My film education began at a young age. Like most kids I loved the movies. I have great memories of watching all kinds of adventures with my best mates. Of course we loved all of the staples of the 80s (The Goonies, NeverEnding Story, Flight of the Navigator etc) but what my friends didn't know was that I was far more cultured in the wold of cinema than they could have comprehended. My mother is responsible for that. I vividly recall watching movies with her such as North By Northwest, Heidi and Arsenic & Old Lace. I was never bored with black & white films and I had favourite actors like James Steward, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and Shirley Temple. Even as a youngster of 7 years old I had a comprehension of "good" cinema and valued story above all else. By the age of 10 Hitchcock was a clear idol of mine and my parents never dissuaded my curiosity. During my primary school years weekends were full of day-time movies and visits to the video shop. Mum & dad never really censored what I watched (bar a few exceptions) and movie nights included films like Dead Calm, Deadly Pursuit and White Palace (that was an eye opener).
But my parent's knowledge of film only went so far and I found myself seeking movies beyond their comprehension. I needed to know all that there was to know and I discovered three men who would become the most important and influential educators I've ever had. John Hindes, Ivan Hutchinson and Bill Collins.
I love these men and the information they crammed into my brain was invaluable. For my overseas friends, these men were staple personalities on Australian network television throughout the 70s, 80s and early 90s. This was a time when movies were valued on television and reality-tv was non existent. They weren't really "critics" so much, as they were presenters. Every week on different networks they would present us with classic cinema. For 10 minutes they would introduce each film with information about production, anecdotes and various other insights into movie-making. I listened to them and absorbed all of it. These men taught me that Cary Grant was a British spy, that Gary Cooper's mosey in High Noon was due to him having haemorrhoids and that James Steward was a Brigadier General for the American Air Force.
As the years went by I discovered subversive cinema and at 11 years of age I was already looking for new discoveries... and this is where SBS came into my life. This was the first network on Aussie screens to offer foreign content and Margaret Pomeranz & David Stratton caught my attention. Throughout my early teens they exposed me to some incredible films like Swoon, A Short Film About Killing, The Honeymoon Killers, Benny's Video and La Tarea (amongst others). They introduced me to filmmakers such as Krzysztof Kieślowski, Michael Haneke, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Jaime Humberto Hermosillo and Dario Argento.
Of course my film journey continued on by own accord and with the tools bestowed upon me by these cinematic tutors I went on to discover even more wonders and appreciations. The most wonderful thing for me is that with such an eclectic exposure and understanding of cinema as well as a comprehensive understanding of the craft, I value the make-believe more than anything. Films can be artistic and they can be educational but (for me) none are more important than those which entertain. In retrospect it was John Hinde and Bill Collins who instilled this in me. They presented films to me with enthusiasm and their zealous excitement about the "magic" of movies made it clear to me. For the brief duration of a movie there is nothing better than being removed from my own world and plonked into another.
Side note: My love of horror is another story. You can read about that here.
I've always considered there to be a difference between a film and a movie. The word film refers to the medium itself whereas the word movie is an abbreviation of "moving pictures" and so by definition they're essentially the same thing, however, over time the distinction has changed. A movie refers to an entertainment-value whereas a film tends to bare more of an educational significance, if you will. Of course the lines can be blurred and it all amounts to semantics. In 1997 director Oliver Stone made U-Turn, which was the first time he had used "An Oliver Stone Movie" in lieu of "An Oliver Stone Film" as a title-card and this is what first challenged me to consider a difference. Every film ever made is catalogued on the Internet MOVIE Data Base and so ultimately who gives a fuck, right?
My daughter was recently asked to submit an essay on Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. To my delight she received an A, which clearly demonstrates her understanding of the story. I was thrilled with her result... however I was concerned over the teacher's comments. My daughter had been deducted a mark because she referred to it as a movie, rather than a film. Personally I think it's petty to penalise a student for something so trivial and had the title in question been something like Sophie's Choice then I could understand the correction... but we're talking about Edward Fucking Scissorhands here! At it's very core it is a romantic fairytale. Its objective is to entertain. It manipulates emotions using imagery, music and visuals. Sure, there are underlying themes within it but to be so paltry as to deduct points for fairly calling it a movie, as opposed to pretentiously branding it as a film seems wrong to me. I'm sure my daughter would have LOVED to get an A+... It would have been her first ever... how exciting.
Of course I have used this story as a starting point and while I feel that this teacher in question has been unreasonable, I do still identify the difference between movies and films... albeit pedantic. So what do you think? Is there a difference?
This week Warm Bodies is released to DVD and Blu Ray. I will be categorizing it as “Horror” and I will bet my bottom dollar that people will complain. It’s not that I deliberately set out to upset people… it’s a simple case of understanding genre. Those who will chastise me will be non-horror fans that can't concede that a horror film has come along and caught their attention. The same thing happened when I put Twilight into the horror section. Now before you convulse, let it be known that it pained me to do so. As soft and fluffy as Twilight is, it is nonetheless a story of vampires and werewolves.. ie good V evil. It is thematically dripping with horror and when people argue that it’s a romance film I need to remind them that Dracula is also a romance while being one of the most enduring horror legacies of all time. And so Warm Bodies might be a romantic comedy but it’s also dripping with blood and rotten flesh. Your idea of horror might be different to mine but perhaps I understand the genre more (feel free to disagree with my seemingly arrogant opinion but expect a passionate discussion). The category of “Horror” is a springboard to a multifaceted funhouse of sub-genres. From slapstick (Shaun of the Dead, Braindead) to dramatic (The Exorcist, The Omen).. from action (World War Z, Resident Evil) to grotesque (Human Centipede, Cannibal Holocaust). Most horror devotees will see it the way I do and the fact that every film I've mentioned so far has featured in Fangoria Magazine, shows that I know what I'm on about. And so as with anything which comes along that’s a bit different and/or challenges the laman’s perceived notions, I anticipate the arrival of Warm Bodies with the expectation of flack. At the end of the day it’s my store and I'll do what I want with it. If it causes you so much conflict having to pluck Warm Bodies from the horror section then SO WHAT?