Wednesday, February 14, 2007

In which I anatomize various tedious general-audience films.

I spend a lot of time on buses, owing to the fact that my partner lives about 4 hours away. Two years of generous fellowships from my university have allowed me to be the primary commuter, going to visit him twice a month for almost a week at a time. It's a great arrangement, with the only major drawback being the 16 hours a month that I must therefore spend on the bus.

On this particular bus circuit, they usually show a movie. Now, while I'm well aware of my further good fortune in having built-in entertainment (I can't read on buses or in cars without feeling sick), after a year and a half of these journeys I feel that I've earned the right to complain, at length, about the selection of movies to which I have been exposed. I certainly understand that the bus companies have to select films that will be appropriate for younger viewers, although I've never actually seen a child on any of these bus trips--which is odd, now that I think of it. But really, these movies are, by and large, SO BAD. Perhaps most child-acceptable movies are just terrible. I don't know.

Anyway, on my most recent journey, I was subjected to a film about soccer enthusiasts in the early twentieth century. I have no idea what actually happened in this movie, since the sound at my seat was mercifully broken, but it got me thinking about how most of the bus movies I've seen fall into one of several, rather limited, categories. The categories, with approximate distribution percentages, are as follows:

1) romantic comedies (10%)
2) movies about an intense affective bond between a human and
an animal (10%)
3) miscellaneous--e.g. "Akeelah and the Bee," "Big Fish" (10%)

The remaning 70% are about evenly split between the following:

4) cartoons about baby animals seeking the approval of their fathers
5) tales of Impassioned Athletes of Yore (35%).

Category 4, which constitutes a recurrent theme in animated children's movies, is pretty weird. For one thing, the baby animals' mothers are almost always absent (and usually unmentioned), in order for the baby-father relationship to be as uncluttered as possible, I guess. "Chicken Little" and "Wild" (which I've now seen twice) are the most recent contributions to this category.

The fifth category--Impassioned Athletes of Yore--is the one into which the soccer movie falls. These are far and away the most tedious films to which I've ever submitted. They all seem to have essentially the same cast of characters: old men who dispense wisdom, young men who seek to excell at X boring sport despite the totally uninteresting odds that are apparently stacked against them, middle-aged men who scratch their chins and scrutinize the young hopefuls on the field. Because this is Yore, there are no female athletes,* but there's usually a Woman To Be Won who is, for whatever reason, out of the Impassioned Athlete's league and who spends a lot of time cheering discreetly on the sidelines. And, of course, there's always a Supportive Mother to balance out the inevitable Discouraging Father (whose approval, incidentally, Impassioned Athlete craves).

The worst of these of movies--which I have seen three times, although I only turned on the sound at essay no. 3--was an atrocious two-and-a-half-hour golf flick set in early-20th-century Boston. The young golf enthusiast has a cantankerous working-class Discouraging Father with an outrageous French accent, and a rapturous Supportive Mother with an outrageous Irish accent. "Oh, Francis," she would swoon, clasping her hands together at her bosom, "that was glawrious, Francis, glawrious!"

The sheer badness of these movies wouldn't be so distressing if it weren't for the fact that I feel strangely compelled to watch them (unless, as was the case last time, the sound doesn't work at my seat. Despite my strategically positioning myself to have a good view of one of the monitors, I'm always somewhat relieved when that happens). On the other hand, at this point, disliking these movies and categorizing the reasons for my dislike have become a sort of hobby. Some good comes out of everything, right?

*I rather enjoyed "Bend It Like Beckham," so this isn't an anti-sport prejudice on my part pure and simple.


Hilaire said...

Oh god - I hate the impassioned athlete movie! Of yore or today!!

heu mihi said...

I know! They're the worst!

medieval woman said...

Hee, hee - and I know EXACTLY what bus route you're on, jb! I had to watch K-Pax on that bus once...urp!