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Have You Ever Felt Like “An Idiot?”

We had never seen it. So we recorded it some weeks ago. Last night here at home…

[Potton, England, by night. August 28, 2019. Photo by me.]

…in the comfort of our lounge, we decided to have a watch of a recent Academy Award winner for “Best Picture.” As it was on, I glanced at my wife several times while she was looking at the screen: she was smiling. She even laughed a few times. At the film’s end, she declared to me that she enjoyed it.

Me? I COULD NOT WAIT FOR IT TO END. I could have turned it off 5 minutes into it. By the conclusion, I had thought it was one of the worst “Best Picture” films I had ever sat through.

My wife liked it.

“Best Picture.”

Fundamentally, it was indeed what I had heard it was about: it was about a woman falling in love with… a (anthropomorphic) fish.

I had not paid much attention to it at the time, so now I was catching up: two years late. Afterwards, I searched the net for reviews. I encountered observations on how it’s a metaphor; it’s about the oppressed; it’s an anti-Cold War “statement”; it’s remarkable filmmaking; it’s a wonderful fantasy romance told in a different manner…

Endless great reviews.

Its director, I also saw, is “a genius.”

And I’m sitting here thinking: What do I not “get” that they all seem to? My reaction as I was watching it was this is basically just a bigger budget knock off of a 1940-50s cheap sci-fi horror flick (which would have then been in black and white) that is predictable, entirely cartoonish, often plain silly, regularly vulgar, and about as subtle as being hit over the head with a brick. (At the beginning I could have told you how it would end – and I was right.) Worst of all, I didn’t even find it mildly entertaining.

For “Best Picture,” it beat out films like The Post, Darkest Hour, and Dunkirk? I saw all of those. I thought they were superb.

If the director of this “Best Picture” is a genius… and I don’t or can’t see that…

…that, by default, must make me an idiot.

At that realization, I became a bit depressed. When I was a child I was uninterested in sci-fi and fantasy; I preferred real people and real events. At age 14, while my friends were all searching for middle earth in reading Lord of The Rings, I was reading Thucydides and trying to picture in my head the Athenians encamped outside of Syracuse, and historical fiction such as The Last of the Mohicans, with “Hawkeye” – the FIRST “Hawkeye” – and “Cora” and the others fighting for their lives. At one point my mother once laughed at me that I had “no imagination.”

That she said that to me stung, and I have never forgotten it. I had just thought I had different taste? And it’s not that I did not like any sci-fi or fantasy; for instance, I liked the original Star Trek – an optimistic and vaguely realistic view of humanity’s distant future in space. But given what a gazillion other people appear to cheer about regarding that 2017 “Best Picture,” maybe my mother was right after all?

[Recent books on my Kindle iPad app. Photo by me, August 30, 2019.]

It has got me wondering if I should stop kidding myself. For years I’ve seen on social media writers concocting what I consider utterly ludicrous sci-fi/fantasy, so there is nothing new in this. But last night it had hit home with me in a way it had not until now. Maybe the tipping point was because my wife had liked it? A few years ago we had tried to watch with two friends another then “great-reviewed” Oscar-praised sci-fi/fantasy film – Mad Max… uh, with Charlize Theron zooming around I think on a battered motorcycle or something like that. We all agreed it was not for us and turned it off “ten minutes” in. I was so pleased they didn’t really like it either: I had immediately considered it asinine and dreaded having to devote precious hours of my existence to it invading my brain.

Films and books are in many ways now more closely related than ever. Big budget superhero films and other sci-fi and fantasy are all the thing. I have no problem with escapism and sci-fi/fantasy on the whole; but as in films it seems sci-fi/fantasy in books is now everywhere: it appears to be all anyone (especially under age 40) wants to read.

After seeing that “Best Picture,” and skimming the online reviews about how “great” it is, I sat there last night seriously thinking this novel I’m finishing should probably be my last. Clearly I don’t get “it” in 2019 about “art” and “magnificent storytelling.” What I write – which does not have time travel, magic, wizards, and assorted whatever – that relies solely on humans (for example, when someone GETS HIT OVER THE HEAD, it will HURT A LOT and they may become UNCONSCIOUS and even DIE; or when someone GETS THEIR HEAD CUT OFF they DO NOT “regenerate”) is plainly not what most currently really want to read.

[Proofreading my latest book, sitting before the television, also watching the England woman’s football team taking on Belgium, August 29, 2019. Photo by me.]

I’ll probably feel better about everything in a day or two. But, right now, though, I feel a bit out of it – yet again. My mother is gone now nearly four years, but it seems that, no matter how old I become, inside I will always be that 14 year old boy who just didn’t “get” Lord of The Rings.

3 replies »

  1. I haven’t seen the “best picture” that you alluded to, but I did read the book based on the film. It was ok but not enough to send me instantly to the DVD store. The Darkest Hour, though, is one I did really want to see but sadly it didn’t happen. Taking your “superb” assessment, I will definitely follow it up. It sometimes seems like fantasy and sci-fi is all the rage. While there do seem to many people who only read or see fantasy and sci-fi, I am not one of them. I admit that I am a Tolkien fan, and I do enjoy a bit of sci-fi, but I also really enjoy historical fiction and the classics too. It’s true that there does seem to be a lot of fantasy and sci-fi in YA and I don’t know if that’s something we should be concerned about or whether it’s just a sign of these times. Be encouraged. Please don’t stop writing what you love and are passionate about. In the tsunami of fantasy, sci-fi and dystopian texts, we still need to look back to history to understand who we are and from where we have come. Happy writing.

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    • Thanks for that. You are absolutely right. I suppose it was just a feeling that will pass or at least diminish. There is lots of what I write out there too of course. But when for a moment you find you feel yourself being soooooo out of step, you can of course naturally feel it’s you; that the rest of the world can’t be wrong.😊

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      • I don’t know. I think a lot of people feel out of step with the world at times. I know that I do. And sometimes the world might be wrong, but as long as we have people who love us and understand us, then we know we are not alone.

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