arch. Because of Tolkien. Because of his story. His imagination. His sub-creation.

We are sick. Sick to do death with ourselves. Documentaries on the rise are a sign of the dwindling of creative production. They are the sign of a people who are chucking out their treasures and resorting to a kind of narrow barbarism, a false centralizing of our intellectual and imaginative resources. Where is our ability to lose ourselves in order to gain ourselves? Story come back to us.


Tim J. said...

If you want a GOOD documentary, watch Moon Shot (an adaptation of the book by astronauts Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton). It's very entertaining.

Otherwise, yeah... what you said.

niggle said...

Thanks for the recommendation. Had not heard of it before. It's now on the immediate look-for list. And I actually still haven't seen Into Great Silence, which I totally forgot about in writing this post (whoops). That's another.

Tim J. said...

Yes! I want to see Into Graet Silence, as well, but I know I'll be watching it alone, which makes it trickier.