Life’s too short to watch bad movies

If a film isn’t working for you, go ahead and do what I can’t.

 

If you don’t like a film, turn it off. Or change channels. Or walk out.

It’s something I can’t do, shackled to a seat despite absolutely no possibility of things getting better. It’s like The Ludovico Technique, except with Vishal-Shekhar playing instead of good ol’ Ludvig Von. I am, however, paid to bite that bullet, and because I have made a career out of giving movies of questionable quality a fighting chance, I steadfastly refuse to offer similar generosity to books or music. No unheard of indie band playing in Juhu for me, thankyouverymuch, and no debutant novelist’s scribbles about a sprawling clan. But movies? I’m around right till the end credits. And you don’t need to be.

Nope, you aren't Alex.

It begins in school, this conditioning that we must not abandon a book midway. That we must see it through despite the first few chapters being dense, or boring or just not specifically interesting to each of us. We’re told it’ll only really reward us in it’s entirety, a strategic truism partly to expand our horizons beyond what we already like, and partly to serve as training grounds to help us master the rote, the ratta that gets us through other subjects, even lowlier ones that do not involve the reading of novels.

As a result, we finish bad novels (‘what’s another 180 pages?’) and bad movies (‘only 40 more minutes to go, surely Philip Seymour Hoffman will do something?’) but these questions are more submissively masochistic than they are rhetorical. 180 pages is a helluva lot of your time, and if he hasn’t dazzled in the first two hours, Hoffman’s waiting for the end even more impatiently than you are. And he, like me, is paid to stick around.

There are hundreds of thousands of better films –masterpieces and sideshow attractions, little gems and wild cinematic carnival rides, classics and underrated indies — and the more time you devote to a film that isn’t satisfying you, the more you’re missing out on something that could. Screenwriters are told to engage the reader in the first few pages of a script, else it’s curtains as the producer snoozes. And yet we, the audience, are much kinder to films that fail to grab us after twenty listless opening minutes.

But if a film, the most sensory offering in all of popular art, fails to arrest you 40 minutes into the proceedings — through neither narrative nor character nor backdrop nor music nor performance nor light and shadow — then you are decidedly better off walking out. Do it guiltlessly and with head held high, because the truly great films will always have, at the very least, some little thing that’ll reel you in and make you want to keep watching. And what if the climax is spectacular and, as some say, ‘worth the price of admission?’ Well then, watch that bit on YouTube. So scram, and celebrate your moment of justified truancy, as if you got to skip a midday meeting or a drab lecture.

Go ahead, make me jealous.

~

First published Mumbai Mirror, January 11, 2012

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Life’s too short to watch bad movies

  1. Now I feel less guilty about walking out during movies like

    1) Aap Ka Surroor
    2) Friends With Benefits
    3) Luv Ka The End

    The only painful part about walking out during a movie is that unbearable lightness of your wallet :)

  2. myra

    i am such a ‘what’s another 180 pages?person……always hv finished d worst of the books n seen even horrible movies till d end credit..

  3. I have never actually walked out of a movie.

  4. I bought a ticket each for me and my friend to watch a movie in a hall back in the old days of single screens. The movie was so bad, and my friend liked it so much that I offered to pay for his dinner if we walked out of it. We did, and I paid for dinner, but I thank God that I managed to skip that movie.

  5. Anand

    During 2008-09 i watched about 70 films in theatre, all of them typical bollywood masal stuff. considering that we dont get more than half a dozen really good movies a year, that’s one helluva torture; the prominent torturers being: Welcome, SIngh is King, Partner, and the likes.
    However, it learned to appreciate the efforts needed to make a good movie. i discovered that a movie need not have things ‘happening’ all the time, and that a random assembly of scenes does not a movie make.
    And for many others that i did not like personally, i started to appreciate them for at least having the heart in the right place, for having a certain purpose in making them.

  6. Sumit Kain

    i tried leaving midway here. Couldn’t though !

  7. Suresh

    I have to disagree with you here. While /i should have stopped watching for lot of movies , there are some movies which have a poor start but are good movies overall.
    Example : Johnny gaddar which is one of my favourite Indian thriller movies. The first 45 minutes was kind of boring but the second half was brilliant.

  8. The movie has to be reallllly bad for me to actually walk out of the theater. But this has happened last year with 2 or more movies. Ya sometimes one feels that why so much money is being dumped into such trash. Locales are sexy. Actors are famous. Directors well established and then suddenly comes this flavor that leaves you feeling so terribly bored and lost. Bad films are a waste of time indeed just like good films are a time well-invested.

  9. ms

    i watched delhi belly for 40 mins and turned it off. didnt dazzle me, i know u said that dubey ji is a brilliant in the movie, but i don’t need to watch a “yes i m hip” movie to know that. on the other hand, dilli 6, i m practically the only person i know that likes that movie, i wasn’t planning on watching it but did cos of my mother, and i m glad that i watched it. i vociferously defend that movie whenever i have to.

    • Varun Sekar

      For whatever it’s worth, i liked delhi 6 too. some say it gets preachy, but the whole movie’s got a charm to it that is seldom found in Bollywood. But i would say the same for Delhi Belly. 2011 and ’12 have been a depreesing years for Bollywood movies. it’s feels as going to hindi movies is just not worth it.. for now ..

  10. zalak

    I’ve walked out of a couple of movies, books, performances and even merry do’s and people’s lives. but one movie was an exception: MNIK, My name is khan. Mediocrity was redefined and i couldn’t bear to leave without having its new definition be revealed in its entirety. Sometimes, the allure of bad things is just the masochistic fascination: how bad can this really get!

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