In honour of Valentine’s Day, we all talked about three films (or things, in Jeffrey’s case) that we love. I gave this assignment out for two reasons: first, it was one way to generate material for the website that was tied into some current events, holidays, or film releases, and second was that it was another way for you to have a clearer understanding of the staff and why we have made the choice to write about films.
Regardless of how diverse the opinions vary from writer to writer, the underlying love for cinema is there within us all. Film has been something I’ve used to relate to many people, and has been used as a stepping stool to connect with others (like some of the writers on this site). I no longer depend on it, but it’s occasionally there as a safety net.
I have to assume I’m not alone in this, but television was very prominent in my childhood. Every show I saw taught me countless lessons through role models, fatherly figures, and motherly figures. These shows put me in the shoes of the main or secondary characters, and started teaching me about empathy.
Through empathy, you can begin to understand people better, whether that be someone new at your work, or someone in a film that set halfway across the world. It helps me to understand, to a certain extent, their culture. It’s like a quick lesson in anthropology through film. It’s not the definite and final lesson, but it’s the first step.
Coming to empathize with people who were made on paper, and being moved to joy or tears when their story is over, is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what cinema can do.
Think about one of your favourite films, or characters, and how attached you may be to it or them. An entirely fictional person (typically), dealing with random events that were created by a screenwriter, is all they are. Yet, you have a connection to these films and characters because you see a bit of yourself in them. They made the same choices (good or bad) and are now in a similar place as you.
One of my favourite films is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind because I believe that every aspect of that film is firing on all cylinders. Whether it be the strong acting of Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, or the award winning screenplay by the genius, Charlie Kaufman, or even the insane surreality of the whole enterprise. The premise is brilliant, as the film becomes the cinematic equivalent of the question “would you rather have loved and lost, than not loved at all?” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it, but I still have the same rush of feeling every time it ends.
Another favourite film of mine is one I wrote about in a recent Film Crew post: Blue Valentine. I mentioned how the ending of the film is shattering due to the editing, crosscutting the present, in which Michelle Williams is telling Ryan Gosling she wants a divorce, with the past, in which they are getting married and exchanging vows. It’s that juxtaposition of the ups and downs of a relationship which hurts the most. This again goes back to how much you can connect to the characters within a film.
This is partially why I rather hate a film than be indifferent towards it, because, when I hate it, there’s at least some sort connection between me and it. When I’m indifferent, I walk out realizing my life would is just the same as it was before going in. I want films to change me.
Over the past year, I watched a lot of films, and a lot of them were first time viewings, or a revisit of classic films, some of which have had a huge impact on me. Just this past January, I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey (in glorious 70mm). Even though I’d seen it before numerous times on Blu-Ray (and twice on 70mm), I walked out feeling like an entirely different person. It was as if I levitated all the way home that night.
In the arts, the written word is a purely mental exercise, in which a good book helps keep the brain happy. Music is an experience for the ears, while paintings are for your eyes. In film, when the right music clicks over the right visuals, and the spoken word is at it’s best, all these different artforms combine to leave you in shock. Whether it be through watching a tense film where, even while it ends, you are unable to move from your chair, or a film that leaves you crying even while the credits roll. This is the power and magic of cinema. The magic to have you travel across the world, to hundreds of places you couldn’t imagine. To have you bond to someone you’ll never meet. To make you feel more alive in the day to day drudgery of life. And so you feel motivated to keep on going, you feel enlightened, and moved. You simply feel.