Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Surreal Cinemania

Have you ever had surreal movie theater experiences where it seems like your opinion of the movie differs from EVERY OTHER person in the room? And you look around and you're like, what the hey, everybody? Seriously? Seriously? For me, it's mostly having to do with the funny-ness level of a movie.

I want you to know that I have a lot of confidence in my sense of humor. I think i'm smart and that i'm a capable judge of what's funny or not. Sure I can understand that people might have, shall we say, different (though truthfully, I mean lower) levels of humor than I so sure, that lame joke might be funny to them. It's sad, and I might pity you, but I understand. But when it's EVERYONE? And, being in the minority might threaten to make me doubt myself, to wonder if I'm just not getting it or something. But NO. To date, I have never gotten to that point, thank goodness. Here are some examples of movies where I am totally in the minority, it seems to me:

The first is the Shrek movies. What the hey, everybody? Are they REALLY that funny? really? I have experienced a strange phenomenon. I'm not sure what to call it but i'll try to explain it. It's when people seem to be manipulated in the theater. There comes a moment when a possibly at-one-time funny bit comes up, the funny bit we all saw a hundred times in previews and commercial advertisements for the movie. I repeat: A HUNDRED times. So when it comes up in the movie--and this amazes me-- people STILL laugh at it. But it's not just mere recognition at a funny bit. It's like they want to pretend they just saw it for the first time. It's almost a forced laugh, like they know they should laugh at it, and they have somehow been hypnotized and they emit this bizarre, almost manic laughter. Why? What is going on? Is this their way of showing their gratitude to be finally seeing that clip in the movie? Do they feel vindicated for having to wait to see it? And now they get to and they're like, "I'll laugh just as hard and loud as i did when i saw it in the previews and couldn't see it yet!!" i know this makes very little sense but I'm just grappling for some kind of explanation.

Sorry, i kind of veered from my list there. So Shrek. Yeah, ok.. there are some clever bits. We all love Mike Meyers' Scottish accent. I laughed at some parts. So I might give you the first one. But the second and third..? I remember sitting in the theater amidst all the canned over-the-top laughter and thinking, am I in an alternate universe? How is it that I'm the only one that seems to have withstood this apparent spell that has been cast on everyone and can stand back and truly evaluate the movie and ask myself, now wait. Is that REALLY that funny? Do people feel an obligation to laugh? Is it a sequel thing? These are the questions I ask myself.

Another is the Spiderman movies. Maybe it's my aversion to Kirsten Dunst. Maybe I don't love Tobey Macguire. I can appreciate excitement for a comic book movie or something that has sentimental value for people. I mean, how excited was I when the Star Trek NG movies came out? (though admittedly, there's only one good one--First Contact, just fyi. Go see it today) And Transformers? I was really excited and my fond memories probably softened my heart and good taste while watching it, and i was just a little more forgiving than i might have been. I know the movie isn't super stellar but the scenes w/the transformers are just cool (remember the one on skates? and the jet one? awesome) and make it fun. So i can appreciate that. Nevertheless! does this sentimental love carry you through parts two AND three? I think it takes a lot for me go see a sequel after the first one was very much so-so. I saw the 2nd one and didn't bother with the 3rd. I just don't get it. I don't think any of that is an excuse and even if I tried my darndest to fool myself, I just can't. Everything that I am begs to refute it. I cannot deny that that part was lame-city, or that part, and that part, and many many other parts.

Another movie was the Simpsons movie. Trust me, I wanted to love this movie. I really did. I heart the Simpsons. But in the end I had to be true to myself and I just couldn't do it. This was another extremely surreal movie experience for me. Because it was just sad, watching people around me laugh as hard as they did at the failed jokes, one after the other. Jokes.. or funny bits, whatever. It just made me sad. I wanted to reach out and hug them and rock them and say, "shh.. it's ok. It'll be ok." I'd like to think that somewhere, deep into the subconscious of these people, lower humor or not, they know that the funny bit really isn't all that funny. But, like me, they want to love the movie. So much so, that they overcompensate with their laughter by saying, ok, that wasn't funny, mr. movie. But don't you worry, I'm still going to laugh, and i'm going to laugh extra hard for you. why? because i love you! HA HA HA!!! But again, i just can't. I sit in my chair, disappointed, by the movie and humanity.

I take comfort knowing I am not the world's stingiest movie critic. At all. If I were, then that might explain all of this and we could brush it off saying I'm just picky and snobby. That may be, but I am definitely one who loves a fluffy good time. So I feel there is truth in what I say, there's something there. I don't get it, and there's a possibility I never will. But it continues to be one of my life's quests, to understand. I welcome your thoughts, whatever they may be. You can defend these movies if you'd like to attempt that feat. Mostly I want to know if I'm alone in this. Have you had experiences similar to mine? Let's figure it out together.


Michelle said...

That is hilarious. I love it. I agree with your thoughts. Especially about Spiderman. I didn't like any of them. I just saw the third one and it was so insanely cheesy that it made me laugh pretty hard. It is really REALLY lame.

Joel said...

Humor really is inflationary. For those of us who are constantly peppering our thoughts and conversations with spontaneous witticisms, that sets the bar pretty high for outside entertainment. Sometimes my wife will laugh at something and then be embarrassed because I didn't. I have to reassure her that I think it's funny too but just didn't feel like laughing out loud about it.

Anonymous said...

Jen, I have always HATED the spiderman movies. I've only seen the 1st and the 3rd and both made me want to die. I think it's a combination of Tobey Macquire's lameness, Kirsten Dunst's lameness and the lameness of the green goblin whose mask-mouth doesn't move when he talks. And I can't stand the silly, cartoonish feel to the movies. X-men came from a comic book but it's not cheesy...

Lianna said...

Jen, you are just funnier than those movies.
My husband teases me for not having a sense of humor, but I'm sorry, I cannot laugh at movies like Meet the Fockers and Zoolander or other so-called comedies. The other one that everyone liked that I couldn't get through is Hairspray. I just couldn't look at John Travolta.
I've laughed harder just reading your blog.

)en said...

Ok, I'm so happy i'm not in the minority. or at least that i am with my friends. I knew you were my friends for a reason. (because i've been asking myself 'why' lately.)

Lianna, I am flattered. You're my new favorite. :) Although i have to say that I am actually a bit of a Ben Stiller fan. I haven't seen Meet the Fockers but I admit, Zoolander is kind of a jewel, in its over-the-top way.

Joel, i see what you're saying. I've had experiences like that. So it seems like that's the opposite of this phenomenon. But it's not even just laughing at something that's not funny, it's the raucous, over-laughter. The in-your-face laughter when it reaches a point where it ceases to be a genuine laugh at something you think is funny, but a laugh that is a mere sound to represent something. Right now the only "something" i can think of is hypnotism. I just can't accept the explanation that people just think those bits are STILL that funny after they've seen them a million times on previews, etc.

It's like... anticipation laughter. You anticipate it to be funny, therefore you laugh no matter what it is. i.e. Simpsons. Gratuitous laughter. Hmm. I think i may be onto something.

Scoresbys said...

How about this phenomenon: You're in any movie that involves kids, any kind of ball, or a dog. Any person with one brain cell left in his head can predict what is going to happen. Some poor schlumpy guy is going to get it in the . . . . And what do people in the theatre do? They laugh. Not just chuckle. Guffaws! Like you couldn't see that coming?! Like that is still funny after seeing it a billion times. And I'm all for giving the writers' their dues and ending this strike so we can get some fresh episodes of The Office. But I personally endorse docking the pay of any writer who says, "Hey, I have a great idea for the next scene. So there's this guy and he's trying to catch this kid and his dog. And the kid . . . "