Our Satellite Dish
We got our satellite dish four years ago. Before that we got two
channels, Fox and NBC. NBC we barely got. Every night we watched reruns
of The Simpsons and Seinfeld and then Melrose Place,
which we grew to like. We had nicknames for each of the characters,
Chipmunk and Horsey and so on.
Then we got the satellite dish. We now get a food channel, a house
channel, a British channel, a third world channel, a Canadian channel,
and so on. We get several movie channels and as a result I am now often
watching movies--something I never did before because I do not like the
feeling of sticky tile under my shoes.
Here are some things I have learned about movies. The story happens
in three acts. The first act is 25 minutes, the second act is 60
minutes, and the third act is 25 minutes. In Act One you meet the people
and are misled about one of them. Act One ends with a child being hit by
In Act Two, people get to work, and a lot of complications happen.
Chief among the complications are Love, Disappointment, the Arrival of
Spring, and the Accompanying Renewal of Hope. Hope is the ground where
Pain grows. A beloved grandparent dies. Then Act Two ends with a
Act Three begins with a thoughtful period. Some premises are
reconsidered. Some alliances are questioned. There is then a plan (only
partly revealed) and a firefight, and a showdown, and then happiness and
the end of the movie.
If there is going to be any nudity in the movie, then there will be
some nudity in Act One. No matter how much nudity there is, there is not
going to be any nudity in Act Three.
If you cannot see the actor's face in the nude scene, then you are
looking at someone else's body parts. Obviously, there is a
specialization within the movie business of people who have, say, a butt
that looks like it might be Michael Douglass's butt, etc.
The best movie ever made is The Conversation, directed by
Francis Ford Coppola. It ends with Gene Hackman sitting on a chair
playing a saxophone in an apartment with the plaster knocked off the
walls. To know the perfection of this ending, you have to watch the
This is how a movie should be understood: the purpose of Acts One and
Two is to give sense to Act Three, and the purpose of Act Three is to
make you thankful that you are alive.
The second best movie ever made is Blow Out, directed by Brian
The best movie soundtrack is the soundtrack to Deep Red, a
horror movie directed by Dario Argento. The best smile in a movie, ever,
is the smile of Rebecca Pidgeon when she is stepping into the paddy
wagon at the end of The Spanish Prisoner. The most convincing
karaoke performance in a movie is the one done by Cameron Diaz in My
Best Friend's Wedding.
It is important that a movie give us what we expect, but not as we
expect it. An example of a movie that gives us what we expect as we
expect it is Twister. All of the elements of an exciting movie
are present there, yet the movie does not excite because you are never
distracted from your observation that a Story is Developing.
For a movie to succeed, it must distract you from the fact that a
Story is Developing. A strategy often resorted to, to this end, is
breast exposure. This is why breasts are often exposed in Act One.
In Twister, Helen Hunt's breasts were never exposed, even
though she wore a mere white tank top into the twister.
An example of a thing placed in Act One to distract the viewer from
the fact that a Story is Developing is the office in Being John
Malkovich where everyone has to walk hunched because the ceiling is
low. This has nothing to do with anything, and we marvel at it somewhat.
Being John Malkovich then proceeds to give us what we expect,
which is also what we desire.
There is no "Worst Movie Ever Made," because the worse movies are,
the more they cause us to reflect on what it is we like about movies.
This in turn is pleasant, and satisfies. Signs, directed by M.
Night Shyamalan, is disappointing because a green alien appears in the
next-to-last scene. Gosford Park is disappointing because the Act
Three that is in the movie is not the Act Three for which Acts One and
Two have prepared us. In Memento, the sequence of events is
messed up for no good reason.
There are two ways to make a better movie than has been made. One is
to follow the rules of movie-making more subtly than has been done
before. The other is to break a rule. It is probably necessary, or at
any rate it is unavoidable, for many movies to fail, in the effort to
make a better movie. It is worth sitting through a great many bad movies
to have the pleasure of seeing a good one.
Willis Blandings is working with Universal on a new project scheduled