Don’t lose yourself in the movies

Ladies and gentlemen, the time has arrived. No, not the beginning of another sure-to-be-memorable semester, but rather the time for Hollywood to show its true colors. The awards season is when we see what is really behind Hollywood’s eyes, as the endless awards equal increased business for studios. When it comes down to it, that is what the monolith of film is about: money.

However, within the golden gates of this emerald city resides a small yet passionate group of artists that are dedicated to preserving the magic and purity of film in an industry where formula precedes substance. These artists make the movies that last beyond awards, such as “Citizen Kane,” “Psycho,” “On the Waterfront,” “The Godfather,” “American Beauty,” “Schindler’s List,” and, yes, “The Lord of the Rings.”

Films like these will last generations after us, because regardless of their budget, their popularity, their level of risk-taking or their cast’s star power, they spoke of truths that reached us at a very deep level and stayed with us long after the closing credits. They transported us to a world all their own and kept us there. That is how we fall in love with movies. That is why the theater has become an avenue of the ever-popular experience: escape.

We love to escape to the movies and become entranced and enthralled by the stories artists have to tell, and the way in which they choose to tell them. We are released from the pressure of our own lives and peer into someone else’s, and sometimes are glad that we are not in their shoes. Then we can go home and it’s all over. If only life were that simple, right? Well maybe it is.

We have all heard the adage “art imitates life.” Logically then, is it not possible that since art, with all its imaginative power, merely imitates our everyday lives, that we can be swept away by our own lives? How many times have we all recollected a particular moment in our lives and said, “This feel just like the movies!” Perhaps we should say, “This movie feels just like my life!” Because the core honesty of art is what lasts, so our experience of life can be said to reflect our personal level of honesty with ourselves.

We can dupe ourselves into thinking that life is mundane and boring and the movies are where the excitement is. But then that means we have to shell out nine bucks every time we want to forget how ‘crappy’ our lives are.

Misery is expensive, isn’t it? Yes, and I would also add, unnecessary. Have you ever wondered what happens after death?

I have. I imagine that wherever I end up, I’ll get a chance to watch every moment of my life as a movie, and experience everything that I would in a real-life theater. And looking back–and forward–I will have a heck of a time watching my movie.

I think about some of my favorite moments in movies. Here’s one: “American Beauty”, where Lester is asked how he is doing, and he says that he hasn’t been asked that in a long time and then says, “I’m great.” I remember a time in my life when I felt the same way. Another one: “Life is Beautiful”, where Dora is in the concentration camp with the other women and she hears her husband and son calling to her over the radio. I remember times when I felt that surge of hope and love myself.

A third one: “Lost in Translation”, where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson are lying in a bed — fully clothed — talking about their lives and Scarlett talks about her uncertainty about life and her lack of connection with her husband. Bill Murray, facing the window, touches her foot and says, “You’re not hopeless.”

And I remember a moment when I could hear the inner meaning of something someone said and let them know that I was really listening to them. That is the good stuff in my life, and movies don’t give that to me. They simply remind me.

If you’re sitting around bored sometimes, maybe you’d like to do the same thing, and the movie can really do its job. Then while Hollywood drools over itself and counts the box office tickets, you’ll smile with me as you see that they’re missing the point. The movies aren’t about money. They are about sharing and honesty, the key elements in human connection. And while I know I will still be watching the Oscars come February, they don’t mean much. Especially when I compare that moment to the one where I sat in that theater and remembered how much I’d forgotten to look at before I’d left home.