Thursday, February 02, 2006

Too mush of a mushness

I've been challenged to give my definition of mush.

Fair enough.

I've been working on it anyway in a post that will make the case that Titanic is the representative movie of the last 20 years and I expect to finish it up at lunchtime. Meanwhile, one important point.

One man's mush is another man's grand passion. I believe I can come up with a fairly objective definition of mush that will cover most cases but because all encounters with art are personal, intimate, and subjective my definition will be, when applied to your favorite movie, a big pile of dingo's kidneys.

Reading and falling in love with a book or a poem, hearing a song or a symphony and being swept away body and soul, looking at a painting or a statue and feeling it become a part of you forever---these are all joys of the moment. I don't mean they pass in a moment. I mean that the moment is permanent within us. We can never read the book, hear the song, look at the painting again without returning to that moment. Our love, or our dislike, is to greater or lesser degrees directed by our judgment, our educations, our past experiences with other works, and our own peculiar wiring.

But even more, our feelings for the work are controlled by and tied up with the circumstances under which we meet up with them.

This is even more true for movies, I think, because most of us fall in love with movies when we are teenagers and very young adults, at the time when our senses of who we are are being formed.

And because we're teenagers and young adults, our moviegoing experience is very much tied up with sex, romance, and dating.

Makes a big difference if you saw a movie when you were in love or hoping to be in love or falling out of love or if you saw in on a date or saw it with a group of friends that included the person you were in love with or wanted to be or saw it with a group of friends that didn't include that special someone, especially if there was no special someone. One of the loneliest times at the movies is when you're out with friends when you'd rather be with a date and there is no one in your life you will be dating in the near future. The loneliest time is when you go to a movie with friends after a break up.

So often how we feel about a movie is really a memory of how we felt about life when we saw it.

I can tell you that my affection for Gone With the Wind is very much a result of what happened in the parking lot after I saw it.

But then it's tempered by the messy break-up that occured a few months later and that's tempered by the next time I saw it with another girlfriend which is colored by my memory of the next time I saw it, which was alone with no girlfriend in my life and none on the horizon and that's affected by the next time I saw it which was with the blonde very shortly after we'd started dating.

And, believe it or not, one of the most "romantic" movies I ever saw is Dr Strangelove, because back in grad school a very pretty redhead leaned over in the middle of it and whispered in my ear that she'd lost her virginity the night she saw Strangelove for the first time.

Fledermaus doesn't like Casablanca and can't understand why I do. He asked me to explain the movie's virtues to him, and I could do that. (Maybe. Guy doesn't think Groucho's funny either. We might have a Martian on our hands.) But the truth is that a good deal of my affection for Casablanca can be explained by the fact that As Time Goes By is the song the blonde and I danced our first dance to at our wedding reception.

I still think something important has changed for the worse in the way Hollywood deals with romance, and I'll try to deal with it in the post defining mush, but I look at the list of romantic movies I posted yesterday and have to wonder why Shakespeare in Love is the only movie on it I saw for the first time after I became a parent.

What's more, besides SIL, only Groundhog Day, Sleepless in Seattle, and When Harry Met Sally came out after I got married.

I don't know, but it looks suspicious to me. As if after going to the movies was no longer primarily about dating I became a lot less tolerant of romance in movies.

Before you jump to any conclusions, the blonde is still my favorite person to go to the movies with. I just don't think of our "dates" as dates. That's probably a flaw in me as a husband, but there it is. If after coming home from the movies the first thing you do isn't make out on the doorstep but drive the babysitter home it's not a date.

So, I'm still looking for your favorite romantic movies and now you can add, if you're bold enough, your most romantic night out at the movies. My guess is that for most people the two will be related.


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