Here at SnarkCriticPop, we watch and talk a LOT of movies. Upon occasion watching a movie feels like an obligation for the sake of a good blog (see: Streets of Fire), and I can kind of see why some movie critics hate movies. I don’t hate movies, but I would like to talk about a fine, seldom used alternative to movie watching, a little something I like to call: READING.
I did some quick research on Wikipedia, and I discovered some interesting facts regarding reading: Did you know that reading was invented by Thomas Edison as a method of exploiting his invention called papyrus, which we now refer to as paper? Blind people had actually been reading lips for several years prior to Edison, but since they could not find the patent office until it was too late, Edison owns the trademark on reading which is why blind people and astute readers like me have to pay a fee to Edison’s estate any time we read something. (Okay Wikipedia’s not quite THAT bad, but any resource where Howie Mandel can be a contributor on John Adams I don’t trust . . .)
One book I’ve recently been reading is A Year At The Movies by Kevin Murphy. Murphy, for those who don’t know, is one of the writers and stars of my favorite TV show of all time, Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), playing the robot Tom Servo and Professor Bobo the Gorilla.
More recently, Murphy is one third of the Rifftrax trio, more or less a rehash of MST3K. For a decade Murphy made a living watching wretched movies and made fun of them on MST3K, so this is a man who feels that he is capable of accomplishing the most difficult of cinematic challenges. As the title suggests, A Year At The Movies has Murphy watching one movie MINIMUM a day for an entire calendar year (in 2001). Talk about cinematic masochism!
Among the experiences Murphy chronicles is going to a film festival, watching movies on planes, the smallest theater in the world, and — a personal favorite — the horrors of watching movies from the front row of a megaplex. Murphy details the physical discomfort of watching a movie from the front row as well as how one’s eyes cannot adjust properly to the screen, an experience I’ve had as well the one time I was forced to the front row due to there being no other seats available (on the opening night for the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie). Other topics include: Visiting a theater in an igloo, working in a megaplex (which Murphy does briefly for research), visiting a ninety year old silent theater in Australia, and living off theater food (yikes!).
An example of the kind of humor in the book is when, after watching a documentary containing “the most lucid description of Zen I have ever encountered,” Murphy writes: “It seems I actually understand something about Zen! Of course, the smugger I get about it, the less I seem to have learned.”
If ever there were light, film related subject crying out for a documentary, this is it. Murphy is incredibly funny, and I’d actually love to see some of these remote, exotic locations he talks about in the book. Heck, send along Murphy’s fellow MST3K alumni and Rifftrax cohorts Michael J. Nelson and Bill Corbett and you’d be guaranteed a hilarious experience. Ah, if only I ran Hollywood . . .
This is a great book for those astute enough to appreciate that how the movie is viewed greatly impacts how the movie can and is enjoyed. There are some comments on specific films both for the positive and the negative, but A Year at the Movies is about different, shared, unique, and common theatrical experiences. It’s a must-own for MST3K faithful like Yours Truly, and a must read for movie lovers.
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