I Just Like Movies

I Just Like Movies


Writing this was, let’s kindly say, a “difficult” endeavor. The topic was straightforward; for the final assignment of Professor Chris Bram’s amazing course, “Writing About Film” (highly recommended), we were given one requirement: Write an essay, about anything you want, so long as it relates to film. Okay, I thought, I can do that. Simple enough. Yeah; “okay” buddy. In a sense, this is my attempt to understand why I love what I do, a question that—if my everlasting procrastination was any indication—was not an easy one to figure out. Movies are just cool. I’ve loved them my entire life. And likely, I always will. But it never made sense to me why. I think movies are better than TV, and I’d rather watch a film than read a book; I’ve always been this way. I think, in some ways, it’s just a part of who I am. Who knows? But I really tried to figure it out.

Okay, some quick background. I didn’t plan on writing this. Two weeks prior to the date it was due, we had to pitch our ideas to the class. My proposition was about the impact and value of laughter. I’d been thinking a lot about laughter, and why happiness, I felt, was strongly related. After all, you can’t laugh if you aren’t in a good mood. Not naturally, at least. I guess, at the time, it made sense. In the context of movies, I figured talking about comedy would be, for lack of a better word, the “safe” way to go. I knew I could make a point, maybe talk about psychology a bit, then tie it up (in a cute bow) and call it a day. But, if the rest of my life has been any indication, I love doing things the hard way. I wrote the first couple paragraphs (of the essay I was supposed to write), but, for one reason or another, I couldn’t stay focused. I was bored. I kept pushing along, but it was obvious that what I’d been writing was dry and lacking in zeal. It was the kind of work I’d be embarrassed to turn in. Back to the drawing board, I guess.

I deleted what I had and promptly reevaluated my goals for the assignment. Yes, I wanted a good score, but perhaps even more, I needed to write something I would be proud of. I would surely regret it otherwise. So, like many responsible college students, it was back to video games and procrastination. Soon enough, like an epiphany, I had a thought: This is an essay about movies; why do I like them? Had I ever asked myself that question? I hadn’t. I’d spent my whole life loving this crazy entertainment medium, though never once had I questioned where that love originated from. Well, I guess I found my topic.

Now for a new problem: Is it even possible to explain why you like something? And I don’t mean explaining why it’s cool, but why, over everything else people love in this world, you love what you do. Quite the enigma, it seems. Are passions born within us? Are they a part of the soul? There must be a reason. A neuroscientist should answer these questions, or maybe Plato, but I’m neither a brain expert nor an ancient philosopher (and I have to write something), so would you mind if I cheat and use my imagination?

It’s a bit rusty. When I finished high school, I wanted to change. I needed to. I graduated with a GPA of 2.3, and just like that, my youthful confidence was shot. Childish hobbies, like “filmmaking,” serve no purpose in the adult world, and I was ready to give them up. Thoughts of my future were trivial on a good day, but in most cases, bleak. What am I going to be when I grow up? What am I allowed to be? Not much, probably. They danced in my head like an endless ballet.

At this point, college was futile, and a career at McDonald’s didn’t really appeal, so, like the brilliant eighteen-year-old that I was, I signed away my life to the Army. If I die young, at least I’ll have an adventure. So . . . yeah, it went pretty much how you’d imagine. I don’t have any cool stories; I was never deployed so I mopped a lot of floors, but I learned something about myself. Something utterly at odds with the expectations of the military. And it spiraled. Apparently, I passionately hate rules. And I don’t like tradition either. Wonderful. And then, of course, I was stationed in Alaska. Three years. It was a party. After a while, surprising no one, I was diagnosed with depression.

The reason I hate rules, I think, is because of fundamentally what they are: static. Nothing new. Boring stuff. A soldier isn’t paid to dream. Likewise, a waitress isn’t paid to sing. Why not? The world felt dull. Isn’t there a place—a magical garden where people do what they love, yet still put food on the table? I knew there was, you see it on TV, but from my hollow perspective, that place seemed little more real than fiction. Maybe in the next life. I was an ant in a death machine, and nobody would hear my ideas. And let me tell you, I would’ve loved to turn them off sometimes. I was meaningless. What if I was hit by a car? Back then, my legacy was mopping government floors and flunking high school. This was my bed. I made it.

But then I saw Midsommar.

It came out during a weird time in my life. 2019. Oh, 2019. I’d actually been avoiding movies. I’d dreamt of being a filmmaker since I was a teenager, but—c’mon. Between the disappointment of my life choices, and the soul-sucking climate of my military unit, I was feeling, well, pretty bummed out. Whenever I’d watch a good movie, I felt shame and regret. Probably some envy in there too. I knew someone was living their dream, and I was not. And, soon enough, I decided I didn’t care. Maybe I felt better that way. Numb.

But then I saw Midsommar—and, for some reason, everything shifted.

It was unapologetic. It broke the rules. Writer and director Ari Aster’s work has an identity. It lives for itself, and nothing else. And I was obsessed. This is art. Here was someone, compromising nothing, and with a small independent budget (even lower than Hereditary), making the film of their dreams. Inspiring. I want to do that. I don’t know how, and I don’t care, but I want it. And I still have this mindset today.

When I left the military, I made a pact with myself: I will never work a job that I hate, ever again while I’m alive. It’s the only life I have, after all. I started thinking about college, and I realized that if I’m truly—and I mean truly—going to be happy, I need to make movies. It’s not a question or a choice, it’s me. I just like movies. And that’s it.

But why though? I don’t know. We’re over a thousand words in now, and still, I don’t. But I’m drawn to them—movies; or film, moving pictures, whatever you choose to call them—I love them. They’re my dream. And the dream is real, because it makes me who I am. This life, this essay, and so much of my time have been dedicated to this amazing art form that I can’t explain. Well, I could explain it—analyze and dissect scene after scene of the films I adore unapologetically, but doing so would be to miss the point entirely. It isn’t about scenes, or plot, or even characters; to me, it’s about the whole. I don’t believe that one element is more important than another, because only in the collective editing together—all the small, “insignificant” pieces—does the moving picture become moving art.

There’s something infinite about movies. You know? They’re impossible. Everything exists in the canon of cinema—anything—so long as it was born of imagination. No one knows why they’re creative, but still, look at the magic in this world. If you think about it, imagination is more real than reality. Because every human creation was first born of the mind. Everything. I compare it sometimes with life; philosophy, at least of the existential kind, is the impossible quest of knowing the unknowable. Life is infinite on the account that no human, regardless of age or technological advancement, will ever understand all of it. However, despite our lack of apodictic understanding, we each share a piece of the puzzle. That piece, in my mind at least, comes in the form of creation. It’s beautiful; life. And we, humans, with our boundless imaginations and creativity, make it so.

But let’s rewind super quick. I didn’t find these ideas after rediscovering my love for movies; I wish. In truth, I became kiiiiiiind of pretentious. That would be a nice way to put it. Once again, my “brilliant,” slightly-older-than-eighteen-year-old mind, assumed I knew it all. I mentioned comedies above; let’s talk about them. I was . . . not a fan. I felt they were boring, lacking depth. If a film wasn’t “intellectually stimulating,” then, psssh—please, I refused to watch it. I’d become closed-minded about the very thing I was passionately against: I said I hate rules, but here I was, imposing my own set of rules that dictate a “watchable” movie. (That IMDb rating had better be at least a seven.) It’s funny; I have to laugh now, because I couldn’t have been wronger. About anything—myself or movies. (Is “wronger” a word?)

But so is the case with life. In recent months, my taste in movies is new once again, but this time, it’s simpler. Obviously, I still enjoy complex cinema, and I have no qualms watching art films, my favorites include Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966) and Lulu Wang’s The Farewell (2019), but—as I (finally) realize now, there’s always more to see. Also, like magic, I’ve rediscovered interest in the movies I previously enjoyed as a child. A lot of them are great! Bee Movie (2007), anyone?

What does it mean to be an adult now? Is there really such a difference? Why is certain entertainment less, well, entertaining (*ahem*) for adults? Is SpongeBob objectively less funny now, than it was during adolescence? (The old seasons, I’m a purist.) No; it’s hilarious. A basic fact. I won’t accept any arguments to the contrary. 

Alert the conspiracy theorists, because I think it’s a lie, “adulthood.”

Is it true that people mature because their brains are still evolving throughout youth? Yes, I think science has made that pretty clear. There’s certainly something to be said about our development, which comes with age, in that we gradually understand others more intuitively. A child may not consider the feelings of someone before making a comment, whereas adults, at least many of us, are often thinking about those repercussions all the time. This, I feel, is objectively a good thing. Humans; people, are complex beings. And we need to understand each other as such. 

But, is it not the case, also, that we’re forced to change? To adapt to a culture and society with its own set of rules? And I don’t mean rules as in laws, but cultural rules. The unspoken rules that everyone follows, but no one talks about. Manners, civility, family expectations, making money—these are fine, and I would never argue against the value of being polite, but it needs to be said—all of these examples, and thousands of others, are inherently at odds with the ideals of being a child. And so, many of us, try stomping these qualities away. Even though, as human beings, we were born with them.

The issue with exclusively “adult-minded” thinking is that it often becomes overbearing. As children, we would dream of Santa Claus visiting our homes on Christmas Eve, and the world of Hogwarts seemed magical enough to fantasize about. This, although clearly absurd to the adult mind, is one of the many casualties of growing up: Dreams. Children hate the boring, they despise “normal,” and they frequently have their heads in the clouds. My adolescent mind, as faintly as I can recall it, was always unhinged with boundless ideas and creative passion.

I don’t remember a lot from childhood; it’s like a misty fog that I only seem to recall after looking at old pictures, but even then, I question if the memories originate from me, or rather family telling me what happened, creating new memories from old stories. It’s kind of haunting how fragile memories are. They really come and go in the blink of an eye. I do retain some though, memories that I’ll never forget, and many stem from my love of movies; making them, and watching—with boundless excitement of the unknown; a joy that, for many years, I feared was lost. But it’s not. The joy never left; I stopped chasing it.

The value of being a person, I’ve come to find for myself, is our unshakable ability to become something new. Or, as a better way to put it—our power to reveal who we were from the start. It’s impossible to see the future, but we can alter how we visualize the past. I’ve spent countless years trying to erase the person I am. Me. But, like a permanent marker, the stain never quite goes away. All that can change is how you look at it. And I’m tired of fighting to become someone else. Hi. My name is Michael. And I’m the same person I’ve always been. I didn’t choose to love movies, but I do. I don’t know why I love movies, but still, I do. Perhaps the question was never meant to have an answer.

Life is cool; movies are cool. Tomato, tomahto. I love all sorts of content now; yes, even comedy. And I love the movie chills—they jolt through my spine when I see something mind-blowing. I live for it. It’s my joy. You know, that’s the other funny thing about life: I used to think my passion was a curse. I feel this pressure, like a brick inside my chest. It’s been taunting me forever. Hovering; pressing; never-ending, even for a moment. It’s exhausting. I know the source of the issue, I always have, but I never gave it my attention. That ends today.

It’s time to heal. Until now, I’ve been afraid to confront the impossible. The idea that I, some random kid from Idaho, could do something so completely unreal, it’s . . . terrifying. I mean, I’m studying to become a filmmaker; what? My adult mind can hardly conceive of it. Like most who pursue a career in this industry, the odds are severely against me. Oftentimes, the seeming impossibility is all I can think about. But I’ve found a solution—to the pressure in my chest, and my “rational” adult mind: Do it anyway. Ignore the fear, the anxiety, and last, but certainly least, the impossible. Screw ’em. They’ve never helped us anyway.

In the wise words of Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” Life is magical, it always has been, one only needs to remember how to see it.

Grow up, kid.

No, brilliant-eighteen-year-old me, I don’t think I will.

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