Corn Syrup For The Mind

I went to see the film “Captain America” the other day. Several of my friends had been raving about it and the trailer looked promising.

I was pleasantly surprised. It was a good movie.

Don’t misunderstand me. I wasn’t surprised because it was a good comic book adaptation. I was surprised because I can’t remember the last time I saw a new film that told an actual, coherent story. I think it may have been “Death At A Funeral”.  Not the remake, the British one. The one that came out in 2007.

Generally speaking, my movie theater experience goes something like this: I spend $20 or $30 (3-D) on tickets for myself and a companion. Spend a bit more on liquids. I watch ten minutes of advertising. I watch five minutes of trailers. I see a film with lots of action sequences and mind-boggling computer graphic images doing wondrous things. If it was adapted for 3-D, lots of things are thrown at the camera and/ or there are long panoramic shots of breathtaking vistas. The movie ends and I feel like I had a pretty good time.

Then I try to describe the story to a friend. I’m lucky if I can manage two sentences. Mind you, I used to be a film critic. I used to have no trouble producing 600 words on a film. Now days there’s no there there. The modern mass market film is the intellectual equivalent of high-fructose corn syrup. It gives you a quick rush but it lacks intellectually nutritious content…and it makes your brain obese.

Television is even worse. The pacing has become so rapid that characters completing each other’s sentences has taken the place of actual dialogue. It may actually be impossible to market a character driven story any more. Advertising that consists entirely of jump cuts and action driven programming may have conditioned us to be too impatient to actually savor any experience that doesn’t reinforce us with immediate and frequent stimulation.

If they ever manage to develop truly interactive “films” in which the audience directs the “plot” the cinema will finally realize the dreams of marketing. We will pay to sit in Skinner boxes.

Be seeing you.



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