There are weeks when you simply do not know what to say. Or write. This is one of those weeks.
That is why I’ve been trying to listen.
I say trying because for some of us (Note: Most especially Chairs) it IS trying. It takes a lot of effort to listen.
If you’re truly listening you actually have to take a moment or two, or ten, to take in and think about what is being communicated to you. It means you have to consider what the other person is saying even if your knee jerk reaction is to want to strangle them.
For instance, when I recently heard Avengers: Endgame was three hours I wanted to strangle the entire film business. I had a lesser punishment for my students who were urging me to see it.
I wanted to strap them all to separate Chairs in the corner and make them watch a loop of Magnolia, Godfather Part II and Schindler’s List, all of which have similar running times.
Yes, that would be nine plus hours but it would take that long to teach them that at this point in their lives there are better ways to spend your movie-viewing time if you’re truly trying to learn about movies.
Of course, this would have been the incorrect response for so many reasons.
First of all, I had not and didn’t plan to see Avengers: Endgame so how did I not know it wasn’t every bit as good as any of the above three? And no, experience is not the answer. You can’t have an experience with something you haven’t experienced.
I mean, I don’t like it when they turn their nose up at the three-hour version of one of my top 10 favorite movies, Judy Garland’s A Star Is Born. And god knows that has happened a lot more than once, twice 250 times.
Second of all, don’t I teach that good and bad are relative terms and that there is no artistic hierarchy? If this is so, then why is a mess, I mean, mass entertainment movie any less valuable to see than something we film people deem essential viewing?
If one subscribes to the idea that some escapism is required from a real world that too often than not can be dark, merciless and disappointing (Note: and who doesn’t these days?) then wouldn’t watching a star-studded SUPERHERO film be just the perfect prescription for coping with the impending realities any impending college graduate is about to face? Certainly it’s worked for much of the rest of us for generations.
Third, and lastly of all, we ignore that which has international mass appeal and popularity at our own peril.
No one is saying that one has to experience an In-N-Out or McDonald’s hamburger. But if one is going to open a fast food restaurant, or any meat-serving restaurant, wouldn’t it behoove one to at least one time experience THE most successful meat product on the planet?
To NOT do so would mean a willful ignorance of the marketplace and world around one. To close one’s ears, eyes and taste buds to what is would mean one is willfully NOT listening to what the majority of people prefer.
To lower, or even raise one’s standards ONE TIME and try – meaning hear, see or experience – something one in no way prefers means one is purposely remaining willfully ignorant.
And we all know people who are WILLFULLY IGNORANT, right?
We know what happens when we don’t listen to and ignore the demands, tastes and preferred choices of a group large enough to be considered a MASS audience, right?
Someone can step in and serve up a modern version of the McDonald’s hamburger that is so simultaneously seductive and yet poisonous that it can bring an entire industry to its knees in submission.
It will then duplicate, replicate and otherwise dominate everything to such an extent that few other types of preferred food stuffs would be able to survive.
Imagine a world where one had little choice but to eat not only a fast food hamburger, but a certain type of fast food hamburger, at least periodically, for primary sustenance?
Then imagine a world where these choices extended to all of the arts and entertainment.
Then, finally, imagine what that same, seductive poisonous product could do to, say, a democracy? What WOULD happen when so few choices were left?
That and so much more is why this week and going forward I am going to do my best to try and not only listen, but HEAR.
I don’t want to live in a world where burgers, superheroes and flaccid dictatorships are my primary, and then only, options. (Note: That is unless I really do and this is the last reel of the original Blade Runner because I do know, that in just a few decades, I will have a chance at a sequel).
I guess what this means is that a screening of Avengers: Endgame is in my foreseeable future. God (or whoever you deem Her to be) help me. And us.