Sunday, January 22, 2006

 Movies 

I see movies. Lots of them. But it wasn't always like that. Before I started working at Yahoo! back in 2000, I was hardly a movie fan - Cindy can tell you that. Asking me if I wanted to see some movie was like asking me if I wanted to wait in line at the DMV.

It wasn't that I disliked movies, per se. It just wasn't something I volunteered for - so many other things seemed like a better use of my time. Plopping down on the couch for two hours felt like willful surrender to sloth - unlike music, movies demand your attention the entire time. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism triggered by my short attention span. Of course, once the movie started, or if by some quirk I happened upon the movie while surfing channels, I'd watch it the same as anyone else, and even like it. The problem was just getting me to that starting point.

Then my tenure at Yahoo! began. I had originally been told at hiring that I'd join the Y! Music team (my first choice), but on my first day I was re-allocated to the Movies group. I was a bit disappointed, but as it turned out that was a blessing - several months later Yahoo acquired Launch (a streaming music startup based in Santa Monica), and the existing Y! Music team, with whom I had several friends, was disbanded, and told to find other slots in Yahoo. They were quite unhappy as you might expect, and I realized that I was lucky to not have to find a new job.

For much of the first year, my attitude remained mostly the same toward movies. There I was in my job, surrounded by movie buffs and programming with movie data, but mostly impervious to its influences. But that changed, geekily enough, when the first of the Lord of the Rings movies came out. I guess that's what it took, a beautifully realized story of grand scope and inspiration to help me appreciate how great a movie can be. I got more interested in movies as storytelling, and loved the movie adaptation of this book I'd grown so fond of (I'd read it back in early 2001). This interest carried over gradually to other movies, and by the time 2003 rolled around, I began a quest to see 100 movies in a year. If you're a Yahoo user (i.e., have email with them), you can see which movies I saw that year by logging in and seeing my movies of 2003, and subsequent years too.

So at that point, I found a new satisfaction with my job that I didn't have before. That 2003 quest was partly inspired by attending the Sundance Film Festival that year, where I got to see many advance showings, Q & A sessions with directors, and some celebrities around Park City. (I even have a photo of Morgan Freeman talking to an admirer on Main Street.) I mean, even with all this in mind, I hardly consider myself a movie buff, but it does help me feel more rooted in our culture, whatever that may be. At the very least, movies for better or worse are often as strong a bond between people as sports or religion. Even with their faults they become the language we speak, the memory we retain of where we've been in our lives, literally and metaphorically.

Lately Cindy and I have had a Netflix-supplied "Kurosawa Film Festival", where so far we've watched his classics Rashomon and Yojimbo. Really great movies - and Ran is next. We also have a "Jesus In The Movies" festival coming up soon, featuring The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Monty Python's Life of Brian. (Yes, we've left off Mel Gibson's movie, mostly because by all accounts it's a gratuitous gorefest, which is something we're just not into.)

Anyway, that's how I came around to cinema. So tell me, have you seen anything good recently?

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Comments:
Do you like old movies? I picked "Bombshell," from 1933, from the public library. It's a screwball comedy that does for Hollywood in the 1930s what "The Player" did for Hollywood in the 90s. It's worth watching out for.
 
Interesting. I'll have to look for it. Netflix doesn't have it, which isn't surprising - not too many 1933 movies have made it to DVD yet. :^)
 
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