It's just an appreciation of an art form!

A bit of an interesting subject came up today while Kat and I were out shopping. It's one that I've pondered for a while, and just don't have any answer or response to.

I wish that the local crew here could meet Joy and Andrew. I think that their meeting the twosome would provide some insight about me—Andrew having known me since I was 13 and Joy since I was 16. More than that, though, is their passion for movies.I can't even say that Andrew and I agree on movies. I'm not so certain that we do. But I do know this: we share a passion for cinema. Cinema: the experience of movies, the enjoyment of their craft, the telling of story and the examination of a well-trained lens.

We trade movie recommendations, he and I. I sense that he and I are equally frustrated with the banality of mainstream American cinema; we've complained, directly and indirectly, about movies for many of the years of our friendship.

I am not a movie snob. I can say that with complete authority. I have met people who are snobbish about movies, who don't see a movie if it wasn't lauded at Cannes or Sundance or received hobnobbing.

I am not a movie snob. I see it in a different light: I am passionate about cinema. Not "movies." Movies are popcorn-and-soda entertainments on weeknights, with your cats and your knitting in your lap on the sofa.

Cinema is something else entirely. It's the art of filmmaking, storytelling, depiction, pacing, scoring, and—yes, acting. It's the experience of watching movies, the story behind them, the disparate people who come together for a communal hallucination that they present to the viewer.

It is art. It is emotion. It is feeling. It is storytelling. Once you see it that way—see a movie that makes you put down your popcorn and concentrate on the story, not just whiling away your boredom on a rainy evening—you can't go back. You just can't.

It is, apparently, impossible to be passionate about cinema without being labeled a snob. I always wonder why; it's just an appreciation of an art form!

I came to movies late, but to cinema early. My parents did not go to movies, ever. From my entire childhood, I cannot think of a single movie we went to. They purchased a VCR around 1991 or 1992, when I was a teenager, and I started renting movies then—and watching them, alone, in my room, with the lights out.

But it was 1993 when the revelation came. I attended a summer camp called Governor's School, which, as part of the curriculum, required us to watch certain movies. Movies we would not have seen otherwise on our own: Easy Rider. Blade Runner. Koyaanisqatsi. Do The Right Thing.

Afterwards, we talked about the movies. What were they about? What did we see? What did the director want to tell us?

It awakened something in me that I did not fully understand, a slow metamorphosis. Friday nights, my senior year, I started going to movies. Alone, if I couldn't get someone to go with me. I found myself asking the same questions we had asked the year before: What is this movie about? What does the director want to tell me?

More often than not, the answers were: Nothing, and nothing.

I began to see similarities in plot and structure, and I became frustrated with what came to our local theatres. I wanted something new, something fresh. Films with meaning, purpose. Stories. It started becoming clear to me; like writing, quality was indefinable and unmistakable.

There was an art to writing both fiction and newspaper articles, I realized. Both take talent to do properly, but one is intended to plainly detail meaning and action, while the other is meant to be metaphorical, allegorical, and thought-provoking.

Somewhere along the way, Andrew began—or continued—the same hunt. There were enjoyable movies, and then there were good movies.

For example, the phone call that Andrew made to me one afternoon. "Amy, you need to go see Schindler's List while it's in the theatres. Don't wait for it to come out on video, and don't wait to find someone to go with you. Just go; you will regret it otherwise."

I did—I called the theatres from work and found one that was still showing the movie, and made the next-to-last showing on the next day.

I began to understand. I'm still beginning to understand. All I have is my gut feeling when I see trailers or read synopses of movies. I find myself looking for that indefinable something—a feeling that this is either a new, inventive story, or a previously-told story revisited in a compelling and thought-provoking way.

I see so little of it now. People say to me, "Oh, this was a GREAT movie!"—and I want to ask them, "But did it mean anything to you? Did it make you think? Or did it just give you an excuse to tune out of your life for eighty minutes?"

Andrew, on the other hand, seems to understand what I'm looking for. He has recommended movies to me that I have loved, and recommended movies that I hated. (There haven't been terribly many of the latter, I should add.) But I can honestly say that every movie he has recommended to me has been original, creative, thought-provoking.

I would rather have that experience—of having my thoughts, my beliefs, my expectations challenged—than to be lulled to sleep by the latest oh-so-believably-desperate love triangle involving Hollywood's favorite skeletally-thin blonde-of-the-week.

Does it always have to be challenging, though? No—one of my all-time favorite movies is "Say Anything." There is nothing challenging about the movie; it is a teenage love story. But—it is convincing; no cardboard characters or thoroughly predictable outcomes. The acting's excellent, and the portrayals are spot-on.

It's possible to write a love story without insulting the viewer's intelligence; it just doesn't happen very often.

In the meantime, I'll continue to keep up with the two critics whose judgment on movies I trust implicitly (Roger Ebert and James Berardinelli) and keep waiting for the next good one to show up in a theatre within driving distance of where I live.

Side note: go see Girlfight. It's worth your time.