A Lesson in Pacing

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A Lesson in Pacing

I had a long discussion with my daughter this evening about pacing.

She is in a film history class so she has taken to having long discussions about movies.  When we visited her sister in college, the sister’s good friend is going to school for film so they had a lot to talk about.

Tonight, though, in the wake of having watched Citizen Kane as well as a number of other films she informed me that one of her advisers dislikes the film.

“She thinks it’s too slow.”

Kane

I rolled my eyes which caused a long discussion of how I somehow, without using the words, called the adviser an idiot, classless, and probably a whole lot of other things I didn’t remember having said (because I didn’t.)

The whole thing came after I informed my kids that I got to see a Delorean on October 21st, the day Marty McFly went to the future in Back to the Future II.  

But the whole thing comes down to a discussion I’d had with an actual film director and with others in the industry. Films today are being edited, directed, and written by a post-MTV generation. The number of edits on every film is vastly different from a film cut even twenty years ago. So is the music, the pacing, and the freneticism of it.

But then . . . we also have an age when Hollywood is filled with comic book movies. I don’t dislike comic book movies, by the way, but I do leave them with a bit of exhaustion sometimes.

“So this same adviser probably hated Lawrence of Arabia because it was too slow,” I ask?  This was met with eye-rolling from her part. It was warranted, I was trying to elicit a reaction.

The thing about this entire discussion is not a generational thing nor is it cultural nor industrial.  This is just what some of these movies call for in the editing process.  The Avengers, by Marvel, would not have long, sweeping landscapes.  Yet as much as they liked that movie, Ridley Scott’s The Martian, which had those long shots, sweeping landscapes and slow moments wowed them more. “This movie deserves and Oscar,” my son said as we left the theater. I agreed.

So why do I write this? When I sit with the kids and watch an old movie, which is often – that’s our kind of habit/hobby – I don’t let them spend the whole time on video games or phones.

Citizen Kane I made my daughter look at the scene that Wells dug out the floor to put the camera low to the ground and explained – it may not be modern now . . . but it literally was groundbreaking. When directors of photography told him he couldn’t do something, Wells said “why?” Then he did it anyway.

When I bring up The Third Man, they realize that an old episode of Pinky and the Brain is completely modeled after that movie . . . and succeeds in paying homage and lampooning it at the same time.

Sure, we don’t have as many epic movies. Ben Hur would be a miniseries, not a movie. Spartacus turned into a bloody spectacle of a show, alternative to the Kubrick version.

Life is quick today, so it’s obvious that media, movies and everything are reflective of that.

But then . . . we sat and watched Back to the Future this evening, on the same day the Marty went to the future, and this was not an edit frenzy. It was pretty amazing, though, and complicated, and tackled a lot of issues and made you pay attention to the story in #1 and #2.

This after they loved Shaun the Sheep, which wasn’t quick, either. It was paced out and funny and sweeping in its small model way and they loved it!

Slower isn’t necessarily worse . . . and quicker isn’t necessarily better.  My daughter walked away, smiling, because we’d come to the conclusion together that the answer to this debate was, like so many things, somewhere in-between.

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