When is a Movie Just a Movie?
February 25, 2014
(The shortened opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. We've all seen people have heart attacks...
(Cut to two images: a man yelling at his laptop computer and another man punching his fist through the screen of his laptop)
NC (vo): ...on message boards, forums...
(Cut to clips of a recorded lecture on George Lucas being "a little devil disguised"; images of George Lucas are shown, along with fan art of Jar Jar Binks)
NC (vo): ...or even sometimes in person...
Lecturer: A lot of people view George Lucas as the Antichrist.
NC (vo): ...about what many of us think are just the stupidest things!
(Cut to a montage of interviews)
NC (vo): Comic books, TV shows...
(Cut to a shot of a roll of film)
NC (vo): ...and closest to my heart, movies.
(Cut to a montage of people complaining about movies)
NC (vo): People throw insults back and forth, they scream and yell.
(Cut to a clip of Siskel and Ebert's review show)
NC (vo): Even some of the world's most famous critics got in battles over images and sounds projected on the screen!
Roger Ebert: My God, this movie was awful!
Gene Siskel: Oh, no, Roger–
Siskel: Oh, Roger!
Siskel: Roger, this is–
Siskel: What happened to your sense of humor?
Ebert: I can't talk about it. Can't talk about it!
NC: So, why do we get so emotional over fictional media? Why do we get so invested in something we know doesn't exist? And on top of that, should we?
(Cut to a shot of the poster for Patch Adams)
NC (vo): When is it right to say this is a horrible representation of something important... (Cut to a shot of the poster for Pocahontas) ...and when is it right to say it's only a movie?
(Cut to a montage of movie clips - not sure of the titles, though; they include Ed Wood, Fargo and To Kill a Mockingbird)
NC (vo): When film first began, nobody looked to critique it or analyze its storytelling elements. They were just too blown away by how powerful the illusion was. Of course, overtime, as we get used to that illusion, we've done better to analyze the impact films could have on us. We got invested in people, stories and even hidden meanings. (Cut to a clip of the mirror scene from Citizen Kane) Charles Foster Kane walking in front of a mirror isn't just Charles Foster Kane walking in front of a mirror. It can be a visual symbol of the empty abyss that's reflected back to him during such a dark period of his life. But from another point of view, it very well can be just a guy walking in front of a mirror. That's what makes films such a great art form. It can be both. Film can be whatever you want it to be.
(Cut to a montage of clips and images of Star Wars fan works: cosplays, artwork, scene reenactments, etc.)
NC (vo): With that said, though, is it really worth getting so angry over someone's fictional portrayal of something? When you get down to it, it's not hurting you. (Cut to a shot of the Shrek 3D film) As good as 3D as God is yet to actually leap out of the screen and beat the shit out of you.
(Cut to footage of A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott as Scrooge)
NC (vo): But of all characters, Ebeneezer Scrooge from the George C. Scott version of Christmas Carol brings up this interesting rebuttal.
Ghost of Christmas Past: But not a real child to talk to. Not a living person.
Scrooge: Robinson Crusoe not real? (chuckles) And Friday? And the parrot? Green body and yellow tail? Not real?
NC (vo): And that's very true. The pen can be mightier than the sword.
(Cut to footage of the closing scene of Toy Story 3)
NC (vo): Stories can change our minds and shape who we are. In a bizarre way, we see much more truth in fiction than we do in reality. It takes our lives, which have no writers, and tries to give great understanding and even purpose to them. And that's something to greatly admire and learn from. (Cut to footage of Her) But when is the line between fiction and reality too blurred? When does a character become too real?
(Cut to some shots of various people dressed as and pretending to be fictional characters)
NC (vo): Sure, people dress up as famous fictional icons and even make up worlds to visit, play and pretend in, but they still come back to reality. What about those who let the illusion consume them? (Cut to footage of the online game Life 2.0) You know who I'm talking about. We've seen many instances, both with movies and online worlds, where people choose to give up on reality and instead live in the fictional world either someone else has created or they created themselves.
Female interviewee: It becomes a problem when you ignore your first life.
NC (vo): And many would say, as long as it's not hurting anyone, why can't someone just shut themselves in their rooms, never come out, and live in the fictional world of Middle Earth, Avatar, or their own creations? After all, movies, games, and any sort of fiction is just a means to escape reality, right?
NC: Well, as popular as that argument is, I strongly disagree with it.
(Cut to a clip of No Country For Old Men, showing Carla Jean Moss and Anton Chigurh in a room together, the latter mostly in shadow. We are also shown clips from The Wizard of Oz, Hugo, and Dumb and Dumber)
NC (vo): The purpose of fiction is to help us understand reality, not escape it. It's getting into a different time and place to help you understand life lessons. We give into the world of Oz to realize there's no place like home. We give into the world of No Country For Old Men to realize the darkness of the human mind might be getting even emptier. There's so many different lessons and different ways to learn them. Even journeys that seemed to have no point like in some comedies... (Cut to clips of the Super Mario Bros. game) ...or even a few video games. They serve as an outlet to get a few laughs or a little bit of fun at the time, tying back to the illusion helping you in real life, not abandoning your life for the illusion. Playing the game and getting your heart going makes you realize you need a little excitement in your life. And laughing at the misfortunes of what seems like a pointless comedy can demonstrate that you need something more upbeat in your life. Again, different kinds of stories for different times of acceptance.
NC: But that's all fine and good when reality dips into fiction; what about when fiction dips into reality?
(Cut to footage of Tombstone)
NC (vo): What about when it's trying to tell a true story, representing a person or people that really existed? Tombstone, the story of Wyatt Earp, I think, is an awesome movie, but even I know it's highly romanticized, made up quite a few things to make the story more entertaining. Isn't that sort of crossing a line when you're actually depicting a real person who existed, saying that, scene for scene, this is what happened in his life? Well, there has to be an understanding that no film, book or any written story can fully capture a person. The goal is to capture the spirit of a person or an event because that's as close as we can get.
(Cut to a shot of the poster for Dallas Buyers Club, with the message "Inspired by true events")
NC (vo): That's why we never say, "This is a true story"... (Cut to the phrase "Based on a true story") ...instead it's based on a true story.
(Cut to footage of Braveheart)
NC (vo): And yes, many could get angry at the stuff that's made up about these real-life people, but for others, the focus is to capture a person's spirit through some fiction and emphasize their important actions through a more comprehensible, emotional journey. The importance to identify and be with them throughout the entire journey, for many, outweighs changing some of the facts.
(Cut to footage of Pearl Harbor, as well as footage of Titanic, and a snippet of NC's epic rant against the director of Pearl Harbor, Michael Bay)
NC (vo): This, naturally, can backfire as well. I went on a big rant about Michael Bay for not putting emphasis on the men who died at Pearl Harbor, when a shocking fact that some of them couldn't swim was just glanced over in a line instead of being delved into, like, say, Titanic delves into the shortage of lifeboats. There were several scenes emphasizing the poor safety of the Titanic, so you can understand the tragedy of the event even better. In Pearl Harbor, it's tossed to the side so they can focus more on the love triangle taking place with the fictional characters that (irritably) doesn't even take place on Pearl Harbor! (normal again) This seemed disrespectful because the fictional characters in Titanic seem to help the emotional connection with what the people went through during that event. You remember so many of the real human beings that were on the ship, seeing them through the eyes of the fictional characters that you almost feel you've become. In Pearl Harbor, I barely remember any of the people who died, and that's missing the point of the story. That's when a real-life representation can go too far, when it doesn't capture the focus or spirit of what the person or event could represent the most powerfully. (Cut to two separate clips, one of Her and one of Pearl Harbor) So we have reality interpreting fiction and fiction interpreting reality, but that still leaves the question...
NC: When is a story just a story, and when is it more than a story?
(Cut to a montage of filmed footage of Star Wars fandom)
NC (vo): Perhaps, like anything in life, the answer is, when you feel it can benefit you, let it benefit you, and when you feel what you're watching is nonsense, just let it be nonsense. Yes, we've seen many stories that we loved be butchered over time, but that doesn't mean the strength of the original story isn't there. That doesn't mean you can't let it impact you for the best. Just let sink in what you think is the most important out of fiction. That's what it's there for.
(Cut to footage of the incoming Japanese planes in Pearl Harbor)
NC (vo): And yes, it is good to analyze why a story didn't work, as it helps us understand and appreciate why good stories do. How can you help others tell better tales if you don't explain the problems of the lesser ones?
NC: And yes, sometimes, people can go (slight pause; looking around shiftily) a bit...too...far... (smiles nervously)
(Cut to a clip of the NC's review of Pearl Harbor: the height of his epic rant against Michael Bay)
NC: (screaming) YOU SON OF A BIIIIIIIIITCH!!!!!!
(Cut back to the present-day NC)
NC: But the more we show our passion for it, the more we show how much it means to us.
(Cut to footage of Hugo)
NC (vo): And if something means so much to another person, let it mean so much to them. Don't force your opinion, offer it. Don't demand your voice be heard, share it. Movies can be so powerful if we let them affect us in the right way. But if they consume you more than you consume them, then chances are you're not choosing the healthy route.
(Cut to a clip of Siskel and Ebert's review show and a clip of Toy Story 3)
NC (vo): So, yes, a movie can be just a movie, and it can be something more, depending on how you look at it. What it comes down is, what you allow it to have an impact on you. And you do have that choice to pick and choose. Whatever makes you better, embrace it; whatever makes you worse, push away.
NC: It's like the song goes...
(Cut to footage of the opening for MST3K)
Singers: If you're wondering how he eats and breathes, and other science facts, la la la, just repeat to yourself, "It's just a show, I should really just relax..."
(Cut to footage of Fargo and To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as an image of the poster for Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
NC (vo): It's a give-and-take, trial-and-error process that can leave you with the most fulfilling feeling every time you take a trip to the movies. Sometimes, it's worth just leaving it as background noise. But other times, it's worth allowing it to leave its impact in the best way you didn't even know possible.
(Cut to a clip of Ed Wood)
Ed Wood: That's a wrap!
(Cut back to the NC)
NC: Unless I don't think it's good, in which case it's crap. I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. (gets up from his chair and leaves)