If you think that films are escapist entertainment, then you are not watching them hard enough.
They entire art forms of film is given what I would colloquially refer to s a bum rap. Indeed, I’d guess that most people go to films with the intent of escaping into their reality and sinking into another for an hour and a half or more, and while I’m certainly not going to deny my guilt in partaking in this activity, I cannot reasonably defend it. I hope that I’m not speaking solely as a Film student, but rather as a representative of the artistic and intellectual community at large.
The best film-making causes an emotional and intellectual reaction through that magical combination of cinematic technique and storytelling. It’s a combination that, for my money, cannot be beaten. Even in the worst example of film-making (in my books, that honour goes to Grease – direct all hate mail to Dru Jeffries, c/o Blueprint Magazine) has something significant to say about the world, and if not the world, the viewer.
I’ll illustrate by personal example. While it was in theaters, I was convinced somehow to pay $11 to see the monstrosity that was Rob Cohen’s xXx. I had an extremely hard time enjoying this film; I was so distracted by the overwhelming misogyny that I couldn’t even enjoy the explosions (though I’m sure that they were lovely). What does this tell you about my mindset, not only as a film viewer, but as a person? On the other hand, the lady that I was with was not bothered by it in the slightest (she was too busy admiring Vin Diesel). What does this tell you about the way that she views films? I’m not going to play the shrink here, but there’s certainly more going on in the minds of viewers than they recognize…and that’s without even acknowledging, or attempting to acknowledge, what was going on in director Rob Cohen’s mind when he was making the film.
Even when I’m watching Garden State, a film that I’m absolutely swept away by, I can’t be totally immersed in the blooming love of Largeman & Sam. I;m too much reminded of whatever relevant happiness/sadness is happening in my own life at the time. My enjoyment of the film certainly does not suffer for it. Batman Begins, a film that I saw five times this summer, raises serious questions about the nature of justice, identity and destiny. Even though Batman kicks serious criminal ass, he also makes you think!
If you let him.
I’m urging you to resist being swept away by the summer popcorn fare. Resist the urge to shut your mind off at all times. It can be extremely tempting, especially if your taste in movies ranges closer to the Rob Schneider side of the spectrum. And don’t deny that there’s an intellectual and spiritual nourishment to be found in all films, even if your drug of choice is Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. Why did you go and see this movie? If you liked it, why? And if you didn’t, why not? These are questions that you owe it to yourself to answer – and the answer can’t be as easy as “It was funny.”
Watch as many films as you can. Watch them as hard as you can. This is the path to true enlightenment. If it includes watching Batman kick ass, all the better.