Saturday, September 5, 2009

Your Short Attention Span Annoys Me

Before I start this, my first post to Charge Shot!!!, I would like to state a personal disclaimer: it is possible (flirting dangerously with likely) that this post will have a lot more personality than it does content. My current occupation as a researcher leaves me little leftover energy to research anything else, even with the powerful nexus of the internet at my disposal. So instead of fleshing out my posts with history, dates, names, facts, and hyperlinks, I will likely flesh them out with completely unfounded opinions and personality quirks. My apologies in advance.

So I like narratives. Anecdotes are my literary second-best friends only behind analogies. Sometimes it takes me a while to get to the point of anything I write or say, because I believe that points are hardly interesting if they aren’t vivid, complex, richly detailed, and carrying some sort of thought-provoking element. Good stories take time to develop, like well built-up joke. And no, I don’t consider puns OR “that’s what she said” quips to be a model of elevated humor. No, not even the really good ones.

Unfortunately, my stories are often horribly anticlimactic.

However, as the professional art-reviewing industry has shown us, lack of ability does not preclude criticism. So I unabashedly critique movies and TV shows on the parameter of well-built storytelling. You’ll rarely find me going out of my way to watch a Romantic Comedy, a Slasher Horror, or an Explosion-Packed Action movie unless it has been universally well-reviewed for its deeper content.

I frequently get annoyed at the movie-going public’s thirst for immediate satisfaction. I want fleshy details, long-winded suspense, and a demand for personal or societal reflection. These elements can be placed pretty successfully into almost any genre, with the right raconteur. Unfortunately, there are too many people out there who can hardly sit through a movie without a computer on their lap and a DS in hand, and so the entertainment industry often chooses not to even try.

It is for mostly that reason that I abhor sitcoms. Yes, all of them. Yes, even Frasier. Yes I know it is a hilarious comedy about wealthy culture-obsessed side-characters from Cheers who make huge fools of themselves on a regular basis. Did you know that it can now be found filling the mid-morning time slots of the Lifetime network? I know because my boyfriend consistently saves around seven episodes of it on the DVR.

But let’s pretend that this issue actually goes beyond my irrational hatred for Frasier. I feel that it is my divine calling to resist the evil that is the Short Attention Span Media and its cavalcade of followers. These men and women are the sports fans that like basketball because it has a lot of scoring. They are the theater-goers who actually thought it was a good idea to add in non-existent, heart-wrenching loves scenes to the Lord of the Rings. They’re the home entertainment audiences that need laugh tracks to tell them when to laugh because they don’t actually know when to do so on their own.

Because of this calling, my tastes in entertainment usually oppose the alternatively journalistic and sitcom-saturated nature of today’s media. People want you to get to the point, and get to it now. They want individual scenes that change no less frequently than every 45 seconds. They want headline news, fast-paced action, and a constant flow of adrenaline. They want a car to streak through the air and crash into a hovering helicopter.

But it is to my own humiliation that when I say people, I most certainly include myself. I have 200 articles a day slamming through my RSS feed and a limited amount of time in a day to read them all. I skim a lot. I get squirmy when movies are longer than two and a half hours, and when I first sit down to watch one, I evaluate my motivation to keep watching within the first 10-25 minutes (unless I paid for it, in which case I’m miser-enough to man-up and stay for anything).

And I hate that. I hate that about myself even more than I hate it when my community college housemates criticize me for starting a paragraph with the word "and" because they insist it will humiliate me in front of my intelligent readers. I hated it about the first journalism class I ever took as a bright-eyed young sophomore in high school who entertained dreams of becoming a female sports writer. I didn’t want to give everything away in my opening paragraph like a 17-year-old girl at prom.

Whenever I write anything, I always write too much in my quest to build up my point, just as I’m now writing far too much in this post. And usually my point turns out to be far less interesting to others than it seemed to me at first. Nevertheless, this is it: when I evaluate a movie or a show, the first thing I tend to notice is the pacing, and after that I look for depth. I want my movies to move fluidly in the third dimension, but I don’t want them to do it too quickly.

Often enough, I will find a happy middle ground in movies. It’s somewhere between the flash-in-the-pants pacing of Star Wars Episode III: The ADHD Menace and the artistic yet arguably dull Lost in Translation…and Plot. In my future at Charge Shot!!!, one of my primary interests will be the discussion of movies that I enjoy for their refusal to sell out to a crowd that hungers for explosions and sex – movies that, like anecdotes, are best when built steadily and strongly. And when these movies fail to deliver any sort of worthy climax, I will judge them harshly like the glorious hypocrite that I am. That’s what she said.