reputations – a comic

Just as I finished The New American Splendor Anthology, a copy of Eddie Campbell’s Alec: The Years Have Pants omnibus arrived at my door. I had no choice but make a sketchy autobio comic between reads.

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Ink/Digital/Sharpie/Scotch Tape

SG, 2013.

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roger & i

In my last year of college I took a course called “Teaching Writing.”  One of the articles I read contended that the reason a teacher should not spare intense critical comments on students’ papers was to build a voice in the students’ head.  If they read criticism enough times, they’ll become critics themselves, and they’ll see the red ink before they ever commit their mistakes to paper.  I believe it, not just because I’ve had enough of my writing eviscerated to the point where I’ve become my own biggest critic, but because I’ve had a critic’s voice lingering in the back of my head since I was 12.  That voice belonged to Roger Ebert, specifically the voice he established in the hundreds of reviews, essays, and articles collected in Roger Ebert’s Home Video Companion1996 Edition.

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There are a lot of different ways for me to explain why I love the movies, but I can essentially boil it down it to a quick succession of events that happened in my sixth grade year:  I went to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring in December, fell in love with it, and tuned into the Academy awards the following March.  Fellowship didn’t win any major awards, which instead went to a bunch of movies I hadn’t heard of.  This pissed me off.  Not so much because Fellowship didn’t win, but because there were movies I hadn’t heard of, movies that everyone else in the room knew about, movies that, even when cut into 30-second clips, looked exciting and interesting in ways I didn’t know movies could be.  And there were those long montages, the retrospective tributes that have long been held as evidence that the Oscars are nothing but a self-congratulatory echo chamber, that nevertheless opened my young eyes to a whole history of references that I didn’t get.

My preoccupation with catching every cultural reference was simultaneously coming to head with The Simpsons, a show that made references its stock-in-trade, not just in passing jokes, but in entire sequences and episodes.  I had The Simpsons: The Complete Guide to our Favorite Family, an indispensable book summarizing each episode of the series during its golden years, seasons 1-8.  Each summary somewhere contained a “Movie Moment” box that explained those jokes the adults were laughing at were references to The Godfather and Alien and A Clockwork Orange and a whole list of movies I had never seen, and just possibly heard of.

And in those days, youngsters, the internet was slow and made a terrible noise when you had to connect to it and, like today, it wasn’t a safe place for 12-year-olds.  So I used what resources I had.  If something on The Simpsons or The Oscars or on TCM sparked my interest, I went to the warped and weathered copy of Roger Ebert’s Home Video Companion in the coffee table and looked it up.  Then maybe I’d read the review right after or right before, or look into one of the titles that caught my eye when I was flipping through the pages.  I’d see the star-ratings he’d give the movies, and find that movies I’d liked as a kid were actually regarded as terrible, and that some of those VHS tapes on the shelf I’d ignored for so long were considered classics.  I read his defense of Hoop Dreams and Natural Born Killers, and learned that what made something good or bad wasn’t just its content, but its form and message and its intentions.  I learned how to do a scene-by-scene analysis of Pulp Fiction years before my parents deemed me old enough to see it, even years before I snuck the tape off my grandpa’s shelf and watched it when no one was home.  I read his “100 Scenes in 100 Years” in the back of the book and my list of must-see movies expanded, and it kept expanding as I learned of directors and actors and the many trends and movements they were a part of.  And I built a vocabulary: Character development. Archetypes.  Genre.  Formula.  Shots.  Narrative.  And that vocabulary became an arsenal.  Now if someone challenged my tastes, I had the language and the historical knowledge to take them to court on their claims.  I can’t say if I always won – I was in my early teens, and what was once a charming precociousness was quickly turning into off-putting condescension towards nearly everyone – but I was learning how to be a critic.

And not just a critic of the movies.  It translated into books, comics, TV, music, politics, school, adults, my peers, myself.  Some might say I went a little overboard.  If you know me you know that I tend to assess reality in the terms of film criticism – political events are too heavy-handed, conversations were too reliant on exposition, this friend is a complex supporting character while this coworker remains frustratingly one-dimensional, etc.  But apart from his ability to analyze and criticize and really blast the shit out of something he hated, there was a very human and often very passionate optimism that ran through everything he wrote.  Read any of his many great blog posts, or his stories of Gene Siskel, Pauline Kael, Russ Meyer, Malcom McLaren, and there’s no doubt that he cared deeply about people and the world at large.  To get so down on North, but to still champion Hoop Dreams or Dark City demonstrates more than just a love of the movies, but a serious, intense conviction that what we say and what we produce is important and has meaning, and that if at its best a roll of film can make just a few people’s days, or lives, better, then it is no doubt worth giving a damn about.  At least that’s what I’ve picked up.  And on my best days, I like to think that’s what motivates me, too.

I could go on.  I could get sappy.  If I wasn’t careful, I could turn this into my autobiography.  I could lament for a few more paragraphs that I never got to meet him, or even write him a letter, just to thank him.  But I’ll keep it to this, for now.  I know I’m not alone.  There are countless other people just like me I’m sure, who got into film through Ebert and At The Movies and his reviews and his books.  And like how I hear him in my head every time I watch a movie, I’m sure so many hear the same.  So while you might be dead, Mr. Ebert, your voice hasn’t gotten any quieter.

Home Video Companion?   You’re goddamned right.

-SG

my snobbery is killing me: the comic

So maybe you’re wondering why the hell I haven’t posted anything since August.  Odds are you aren’t, but for the record, it’s because:

1) I have a job, you bum.

2) I write comics, and my current project BFD keeps getting longer and more stressful the more I write it.  (Who woulda thought?)

3) I find that while expressing my ideas in the essay/blog post form works pretty well, I really think in terms of comics, and turning my ideas into comics like the one below is a better use of my time (though arguably a better use of time for artists).

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As first seen on The New Sincerity.

Art by Carl Thompson of carlthompsonart.com and carlthompson.tumblr.com

what i’m reading/what i’m writing: archie comics, bfd, and gender

“Archie and the Riverdale gang were a pure and fun-lovin’ bunch.  You can’t find dysfunction in those comics, because they were just flat-out wholesome.”

– Banky Edwards, Chasing Amy

I love Archie.  Whether I’m writing stories about segregation in America, or comics about the fucked-up psyches of maladjusted teenagers, most everything I write (and read, for that matter) serves as a counterpoint to the unabashedly wholesome world of Archie comics.  And that’s why I love them so much.  Just as I can find relief in the black-and-white moral universe of Golden-Age superhero or Tintin comics, there’s something appealing about a world where the biggest problem the main character has ever faced is the dual admiration of two unabashedly smitten girls.  I can’t identify, but it’s attractive in the same way that any escapist fiction is.

For the most part, however, when I search for Archie books, I search for issues from the 50s-60s.  Dan DeCarlo’s pencils and Rudy Lapick’s criminally unsung inks are like a mainline injection of Americana – a medicine I require on a regular basis, especially during baseball offseason.  As for what the Riverdale gang was up to in the 80s and 90s, besides solving mysteries on TV and meeting the Punisher, I couldn’t really tell you.  There’s 70-odd years of high-school adventures out there to read, which have to get repetitive and can’t be worth comprehensively consuming, so why not just pick the eras with my favorite artwork?

It wasn’t until recently that I noticed the folks over at Archie Comics were up to something, getting mischievous and daring in ways that ol’ Reggie Mantle never dreamed of.  Kevin Keller arrived on the Riverdale scene a few years ago, openly gay and proud, and pissing off conservative parents nationwide.  A little while later, we got his flash-forward marriage to Clay, an African-American Army Veteran.  It’s fucked up and sad that we live in a world where that constitutes provocation, but more power to the not-as-conservative-as-you-think staff of Archie for firing on all cylinders with that character.  Then, last month, we got the Occupy Riverdale protests, which gave an explicitly political connotation to the ages-old “Betty or Veronica?” question.

So when I went to the comic book store on Wednesday to pick up the Punisher and Daredevil books I’d fallen behind on, I grabbed the latest Archie as well.  They’d been hyping issue 636 since April, and it sounded like another issue with potential for controversy – Archie and the Riverdale gang were swapping genders.  What could possibly happen to stir up the rage of the concerned folks across the nation trying to preserve our gender-normative traditions?

As it turns out, very little.  Gender-swap stories are nothing new, and Archie #636 does almost nothing new with the idea.  Though to be fair, it’d be absurd to expect some sort of 22-page treatise on gender politics in America in an Archie comic.  They’d have to make the bigger and bolder step of introducing a transgender character for that conversation to have any real substance.  What we get in “The Great Switcheroo” is a universe (brought on by the Sabrina’s cat Salem, himself stuck in the body of the wrong species) in which every character’s gender has been reversed and they don’t realize it.  The story sets itself up like many gender-swap story, with characters placing unfair expectations and stereotypes on the other gender, only to be taught a lesson by walking a mile in the other’s shoes.  Though the lessons are usually the same and are rather superficial – it’s not any easier being a girl, men can be creeps, it’s so hard to walk in heels – “The Great Switcheroo” gives up on its grass-is-greener setup by not having any character conscious of their switched gender.

There are pros and cons to this.  On the negative side, it negates its setup, and the characters don’t learn anything.  But positively, and rather unexpectedly for me, not that much is different about the characters fundamentally.  Jughead/J.J. is still obsessed with food.  Reggie/Regina and Veronica/Ron are still vain, selfish assholes.  Betty/Billy is still genuine and well-meaning.  Dilton/Dilly is still a nerd.  Josie and the Pussycats/Joey and the Junkyard Dogs are still a band.  And Archie/Archina is still the most boring protagonist of all time.  Too often in the magical gender-swap story there’s the rather unfortunate implication that, at least in regards to male-to-female changes, that common stereotypes are inherent characteristics of the female gender.  It’s not worth listing them all here, but if you need some proof, just check out tvtropes and their “laws of gender bending” to see what I’m saying.  “The Great Switcheroo” avoids these clichés for the most part, and barring the  necessary adjustments in dialogue an character design, the events within the “Reversedale” universe play out almost exactly like they would if the characters were their original gender.  So while it (reasonably) ignores the hypothetical questions of how the characters’ personalities would change had they grown up a different gender and experienced different societal pressures, and while the characters don’t learn much about the topic at hand, it at least sends the message to the reader that gender ultimately doesn’t have to mean a thing if we don’t want it to.  And while they never telegraph that explicitly, that’s a pretty damn cool claim from people who have spent 70-odd years playing gender straight.

 

 

As this post already indicates, I think about gender and sex a lot when it comes to fiction.  While it might not be the most visible theme in my comic BFD, it’s certainly one of my biggest concerns as a writer.  And, as it happens, Archie is a big influence on BFD for me, as a subject of parody and deconstruction, as well as homage.  As a pop culture history snob, it’s a natural habit of mine to view every contemporary work as being written in the tradition of other works, and so for me to write a comic about a group of teenagers growing up in small-town, white-bread America, it’s essential that I have at least a basic understanding of Archie comics.  My approach to writing BFD has always been an even mix of tribute and irreverence, and my love/excessive criticism of Archie makes it a perfect source point for a lot of stories.  When I’m stuck on a story, Dan DeCarlo-era Archie stories usually bail me out, with my combined reaction of  “Damn, that’s clever, let’s try that!” and “Jesus Christ that’s offensive, let’s try subvert that!”  Because as much as I love DeCarlo’s Archie work and take it as an influence, my gender-conscious approach to writing BFD runs directly against his career as an artist, especially his pin-up work.

And this points to an ongoing conundrum I have with BFD and my influences.  The biggest comics writers that I’m taking cues from in specific regard to BFD are Harvey Pekar, Jaime Henrandez, Alison Bechdel, Frank Doyle, Dan Clowes, and Charles Schulz.  You know what all but one of these people have in common?  They’re dudes.  And while Locas and Ghost World are extremely impressive in terms of female characterization in a world overrun with disproportionate spandex-covered bodies and fridge-stuffing, their work, especially Jaime’s in its earliest stages, is a clear example of male-gazing – the (masterful) work of a young man seemingly obsessed with drawing voluptuous women.  Maggie, Hopey, Izzy, and Penny are some of the most well-rounded female characters in the history of comics, yet when it comes right down to it, they are quite evidently a male’s creation.  Can I, as someone who identifies as a male, keep my male-ness out of my comic?  Can I truly write a gender-neutral comic?

The quick answer is that obviously fucking no one can do that, so I shouldn’t worry about it.  But “don’t worry about it” has never kept me from worrying about anything.  I know plenty of other male writers who feel the same way (and I at least take that as a better sign than not thinking about it at all).  There’s an ongoing stress, especially for those of us who came up through liberal-arts academia, to make something academically bulletproof; a story so ideologically sound that no matter what post-whatever theory class gets their hands on it, it stays untouchable.  I know some guys who just flatly refuse to throw their hat in the ring, just bite the traditional male-centric bullet and avoid any unwittingly problematic or flatly false portrayal of a female character.  I can empathize.  Because with me and with a lot of other male writers, all major characters are Dudes by Default, and it’s usually not until later, either when somebody points out the dearth of women in his work or the fateful day he discovers the Bechdel Test, that women start to enter the picture.  And when that happens, it’s a very conscious decision, which means considering all the aforementioned academia-born concerns.  And it can feel dumb and clumsy at first.  Like most issues, it reminds me of an old Onion headline: “First-Time Novelist Constantly Asking Wife What It’s Like To Be A Woman.”  It’s not unlike questions I still get from family and friends about either the girls of BFD or the one story in my book Blackball narrated by a pre-teen girl.  “How do you write female characters?”  On a bad day, my response is something like this:

“By not asking sexist questions like that!”

But on a better day, it’s a little less aggressive.  It’s not about writing women; it’s about writing characters.  Kelly, one of the two main protagonists in BFD is a sixteen-going-on-seventeen-year-old girl.  When I make decisions regarding what she’ll do or how she’ll react, I do consider her gender and her sex, but only as two aspects of a very multi-faceted person.  To be fair, Kelly is my first major female character, and to make things easier, I poured ­a ton of my own personal and biographical details into her characterization.  But as first go, it works.  By putting a lot of myself into her character, it forces me to think about my own experiences through a different life, and allows for me to “get into character” a lot more easily.  (Yes, I often method act when I write fiction. No, you’re weird.)

So while I will always be a dude and there will always be certain experiences I just can’t ever fully know, I – and other writers like me – can make characters and create universes where gender is almost incidental.  For what my opinion is worth on this matter, Incidental Feminism has always struck me as potentially more powerful than the Smart Sexy and Strong Woman.  It’s what the Bechdel Test points to – one woman who’s tough and smart and still looks great in a mini doesn’t mean jack shit if all we ever talk about is how she’s a woman and she’s the only woman in sight.  When our general cultural output is so male-oriented, a simple story that happens to feature women in roles that traditionally are occupied by Dudes by Default can carry a lot more weight than another story about “kicking ass in a man’s world.”

But of course, no one’s gender or sex is totally incidental.  Gender and sex affect all of our lives, every day, in ways explicit and implicit, tangible and intangible.  But as writers and creators, we have the opportunity to make universes where things are even just a little bit better.  Sure, Archie and Riverdale might seem a little too utopian at times.  Maybe the real world wouldn’t accept Kevin Keller and his interracial gay marriage so warmly, but it’s always worth saying that it can.

 

-SG

 

 

 

 

Oh, and while you patiently for some BFD to surface, check this out: http://www.amazon.com/Parecomic-Michael-Albert-Participatory-Economics/dp/1609804562/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Carl Thompson takes on Capitalism!

breaking up with trailers

I’ve been showing up late to the movies lately.  So far it hasn’t been a problem.  Aside from missing the first few minutes of Men in Black 3 and having to crane my neck in the front-row seats at Moonrise Kingdom, I haven’t missed much.

Except for the trailers.

There was a time when I’d hate myself for missing them.  Trailers are part of the moviegoing experience, and I love going to the movies more than damn near anything.  But I’ve gotten sick of them in the past few years.  There are certain things about movies that no matter how mature/cynical I get, my romantic mind will never let me hate: the Oscars, Ewoks, Kevin Smith.  But trailers get no such pardon.  I haven’t sworn them off completely, but I’m starting to think of them like death and taxes for the cinephile – a fact of life, but shitty nonetheless.

To be clear – trailers are not the worst aspect about contemporary filmgoing.  Unlike cell phones and that smug jackass behind you that keeps calling what happens next, trailers are supposed to be there, and are a relatively minor nuisance.  And in and of themselves, they’re an interesting form.  Just look at Alien’s trailer.  I’m not just digging that far back because I’ve got rose tinted glasses when it comes to film history – it’s the widely cited example of a good trailer, and justifiably so.  It drowns you in mood and atmospherics without insulting your intelligence. But we (and by we I am especially referring to those of us that read and write about movies on the internet) tend to let our film consumption become far too oriented around trailers, and consequently we tend to view movies through the wrong lens.  I, and other film nerds like me, will praise that Alien trailer as a great standalone work, but what if in some Bizarro world Alien was a bad movie?   We’d be pissed off, complaining that Alien didn’t live up to the trailer, furious that we’d been had.

I’ve been guilty of this before, and in spite of my best efforts, I probably will again.  But I’ll be damned if I can understand why.  Most of us don’t fall for marketing so easily with everything else we consume.  We know that AXE won’t turn us into handsome chocolate men that women will go feral for, and we know that Coors Light guarantees neither good times nor half-nude models.  And moreover, we’re proud of our ability to see through marketing bullshit.  Throw a stone on tumblr and you’ll hit a thousand posts tearing apart ads from every conceivable angle.  It’s a skill we have in spades, yet we get blind about it when it comes to movie trailers.  More often than not, they’re taken at face value, when they should be consumed with skepticism the way all advertising should be.  And I don’t just mean skeptical of the movie itself (“This looks like an Inception rip-off”) but skeptical of whole marketing process. (“They’re making this look like another Inception.”)

We too readily assume trailers are honest representations of the work being promoted, or are perhaps, at worst, exaggerations.  I suppose some of the tendency to trust trailers is rooted in that film is an artistic, creative product.  Though we can access trailers online and we see them on TV, we encounter them most often at the cinema.  And because we consume them in the same context as movies, we tend to hold them to the same standard and consider them as products of the same maker.  Which is true, to a point, as most movies come from Hollywood, and the studio system isn’t particularly diverse.  But that leads to a crucial misunderstanding – that all filmmakers cut their own trailers, or at least approve of them.  Sometimes this is true – for films outside of the studio system, as well as with big-name auteurs like P.T. Anderson, who cut his own trailers for There Will Be Blood – but more often it’s false.  Marketing campaigns are the product of marketing experts, and the ad people in Hollywood are no less full of shit than their East Coast counterparts.

Occasionally they do right by their film – as best as they can in two and a half minutes, anyway.  It’s easy to be honest about commercial films in a commercial.  The routine genre pictures with hired-hand cast and crew have about 2:30 of substantial material as it is, and at worst, the trailer will give up all the goods too easily: the three funny lines, the one big explosion, the kiss in front of the skyline at the film’s climax.  Trailers exist solely for the purpose of getting audiences to see them.  And the best way to do that, in their mind anyway, is to make them all look the same.  This is why it’s so easy to parody a trailer.  Just look at the countless recuts on YouTube.  While funny, they also plainly demonstrate how there are trusted beats to hit, in the forms of songs, shots, and seemingly profound but non-specific dialog.  In his book 20 Master Plots, Ronald B. Tobias contended (as you might guess from the title) that there are, generally, 20 different plots a movie can follow.  Likewise, I’d take a guess and say there are less than ten arcs a trailer will follow (though I’ll have to do more research before I have a final number on this).

One of the last times I went to the theater, I saw trailers for Lola Versus, Your Sister’s Sister, and Take This Waltz.  Maybe it was just me and my loathing for trailers, but all of them – especially the latter two – struck me as damn near identical.  While they’re not literally the same, they’re quite apparently reaching for the collective heartstrings of the same demographic.  And damn did the trailer distributors know their audience.  Without fail, each post-trailer silence was filled with “Oh that looks good” and “We’ve got to see that one.”  Meanwhile, in those brief moments where I was falling under the trailer’s spell, I was confused.  What the hell?  I thought.  I know Lynn Shelton and Sarah Polley are such promising, unique filmmakers, why are they doing the same damn movie?  Trailers are cut this way to attract audiences to something they’ve proven they love, but there’s a detrimental side to it.  Take this Waltz and Your Sister’s Sister are now lumped together in an inadvertent competition in my mind, in the suddenly existent genre of Mildly-Quirky-and-Disillusioned-Thirtysomethings Have Romantic Troubles Involving Schlubby Dudes Movie.  And I’ll be damned if I’m going to watch more than one, my gut says, even though I should know the films are distinct, and only guilty of trailer association.

That’s where the problems really start for me.  When trailers function as unintentional deterrents, I fly into a film-geek rage.  I can’t count the times when I’ve just explained to a (non-cinephile) friend how much I loved a movie, only to be met with “that movie looked dumb,” or a similar assessment, as if the case was closed, during and immediately following those two-and-a-half minutes of quick cuts they saw a few months ago.  Drag Me To Hell is a movie that suffered from this, at least as I saw it.  The trailers for the film were not promising, displaying only half of the film’s major ingredients.  It looked like a conventional horror flick.  There was little if no indication of the comedic aspects of the film (unless you knew who Sam Raimi and knew his other horror films).  Admittedly, comedy and horror have got to be hard genres to sell simultaneously, and at the end of the day, horror fans will welcome comedy sooner than comedy fans will welcome eyeballs in the mouth and cats being stabbed to death.  But regardless, more often than not did I struggle to explain to friends that yes, Drag Me to Hell was a good movie in spite of how dumb the trailer looked, and yes, those laughs were intentional.  Rarely did I encounter the viewer who understood the slapstick and camp elements of the movie as deliberate.  It was as if they trusted the trailer first, as if it had the final word, and anything within the film that deviated was a mistake, an embarrassment the trailer tried to cover up in a half-assed ruse.

“It didn’t live up to the trailer,” you might hear, as though the trailer was the honest one of the pair.  And so much of this investment in trailers, this view that the trailer might be alright, but the movie not so much, is very much a product of the ever-ridiculous hype machine.  Just a few months ago we were treated to a trailer for the trailer for Total Recall, and few months prior we were given the same for Prometheus and Breaking Dawn – Part 2.  I’m still trying to process it all.  A commercial for a commercial – if somebody wrote that we’d call it stolid satire.  Then, when the trailer finally came, it was reviewed and scrutinized on blogs across the web.  There are a few things you can glean from a trailer, namely the quality of the special effects, and in the case of a sci-fi summer film, it’s not an absurd thing to review, if that’s all you’re going to review.  But we’re talking about a whole league of blog posts, plus the hundreds of subsequent comments on the boards below.  When the film finally comes, how much of the response will be to the film itself, and how much will be devoted to whether or not it lived up to the months of hype and speculation?

All of this is not to say that I’m innocent of watching trailers and making judgements too far in advance.  As a cinephile, I need something to critique, and when there’s nothing good on Netflix and I’ve seen everything in the theater, it’s easy to pull up IMDb and watch the latest trailers.  When you’re a snob, it’s not enough to have opinions on what’s been around and what’s out, you’ve got to have opinions on everything coming, too.  When Django Unchained’s trailer debuted online, I watched it immediately.  Twice.  I didn’t want to have some other guy have a claim for more expertise on Tarantino’s next movie.  Still, I regretted it not long after.  Tarantino has been talking about his “southern” film about slavery for years, and the plot details have been out for months.  As he’s one of my favorite filmmakers, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the casting and production updates, and I’ve got a fair number of questions (How’s he going to handle race?  Will he offend the right people?  Will the film work without his career collaborator Sally Menke editing for him?).  The trailer didn’t answer any of these, of course, but suddenly my mostly dormant speculation on the movie was amped up to critical levels.  I had to gear my mind up and have my opinions in order for the inevitable moment when somebody brings it up in conversation or posts about it on Facebook.  I imagine most hardline film nerds have a similar experience.  You wouldn’t dare enter the conversation and risk exposing your ignorance, and sitting out a conversation on your favorite topic is torture.  There’s only one choice, and that’s watching the damn trailer and having an opinion.

But man, do I regret it.  I’ll never be able to see Django Unchained without some ill-formed presuppositions.  (At least I’m doing better than I did with Inglourious Basterds.  I read the script for that damn thing months in advance.  I just had to be the smartest guy in the theater…) And going to the movies without the slightest notion of what’s coming next is an experience I love more than damn near anything.  When I was in my early teens, when I wasn’t watching movies, I was reading about them, both in books and on the excellent, comprehensive, filmsite.org.  It wasn’t long before I could name the great directors’ filmographies in chronological order, and kick every adult’s ass in any sort of movie trivia.  Awesome as it felt, it came at something of a price.  I knew too much.  You read about movies enough, and you’ll learn the secrets of Rosebud, Keyser Soze, the Star-Child, and the Bates Motel without even asking for them.  And so when the time finally came to view these long-awaited classics, they didn’t pack the punch they should have.  I don’t like those movies any less as a result, but it’s made me cherish filmgoing without prejudice all the more.

Two of the best moviegoing experiences I’ve had in the past two years were for A Cabin in the Woods and Midnight in Paris.  Somehow, in spite of my blog-plowing, all plot details for those movies slipped under my radar.  I know Cabin in the Woods was a horror homage, and I knew Midnight in Paris was the new Woody Allen movie, but my knowledge ended there.  Especially in the case of Midnight, I benefited from not seeing a trailer.  There’s no way of telling this now, of course, but I’d pretty surely guess that I would not have enjoyed that film nearly as much if I had seen the trailer.  Ultimately, I don’t think my final opinion on the movie would be that different.  But nothing could replace the wonder I felt when I slowly realized, along with Owen Wilson, that I had arrived in 1920s Paris.  I was just as surprised as he was to meet Fitzgerald and Hemingway, and the whole time I was right there with him, learning and discovering with the characters right in that moment, without a clue of what would happen next, in a setting I’d never experience otherwise.  And what are the movies for, if not that?

Arguments, I suppose.  Analysis, discussion, inspiration.  I obviously get a lot of that out of movies, too.  But let’s try save as much as we can for after the movie.  Odds are, I’ll probably end up seeing a trailer within the next week.  Even if I dodge them online, I’ll see them in the theater or on TV.  It’s the price I pay for being a geek.  I’ll always know more than I ever should about the least important shit.  But if you can help it, next time someone asks you to see a movie you know nothing about, don’t look up the trailer.  Look it up, to be sure – make sure the director isn’t Dennis Dugan – but avoid the trailers.  See the movie the way it was meant to be seen – then we’ll talk.

-SG