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Another Year at the Movies

By Clint J. Froehlich, Crimson Staff Writer

The Oscars, that annual self-display of bad plastic surgery and the art of assembly-line cinema, have come to a close for the time being. At least I can breathe a sigh of relief that Finding Neverland went home with nothing. I wouldn’t say particularly great films ran off with the famed statuettes (though Million Dollar Baby has its moments of melancholic beauty), but nonetheless the Academy smartly denied its honors to “that movie with the kids flying out the window.” Besides, no more children need to discover the wonder of Michael Jackson’s sprawling estate.

With American cinema’s “wonders” from 2004 now behind us (they didn’t leave much of a mark) and Vin Diesel’s beefcake-with-minivan vehicle The Pacifier commanding the box office, the best thing to do is look ahead to what 2005 has in store for us.

With industry buzz calling it “the year of the blockbuster,” it’s got to be pretty cool. I mean, honestly—last year’s Hollywood offerings like The Day After Tomorrow, Shrek 2, I, Robot, and Catwoman were way too arty. It’s good that Hollywood will finally be returning to films with extravagant budgets, whiz-bang special effects, Tom Cruise, and aliens. It’s about time.

The late-year releases could help rectify the cinematic damage done by the entire year of 2004 as well. Big nostalgia-filled period epic adaptation of Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha? Check. Big pseudo-political Steven Spielberg movie about the 1972 Munich Olympics? Check again, with the bonus round of remakes (The Producers, All the King’s Men) and a sequel to Underworld! Finally!

Let’s set the cynicism aside though. If you live for the movies—if the light-play of the darkened theatre gives you a chill, if you accept giving yourself completely to the didactic world of cine-representation in which you totally lose control—you might as well shoot yourself now because this year is going to suck.

Seriously. The only movie I’m really excited for is the remake of King Kong because Naomi Watts is almost as hot as Fred Savage in The Rules of Attraction.

Certainly a lot of “blockbusters” and “long-awaited films” are making it to the screen this year (perhaps more than usual). But does the world really need a mega-budget screen version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which means more dopey Christian allegory than The Lord of the Rings already provided? And Hollywood apparently missed the joke of Team America: World Police’s hilarious spoof of the Broadway musical Rent (“Everyone has AIDS! My father…AIDS! My sister…AIDS!”) because the movie version will debut this year, helmed by none other than Home Alone director Chris Columbus.

This is when we all must evaluate why we go to the movies. And I don’t mean that in the theoretical sense—as in “why am I grafting myself onto the gaze of the male protagonist, thus feeling the power of his phallic signification?”—but rather in the day-to-day philosophical sense. Why are we still going? Most movies suck, and aren’t worth an inkling of your time, but somehow you’ll still probably see The Ring 2.

You’ll be sitting there, watching Naomi Watts be hot and her cute child be possessed, and suddenly you’ll think, “what the hell am I doing here? I could be listening to Zeppelin records and smoking pot. Or saving the world.” But you won’t leave. You’ll stay for Naomi.

There’s just something about the movies that keeps us coming and manages to hold our attention, even as the same product is churned out every year. The endless sequels, remakes, and concept plots hold our gazes and we have no idea why. Of course, there’s the familiarity of the experience—the specific experience of certain characters, genres, situations, etc.—that is so often referenced as the answer to Hollywood’s continued success in doing the same old crap.

But I think it’s the act of moviegoing itself that is responsible for its continued existence. We’ll see whatever they dish out, as long as we can retain the treasured experience of the act. Not even the greatest of writers on cinema can effectively define the universal experience of it—because its essence, its ontology if you will, is held in the depths of the individual soul, not in a regressive ideology of the masses.

The cinema is our fantasy and it is thus our experience. The cinema is mine and not yours—I experience it in my whole being and however you relate to it lies in the processes of your own subjectivity. The screen relates to me, and my dreams—and it enters me through a place that will open only for the filmed image.

Cinema sets us free of each other—it is the true incarnation of Buber’s Eternal You and we are actualized in that relation. I will watch it. All of it. Even Batman Begins. And you can’t make me stop for it is mine.

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