Posted by Carten Cordell / Friday, February 22nd, 2013
With all the Oscar buzz going around, you have to ask yourself–when was the last time you read a book? Like, really sat down with the intention of reading a piece cover to cover and immersing yourself in the good ol’ English language?
It’s probably been a while. And why not, you’re a busy person! You probably catch a few pages here and there; unwinding in bed, waiting for the bus, avoiding touching anything on the metro. Plus, it’s easy to sit in front of the TV and veg out during a movie while you check emails on your phone.
But how is such a lazy, unengaging activity possible during a multimillion dollar budgeted movie? You certainly couldn’t check your emails while a lowly book flapped its pages in the background. The simple answer is books are better than movies.
Don’t believe it? Keep reading.
Movies treat you like a child.
Think about how kids movies are structured. You can almost set your watch to when musical interludes are going to derail the narrative and bombard the audience with colors, movements and Phil Collins wailing over horns and a drum machine.
And there’s a reason for that. Children get bored. If the cartoon dog and cat sat in the alley and discussed the existential paradox of how they’ll never truly understand each other’s world, kids would be picking their noses and starting fights in the theater in no time. But the characters would never do that. They would simply look at each other and say, “We’re different, but that’s OK! Watch me tap dance on this dumpster! Whoa, a talking fish bone singing backup?! Ain’t that some crazy sh*t!”
The exact same principle applies to adult audiences. Tom Cruise jumps out of the car at just the right time. Jason Statham racks a seemingly endless number of bullets into a gun in the most intimidating way possible. Michael Bay puts characters on a motorcycle whether is makes sense or not. Seriously, watch “Transformers” and ask yourself how much sense it makes to throw yourself from a moving, two-wheeled vehicle in order to slide under a giant space robot and shoot it in the crotch.
A movie assumes you have a terrible attention span. So they bombard you with with flashes, explosions and shaky camera angles that will burn out your retinas and make it impossible to see those tiny, orange lights on the theater floor once the movie has ended. You see that? All movies want to do is blind you so you can’t find the exit and are forced to form a society of visually impaired, movie theater mole-people.
Shame on you, movies. Books 1; Movies 0.
Movies, by and large, insult your intelligence.
Think of every James Bond film you’ve ever seen. There is always, beyond a shadow of a doubt, going to be a scene where the villain–who has a glass helmet or an eye patch or claws for hands or something–lays out his master plan in a perfect exposition and detail.
This movie is spoon feeding you. Spoon feeding you like a wee baby.
The filmmaker must have thought, “Well, the rubes shilling out $15 to see this copy-and-pasted swill might get lost. Better make it clear EXACTLY what’s going on or they might not see the nine sequels we have in production. Jeeves, stoke in the money-fire in the fireplace, I feel a draft!”
The only part of book that’s expository is the exposition. And that’s, like, the first 10 pages if the author is dense. Books 2; Movies 0.
Movies are opulent. Books are humble.
Do you know how much money a writer needs to produce a book. Rent. That’s it. A writer just needs shelter and some groceries. And most of time, that’s paid out of the writer’s pocket. Unless they receive an endowment, then they only have to work part-time to finish the work deemed culturally important enough to receive an endowment.
Can a movie be produced if the filmmaker is just barely scraping by? Not likely. The cost of producing a film is so astronomically high it outpaces most space exploration budgets. Check out this article from Universe Today. Turns out the budget for “Prometheus,” a film about the search for extraterrestrial life, is enough to fund the actual search for extraterrestrial life for the next 52 years.
Why, movies? Why are you bleeding our astronauts dry? Books 3; Movies 0.
“There’s nothing new under the sun.”
Including that cliche. It’s true, most stories that can be written already have been. Just check out these infographics…
The first catalogs the top ten grossing films for four selected decades. There is a distinct lack of original works grossing after 1991. Granted, it’s probably more of a comment on how consumers are intellectually devolving into semi-locomotive sea slugs. But this graphic? Where the hell would Stanley Kubrick’s career be if he had to rely on his own work?
Nowhere. That’s where his crazy, beard-face would be. Books 4; Movies 0.
Books have been around longer.
Think about it. Cinema technology has been around for, what, 100 years? That’s kind of a long time. If cinema were a dog, it would have died about 10 times by now.
Books, though? If “The Epic of Gilgamesh” says anything, it’s that books have been around for at least 6,000 years. That’s, like, 600 dead dogs worth of art and history.
Books 5; Movies 0.
You bring your own experience to a book.
A movie is a carefully constructed experience. Writers pen the dialog. Directors tell the actors how to act. Cinematographers formulate of each and every image long before it comes across the screen.
But a book? Little is set up by way of the imagination. Authors consciously try not to step on their images as too much detail bogs down the page and brings the pacing to a crawl. This feature, this fundamental aspect of writing, is what sets books leagues ahead of movies. The reader’s imagination plays an essential role in every book.
That’s it. A film can never engage an audience like that. No cinematographer is ever going to match your imagination. A filmmaker can’t enter your mind’s eye and set forth a catalyst that’ll build incredible settings, images and characters.
The lack of stimulation, the lack of lights and explosions and Phil Collins is what makes the interactive experience of reading a book possible. You essentially fill in the blanks. Your familiarity, or lack thereof, with a particular word, phrase or setting colors your experience with the page.
And that is a genuine, artistic experience. And it doesn’t happen on the page. It happens inside you.
Books 6, Movies 0.
Tags: 2013, 2013 Academy Awards, Academy Awards, art, books, cinema, David Schuller, Epic of Gilgamesh, Jason Statham, movies, nomination, Northern Virginia, Northern Virginia Magazine, NoVA, Oscars, Phil Collins, The Game Plan, Tom Cruise, Writing