Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Michael David Cobb Bowen — An Appetite for Pathology

I just watched two movies that I didn't really want to watch. I recognized the promise in the trailers that these films were ready to deliver something grotesque and so I avoided them. However, my daughter Scholar, has a particular rule for selecting movies to watch with us and it was her night to choose. She refuses to watch anything the lot of us have watched before. For her, it's all about us in the living room experiencing the same emotions at the same time for the first time. I think that's a reasonable approach to watching even unreasonable films. For me, I want films that are unsubtly vivid and loud and I primarily want to see them at the theater. At home however, I much prefer something humorous and witty like Robot and Frank or The Grand Budapest Hotel. I don't like movies that take themselves too seriously. For me, films are only visual literature. Like anybody else, I occassionally watch movies for what I presume to be the same reasons as anyone else, including buzz about them being hot movies. These two very hot movies I consciously decided to stay away from with my customary 'ick'.

The two movies were Nightcrawler and Gone Girl, essentially two stories about psychopaths going about their business and getting away with it. Unlike with Indiana Jones or Robocop, the bad guy doesn't fall from a great height screaming all the way down.

There's not much to say about either flick in and of themselves. They are both professionally done in such a way that they convincingly tell their stories, although from a strictly cinematic point of view, Gone Girl is the superior film. What's more interesting to me is the reason why I would, or why you would go ahead and watch. You see both of these are films about a mindless public's complicity in the weavings of a psychopath. They are about the profession of maintaining a mainstream media narrative that is voyeuristic, perverse, obsessive and inescapable.

There's no news that dirty laundry sells, and that America is a huge market for that sort of nasty business. And it's no secret that even during the feral motorcycle movie heyday of the 70s, breaking through with Mad Max, the entire post-apocalyptic world was never so graphically obscene as what we watch today. However, there are a couple of questions that raise my eyebrows at this particular moment.

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