Apart from a baseball and a couple of sitcoms that we'd watch as a family, I only had one television that I held in an interest in, and that was The X-Files. When films lost me, I shifted my attention to what was happening in the world of television. There were three shows that really grabbed my attention. The Sopranos, Veronica Mars, and the original Office. There was something unique about these shows, they evoked an emotional reaction from me. I was invested in the characters and their stories. The one thing I can I say I learned from high school is that a film is first and foremost an emotional experience. For the first time, I was recognizing this fact. I began to read up on these shows, and the genres they were delving into. I had Scorsese DVDs in my collection and began to rewatch them with fresh eyes. The same year that Veronica Mars debuted, the first box set of Film Noirs was released. Volumes of classic Gangster pictures were just around the corner too, and the one to end them all, the Hitchcock Signature Collection was also released. Watching these older films really prompted me to keep digging, and learning about why these older films were keeping my attention when the films of today weren't.
A couple years later, whilst in school, an instructor strongly urged us to study the films of John Ford and Akira Kurosawa. The floodgates opened. It wasn't long after before I watched Ford's The Searchers and Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress, and man was I hooked. These films were masterfully crafted, and incredibly powerful. My standards of what was a good film was were raised significantly. I really didn't care about what was happening in that day's world of films, because there was, and still is, a plethora of enriching films yet to be discovered. My standards were set, and on a new level. I will still endure some contemporary films when my friends ask me to, but very rarely do they come to me with the intention of watching some flicks. Some of them are still repulsed by black & white cinematography, and the cheesy looking effects of The Birds. It takes some enticing, but they will sometimes indulge me, and watch something like Bonnie & Clyde.
The video game release of Red Dead Redemption had us talking Westerns, and it became the first video game I had bought in several years. The release of the Cohen Brothers' True Grit also further added to the interest of Westerns. Not only that, but True Grit was very successful. It was great experiencing that in the theaters with plenty of younger folk in the packed theater. While most people my age have never heard of John Ford, no matter where I went, whether it was work or a concert, I could talk Ford and Westerns with the folks around me. My peculiar tastes weren't feeling so peculiar.
The new video game set to be released next week is entitled L.A. Noire. As one friend put it, it has my name in the title, of course I'd be looking forward to it. It will be the first video game I will have purchased since Red Dead Redemption. Noirs have also seen something of a resurgence in pop culture. Veronica Mars really brought the genre to a new audience. Noir is a style, and its influence can be felt in films like Road to Perdition, The Dark Knight, Collateral, Mulholland Drive, and Sin City - Rian Johnson's Brick is nothing but noir. References to author Raymond Chandler and films like The Maltese Falcon are commonplace. L.A. Noire is doing what it can to educate audiences about noir, just by its mere existence.
I have spent a good deal of time watching old black & white films and often thinking, what is wrong with me? Nobody else my age as any interest in this stuff. I thank you, you folks on twitter. You don't make me feel like such a freak. I feel in some way justified in my appreciation of these genres. They're becoming much more accessible in popular culture, and it's fantastic to see such interest in these things, which I've held to strongly in recent years. Never I have felt so justified in my tastes than when last week's episode of Community aired.
Last year's Community paintball episode, Modern Warfare, took its influence from 80s action films, and it remains the most loved episode in the series. A couple friends joined me in anticipation of this year's paintball episode, A Fistful of Paintballs. We ended up watching Modern Warfare right before A Fistful of Paintballs. My friends expressed disappointment in the fact that they were attempting to do another paintball episode. Is it possible to even match the magic of Modern Warfare? Worse, are they going to ruin that magic of Modern Warfare? By the end of A Fistful of Paintballs, it was unanimous that this episode exceeded Modern Warfare in every way. We turned the television off, agreeing that there was no point in watching anything else. Television had never been as entertaining.
Community has now hit on all three of my favorite genres. It's told a gangster story, a noir-ish tale, and delivered an incredible Western spectacle. I remember watching the pilot of Community and thinking it was good. Good enough to get me to watch at least a few more episodes. The second episode made me definite that I'd really give the show a chance, and by the third episode I recognized something quite special about it. The power of Community is its ability to not only appreciate the experience of life, but to inspire you to go out and get more out of life. This show has within it everything that those DVDs I collected lacked. A generous heart - yet it is blended together with ridiculousness and crudeness, plenty of selfish attitudes and destructive behaviors. Creator Dan Harmon is a big fan of Joseph Campbell, and you get the sense that the show is built around a mythology about how to be a jolly participant in the game of life.
The films of Ford and Kurosawa can help you to reveal your true self. Community can help you be willingly to accept the challenges of life. All of these help you learn to find your place within a group of individuals. The films of Hitchcock will throw you into a position of misfortune and give you strength to endure the misfortune. Noir films will help you in your decision making when nothing is black & white, and when you know every action will result in consequences. I feel justified in spending my time discarding my collection of miserable contemporary films, and in seeking out the films which can enrich my life.
Wait a second, why haven't I watched the Western Noir show Justified??