The Escapist

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We’ve had a bad run of movies here in the Jing recently. After steak and Assassin’s Creed tickets for my birthday last month, I made the mistake of introducing the gf to the off-hand remark ‘I owe you one’. This led to two hours of watching a dog that absolutely refuses to die teaching Dennis Quaid how to love again, dubbed into Mandarin. I shit you not. The only question more important than “who the fuck makes this kind of movie” was “why am I watching this and does my life really have to last this long?”

Soon afterwards, we journeyed to an underground cinema* to watch the Disney retread of Beauty & The Beast. I thought I’d hate it. Sometime before the ballroom scene, I felt something tugging at my insides and saying You were absolutely right. This is dogshit. Just how much face can you possibly lose by fucking off for a coffee?

If you like strong fairytale plots, fearless female protagonists and gripping fantasy worlds, Beauty & the Beast is not the film for you. If you want to see a bunch of British character actors phone it in while two posh twats fall in love for absolutely no goddamned reason, in a movie that you already fucking saw twenty years ago, then be my guest.

My question this week is simple: what on the blue earth happened to modern cinema? The only other film on offer was a remake of King Kong. Wasn’t the remake with Jeff Bridges bad enough? Or the ‘reboot’ with Jack Black? Do we really, and let’s all think seriously for a moment, need yet another movie about a really, really big monkey?

Even the trailers showed Vin Diesel and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in a car chase against a cartoon submarine. Somebody helpfully pointed out that this is the eighth time such a car chase has happened! Are you telling me, with a straight face, there are eight films about exploding cars and not one audience member has thought to say “shall we just fuck off and watch something else now?” In the same universe that brought us black holes, unified field theory and the Fibonacci sequence, people are willing to work a five day week just to save up enough cash to spend on this absolute wank? Is reality that unbearable these days?

Back in Vancouver, the hostel where I worked (and, briefly, lived) had a ‘Netflix room’ where backpackers could sit in the dark and watch movies and TV instead of exploring the mountains and beaches of Hollywood North. Naturally, some people took liberties in this room. The long-suffering night staff should have kept their own blog, rife with tales of coked-up Aussies, puking Asians and on one memorable occasion, a firm knock on the door to ask a young woman to stop delivering fellatio in full view of the cctv camera (“We’re both consenting adults!” She protested. “Yes love,” said the night manager “but Im not!”).

One break time in the Netflix room, I was sitting with a German colleague as some absolutely awful piece of crap played out on the screen in front of us: two women who looked like the cover of Horse & Hound magazine sitting in a park talking about weddings.

“What,” said my German buddy, “the fuck is this?”
“I have no idea,” I assured him, “but I’d bet money that it’s Sex and the City.”

We sat through a couple of painful scenes before my German friend summed up the entire experience: “This is literally just ugly American women and pretty American buildings.” He was right. It was a cinematographer’s worst nightmare. It was Colonel Gadaffi’s elective surgery advisor’s worst nightmare.

The following day at break time, I joined the same guy in the same room. He was watching a show called Trailer Park Boys. It struck me as weird, because Sex and the City (as the dog and pony show indeed turned out to be) is essentially just ”rich people porn”, a chance to watch people whose disposable income is way higher than yours doing whatever they do**. Trailer Park Boys, with its equally ugly (spiritually as well as physically) characters is the opposite: “poverty porn”.

I’ve never sat through a full episode of either series. They might be brilliant for all I know, although I’m happy to die knowing that I was never brave enough to find out. I can’t imagine that either of them are saying anything, anymore than 80s shite like The A Team or Quincy, M.E. were saying anything (other than “look, just sit down and shut up for three-quarters-of-an-hour will ya?”)***

I understand the need for a little escapism. It’s true that buying a new toaster or watching a Shia LeBoeuf movie will provide temporary anesthesia against crippling ennui. But I can’t bring myself to believe that life is simply a series of televised or theatrically released events that are meant to distract you from the fact that you’re slowly hurtling towards death in a fallible meat suit. I’m not that cynical.

No, honestly. I’m not!


* I don’t mean ‘underground’ in a hip, punk rock kind of way. It was literally under a shopping mall.

** Mostly just shopping and getting married apparently. The British tabloids were rife with stories of young women who were hideously in debt trying to buy all of the clothes and products that featured in the programme.

***Admittedly, in the latter case, also “Christ, get it together Quincy! I solved this 40 minutes ago!”

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