April 24, 2012


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Why movies move me like nothing else.

the adjustment bureau

I’m obsessive sometimes. I think that trait goes hand in hand with the creative impulse—a tendency to focus intently on something and lose yourself in that obsession. One of my (many) obsessions is movies. I could watch a new movie a day for a year and not get bored with it. I bet there are some of you out there who are this way too.

There is something about the experience of going to a movie that is almost religious. The anticipation as you sit down in the theater. Waiting for the lights to go down. The hush of the crowd. Sometimes that’s the best part. The focus on the experience that is happening on the screen—to the absence of all other stimuli. And when the film is compelling, you lose yourself in the experience. When it’s good—if you give yourself to it—it’s magic.

Sadly, that is becoming a more rare occurrence. Most movies now are mediocre at best. The studios pump out franchise after franchise and these films lack psychological depth. It’s popcorn for the brain. It’s all relative, I guess. The movie that had the strongest impact on me when I was young was Star Wars. Not exactly Shakespeare, I know, but to a 5 year-old, seeing perhaps his second live action film ever, it was mind-blowing.

Why do movies affect me this way? I’ve always loved the idea of the world beyond my world. And the world we live in is awfully homogenized. But I think it goes beyond just being raised inside the boredom of a suburbanite bubble. Movies give me hope. They give me glimpses of lives lived, moments shared and emotions revealed that are mental roadmaps for the journey of life.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. What corny bullshit. What roadmap is there in Inception or The Godfather? In the good ones, it’s there—the emotion of experience, the drama of the challenges the characters face, and the journey they go through. Their journey is (metaphorically) the same journey that is wired into our brains. The beauty of story is that we absorb it in a way that is sometimes easier to understand because it’s projected in front of us.

I guess you could say I’m in love with story. And movies are the emotional kings of story. They may never have the intellectual depth a novel will have. They may never have that participatory sense of accomplishment a video game has. But they trump them all when it comes to raw emotion. And that moves me like nothing else.

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Image above from The Adjustment Bureau, which I have to admit to liking very much.  |  A great book on the underpinnings of successful movie storytelling is The Writer’s Journey. Worth the read for the curious minds who like to look behind the curtain.

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