July 9, 2009


I wish I made movies. Movies have a power that I envy. The power to emotionally move someone. The power to entertain. The power to excite. The power to involve. By many film is considered to be a lesser art form. Books are better. Painting is better. Stage is better. The thing is that film is better. Let me explain.
Sometimes movies leave me in awe. Just now I finished a documentary called Step Into Liquid. You might have heard of it. It's a film about surfing through the eyes of a surfer. The film opens with some of the most amazing shots of the ocean I've ever seen in my life. I thought at the beginning, why are you opening with this? I guess I figured they should save their best shots for the end. They did.
I suppose it isn't the camera that left me in awe though. There were other things. Story elements that involved real people. There was the story of the surfer who was paralyzed but continues to surf, lying down. There was the trip to Easter Island. There was the... well, I won't recap the entire thing. I'll just say that there were things that wrapped me up in the lives of people in the film.
Getting back to the point, this movie moved me in ways that very few things have before, outside of my own life.
Other things that move me include music, architecture, geology, painting, literature, etc. And by move I mean pass on to me a feeling of wonderment, awe, involvement, knowledge, ideas or some other value. It's just that film is better at it that most of these things alone.
A lot of my friends, and by friends I mean the handful of people who may ever read this, know that I love movies. There is an even smaller group of people who participate in this with me. Oddly, these 4 or 5 people are the few friends that most of my friends don't know. Among us we have this idea. I'm not certain where we got it but it's something we keep repeating to each other. It's almost a mantra now. "Film is the greatest medium the world has ever seen." There are a couple other variations on this idea but the point is clear.
The simple fact is that film combines visual, musical and performing art together in a very unique and involving way. Now many may argue that theatre is superior in every way in all three areas. I would never agree but the argument may be made. The thing is that theatre is really just the precursor to film. Film allows for things that theatre cannot accomplish.
Just to illustrate I would point at The Matrix. Imagine if you saw that for the first time on a stage. Use all the same actors but do it on stage. What would it look like? Sure you could get across all the elements of the story. You could deliver all the dialog. How about bullets? How about bullet time? Someone would have to rig some very complicated devices to accomplish much of the special effects. And when you think about it, without some of the effects The Matrix just isn't the same movie. Without them it become harder to believe they are inside a virtual world that can be manipulated by its creators. In a sense the effects are part of the story.
Now, not every movie released is amazing. But the same can be said about almost every art form. Not every photograph you take is amazing. I believe most people are surprised when they take a picture that looks amazing. I know I am.
Still, every once in a while I watch a movie that makes me feel something. It's in those moments that I realize why I want to make movies. It's in those moments that I understand why I sacrifice so much for such a small chance at telling my stories in the medium. I never know before I watch a movie whether or not I'll come out of it with such an experience.
Earlier this year I wrote about I Love You Man. I went in that movie mostly because I was bored and thought I needed something funny. As it turns out it was more than just a funny story. In fact it was much more. As the summer arrived I was excited about all the big shows coming out. I couldn't wait to see Star Trek and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I went to see them and I enjoyed them. The excitement is gone and all I can think about is how much I want to see I Love You Man again. Because of the experience I had with it I think it is the best movie of the year.
Movies are subjective of course. Often I think the reason certain movies hit me the way they do is because of what I am going through in my own life at the time. Having moved to California in the last year I have been thinking a lot about how much less time I get to spend with the handful of people I consider to be my closest friends. That effected my feelings in the theater. When I was younger I had an amazing experience watching The Sixth Sense. I believe now it was due in large part to my feelings that sometimes I stood alone in who I was. I related to the boy very well. I saw it twice in theaters and enjoyed it just as much the second time.
I'm of course not trying to invalidate other forms of art by writing this. In the end I just want to acknowledge the power a simple movie can have in our lives.