For the longest time, I wanted to be in a book club. Where intellectually inclined individuals meet up once a month at a library cafe to talk about what made Hemingway so good, what made Dickens so good. The problem is, I didn’t think Hemingway was very good. I didn’t think Dickens was very good. Or, at least I didn’t like how many words it took them to tell a relatively simple story. I think what I really wanted to talk about was stories.
There are many different ways to tell a story. My dad used to tell me quick Korean folklore when I pleaded I wasn’t sleepy. I still remember simple picture books like The Giving Tree. My first love was in classical piano music, and I always thought music could move people in ways a good story can. You can get lost by wandering through a piece of artwork, searching for its purpose, much like how we scan between the lines for the author’s greater intent. For some reason, I never really thought of movies as a form of storytelling. For me, it was just a form of entertainment. Which is crazy to me now, because isn’t cinema the perfect combination of pictures, music, and artwork all orchestrated by a writer’s screenplay?
If you asked me what my favorite movies when I was a teenager, it probably would have been The Matrix and Terminator 2. Now, I’m not saying I’m particularly embarrassed by these choices nor am I saying I no longer like these films, but had you asked me why I liked these films, I would have told you that they were fun. They had a lot of action, gun-fire, hand-to-hand combat, explosions, bullets, slow-motion, etc. Then I loved WALL-E, a G-rated movie that was still in the science fiction genre, but questioned my taste in movies.
I think WALL-E resonated with me in ways The Matrix and Terminator 2 didn’t because I was starting to get into science during this time. In particular, I found astronomy to be such a humbling experience. Just looking up at the night sky will tell you how tiny we are, ants scrambling to find meaning in a life that will ultimately be meaningless. WALL-E reassured me that I wasn’t alone in my journey here on Earth.
But after watching WALL-E, I actually wasn’t quite sure why I liked it so much. It took many movie reviews, professional and amateur, in order for me to understand, and I thought what movie critics did was magical. The way they dissected a movie and figured out how all the elements meshed together into its glorious sum made me realize how much work goes into making a movie and instantly made me respect cinema. And as I continued to read more and more movie reviews, all of a sudden, the way I viewed movies changed. I began analyzing them.
Welcome to my story club. This is exactly the sort of stuff I wanted to do with books, except with movies. In the end, it’s all the same: I’m here to analyze stories with you, and I hope you comment back with your thoughts and perspective. The word “analyze” may scare off readers who are simply looking for blockbuster recommendations, but as someone who once viewed cinema as a form of entertainment, I personally guarantee there is more value to be extracted from cinema than just the high-budget special effects. Give my favorite movies a try; movies that I think are humble, artistic, spirited, provocative, engaging, and challenging. Who knows, they just might be entertaining too.