Belief is a funny thing. One person may think something is the most brilliant book, movie or song they have ever heard and another person will read, watch or hear the exact same thing and think their head has just been raped by evil spirits.
Part of the fun of movies is showing the people you like (or least want to throw screaming from the top of a building) the films they generally wouldn’t watch if you weren’t in their lives. The other part is full of pain, humiliation and memories that you wish a swift kick to the skull would erase.
I enjoy an eclectic mix of movies. I can watch the popcorn pulp and generally get just as much enjoyment out of it as a snooty art house indie because there is more to enjoying a movie than just what’s being spewed out by the projector. Some of the best movie experiences of my life were during the worst films ever made just because of the people I saw them with. If I had seen them alone, I know I wouldn’t have had as much fun because chances are I would have walked away from the experience with either a face full of mace or a loss of the will to go on living.
Of course, just because you enjoyed a movie doesn’t mean that love will transfer by osmosis to the rest of the people in the room. If the movie sucks to the majority of the people in the group, the evening is not going to turn out good and they are going to blame the whole thing on you. The only way you’ll be able to win them back is if you can control people’s minds or are carrying some sort of a concealed weapon.
Last New Year’s Day while my friends and I were sprawled out on my friend’s couch like war casualties waiting for service in an HMO waiting room, we watched movies to pass the time. This friend has an entertainment system that if he dies, I’m going to insist he leaves to me in his will…that is, if he really cared about me. A plasma television, huge speakers, a Blu-Ray player, a TiVo that acts as his media slut and a satellite hook up with 2 billion channels that will allow him to witness any event in the history of the world as it happens that we end up it to watch loud rednecks pitching pocketknives on the Home Shopping Network at two in the morning.
We’re flipping around for something to watch when he flips past The Big Lebowski. I’ve seen it more times than my own beer gut, but my friends never have, so I insist we watch it. One of them asks me, “Are you sure this is any good?” with a treble of foreboding in his voice.
I insist that it’s funny. Then my friend, like a gerbil walking through Richard Gere’s house, cautiously made his way over toward the movie.
We caught the movie about a third of the way through just at the part when Julianne Moore makes her entrance, so I had to explain to everyone the plot thus far, which is fairly twisted and complicated if you haven’t seen the whole thing for yourself. Moore plays a feminist artist who is the daughter of the rich Jeffrey Lebowski, so to my friends, this film could have been a screening of The Vagina Monologues starring Some Old British Chick You’ve Never Heard of Talking About Her Vajajay. A sense of bewildered confusion hung in the air like a broccoli fart.
Then the film kicks into gear and all of the funny parts fall without a single laugh. John Goodman tells Steve Buscemi “Shut the #&$% up, Donnie.” No one laughs. Jesus licks the bowling ball to the rhythm of a Spanish version of “Hotel California.” No one laughs. The Dude wrecks his car after a joint falls in his crotch. No one even measures a chuckle.
Not even me. I’m too embarrassed to laugh. I felt like everyone in the room was glaring at me and picturing me in a French beret and a black and white striped shirt smoking some fruity sounding cigarette brand and turning my nose up so high at them, I can smell the back of my head.
I wanted to give my friends the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to just chalk it up to a misunderstanding over the fact they didn’t see the whole thing beginning to end. I wanted to just calling the whole thing off as a temporary brain lockdown since just before we flipped the channel over, we were watching the end of Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector and trying to get over such horror is like trying to erase the sound of your first born baby’s death rattle from your mind.
I couldn’t because to acknowledge it would deny me what I believed to be true. They were wrong and I was right. End of story. Roll credits.
I just kept it to myself. Everyone walked away from the crime scene where the laughter died quietly and I stay in my comfy cushiony spot on the sofa knowing full well I was able to grasp concepts and emotions far above the heads of mere mortal men. When I see Jeff Bridges taking a coffee cup to the head, I see more than just slapstick humor and comedy that lets us laugh at someone else’s pain. I see the very face of God.
Long story short, it’s good to be me and it sucks to be you. Deal with it dude.