Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Magic of the Movies

In recent years, we have been consistently reminded of the many hassles with attending movie theaters. Ticket prices are extremely high, people are exceedingly rude and, on average, a small popcorn will run you about ten dollars. Alright, point taken. There are several problems associated with going to the movies. So why do we still attend? With all of the technological advances in home theaters and in light of the FCC’s decision to allow the streaming of new theatrical releases directly to our home televisions, why would we continue to subject our nerves and wallets to the constant onslaught of the theater going experience? Simple: because there’s nothing else like it— and we know it.

It’s the atmosphere...

Walking into a movie theater, we are instilled with a sort of exhilaration that only an actual theater can provide. Whether it be of classic décor, with silk curtains draping the walls, conjuring up images of golden age Hollywood glamour, or of contemporary design with stadium seating and leg room to spare, movie theaters illicit a feeling of wonder and anticipation. Before the film even begins, many of us feel privileged just to be there.

the sights and sounds…

No matter how much time and money we spend obtaining the finest quality, high-tech equipment for our homes, the effect will never come close to matching that of a genuine theater. Unless we are wealthy enough to contain an actual movie screen within the walls of our homes, the size of our televisions will never match the magnitude of a theater screen. Because of the sheer size of the screen, all distractions immediately surrounding the film have been removed, allowing it to completely engage your vision and mind, (unlike the experience we get at home). Add to this the vast, specially designed space of the theater, which allows for the advanced surround sound system to play off of its acoustics, and we have got a truly engaging experience. All of this enables the observer to see and hear everything mixed and mastered the way the moviemakers intended, completing the final masterpiece that is film. The unified intensity of sights and sounds so deeply immerses us in the experience that a heightened sense of awareness often sends us into a state of suspended reality. This feeling often grabs hold of us so strongly that it does not let go of us for hours afterward— long after the movie has ended. No matter how great the film, I have never walked away from my television feeling like that.

the adventure…

Do you remember how special it was before the time of home recording devices, when we would have to wait for our favorite movies to be played on television, since that was the only way we were going to see them? We would wait with anticipation for those few wonderful hours, knowing that we may not see this film again for a very long time. However, when these devices came out, allowing us to watch a movie anytime we pleased, the event was somehow not as remarkable. Not only were we now able to view movies anytime we pleased, but also anyway we pleased. We could now press stop at anytime, walk away, and just pick it up later; if we missed something, we could simply rewind. Other great events cannot be suspended in this way— a sunset, a storm— but now you can pause a great adventure or a terrible tragedy. This somehow takes away from the greatness of a film.

It is the same idea with watching movies at the theater compared to in our homes. At the theater, we make sure that everything is set ahead of time, because there is no pausing and walking away like we do at home. No taking a break to get up for snacks, no stopping to clean the living room, and heaven forbid you should have to go to the bathroom. Some people find this an inconvenience, but others consider this is one of the great joys of attending the show- to be transported to another world, completely. The focus of our attention is centered on the screen, and there is no stopping to deal with phone calls, kids, and the like. For those couple of hours, our world is that movie, and we cannot just pause it and walk away. If we do, even just for a moment, we will miss something - and that makes it all the more special.

and the friends we meet along the way…

One of the few occasions where people are comfortable planting themselves in the middle of a crowd for a few hours is during a movie. Not before the show starts, (when you’re hoping that your strategically placed coat will maintain a minimum five foot, people-free radius around you at all times), but during the actual movie. Let’s not get into all of the complaints we have about the people that often surround us, because we’ve heard it and personally encountered it hundreds of times. Instead, let’s focus on how wondrous it can be when a group of people experience something as one. Someone’s hysterics from across the room makes you laugh even harder at the comedy you’re watching, someone’s scream from behind you frightens you more than the horror movie itself, and the uncontrollable weeping two rows ahead of you emotionally links you to that person, and assures that you that you are not "alone" in the theater. Yes, we know that people have always been and will continue to be ignorant, obnoxious and rude. However, they may also be the key to our movie going experience. When all of us come together, simultaneously feeling and exhibiting the same emotions, a collective consciousness pervades the theater and at the end, it’s as if you’ve experienced a magnificent adventure alongside a close group of friends— and the journey would never have been the same without them.

…that create this magical experience.

So, no matter how much we spend on our home systems and how much we kid ourselves into believing that it’s the same experience as attending an actual theater, we know it isn’t. Movies are larger than life and they require a space of equal magnitude in which to exhibit them.
In the end, it is not the ambiance, the size of the screen, or the people that surround us— it is all of these things. It is a unique combination of factors whose likeness cannot be replicated by any other means, each part that makes up the whole of the “theater experience”.

There will never be a substitute for our theaters. They are a part of our history and a part of movie making itself. Hopefully our tendency toward instant gratification and our intolerance for one another will not allow this great institution to fade away. I, for one, would find this a great tragedy.

Jane Eyre

Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre), Michael Fassbender (Edward Rochester),
Judi Dench (Mrs. Fairfax), Sally Hawkins (Mrs. Reed)
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hr. 1 min.
Release Date: Mar 11, 2011


In the most recent movie adaption of Jane Eyre, director Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) crafts a unique version of the Charlotte Brontë tale. The movie begins midway through the novel as Jane (Mia Wasikowska) rushes from a mansion in the English countryside, trudging through the sodden muck of the moors, and presenting us with the possibility that the woman we are watching may not survive her journey. Fortunately, she is rescued by the clergyman (Jamie Bell) upon whose doorstep she has finally collapsed. From here the story progresses through flashbacks, revealing the people and situations that have led Jane to this point in time. In her childhood, the poorly treated orphan is physically and emotionally abused, first by her own family at the home of her aunt (Sally Hawkins) in Gateshead, and then by the staff at Lowood school, where Jane was promptly abandoned. A mature Jane eventually arrives at the home of Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender) to begin her employment as governess of Thornfield Hall. Here, Jane’s unyielding convictions are challenged when a twist in the story causes her head to battle against her heart.

The film concentrates on the important aspects of the novel, such as Jane’s determination to forge her own lot in life, (a rarity for women during the Victorian era in which the story takes place), and the courage to always embrace the pride within herself. The fortitude that this character continually maintains makes it easy to see why the novel is considered an important early feminist work.


Wasikowska is a fine choice to play Jane, as her physical appearance provides an ideal representation of understated beauty. Her performance, however, came across a little too sedate. During the time in which these stories take place, politely guarded conversation between the sexes could only hint at the emotional chaos that brewed beneath the surface. In order to translate this onto film, actors must be able to convey this hidden passion to the audience. However, the fire that was supposedly burning under Wasikowska’s cool exterior seemed dim and, at times, completely extinguished. Luckily, Fassbender turned in an electric performance as Rochester, successfully providing the intended spark between Jane and her beloved. Another actor worth mentioning is the always brilliant Judi Dench, who plays Mrs. Fairfax, housekeeper of Thornfield Hall. This character reveals much of the necessary back story on Rochester and acts as a sounding board for and mentor to Jane. Dench skillfully downplays her grand talent for this minor but significant role, creating a simple yet endearing character.


The finest achievement of the film is no doubt its cinematography, with the lovely dreariness of the landscape perfectly reflecting the story’s bleak tone. The exquisite details of Thornfield's architecture and decor serve to further immerse the audience in a gorgeous and authentic experience.

The film freshly highlights the darker aspects of the narrative, providing a fantastically mysterious and haunting version of the tale; (an approach that has been all but absent in earlier film adaptations). Despite all that the film has going for it, however, the lack of passion and scene development causes the movie to fall short of the masterpiece it could have been.

It is soon after Jane’s arrival at Thornfield when hopes begin to rise, tensions start to build, and where, sadly, the momentum falls flat and remains on the this monotonous terrain until the end of the journey. Early scenes between Jane and Rochester held promise, bursting with smart dialogue and quick exchanges. Glimpsing the fervor beneath their banter, we optimistically anticipated the liberating culmination of their carefully controlled interactions. We hoped to witness an uninhibited declaration of love, the freedom of the newly unbound spirit— or at least some reprieve from the uninspiring display we had thus far experienced. Alas, when the characters decide to bear their souls, it is spiritless and indistinguishable from the lackluster scenes that occurred before and after it. Rochester sedately declares his love and abruptly proposes to Jane, leaving the audience to wonder if they had missed a scene somewhere. One second we are observing the early budding of a romance and the next second it’s suddenly in full bloom. The lack of graduality in this and other parts of the film made it seem as though pieces were randomly dropped from the complete puzzle of the plot.

The Final Wrap:

One of the strongest aspects of Jane and Rochester’s relationship is that they look beyond their physical selves and are attracted to something intrinsically deeper— each other’s souls. This film appears to be just the opposite. Here, ideal beauty is of the utmost importance and it is the soul of the movie that is lacking. It seems that in his attempt to break the story down to its bare essentials, Fukunaga opted to omit much of the romanticism that defines this type of drama. One can understand that the director’s intention was to present the essential concepts of the story, devoid of all the frills. However, when something is whittled down to its bare bones, sometimes all we are left with is a skeleton of what the masterpiece once was.

This is a solid movie and certainly worth seeing, however, you would do well not to expect the emotional grandeur you’ve come to expect from the gothic novel.