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The Concept of Time and Watching Movies

I like to think about time. You can’t renew it, you can only live it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Sure, you can relive it in your memory, but essentially you’re retreading ground you’ve already traversed, a journey that can only be new once. Although revisiting an event, book, movie, painting, etc. can be valuable, you can only experience it for the first time once.


Like many things in life, you can only attempt to make the best of time, filling it (as much as possible) with those things you enjoy and allow you personal growth.

I think about the amount of time I spend watching movies and reading books, but today, let’s focus on movies. We all watch them for different reasons, but I believe most of us simply want to be entertained. While we’re entertained we can also be moved, comforted, angered, confused, delighted, or bored. Maybe you’re infuriated that you’ve spent two hours with a film that you thought was going to be worthwhile, yet ended up disappointing you. Perhaps you made an unexpected discovery in a place you never expected to visit.

During the last week or so I spent a portion of my time watching seven movies. For some of you reading this, that’s a lot. Others can knock out seven movies in a couple of days (or less). What’s important here (at least for me in this post) is not the number of films, but the motivation and expectation for watching them, and what I take away from the experience. Why did I decide to watch this particular movie on this particular day rather than another? Why didn’t I do something else with my time, like read, work on my World of Frankenstein puzzle, or walk upstairs to my office and do some writing?

And what did I come away with after watching these movies? What did I learn? Should I learn something? Can’t I just enjoy the experience?

Many of these movies I own on DVD or Blu-ray, films that have been sitting around on my shelves that I’ve finally decided to watch. One was a recommendation from a friend. Here’s what I saw and what I learned:

The Lighthouse (2019) recommended to me by my coworker Matthew

For several months Matthew has told me of his love for this movie, asking from time to time whether I’d seen it yet. The answer was always “No, but I want to eventually.” I like Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, but had never seen a film directed by Robert Eggers. Matthew praised the acting, the Jarin Blaschke cinematography, and the Robert Eggers and Max Eggers script, all of which sounded wonderful. I was convinced it was a movie I should and eventually would see, but I didn’t know when I’d carve out time for it. I don’t own it, but the library does. No urgency, or at least that’s what I thought.

But when someone starts quoting from a movie, that elicits one of two responses in me: (1) run far away, or (2) see the movie as soon as possible. Matthew isn’t the type of guy to burst into long soliloquies of dialogue, but just from the type of writing he was reciting and the fact that it was coming from Willem Dafoe, I knew I had to see The Lighthouse soon. Maybe I was afraid Matthew was going to get into spoiler territory (He wasn’t; he’s too much of a movie lover to do that to another movie lover.), but I think what drove me to check the DVD out from the library was the yearning to hear Dafoe deliver those lines in a confined space with black-and-white cinematography.

Bottom line: The film is stunning, filled with more than enough to keep me thinking about it for a long, long time. And yes, eventually I plan to own this and revisit it. I don’t have the time or space to explore my reactions here, but this is a tremendous film. Thank you, Matthew.

Time well spent? Yes.

Turner & Hooch (1989) suggested to me by a local family

“Suggested” is probably not the best word, but it’s the closest one I can come up with. A friend recently added to his family a French mastiff. When he was telling me about the puppy, he said, “You know, like the dog in Turner & Hooch.” I’d never seen the film when it was released and had little interest in seeing it, but it looked fun, and I’m always interested in checking out something I’d missed from the 1980s, so when I saw the DVD at the used bookstore recently, I caved.

The movie has a certain charm, the dog is cute, but the script is painfully formulaic, and I can take only so much of Tom Hanks shouting. I was, however, delighted to see John McIntire in one of his last roles.

Time well spent? Not particularly.

All That Heaven Allows (1955) An ex-library Criterion DVD that had been sitting on the shelf for at least five years

Besides the film noir Lured (1947), my first Douglas Sirk drama/melodrama was The Tarnished Angels (1957), a beguiling picture based on William Faulkner’s novel Pylon. Next was the moving There’s Always Tomorrow (1956), followed by Written on the Wind (1956), which I immediately bought on Blu-ray after watching. Then along came All That Heaven Allows that simply destroyed me beyond my wildest dreams. Now I want to see all of Sirk’s films, particularly everything I’ve missed from the mid-1950s through Imitation of Life (1959). I haven’t rewatched any of these films, but the way Sirk combines yearning, anguish, and stunning color combinations, all on a wondrous widescreen canvas, totally slays me.

Time well spent? Absolutely.

Never Take Candy from a Stranger (1960) Part of the Mill Creek Hammer Films - Ultimate Collection Blu-ray box set

Somewhere along my journey through the Mill Creek box set Hammer Films - Ultimate Collection, I stalled out, yet Never Take Candy (Sweets in the UK title) from a Stranger renewed my faith in the box set. Perhaps you can’t accurately call this a horror film, but it’s one of the most disturbing and effective Hammer pictures I’ve ever seen.

Time well spent? Yes.

Castle Keep (1969) Blu-ray from an Indicator sale, probably two sales ago

Castle Keep is too ambitious for me. Burt Lancaster stars as Major Falconer, an army officer leading a stunningly odd assortment of American soldiers to shelter down in a Belgian castle filled with priceless art. There’s an impotent Count (Jean-Pierre Aumont) living in the castle, a Countess (Astrid Heeren), a corporal (Scott Wilson) carrying on a love affair with a Volkswagen Beetle, a sergeant (Peter Falk) who leaves his fellow soldiers to run (or return to?) a bakery, a group of hymn-singing conscientious objectors led by a lieutenant (Bruce Dern), and more. I enjoyed the savagery of war vs. the fragility of art theme, and the film frequently looks gorgeous, but on the whole it’s one of those artistic messes that only the late ‘60s and early ‘70s could get away with.

Time well spent? No.

To Kill a Man (2014) DVD picked up on vacation at a library sale

This Chilean-French revenge film follows a man named Jorge (Daniel Candia, above) who lives in a bad part of town terrorized by a criminal gang. After witnessing his dad being harassed by the gang’s leader Kalule (Daniel Antivilo), Jorge’s teenage son stands up for his father, but gets shot trying to defend him. More a story of family alienation and moral murkiness than revenge, To Kill a Man often drags and seems very distant. Maybe that’s the point. Perhaps I should revisit this one.

Time well spent? Maybe.

Tron (1982) DVD from the library’s Lost and Found, never claimed

A rewatch. While I enjoyed the visuals of this movie, which I originally saw on VHS in the mid-1980s, I found the story and dialogue tiresome. I know this is a well-loved movie for many people, but I wish I’d left it where it was in my memory from the ‘80s.

Time well spent? No.

Maybe it’s due the my season of life, but I’m looking at all the unwatched movies (and unread books), asking myself, “Is this worth my time?” Sure, sometimes you want to watch something you know is going to be bad, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’m beginning to question some of my movie-watching choices.

How do you decide what to watch? Do you have a system? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading.

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Hi Andy, I wanted to comment to say I really appreciated this piece because it's something I considered a lot when I started watching more movies, and it ties into why I tried to cut down on the amount of TV I watch. I've never thought 4 Star Films was a great name for my site when I came up with it, but I do still hold by the intention. I wanted to watch "good" movies be they beautiful, truthful, entertaining, etc. I don't really believe in high or low art, but a lot of different films have their own merits. I think Manny Farber talked about Termite and Elephant art and somehow that might apply to this discussion. I…

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Tynan, thanks for stopping by, and I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I agree that all kinds of films contain their own merits. This is one of the aspects of movies I try to instill in our in-person movie presentations as well as our virtual movie discussions. People (including myself) often carry an expectation of what a movie is going to be or do, then are disappointed that it didn't meet that expectation. I think sometimes it's hard for us to simply go with the director/writer/painter, etc., but we must make the attempt. Thanks for the C.S. Lewis book recommendation. I've read a fair amount of Lewis, but this is new to me. I will definitely check it out. Thanks…

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