I went to my very first movie in a Japanese movie theater about 2 weeks ago. It was pretty much the same as an American theater, so no new insights there. But it did serve to remind me of how isolated I feel here. Not only do I feel like I’m in an entertainment vacuum, but when did it become a HUGE event for me to go to a movie? I mean, aside from the midnight show of Return of the King, which was really more like a big party. Yet here I am, trying to carefully choose the next movie I may venture out to see in a month or so. It’s $18 a ticket and I don’t want to pick the wrong one – it has to be worth it. Perhaps this attitude has given me some perspective on my choice of entertainment.

I’ve also been renting a lot of movies lately (which is MUCH cheaper), and something has occurred to me. Hollywood is serving up a lot of garbage in recent years. Yet we pay for it because the trailers tell us we should. Instead of thinking through just which movie is worthy of our time and money, we waste our resources on practically all of them. The trailer is funny, so the actual movie must be hilarious. The trailer is scary, so the actual movie must be terrifying. And we end up going every week only to be disappointed in the long run. Oh, we may say right after the movie, “That was really good!” or “I really enjoyed that.” And we’ll keep thinking that until the next time we watch a TRULY good film. Then we’re reminded of how far that movie we saw last week falls short.

So this is what I’ve learned in Japan about film: 1) Not every film that claims to be good is and 2) The people who make movies don’t really care about entertaining you; they just want your money. To some of you this may sound incredibly simple and logical. To others, it probably sounds cynical and wrong coming from me. But I needed to learn all this. I forgot that movie-making is largely big business. I forgot that a trailer editor’s job is to manipulate you. I forgot that celebrities (for the most part) have houses and habits and lifestyles to pay for. I fell victim to one of the classic blunders: advertising lies.

Before I get a bunch of outraged comments, let me just say that I don’t mean to apply this to EVERY director/actor/writer out there. In fact, it makes me appreciate the great ones even more. Thank goodness for the Coen Brothers, David Mamet and Laura Linney, all professionals who take their craft seriously. I’m sure you all can name several others.

But back to my original point, perhaps we ALL need to rethink how we choose which movie to see. Do we want to continue to be gluttons, consuming everything that comes out? If we DO continue this way, Hollywood will only get worse. How many of you have said in recent years, “Wow, I don’t think there’s anything out there this year worthy of a Best Picture Oscar”? I know you’ve said it, because you’ve often said it to me. And I have agreed. It’s rare for anything decent to come out before Thanksgiving. I know that part of this is the Academy’s fault. They tend to ignore anything released before November, so why release anything great in the dead of February? But just because they’ve given up doesn’t mean we have to. It took an $18 ticket to make me realize this. Suddenly it’s too expensive to go to just any old movie. I need to expect more for what I’m spending. And I’m not just talking about money. It’s those 2 hours that you lose watching a piece of crap, too. 2 hours you will never get back.

So let’s rally, shall we? Let’s tell Hollywood just what we think of the recycled garbage they are serving us. Let’s repeat those infamous words spoken by Peter Finch in Network, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Shout it from your windows and rooftops! Shout it from the corner of Hollywood and Vine! I’d shout it from here in Yao, but no one will understand what I’m saying. So I leave it up to you.

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