Thor and The 2011 Shameless Summer of Movies

I recently started a new gig as a "Movie Editor" for Yahoo. Don't be confused by the term "editor". In this case, it just means "writer". (Editing always involves writing...and vice versa.)

Check out my first "Yahoo Movies" article Last Minute Worries for Thor, a movie I will be seeing and reviewing this Friday. (And yes, I found a way to work Conan O'Brien's brilliance in there. Just barely.) But the way I wrote the article struck me when I read it again after it was published yesterday. I thought to myself after I read it, when did I become so cynical? When did I start thinking of movies in terms of lists of things that made me nervous before I even saw them? Was it The Crystal Skull? What killed my joy?

So I'm going to investigate and try to change that as part of new blog initiative I'm calling...

"The 2011 Shameless Summer of Movies". 

As a film critic/raving fangirl, I'm tired of the voices in my head. No, not the kind you're thinking of. The kind that come from years of dealing with nasty anonymous comments posted on blogs and reviews I've written about movies. I realized recently that if I don't just allow myself to see whatever movie I want to see without apologizing for it, I'm going to lose my love of film.

When you review movies, you start to feel a certain kind of pressure. You get so many negative comments like, "I can't believe you went to see this crap." or, "Why even bother writing a review?", not to mention feedback from other bitter critics who disagree with you, feedback from some of my fellow female critics who think that what I'm saying isn't feminist enough or it's too feminist. Sidebar: I'm so tired of all the wars between women writers fighting to say what's the "right" female opinion. There is no such thing, just write what you are passionate about and know that people will disagree with you, but I digress...that's another blog entry entirely. It should also be noted that there are plenty of supportive film critics out there that make discussing movies fun fun again...but I guess I'm still looking for my Siskel. Someone I can debate with and still have a good time. Anyway...

Needless to say, when you're a critic/film writer, you're never anyone's best friend. That's normal and it comes with the territory, but it has started to affect my lifelong love affair with movies in a really negative way. I realized the other day that the only movie I've seen this year has been "The King's Speech". I was almost afraid to see and write about anything else, knowing the deluge of nasty comments and emails it might get me if I gave in and went to see all the mindless rom coms and cheesy action comedies that I miss so much.

In other words, I'm in serious danger of becoming too cynical for most movies.

While it's true that our tastes change and refine as we grow older, it's also true that we can become so negative as audiences that nothing is fun to watch anymore. We can so busy nit-picking, script supervising, and just generally wanting to hate the movies that we watch that we never even give them a fair shot. It's so easy to hop on the Negative Nancy bandwagon, especially if you are like me and you haunt sites like AintitCool where the talkbacks can be legendarily heinous.

I thought about this today when I watched 2001's "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" for my own private little tenth anniversary viewing of the movie. (I watch it early every May as close to the original release date as I can. It's just one of my weird OCD movie habits.) This is a movie I fell in love with when it was released because I was still too young to let the cheese-factor bother me. The movie was fun with a strong female protagonist and I just plain had a blast with it. If I were to see this movie for the first time today, I'd probably roll my eyes and leave the theater before the credits even rolled. And my very nature as a fangirl is threatened by that thought.

As a true and lifelong fangirl, the truth is that I want to love things. I want to dress up in dorky costumes and buy Burger King movie toys and put posters on my walls and just let my freak flag fly. The movie theater used to be my happy place.

Just this week in a segmented essay titled "The Void" I wrote this little passage about the way I used to spend time at the movies:

"Black was the color of the movie theater gone dark in the middle of her summer days. For a long moment before the film flickered to life, there was the blissful and quiet moment of air-conditioned darkness, like the beginning of creation. On her days off from waiting tables, in the empty snow globe of her college town, in the hollow skeleton of the empty weekday matinĂ©e, this is where you would’ve found her a decade ago. Between her morning running ritual and the fluttering of comic book pages by lamplight at night, she was here. Watching movies. Over and over again. This was preparation. For what, she didn’t know. But in the black of the theater she would whisper to herself perfectly on cue, “Let there be light!” just before the projector finally flooded the theater."    

I wrote three passages all about the summer I went to the movies several times a week, and I even titled it "The Void". Yet only today did I connect the subliminal dots that the void in my life is the lack of film.

So this summer, in an effort to put a stop-gap on that bitterness and loss, I'm seeing at least one new movie in theaters every week. And I'm going to see EVERY MOVIE I WANT, full-on popcorn flick or not. Critical darling or box office flub. I do not care. And I'm not gonna take any guff about it. Well...I probably will take some guff about it. But still, I'm doing it  anyway and I refuse to be ashamed. Will I still be honest in my reviews? You bet. But instead of looking for what to hate before I even see the movie, I'm going to try to let myself fall in love again.

Will it work? I don't know. I may not be able to turn back the hands of time and go back to the naive 18-year-old moviegoer that I once was. I may not be able to let continuity errors go like I used to or forget the years-worth of film theory and screenwriting classes that are partially responsible for my more refined critical eye. (And that's not a brag. If you love movies, beware learning how to make them. It changes you.)

 But I really hope that this little experiment will bring me back to cinematic optimism and celluloid fun, to that subliminal gut reaction that a silly summer blockbuster can trigger in my core. The same one that happens when I'm going upside down on a roller coaster or when I just turned the page to a game-changing story panel in a comic.

I want that feeling back. If you want to know how it's going, watch for any posts with the "Shameless Summer" logo. Those will be the reviews and musings on my experiences at the box office.

I'm starting with "THOR", but what will you see this summer?