3 March 2009

Who's Baxter And The Blue Sweater, or: How The Wife And I Watch Movies.

They'll be no getting out of seeing Watchmen when it
comes out. Not only am I curious, but Orcidgrl says
she wants to see it to.

This makes me apprehensive. Not because a large part
of the comic book's mystique is untranslatable to film
(it is). And not just because this Zack Snyder doesn't
impress me (not yet he doesn't*). But because Orcidgrl
and I watch movies and television completely and utterly
differently, and neither she nor I are in for a smooth
ride with Watchmen.

Let's get this straight: I married a VERY smart girl.
I'm not talking smarts. When Orcidgrl and I started
watching television together, one of the first DVD sets
we tried was The West Wing, a personal favourite of mine.
I own every season but number 5. The wife has a near-
perfect English vocabulary, but I knew "near-perfect"
might not cut it. And I knew she was ignorant of the
U.S. political fabric, then again probably no more so
than the average U.S. citizen. But I never suspected
how much another factor would play into her inability
to follow the show at times.

We can watch a scene where Sam tells someone, "I have
a meeting in an hour. Baxter's holding out for more
money." Then, after another, unrelated scene, Sam can
enter a room and greet someone without an exchange of
names. IF there's been plenty of fast dialogue in
between all that, my wife will not know that the new
character's name is Baxter. When he is referenced some
twenty minutes later by name, she will have to ask me,
"Who's Baxter?"

Names don't stick with her. By and large, plot points
that are described in advance, or, in the case of bad
filmmaking, ONLY described, do not stick with her.
What makes us perfect as a viewing couple is that I am
completely OPPOSITE. I tend to SEE the script as I'm
watching. No film is too dense for me, if there's
enough talking in it. While everyone I know complained
that the movie Syriana was indecipherable, I'm fairly
sure I could have stepped out during any random ten
minutes and still got back up to speed when I returned.
But, for those of you who might be thinking that I'm
slagging on the wife, there's a drawback to MY watching
style, and it shames me as an amateur filmmaker and half
-assed visual artist to admit it.

I'm just not that fast as decoding visual scenes. I
don't get a lot of visual clues at all, particularly in
the background. My field of vision often stops at the
figure speaking in the foreground. I have to admit it
takes me a LOT of viewings to figure out a densely shot
flick.

So while there's always comes a point in a movie or show
where Ordigrl has to ask me "Who's Baxter?", not long
after there's always a scene where the film makes
reference to some doodad or googah that was behind the
lead actor way back in Reel One. Everyone in the theatre
goes "Ooh!" or "Aha!", while I have to turn to her and
ask, "So she's wearing a blue sweater, what's the big
deal?" Then she explains to me that the sweater was on
the chair when he went into his wife's room at the start
of the movie.

Isn't symmetry great?

* Re: Snyder. The fair amount of love given his "300"
baffles me. It's a pinned butterfly of a movie,
beautiful and completely breathless, not alive in ANY
sense. No wonder comic books appeal to Snyder; he's all
about concept shots. Even going back to his first big
movie, the Dawn Of The Dead remake, the only sequence
most people remember is the credit sequence, an aerial
concept shot above the fleeing Sarah Polley's car as it
dodges unexpected and horrific traffic calamities.
Nothing involving the actors whatsoever.