Underneath my yellow skin

Movies: I Can Take Or Leave Them

I hate movies*.

I said that to a professor in my MA program once, and she looked at me as if I had committed the biggest social faux pas ever–which I probably did. She couldn’t understand how I could hate movies because they were so wondrous to her. I couldn’t really put into words why I had said that, but I’ve given it plenty of thought since then and have come up with a few reasons why I’m so disinterested in movies.

One, I’m an avid book lover. One of my mom’s favorite embarrassing stories to tell about me is that when I was two, I’d hold the newspaper in front of my face and pretend to read it–upside down. When I started school at age six, I could already read. I had taught myself how between age two and age six. By the time I was seven, I was reading everything I could get my hands on. It’s all I wanted to do in my spare time. We didn’t watch much TV when I was a kid, and we never went to the movies. I hated Superman and Star Wars when I saw them, and I didn’t much care about ET, either. I still get lifted eyebrows when I say I hate Star Wars, which I don’t mention often for that very reason.

Side note: I don’t like the Beatles, Taxi Driver, or Seinfeld, either. You may all shut down your browsers in disgust now.

Reading was my escape, and I liked books that had sparse descriptions because then I could create the worlds in my own mind. Even as a writer, I struggle to describe things because it’s not something I enjoy reading. If there are paragraphs of scenery, I skip right over it. When I talk about my characters, I use very limited and basic vocabulary. “Her black hair reaches her waist, and her dark brown eyes are often sad.” It’s not one of my strong points, and I’ve accepted that when it comes to description, I’m a minimalist. I like to write dialogue, however; that’s where I really shine. I also enjoy writing about the feelings, emotions, and characters’ inner lives. As a former psych major, I’m fascinated by motivations and intricate, complicated relationships, so that’s what I focus on in my writing.

Anything I see on screen pales in comparison to the visions in my head. Funnily enough, as CG gets more elaborate and expensive, my interest in movies steadily decreases. I should qualify and say Hollywood movies because indie movies and foreign flicks are different. I remember seeing Bread & Tulips, an Italian movie, when I was living in the East Bay, and I was blown away by how normal the characters looked. The lead actress, Licia Maglietta, is beautiful, but in a haggard way. There’s no one you’d call a stunner, and I really appreciated that. The situations were more true to real life, and that’s what I’m looking for in movies.** It’s one reason I like British movies–the actors look as if I could bump into them in the pub, and the stakes aren’t usually as exaggerated as they are in Hollywood movies.

That’s one of my biggest complaints about Hollywood movies, by the way. Most of them stick safely to the tropes of their genre. In action movies, you have your anti-hero. He’s gruff, scarred by life, and probably recently lost someone he loved. He’s a lone wolf and a loose cannon, and all he wants is to be left alone. Circumstances collide, and before you know it, he has to save the world. Along the way, he meets a woman who’s been hurt by love and life. Yet, for whatever reason, she’s willing to give him a chance. She’s a reluctant sidekick, but by the end, she’s kicking ass almost as hard as her man is. They go through many harrowing adventures, but, eventually, they save the world. And fall in love.

Let’s not even talk about romcoms. I hate them with a passion because if you did any of that shit in real life, you’d be arrested. “This girl doesn’t like me. I better bug her until she changes her mind.” “I’ll just follow her all around town and send her cute messages. That’ll surely impress her!” “Let me insult her to show her I like her.” And all this shit works in movies. It sends a bad message that the way to win a girl’s heart is to wear her down. Romcoms also say that you can be as much of a dick as you want to be to a woman, and she’ll love you, anyway. This is utter bullshit. Or, rather, it should be. Love isn’t unconditional, nor should it be. If you go down that road, it’s called codependency. Not all behavior is acceptable, and that’s what I really detest about romcoms. They continue to tell women that they should accept all the shit a man gives them because any relationship is better than not having one.

I can go down the list of genres and say why I don’t like any of them, but I think you get the gist.

A movie broke up one of my relationships, too. Pulp Fiction. I saw it at the insistence of my boyfriend at the time (about five years after it was released), and I hated it. HATED it. I find Tarantino highly overrated, and the only movie of his I like is Jackie Brown. Pulp Fiction was the first movie I saw by him, and it couldn’t be over for me soon enough. The boyfriend asked what I thought of it afterwards, and I foolishly told him. After I was done, he said, “I can’t be with a person who thinks like that.” We remained friends of a sort after that, but two movies he made me watch later ended that. The first was Titanic. I knew I would hate it, but he insisted I’d love it. From the first sweeping panoramic look at the boat to the last frame, an agonizing 3 hours and 15 minutes later, I had my teeth gritted so I wouldn’t curse the whole time. Two hours in as everyone was running and screaming for their lives, I almost yelled, “Die already, damn it!” Even Kate Winslet’s tits couldn’t save the movie.

The third movie was a about a courtesan during the French Revolution. Dangerous Beauty, Google tells me. Jacqueline Bisset played the courtesan’s mother. Anyway, there’s a man who ‘falls in love’ with the courtesan, and my ex gushed about how it was one of the best love stories he’d ever seen. I looked at him as if he were crazy and said, “It’s easy to love someone when you see her a few hours a week. She doesn’t have to nag him to pick up his clothes or remind him to bring the milk home. Besides, it’s her job to make someone feel like a king. She’s good at it.” I couldn’t believe a man in his thirties would still cling to that kind of bullshit, but it’s deep within our culture, so I can’t completely blame him. I realized, however, that we weren’t even suited to be friends, and our friendship petered off after that.

Hollywood is so unimaginative these days. I know they’re not the only people producing movies, but it’s pretty disheartening. I’ve talked before about my dissatisfaction with the lack of diversity in Hollywood movies, but it’s becoming my pet peeve. Hollywood is supposed to be liberal, but it can be oddly conservative in some ways. It’s frustrating because of the roaring success that is Hamilton.*** It’s sold out for decades, and Lin-Manuel himself has joked about not being able to get tickets. Hamilton proves that you can have a diverse cast and people of all ethnicities will go crazy about it. In Hollywood, however, there’s still the outmoded belief that a person of color can’t carry a movie (or TV show). Black people, once in a while, but Asians? HA! I’ve done that rant before, so I won’t get into it again.

I was exaggerating when I said that I hated movies, but I rarely would choose to see a movie over doing just about anything else. Movie or book? Book. Movie or theater? Theater. Movie or ballet? Ballet. Movie or orchestra? Orchestra. In fact, I only go to movies when other people suggest it. I’m trying to think of the last movie I wanted to see, and I can’t do it. I do want to see Allegiance when it comes out, but it started out as a musical, so it doesn’t really count as a movie. I saw the Potter movies, but only because I’m a huge Alan Rickman fan, may he rest in peace. I’d rather go out for a nice dinner than see a movie. I’d rather play a video game than watch a movie. I’d rather snuggle with my cats and take a nap than watch a movie.

I’m not a big movie fan is what I’m trying to say.

I’ll tell you my three favorite movies of all time so you can understand a little more where I’m coming from. Once, an Irish movie made for $150,000 over seventeen days. It’s a simple tale of when boy meets girl–no, it’s not, even though the characters are named Guy and Girl. He’s a struggling musician who fixes Hoovers in his dad’s shop during the day. He busks on the streets at night, trying to forget his girlfriend. She’s a Czech immigrant doing shit jobs as she tries to take care of her child who stays with her (Girl’s) mother during the day. They meet when she listens to him play, and they become friends. There’s sexual tension on his side, but she rebuffs him. Now, if this was an American movie, they would end up together, but since it’s an Irish movie, they don’t. I can’t tell you how glad I was that they didn’t end up a couple by the end of the movie. Here’s one of my favorite songs from the movie.

Another movie I really like is Japanese Story, starring the underrated Toni Collette. She’s a hard-as-nails, foul-mouthed woman who is roped into being a chauffeur for a Japanese man. At first they clash because she’s a modern Western woman and he’s a reserved Asian man. They get lost, and end up sleeping together. The sex is really hot, and it’s rare to see an Asian man portrayed as a sexual being. That’s as much of the plot as I want to discuss because the rest is better left experienced. I will say that it’s poignant, and I cried more than once while watching the second half of the movie. I only stumbled over this movie because I was watching Siskel & Ebert, and they both gave it a thumbs up. The fact that it stars a good-looking Japanese man (Gotaro Tsunashima) was enough for me to watch it.

The third movie is The Station Agent. It’s an American indie movie about three lonely outcasts who somehow stumble upon each other. The director wrote the roles with the actors in mind, and it shows. Peter Dinklage plays a depressed man who inherits an abandoned train station. It’s a weird premise, but it works. The game is painful and raw as it delves into the psyches of three people who have suffered enormously in life. The awkwardness of some scenes is palpable, and I related to so many of the experiences depicted. It’s a slice-of-life movie, but it touches on so many big themes. There is a scene of Peter Dinklage getting drunk in a bar and telling everyone to take a good look that hurts so much because it’s too real.

I guess I should amend my earlier statement from “I hate movies” to “I hate uninspired, lazy, boring movies”, which seems to describe much of Hollywood right now. Maybe one day, they’ll see the light and become a font of creativity. One day.






*This is obviously hyperbole. Hating movies is like hating sandwiches, which I’m sure someone claims to do.

**Except musicals. They are a genre of their own, and none of the regular rules apply.

***The videos are from the Hamilton cast because I couldn’t find any songs about hating movies, so I decided to include three videos from my current favorite musical.

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