What If, or In Defense of Snorkeling

There may come a day when Terence will turn to me and say Remember when you made me watch that movie about the time-traveling hermaphrodite who had sex with herself and gave birth to a baby...that was actually her? And I'll have to reply Yep. Yep I do. Because that was last night's activity.

As a dues-paying, voting member of SAG-Aftra, Terence gets free screeners of the award-nominated films. Super cool perk that's turned our living room into a regular AMC lately. No Horrible Bosses 2, either. Just compelling, thought provoking, heartstring-tugging dramas.

The stuff, in other words, that I don't like as much as time-traveling, self-impregnating hermaphrodites.

All movies are predicated upon a What If of some kind, but I like my What Ifs exotic. Big, outlandish, fantastical What Ifs that are so far removed from the realm of reality that my (admittedly sensitive, though gradually toughening) triggers remain safely out of reach. Give me science fiction. Action adventure. Horror. Give me post-apocalyptic chaos, ghosts, outer space, super powers, aliens, time travel. Alternate universes I can visit without cutting too close to anywhere near home. Give me something I have to imagine, because I've never gone through it. Family dysfunction? No thanks. Divorce? I'll pass. Abuse, disease, death and grief? Chaucer and I are going for a walk.

Spare me from having to vicariously relive, even obliquely, anything familiarly painful. Show me the never-known instead. Because when I unplug in front of the screen, I want to forget the kind of stuff that has too much real estate in my brain already. I want to be taken out of myself. Not shown a mirror, however distorted. Bottom line: the greater the possibility some element of a drama's plot has happened - or could happen - to me, the less interested I am in watching it.

This makes me sound like a dispassionate, maladjusted robot. I'm not, and I'd be -- wait hang on, let me adjust this dial on my neck -- I'd be more embarrassed of my cinema dramaphobia if I didn't consider it compensated, in the interest of culture and Deep Thinking, by the novels I read. Oh yeah and then there are all the feels of daily life. Got plenty of those. Doing okay with them. As well as the next person, anyway, I think.

But movies can be tricky little bastards. Some get to you organically, but others will manipulate the hell out of you. Push you to places that, if it's all the same, you'd rather not be pushed to for a tidy one hour, thirty minutes before being left bewildered, when the reel runs out, by a heartful and a headful of WHOA. WAIT. WHAT. WHOA.

It's the difference between scuba diving and snorkeling. You might see some dazzling, dangerous, indescribable things if you're willing to go deep and risk drowning. Or being eaten alive by sharks. Or you can float closer to the surface, still get a decent show, and be much safer.


If you've got time for a good What If this weekend, here are a few of my recent(ish) favorites:

Edge of Tomorrow: Live. Die. Repeat.
The Hunter (a more conventional, closer-to-Earth drama, but the animal lover in me was enchanted; the final fifteen minutes of this film are stunning)
Europa Report
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Road

And hey it's Friday! Would you like a pretty song to ease you into the weekend? 

Have a good one, guys.