Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Unexpected Movies

Last night, for Christmas Eve, as I stayed up far too late and got far too little done far too slowly, I had The Color Purple on through the evening.  Thanks to the wonders of luddite technology, I haven't seen this movie in at least twenty years, and I have aged to suit it nicely.  When I was younger, my experience of this movie was moored in the inexperience of pain and a great deal of white liberal privilege, and it seemed a very painful story.  Now that I'm older, and can recognize the perspective from which I experience the story, it's so much easier to feel and to love the humor in the film.  Oh, it got me gooey, and I relished that.  I also relished Shug Avery, and the repetitive quirks of Whoopi Goldberg's performance.

When CP came out, she was considered a phenomenon, and the movie got a lot of people talking in hushed voices - then she did a lot of comedies that didn't make people lower their voices, and signed on for a talk show, and we forgot that she'd once been Oscar material.  In its odd way, this serves the film, because it lives alone and on its own terms, not just one in a crop of hushed-voice bravura offerings which blur over time.  The Color Purple, to be sure, is faded and filtered, but it's not washed out and it's not blurry.

Tonight, more spottily, I've been giving Forrest Gump its first honest chance in twenty years - or, really, the first honest chance I've ever given it.  Sometimes, I choose to be willingly emotionally manipulated, and there are parts of this one I just didn't feel like resisting, after a nice day with my mom and stepfather, after a  good holiday and on the night before I go back for two more days of work.

Gump was a film I HATED when it came out.  It got so much hype (not in hushed voices, but overly-fast-talking-breathy ones) my natural resistance pushed back and I resisted it like I do Susan Sarandon.  More to my personal taste, it was too sprawling, too episodic, too inclusive, and everything felt shallow.

Again, with experience and age, I find forgiveness a lot easier.  For one things, I've  lost some of my ability to rail against trivialities, and for another, I've come to recognize how collecting the right mass of trivialities along a timeline necessarily appeals to a generation of watchers.  This doesn't make the movie feel any "deeper" when I watch it, but it does allow me to cherry-pick those signposts I recognize and care about along Forrest's long route, and to let them do their job, which is to take me to familiar places we all gather, as it were.  "Ahh, yes - the smiley face advertising guy ..." "Ahh, yes - the soundtracks to the seventies and eighties ..."

The music, of course, is a particularly fiendish route into people's attention and even affection, and that is why this film, hitting so many "I REMEMBER THAT, TOTALLY" buttons, grips its fans by the throat and won't let go.  Music is a commanding emotional manipulator, and it's one of the reasons I'm sometimes willing to forgive, as it were, entertainments I don't necessarily admire as a whole, nor perhaps find necessary.

Christmas, of course, is hardly the time for indulging in necessities; emotionally and spiritually, a certain indulgence marks the season (whether, religiously speaking, this is your bag or not is a different post of a different time).

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