Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hollywood against me

I have a short attention span. Twenty years ago, this would be shrugged off as a neutral character trait much like hair color, left-handedness, or whose side you initially took in the OJ Simpson case. Today, psychologists, parents, educators, and guidance counselors have taken their own steps in self-importance and given my neutral trait a name: Attention Deficit Disorder. "Disorder." No Longer am I merely a member of the dominant, drawn with a set of characteristics making me an individual, but still a hard-working, card-carrying member of normalcy; but I am a leper, part of a tribe that requires immediate medical attention. Perhaps born from the all-to-familiar womb of capitalism such as Valentine's Day or first-class airplane seats, or perhaps a product of genuine concern, "ADD," the label, not the affliction sets me apart from my peers. I look up to them; I admire their ability to sit through hour-long television programs and carry on conversations that last longer than two or three short and gratuitous outbursts, and take comfort in the fact that despite my differences, they have taken steps, not to accept me for my focusless self, but to treat me, to make me normal again. Should I care that the medicine for my newly deemed "disorder" is merely synthetic cocaine—cheaper of course, and without the messy pipeline of twenty-dollar bills making their way to Columbia? Should I care that their compassion is merely thinly disguised bigotry against people who twenty years ago wouldn't even be known as "different?" Perhaps, but I don't. I don't take their "medicine." I refuse to acknowledge my "illness." I have never even used the letters ADD without placing a real number on the left side of the A and the right side of the second D to calculate a sum. I have had no problems dealing with an affliction that I refuse to even admit exists. And I'm doing well.

But you won't let up. Every time I think I've won; every time I've moved on to shorter television shows and livelier conversation you retire to your offices, your lairs, your board rooms and plot schemes to drive this thing home. First you used the schools. Then you entered our homes and got to our parents. Then you took control of the world of medicine. All of these plots were thwarted by my own self-reliance. Now you have moved to a new medium: Hollywood.

Ninety minutes. That's how long a movie should be. Thirty minutes for exposition, sixty for plot, thirty more for a gunfight, a chase scene, and an epilogue. If you need two hours, you better have a REALLY good reason. It took Marty McFly 116 minutes to travel back to 1955, and change history before he planned a hair-brained scheme to harness electricity from the sky, and make it back home—not to mention play Johnny B Goode in it's entirety at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. It took Rocky ninety minutes to watch his friend die, move to Russia, train for six weeks in the Siberian Wilderness, drive to Moscow, and defeat Ivan Drago changing the course of the Cold War forever. Unless your Coppola, Scorcese, or Tarantino, you should be able to do everything in under 120 minutes. And they can.

But somewhere along the way, the war against those of us with needs formerly thought to be normal, turned to movie reels as their Dresden. Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End—168 minutes. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King--200 minutes. These are movies with animatronics and fantasy characters. These aren't dialogue based, character driven opuses. They're fucking blockbusters. They're tent-poles! These are two of the highest grossing films of the decade. And if you asked me to sit through either of them, it would be an impossibility. No chance. I can't sit through an entire episode of Law & Order without getting up for a walk a few times. Now you want me to sit through 3.5 of them. Get lost with that.

Somehow Funny People, a black comedy that I actually really liked was cut to 146 minutes. The Dark Knight, a film I actually thought deserved a best picture nomination ran 152 minutes. Again, I liked these movies, but see no time in the near future when I will say to myself, "Ya know, I would love to sit on a couch and not move for the next two-and-a-half hours."

My favorite movies over the past several years are Lost in Translation (102 minutes), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (108 minutes), Revolutionary Road (119), Old School (91), and No Country for Old Men (122). You have Academy Award nominees (and a winner). You have timeless films, adored by millions. Only Inglorious Basterds (152) and the Departed (151) are particularly long films, and both of those are crowning achievements by two of the best American filmmakers or my generation.

I never felt weak because I had a short attention span. I never felt different, and I never felt ostracized . . . until now. Since Hollywood has joined with the other side, the Entente de Accomoder, I see no other option but to acknowledge my deficiency. I see no other option but merely to approach films like separate water fountains, only drinking from the one labeled "120 minutes or less," and walk away silently and complacently. I shall not raise my voice in anger, nor will I bemoan my condition. I am different. I know that as the two captains of normalcy pick teams, I will be standing wide-eyed amongst my attention-deficit peers, watching people I thought were my equals happily walking away from us and onto the court and into the theatres to see films that just weren't made for people like me. And in the interest of not offending my newly acknowledged teammates, I shall cut this essay to less than 1000 words. At 999 it will be readable and concise. Unlike Hollywood, I know my audience.

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