Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The value of holding out

At this time of year, my film-watching selectivity kind of goes out the window. As you may recall from previous times I’ve discussed this, the movies I watch (and rank) in a given year are meant to comprise a representative sample of what was out in that year, meaning all genres, intended for all demographics. As the year-end crunch begins, what I watch becomes as much a function of opportunity as anything else. If something is easily accessible based on opportunity (i.e. low/no cost, only thing playing at a certain time, etc.) I will watch it. The only time I’m making qualitative choices is if all else is equal (two movies playing at the same time and I can only see one, two movies available from the kiosk and can only rent one). Or, of course, if it’s something I’m looking forward to.

But there’s a flip side to the whole “representative sample” argument. Not only do I want to see a little of everything, but I don’t want to see all of anything. A representative sample does not mean, for example, every comic book movie released in a certain year. If I can leave at least one off, I feel like I’m honoring my watching/ranking philosophy a bit better.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was to be that choice this year. There were a number of reasons for this.

      1)  I didn’t care for the first one all that much. It was okay.
      2)   I’m really, really, really sick of the social media presence of director James Gunn, and the way he luxuriates in the spotlight.
      3)  I heard this one wasn’t very good, anyway.

But then today this resolution came in direct conflict with my philosophies on accessibility and availability. As I was returning The Zookeeper’s Wife – a classic December accessibility option – to the library, I saw another “hot pick” on the “hot pick shelf” that couldn’t help catch my eye. That “hot pick” – meaning I can only rent it for one week and not renew it (as opposed to the three weeks you get for other movies) – was, as you’ve figured out, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

I had determined not to pay money for Guardians 2, as is usually my only recourse once I’ve missed seeing it in the theater with my critics card. But free? It was unexpected, and made me think twice about it.

I ultimately did walk away with it, though of course, having spent no money on it, I could always return it unwatched.

Whether I will is what I’m struggling with now, and even though this struggle is academic and of no interest to anyone but me, I will probably expend a few more paragraphs on it.

On the one hand, by watching Guardians 2 I feel like I would be rewarding James Gunn. Not financially, of course, as a free rental of the movie does not conceivably benefit Gunn in any way, or add swelling to his already large head. However, just knowing that I watched his movie after vowing to “punish him” by not watching it disturbs me on some level. It’s the principle of it. You know, kind of like how one vote in an election doesn’t matter unless you believe that it does.

But then I think, what if I like this movie precisely because I did not like the first one? One of the big pop culture talking points this fall seems to be that people who didn’t so much care for the original Blade Runner really like Blade Runner 2049, and vice versa. Maybe what fans of the original Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t like about the sequel was that it changed in some essential way from what they originally liked. And since I didn’t like that, maybe I would like this.

Then I learned that Cat Stevens’ classic song “Father and Son,” a personal favorite, figures into the climax of this film. While that doesn’t sound particularly promising in terms of the film’s erratic tone, which was one of my problems with the first one, it is one of my favorite songs, and I’m on a bit of a Cat Stevens high right now, having seen him in concert last week. (He played 32 songs, mostly classics!)

Then I think “I’m going to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2 eventually. Why postpone the inevitable?”

I guess it will depend on how my viewing week shakes out. I’ve got a couple nights already committed to other viewings, but I’ve also got some open nights, including my weekend nights, for which a Guardians viewing would be ideally suited.

In other words, I’m probably going to watch it.

Damn you James Gunn. 

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