December 23, 2004
Walking Tall, Part 1: Josh Jabcuga explores the phenomenon of movie walk-outs, and he lists some movies that rewarded you if you stuck them out.
There’s an interesting phenomenon at movie-theaters that has always boggled my mind: the action of walking out on a movie midway through it, or worse, five minutes into it. Why would you pay to see a film and abandon the commitment before the end credits roll? Is it that grating on your nerves? Is it that insulting to your tastes, your beliefs, or morals, that you just have to stand up, literally and figuratively, to what the filmmakers are presenting, and voice your negative opinion by getting the hell out of the theater?
We’ve all seen shitty movies, the type where you wish you could get your eight bucks returned to you or at the very least, your two-and-a-half hours back (not factoring in the time for trailers and pre-trailer commercials…”Do you Fandango?” That’s enough to get me to head to fire exits, I tell ya.) No, I'm not talking about junk movies here, but exploring something else entirely.
Let’s get something straight right off the bat: Movies that have no sense of reciprocity toward the paying filmgoer are null-and-void in this equation. No one will fault you for bailing out on a Freddy Prinze, Jr., movie (But then one would have to ask the question, Why in the hell would you be caught dead at a Freddie Prinze, Jr., film, in the first place? Your better-half slipped you a Roofie and the next thing you know you’re in the front row for She’s All That? Nice try, but you gotta come up with something better than that, bub).
The kinds of films we’re talking about today, boys and girls, are the kinds that push the envelope and the audience…ever so subtly, to grab their coat and keys and cell phones and bail out before the second reel even unspools. Again, we’re not talking crap here. Ocean’s Twelve equals a mighty case of the drizzling shits. Mars Attacks offers the cinematic equivalent of the clap, crabs, or your choice of STD. A David Lynch movie, though, those aren’t lousy movies (excluding maybe Lost Highway, a self indulgent piece of shit where Lynch was clearly taking the, er, high…way). No, David Lynch movies are the perfect example of the films in question here. They’re the films that make you take a chance by purchasing a ticket to them, by handing over two-and-some-odd-hours of your precious life to the filmmakers, not certain of what you’ll get in return. They’re the films where you say, “I dunno, either I go with the cheeseburger and fries or I order that weird dish the dude at the table next to me is scarfing down.”
Sometimes it’s good to go with the safe bet; after all, if you’re like me, you’re not made of money and the only thing more valuable to you than money is your time, and you have neither to give away without getting at least something in return.
Since you’ve already selflessly and trustfully provided me with some of your time (but none of your money…remember, like the saying goes, my free advice is worth the price…and apparently, sadly, painfully, so is my writing), let me get to the (hamburger helper) meat of this week’s Squib Central: Why would anyone walk out of a non Freddie Prinze, Jr., movie? Again, we’re not talking about Super Troopers or White Chicks or The Fast and the Furious. We’re talking about legitimate works of art, that is, movies, that challenge you to stay the entire duration, their entire running time, and in the end, they have either rewarded you immensely, and your patience and sense of risk have been paid off tenfold, or they leave you feeling as if you’d just gotten punched in the balls repeatedly by the Olsen twins.
Why, you may be wondering, would I take the time to even conjure up a list such as this? Simple: These are the movies that I love. More so, even if I don’t love these movies, I love taking chances on them. These are the movies that lend themselves to actual religious-like revelations. These are the movies that give us quote-unquote experiences and memories that remind us of why we go to the movies in the first place: To be able to stand in the dark and see things in a new light.
5. Vanilla Sky: The public was certainly divided on this one, weren’t they? It was either a love it or hate it movie. Writer/Director Cameron Crowe and Tom Cruise, who is unfairly labeled at times as being too much of a thespian poser, threw the world a curveball and mega mind-fuck the likes of which the world hadn’t seen since that weird LSD tunnel sequence in Willy Wonka. Crowe and Cruise may have had us all at hello with Jerry McGuire, but with Vanilla Sky, things were starting to look more like a drunken and regrettable one-night stand in some cheap motel in Niagara Falls (don’t ask). Depending on which side of the looking glass you favor, the movie either breaks down into a measly masturbatory mix tape from music geek Crowe, or a visceral trip that begs for repeated viewings (and yes, Kurt Russell was dynamic here, but so was Cruise, and, oh yes, Jason Lee, but that’s practically a given, isn’t it?).
Chances are, you didn’t walk out on this movie, but you hated yourself for staying until the very end, or, more accurately, you hated the movie because of the very end, the film’s twist ending, the one you claim to have seen coming from a mile a way. Proof that there’s vanilla fans, and then there’s chocolate lovers, and the former are assuredly in the minority.
4. Fight Club: This was a movie (adapted from a twister of a novel by Chuck Palahniuk), that was not only ahead of its time, but sadly, a victim of the time, given the disastrous events of Columbine. It was very much the equivalent of releasing an action flick the first six months or so following 9/11, in so much that studio marketing departments didn’t want to touch it with a ten foot pole.
One would have to wonder if the morons in Hollywood marketing departments would even know how to publicize the release of this movie, regardless of the timing, with all their test screenings and check-this-box-if-you-think-you-can-do-a-better-job-with-the-story-than-what-the-artists-originally-intended surveys.
Fight Club, both the novel and the movie, have gained a cult-like following since their respective releases, thanks to the growing appreciation of the bodies of work from director David Fincher and author Chuck Palahniuk. And if I hear anyone else say they liked the movie until it “got all weird and shit,” I swear to God I’ll start my own army of space-monkeys and splice obscenely pornographic film frames into the next theatrical offering from Disney until you get the point of Fight Club. For this one, as with Vanilla Sky, chances are you stayed for the entire show, but left scratching your head, ultimately confused. Like Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky, Brad Pitt was the ideal choice to play one of the central characters in the film. Why? Because sometimes to get you to take your medicine, Mommy and Daddy have to slip the bitter pill in your mashed potatoes. Clean off your plate. Now that’s a good boy.
3. Buffalo ’66: Before there was the whole episode at Cannes following the notorious screening of Brown Bunny with Vincent Gallo wishing cancer and other pleasantries of good fortune on film critic Roger Ebert (or whatever the press claimed Gallo said and whatever Gallo argued the press misquoted him as saying), there was Buffalo ’66.
Okay, I live in Buffalo. All my life. “Talkin’ proud” (if you live here, you know the old bumper sticker slogan). I know firsthand Buffalo gives one about as much hope and as much of a positive outlook on life as say, listening to an Elliott Smith album after downing a fistful of Ambiens and two boxes of wine (yes, boxes, not bottles; have you seen the double whammy that is the economy and the weather here?) Oddly enough, I’ve only met maybe one other Buffalonian that claims to have actually liked Buffalo ’66, other than myself. Admittedly, I have a strong stomach and high endurance for films that don’t exactly match the tastes of mainstream America. But I’m not even sure director/writer/renaissance asshole Vincent Gallo will admit himself to liking his own film.
Aside from some of the overused camera trickery, which I’ll excuse on the account of Gallo breaking his directorial cherry, I love the film. The pacing is deliberate, and the settings have this authentic, washed-out industrial stench like only a deserted steel town that never recovered can possess. Now imagine if you will, getting punched in the mouth. You know that somewhat metallic taste of blood? Bingo, that’s Buffalo.
If you’re one of those mid-to-late-twenty-somethings that claims Garden State is the best example of disenfranchised youth since The Catcher in the Rye, and “Mom and Dad, if you want to know what I’m going through and what I’m dealing with when I punch in at my cubicle-job-slash-lab-rat-in-a-maze nine-to-fiver,” then brother, you need to get out of the house more. Making a movie that fills a soundtrack with Coldplay and Nick Drake and also features a story about some dude who samples Ecstasy and goes cold turkey on Prozac and falls madly in love with Natalie Portman is a no-brainer. Where’s the challenge in finding self-identification and validation in that? Man, I say be original in your misguided and misspent twentysomething years.
Oh, yeah, sure, you got that movie; it touched you; it hit you hard, rocked you at your very core and foundation, your life essence. Gimme a break. Try sitting through a movie like Buffalo ’66 (filmed in my backyard), that features a cast including deer-in-the-headlights-coming-off-heroin-shoe-gazer Vincent Gallo and a Christina Ricci that performs her own solo tap dance in a bowling alley (eerily reminiscent of the dancing lady in Eraserhead who has, like, worms and shit raining down on her), with a soundtrack comprised of forgotten prog-rock from 70s stoner-favorites Yes. If that doesn’t test your might, then you sir, are a stronger soul than I. Either that, or your team has won the Superbowl, at least once.
If you’ve even seen Buffalo ’66, chances are it was on video or DVD or cable. This, in turn, doubles the chances that about twenty-four minutes into the film, you gave up in favor of watching something else, maybe The O.C, maybe Lost, maybe Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, maybe watching paint dry, anything but this. If, somehow, you did make it all the way through, you were most likely rewarded with a very moving and accurate portrait of a seemingly hopeless man in a depressingly hopeless city who manages to find a sliver of a soft, warm light in his existence. If this pill was too bitter for you to swallow, then you can always go back to your Coldplay albums, cry-baby.
Next week: The Conclusion.
Praise for the writing of Josh Jabcuga, who pens Squib Central, published every Thursday, exclusively at www.moviepoopshoot.com:
“Josh Jabcuga can take the 26 measly letters of our crude alphabet and capture the bi-polar soul of all that is classically yet disturbingly American. Then, when his typewriter is left to cool, he can turn right around…completely ready to trounce any drunk punk that’s got me backed into a corner.” –The Colonel J.D. Wilkes of The Legendary Shack*Shakers.
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