Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Movies without purpose

There is, or should be, a purpose to every movie I see. One of a half-dozen purposes, actually:

1) It's supposed to be a good movie, and I have genuine interest in seeing it;

2) It's supposed to be a hilariously awful movie, and I have genuine interest in seeing it;

3) It's supposed to be a regularly awful movie, but I'll get paid to review it;

4) It's a movie released in the current calendar year, so even if it's awful and I'm not reviewing it, at least I can rank it for that year (this excuses any and all "vacation movies," such as my viewing of Valentine's Day this past Saturday);

5) It's a movie I've already seen, know is great, and want to see again;

6) It's a movie I've already seen, didn't like as much as other people liked it, and want to give a second chance, as discussed in Saturday's post.

That covers quite a lot of movies, and allows me plenty of leeway to see what I want. But then there's a seventh category, the weakest category that encompasses all remaining movies:

7) It's a movie I want to see simply because I want to see every movie ever made.

Each of the past two weekends I saw a movie that fit into that last category. And the biggest problem with that last category is it prevents me from seeing a movie in one of the first six categories, which all accomplish some kind of realistic film-watching goal. That last goal, you'll agree, is quite unrealistic. Therefore, that last category can be summarized as "movies without purpose."

This past weekend it was A Very Brady Sequel. The weekend before that it was Max Payne. Both, you won't be surprised to learn, came to me via OnDemand, the world's greatest purveyor of movies without purpose. HBO OnDemand, in this case -- we recently canceled Showtime, since we finished watching season 4 of Dexter and had Californication taken away from us halfway through watching season 3.

Oh, I wanted to see them both, sort of. I knew Max Payne would be terrible, but I thought it might have some decent special effects (it did not). I knew A Very Brady Sequel would probably not be terrible (it was not) because I really liked The Brady Bunch Movie, primarily due to the delicious mimickry of the actors, who were all back for the sequel (though neither the director not any of the writers returned). But the movie came out in 1996, meaning the moment of its greatest relevance had definitely passed.

If these two movies had been my only options for movies to watch at the time, that would have been understandable. But in order to be seen, they pushed aside movies that had an actual, legitimate purpose. This past Saturday night, A Very Brady Sequel elbowed out The Dying Gaul (which I've seen and liked, and which I was planning to review -- that's two purposes) and Happy Go Lucky (which I've heard is good and want to see -- that's one purpose). And since both of these movies were rented through the mail from Blockbuster, they each carried an additional purpose: Watching them would allow me to return them more quickly for other movies with purpose.

So is having OnDemand as a bad influence on your watching habits a good thing, or a bad thing? That's kind of a biased question, considering that I've already called it a "bad influence." But I'm probably being a bit disingenuous there, because I do like having an assortment of movies randomly available to me, changing all the time, for no additional financial expenditure on my part. And only Max Payne do I fully regret, because last weekend, I had both movies from Blockbuster and movies from the library that I needed to see, and the movie itself ended up having no redeeming value. A Very Brady Sequel, which I liked well enough, was chosen as much for its short running time (90 minutes) as anything else, plus the fact that it was a movie I wouldn't have to feel guilty watching with a fuzzy head: I started watching at 10:45 after a very delayed afternoon nap that started around 8:15. I had the same "fuzzy head philosophy" about Max Payne, which I started watching after midnight. Then I fell asleep after less than a half-hour, but felt obliged to finish watching it the next morning, meaning it ate into my available viewing hours the next day as well.

Oh well. Into every life a couple movies without purpose must fall.

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