by Katie Bray
I have always loved movies.
I but I never really GOT them until I met Hannah – one of my best friends, movie bud, and sensible advice giver. She talked about film like it was just as important as the books I read or the art that I looked at. This changed the way I watched film and, ultimately, why I am now eager to write about it now.
After roughly 18 years of friendship, video games, libraries, several cross-country moves, marriage, babies, and careers – I am still eager to get Hannah’s take on the latest movies. So, in honor of our friendship and this month’s Moviejawn theme, I decided to interview Hannah about her thoughts on film, The Force Awakens, David Lynch, and our differing taste in film.
Katie B. (KB): Why do you love movies so much? You have always been down for whatever I get a wild hair to see.
Hannah W. (HW): Oh man, hard question. I've loved films since I was a kid. I have memories of playing with my toys as a kid and they would be the actors in a movie and I would be directing them. I especially loved films like Mel Brooks films that broke the fourth wall. I'm not exactly sure why, but there was something very cool about getting this look behind what was going on and how it was all made. People have sometimes told me I speak the language of film. When Forrest Gump came out I was 12 years old. In the middle of the film there is this line where Lt. Dan mocks Forrest and says "If you become a shrimp boat captain, I'll be your first mate. If you became a shrimp boat captain, I'll be an astronaut." Then, of course later he does became Forrest's first mate, and I was actually very bothered, because the astronaut line was just hanging out there, unresolved. It seemed like an oversight to me, to have him say that, like a loose thread. But then at the end of the film Dan comes back and he has titanium legs, and makes a point to say that they are the same thing that the space shuttle is made of, and it was clearly a resolution of that line.
Anyway, that is a really long way of saying, films always made sense to me, and I think that is part of why I like them so much.
KB: Do you remember the first movie we went to together? I honestly don’t – we were 15/16 when we met.
HW: I know it's not the first movie, but the earliest memory I have of us going to a film together is Dude, Where's my Car. We had been roommates for a while, and knew each other pretty well by then. And even though it was a very silly, not that good movie (Haha, it is soooooo bad. – KB), we both really enjoyed it because it was based around this very close friendship between these two roommates. So we had a really great time because it meant something important to the two of us at that moment in our friendship.
KB: I find that I am getting less picky about films as I age. I couldn’t tell you why though. However, I still get chills when I see a REALLY GOOD movie. I hope that never goes away. Speaking of really great movies - what is your favorite movie? Your least favorite?
HW: Oh my. I actually have an answer for this, but really I love so many films. Two films rise to the top, and they won't surprise you because I've loved them forever - Raising Arizona and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Raising Arizona is probably the objectivity better film, but Buckaroo is clearly my favorite, and probably more for sentimental reasons than anything else. Buckaroo Banzai has a whole small (which is important) dedicated fandom that I've been a part of for years, and some of my identity is tied up in being a fan of the film. I can almost understand the way some people feel about the new Ghostbusters film (almost) because when Kevin Smith said he wanted to remake (remake!) 8th Dimension, I blew my top. A sequel would be fine, a sequel television series even sounds good, but remaking? Why? They didn't need to remake Mad Max or Road Warrior for Fury Road to be perfect.
There are a lot of bad films. I particularly hate films that are lazy. I don't so much mind films that treat their story like a product, good films can come of that, but ones that assume the audience doesn't care from moment to moment what is going on or why. Force Awakens is the most recent and popular example of this. But I do enjoy at least some parts of that film so it's not the worst.
The film I could hate on forever and ever is probably the first Abram's Star Trek. Aside from being a very bad, not good film that everyone fawned over, it gutted characters and a universe that meant something to me. I'm frankly surprised I finished watching it, there were so many points in it that I had to stop watching for a while because I was so mad I had to complain before I could keep going. There are films that are less fun to watch, like say Pi, but even then, Darren Aronofsky was trying something (though something pretty unsophisticated compared to his later films), he wasn't just flashing colored lights at you and hoping you didn't notice.
KB: Dude, I totally understand your Abrams hate, but I did have a lot of fun with Force Awakens. So we have talked about your least favorite films, what about your movie pet peeves?
HW: Right now, when character development is sacrificed for momentary bits. For instance, in Force Awakens, Finn starts the film as *literally* a blood stained soldier. He is a strong warrior trained his whole life to be a killer, but who has too good a heart to pull the trigger. But scene by scene his strength is eroded as one more bit joke or the development of another character is put before making him a real person until at the end he is a janitor with a crush on a girl. I can't stand when people build great characters and waste them.
Something that isn't me just complaining about a J.J. Abrams film, but related to the same issue I have with his films, is this modern tread in movies that won't give the audience any time with anything. For instance a movie like Frozen that seems to have a literal timer clicking and they can't go too many seconds without a joke or a bit happening. Films are afraid they are going to lose the audience at any moment these days, and as much as I love them, the Marvel movies are some of the worst about this. I wish films would trust their audience more.
KB: Say, there is something that I have always appreciated about our friendship - divergent yet complementary taste in media. I like looking a movie I hated in a new light. It even, sometimes, totally swings me around and I end up loving it. Like Night Watch or The Faculty?
So, what movie did I change your mind on? What movie do I like that you will never understand? ;)
HW: The one that comes to mind right away is X-Men: Days of Future past. You changed my mind so much so, in fact, my view of the whole franchise has changed. Everyone praises First Class, and for sure it is the technically best film (though the script is as weak as any of them, just hidden behind very competent directing and a few stellar actors), but it is a film where women make almost 0% of the choices, and every single woman is naked or semi-naked for some reason. Singer might have his issues with the X-Men, but he at least always understood that the women of the X-Men were a vital part of the story (Damn straight! Marvel has some really great female characters that I want to see more of. – KB).
Honestly, [I don’t have the patience for] most David Lynch films. He has a very admirable style, but he is on the very far end of what I complained about earlier. He trusts his audience, he trusts they are adults and they can choose to stay engaged or not. And that is great about him, but it leaves a lot of his films pretty inaccessible to me. (Unlike real life, I really appreciate the unsaid and the ambiguous in film – Lynch is a master of both. I also really enjoy his use of atmosphere as main character. – KB)
KB: HA! Fair enough. What should our next movie be?
HW: I love to go to the theater with you because I get so few chances these days to go to a theater with someone. I've heard surprisingly good things about Swiss Army Man, but it will probably be out of the theaters before we can meet up (Damn, it is showing here this week, but I am booked. – KB). I'm super excited for the new Ghostbusters. I adored Spy - did we see that together? I think we might have (We did. – KB). That would be fun (Done! – KB).
KB: I am not much of a movie re-watcher, but I know you are. What is a film that you can watch over and over?
HW: There are so many. The two I've said so far (Raising Arizona and Buckaroo Banzai), but for the sake of something new I'll say Cabin in the Woods. It's clever enough without being annoying, it is full of awesome women, and it twists expectations of the trope, which I always adore.
KB: Any questions for me?
HW: Since you see so many more films in a theater than I do, I'd be interested to know if there are any films you can recall that you really enjoyed in the theater that just didn't work when you tried to watch them again. I guess I'd also be curious to know if I'd changed your mind about a film.
KB: I’ll tell you a secret – I almost can’t watch movies at home any more. So I almost never re-watch something I have seen in the theater. I don’t know if it is my current mental state or the fact that I have always loved the feeling of anticipation right before a film starts in the theater. In a theater, I can completely focus on a film – I fall away from myself for a couple of hours. Even crappy films (Jupiter Rising!), take on a seriousness that is hard to describe.
As for changing my mind on movies – everything you have ever recommended to me has become a must-see for me. You have such a great take on movies, it makes me watch them better – if that makes sense? I will actually probably see American Graffiti now! I also credit you with my discovery and love of the Coen Brothers. Have you see Hail, Caesar yet? So. Good.