- Area: Humanities
- Program: Composition
- Type of Writing: Memoir
- Course Level: 1000
- English Speaking Nativeness: Native
- Year: 2019
- Paper ID: H.C.M.1.N.2.1.1896
Ars Gratia Artis
“Art for art’s sake” is the translation of this Latin phrase which can be found written on the banner above the lion’s head on the MGM logo. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is one of the world’s oldest film studios. What is the meaning of this phrase? Different sources have slightly different interpretations, but my favorite comes from Dictionary.com: “A slogan meaning that the beauty of the fine arts is reason enough for pursuing them…” We consume art simply for the sake of consuming art. This is emphatically how I feel about movies.
As I sat at my computer thinking of how to organize my flood of thoughts, senses, memories and passions connected to cinema, a quote from the movie The Majestic kept coming to mind. Character Harry Trimble stands inside the abandoned movie theater: “That’s why we call it The Majestic. Any man, woman, child could buy their ticket, walk right in. Here they’d be, here we’d be. “Yes sir, yes ma’am. Enjoy the show.” And in they’d come entering a palace, like in a dream, like in heaven. Maybe you had worries and problems out there, but once you came through those doors, they didn’t matter anymore.”
I absolutely love my life. It’s busy and crazy and messy and chaotic, but it’s full of life and love. I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t get overwhelmed or tired. Going to a movie gives me a release from most cares and responsibilities. My husband and I used to be more creative in our date nights. As our family has grown and the demands on us have increased, we find more and more that movies are our refuge. We attend movies almost weekly as our preferred date activity. I look forward to it every week. Our small escape from the piles of dirty laundry, the stacks of dirty dishes or the overloaded calendar for the week. My short solace from my adorably clingy little ones or the too-grown-up problems I can’t always fix for my older kids.
The smell of warm, buttery fresh popcorn that meets me when we first set foot inside the theater immediately begins to calm my mind and body. My entire being anticipates my life-intermission. There is a dull buzz of excitement in the theater as other movie-goers prepare for their own experiences. Once tickets are purchased and concessions are collected, we head to our auditorium. I am unburdened as we pass our tickets to the usher who we warmly and genuinely bid a good evening to. If time allows, we stop in the booth or in front of a film display to take a light-hearted picture. We then make our way to our assigned movie house (usually making a pitstop at the restroom so we can enjoy the movie in its entirety). At last we enter the vast chamber. The dim lights of the space add to the tranquil atmosphere. We find our assigned seats and wait for it to begin. As our film of choice for that evening unfolds, we connect to those around us as we laugh together, gasp together, jump together, or even cry together. When the picture ends, my husband and I engage in a profound conversation on the events we’ve just witnessed. Of course, we conclude whether it was a “good” movie or not, but we probe into the intricacies. Even “bad” movies usually contain good parts, whether artful or strictly entertaining. Likewise, good movies usually have shortcomings. We discuss it all. We revel in our entire experience.
As movies have become the cliché date activity, one might assume they are cost-effective, but viewing movies in theaters can be pricey. On a Friday or Saturday night, two movie tickets, a large popcorn, and two medium drinks runs about $40 at a local Megaplex or Cinemark theater. If you want to add one or two of those small boxes of candy that you can get at the dollar store, it will cost you about $4 each box. But my husband and I have spent enough time in cinematic experiences to have found some tricks. All theaters in the Salt Lake area offer $5 Tuesdays. Any regular 2D movie is only five dollars a ticket. Both Cinemark and Megaplex theaters offer a refillable popcorn bucket which you pay more for upfront but can refill inexpensively. We went with the Megaplex tub. The initial price was $30 but refills are only $3. The standard large tub costs $7 (although it does come with a free refill). Two years ago, we were gifted with two refillable Megaplex mugs which can be refilled for only a dollar. We also buy candy from the dollar store to take with us. Shhh… that’s naughty. So, while the average human spends more than $40 for a movie theater experience, we only pay $15.
What about other movie experiences that are not date nights? As our family is very large (ten people) it is incredibly expensive to attend a movie as a family, but most our kids enjoy movies as much as we do. For this reason, we began a tradition of a Thanksgiving movie. We began this tradition about seven years ago. The first couple years, we attended an evening movie, after our Thanksgiving dinners. In an effort to make the outing more affordable as well as be more thoughtful consumers, we switched to matinee movies the morning of Thanksgiving Day. Even still, we spend over $100 every year on this family custom. It is well-worth it though. My kids look forward to it every year. Months before Thanksgiving, we begin seeing trailers for movies that will be released around the holiday and my kids begin lobbying for their pick. They get almost as excited about the entire experience as my husband and I do. The popcorn, the drinks, the candy… The smells, the trailers, the music, the other people… However, the question has been raised of whether this is a fair consumer exercise. In order for us to fulfill this established practice, other people are forced to work on a holiday which they might otherwise be spending at home with their families. I recognize that not everyone wants to work on a holiday, but what about those that are happy or even in need of the holiday pay? Some might say I am justifying, but I know that this is the case with many employees. Also, as we have moved our viewing to the morning, we are no longer forcing people to miss their family time for dinner.
We don’t limit our movie-watching to theaters or date nights or holidays. We are avid at-home viewers as well. One of our favorite family-night activities is to turn a movie on and have a carpet picnic. We have finger foods for dinner, such as cut up fruits and vegetables and something like hot dogs or chicken tenders for the entrée. Our kids devour this fairly healthy meal as we sit together and savor the time with each other. Occasionally, my husband and I are unable to attend our date night in the theater. On nights like this, we will visit the theater solely for the purpose of filling our popcorn bucket. We will then grab a Redbox and return home to watch our movie there.
Tim Burton, the famous director of Edward Scissorhands and the live-action Alice in Wonderland movies, once said, “Certain things leave you in your life and certain things stay with you. And that’s why we’re all interested in movies – those ones that make you feel, you still think about. Because it gave you such an emotional response, it’s actually part of your emotional make-up in a way.” Why is it that movies can bring out such strong emotions? As we watch a naïve girl walk down a haunted hallway, followed closely by a ghostly apparition, why are we filled with such fear? Logically we know that person is in no real danger. We are also in no real danger. The spectral is not going to magically materialize to torment us in the real world. How about the edge-of-your-seat feeling we experience as we anxiously watch an intense car chase scene? The person on screen isn’t really at risk of harm. Psychologists say that our brains are ancient compared with the invention of movies. Although we can consciously discern that what we are seeing is make-believe, the parts of the brain that process emotion are not aware of the difference.
Is there a problem with consuming so many movies? Some people believe so. I’m sure most of us are familiar with the claim that movies can lead to increased aggression. Some say intense horror or action movies can bring out our “fight or flight” response. This can increase our blood pressure along other negative health effects. (Benjamin, 2016) What about effects on society as a whole? Platt College has a list of eleven films and the specific impact they had on popular culture. This list includes the decrease in hunting brought about by Bambi, the formation of real fight clubs after the release of Fight Club, and the hacktivist group Anonymous that was inspired by V for Vendetta. (Englehardt) Other ways film has affected society include propaganda forced by Hitler and Stalin. This is presented in an article found on Our Movie Life titled “How Do Movies Affect Society?” But not all effects of movies are bad. This article also notes things like expanding knowledge, product advertisement, and bolstering our economy. The economy is positively affected in many ways. Not only do ticket and concession sales provide taxes, the movie industry provides countless jobs. Direct employees such as actors, studio employees, film crews, and theater personnel, but also indirect jobs such as nannies, managers and agents hired by direct employees of the industry which would otherwise not be needed. (Poutyboy, 2017)
I love movies and recognize most of the pros and cons. I try to be a conscientious consumer of the film industry. It may seem contradictory to claim films to have a positive impact on the economy after listing ways we avoid paying full price for our trips to the theater, but we do occasionally pay full price for everything, like when we take our entire family for Thanksgiving. Also, I take into consideration the number of times we attend movies. Between the number of trips we take, combined with the astronomical amount we pay on Thanksgiving, we contribute much to the film industry.
“We love films because they make us feel something. They speak to our desires, which are never small. They allow us to escape and to dream and to gaze into the eyes that are impossibly beautiful and huge. They fill us with longing. But also. They tell us to remember; they remind us of life. Remember, they say, how much it hurts to have your heart broken.” ― Nina LaCour, Everything Leads to You
Benjamin, Kathy. “5 Scientific Ways Watching Movies Effects You.” Pajiba. September 3, 2016.
Englehardt, Natasha. “Film and Society: How Films Impact Society and Popular Culture.” Platt
PoutyBoy. “How Do Movies Affect Society?” Our Movie Life. January 15, 2017.