When I was in high school, one of my friends had an orange two-door Pinto and every few weeks we’d drive to Lewiston and go to the movies. I remember only a few of the movies we saw; when I got out of high school and went to college, I stopped going to the movies. There wasn’t a movie theater on campus and I didn’t have a car. That Pinto, dubbed “the car of the planet dying” by my brother, might have helped me get off campus more often. As it was, movies were shown at different lecture halls and auditoriums on campus. I didn’t enjoy watching movies in the same places where I’d tried to absorb mind-numbing information about Mendel’s principles of genetics, the laws of publication, and the Battle of Tours.
It was the beginning of my alienation from modern movies.
After college, I moved to Portland and started renting movies from a video store that had a large selection of “Classics.” I still didn’t go to the movies often, but I enjoyed watching black and white movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Some of my favorite films were Dark Victory, My Man Godfrey, Rebecca, and Stage Door. I read biographies of movie stars like Bette Davis and Cary Grant, and movie producers Louis B. Mayer and Samuel Goldwyn. I even read quasi-academic books about movies, like Jeanine Basinger’s The Star Machine.
Sunday night was the annual Academy Awards ceremony and the media world was buzzing with red carpet stories and anticipation. I can’t remember the last time I went to a movie theater for anything other than the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD. I don’t have a Tee Vee, I don’t read People magazine, and when my hair stylist says she want to fix my hair like a certain celebrity, I just smile and say “sure” even though I don’t have any idea who she is talking about.
I wonder why I don’t like going to the movies. Was I scarred by 1980’s movie clunkers like You Light Up My Life and The Blue Lagoon? Maybe it’s my general dislike of being part of a herd of people and the expectations that accompany herding. I’m also skeptical about the way information is presented. I’m uncomfortable when I hear people talking about movies as though they are objective truth.
Movies have long been used as propaganda.
Alas, since I don’t go to the movies, I can’t objectively denounce them. I know many people enjoy cinematic escapes and it’s not my job to tell people what to do. I don’t think movies are going to change the world. People may change the world, but they’re going to need to think for themselves and question some of the information that comes air-brushed and neatly wrapped in their Hollywood swag bags.
Do movies influence you?