Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Movie is to food as...

So, a while ago I was talking with Jordan, about movies, and he was saying something about how occasionally you just need a dumb movie, you can't always watch really high quality stuff. This prompted a lengthy discussion, in which I compared movies to food, the gist of which I'll replicate here.

Movies are like food, in that there are so many levels of quality, different types of food/movies, different ways to prepare and different ways to enjoy the movie/food. From a movie, you can get a bag of chips, which fills you up, but leaves you greasy and sort of nasty, a decent meal, or a gourmet dinner, with many courses, of impeccabe quality, the kind of meal that makes you think I've never even eaten before.

A good chunk of Hollywood movies fall into the bag of chips/fast food category. They're all basically the same, and you go in knowing what to expect. If you go to see Adam Sandler in a movie, it's like buying a bag of chips, you know exactly what you're going to get, there's no surprises, and it doesn't really fill you up. Most romantic comedies fall into this category too, very formulaic, the fast food of the movie world. Also, any Arnold/Van Damme/Stallone/Diesel type action movie falls into this category, just empty calories.
A movie like Love Actually works because it is like a buffet of fast food, you get a taste of many different foods, you're bound to find something you like. By giving you this variety, you're bound to find something you like, and the formulaic nature of some of the foods/plots is undermined by the fact that you're not only eating that one food. So, that's the bag of chips. you know what to expect, you're not surprised. Unfortunately, the vast majority of filmgoers prefer the bag of chips or fast food to a more filling meal. If you keep eating/watching this stuff, eventually you get a lot of fat on your mind, that's what happens when you don't exercise your mind.

Then, there's decent meal, maybe a diner type place. This is a movie that's pretty good, you leave fulfilled, something like Toy Story or Collateral. There's actual character development, a good story is told, and you leave the theater full. This isn't the kind of restaurant you'd neccessarily reccomend to your friends, but if it came up in conversation, you'd give it a good word. I'm usually satisfied with a meal/movie like this.

However, what any filmgoer lives for is the gourmet meal, the filet mingon of movies, something expertly prepared, with the best ingredients, and incredible presentation. When I hear that one of my favorite chefs has completed a new dish, I salivate, wondering what culinary delights have been prepared. This is the kind of meal that you tell your friends about, and if you have a dinner party, these would hopefully be the main dish. What are some gourmet meals? Magnolia is kind of my archetypal example. It's got all kinds of ingredients, brilliantly mixed together by master chef Paul Thomas Anderson. If you hang out with me for long enough, I've probably tried to serve you Magnolia at one time or another. The best meals compel you to share them with others. These are the meals that even if they aren't always to your taste, you still respect the effort put into making them.

Now, getting to the two flaws of the metaphor. One is, it costs you the same amount and takes the same amount of time to watch a great movie as it does to watch a bad one, which just isn't true of meals. It costs a lot more to go to a five star restaurant than to McDonald's. With movies you don't have that excuse. I understand that it's sometimes tough to get up for a movie like Requeim for a Dream, but it's so much more satisfying after you do watch it. So, no excuses for watching bad movies. One of the things that bothers me the most is people watching a movie that they know is not going to be any better than OK, when there's so many great ones out there.

What's the other flaw? Ironically, in food, I'm not really a fan of the gourmet meal.But, that's because I'm passionate about movies, and not about food. So, I can get people not liking the gourmet movie, it's unfortunate that they don't have the taste, but a food afficianado would probably be just as mad at me for not appreciating some higher cuisine.

Related Posts
70s Cinema, Box Office Economics and Auteur Filmmaking (6/21/2005)
Magnolia: PTA's Masterpiece (7/22/2005)
The New World of TV and Film (3/31/2006)

1 comment:

Amanda By Night said...

That's an interesting comparison.

Although I do have to admit that I enjoy junk movies more. It's just the way it is for me.

I find that the world is a difficult place and some turn to comfort food, I turn to comfort movies. I have a good collection, mostly vhs of horror films of the 80s. I also love my Golan/Globus action movies and teen sex comedies as well as a Danielle Steel adaptation when needed. So it's funny that when it comes to food, I am so careful about what I put into my body but when it comes to movies, I'll put anything in my mind.

Maybe that's why I'm so uncool!