A discussion on life & cinema

For the final meeting of the Vol. 138 Journal Dialogue Panel, we talked about movies

From left: panellist Devin McDonald, Journal Dialogue Editor Craig Draeger and panellists Elamin Abdelmahmoud, James Simpson and Lindsay Kline. Panellist Dan Osborne is not pictured.
From left: panellist Devin McDonald, Journal Dialogue Editor Craig Draeger and panellists Elamin Abdelmahmoud, James Simpson and Lindsay Kline. Panellist Dan Osborne is not pictured.
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Judgments and inferences
Devin McDonald, ArtSci ’13

So suppose you’re a girl and you’re being taken out to a movie by a fine gentleman you just met. This gentleman is faced with a choice; what movie ought he take you to?

Assuming the choice is left completely to him and he may not lean on you for assistance, this places you on rather precarious ground.

The movie, without question, will become a judgment about his whole being. For instance, what if he takes you to a film he loved, but you despised? How does that bode for the future of your relationship? I would guess not well.

In deciding which movie I was going to write about for this week’s piece, I was struck with a rather similar conundrum as your would-be date. Whatever movie I was bound to choose would come to be a representation of my being to you, the reader.

I don’t mean to make assumptions about the way in which you choose to pass judgment on me, I just feel there is a cultural practice of judging people by the kind of movies they like. I don’t even think this is a particularly bad practice.

It would be near impossible for me not to pass judgment on someone who proclaims their favourite movie to be something like Saving Private Ryan. It’s a good movie, maybe even a great movie, but really is it the height of 100 years of cinema?

The best combination of acting, writing, directing, art direction and special effects? Some might label me pretentious for making such a choice, which also might be true.

Yet equally so if I was to tell you my favourite movie was some Charlie Kaufman film, I would probably label me a hipster and then lead to a slew of “they’re pretty obscure, you’ve probably never heard of them” jokes.

Thus I’m forced to resign myself from the task of writing a couple hundred words about a single movie, as to do so would inevitably lead to a whole bunch of judgment for which I do not care.

Expand your horizons
Lindsay Kline, ArtSci ’11

Movies have been one of the most important things that have gotten me through my undergraduate degree. They help me unwind, forget about school for a mere two hours and remind me that there’s more than just political theory or Canadian politics in the world.

Recently, I’ve been watching older films, like My Fair Lady, Annie and Father of the Bride. These films, having been created a number of years ago, are interesting me more and more as time goes on due to the simplicity of their plots.

I can count on these films being based on the activities of one’s daily life, to be an epic love story or utilize a different style of acting you really don’t see in today’s movies.

I’ve been very struck by how movies have changed over time. Years ago the plot stayed straightforward and the acting, while over exaggerated, appeals to the emotions of viewers. In today’s films, storylines have become extremely complex and acting is much more for show rather than relatability.

In congruence with my new-found love for old movies, I find myself in The Screening Room more often these days, hungry for the more original and avant-garde films of our day.

Films such as Barney’s Version and Wasteland have reminded me that movies don’t need to be action packed or Earth destroying.

Like their older counterparts, many of these films rely on some everyday story to be told. For this reason, I find myself in the theater really enjoying these movies because of the similarities and differences they have to my own life.

All in all, I find that after a long time of watching Hollywood movie after Hollywood movie, I’m urging for something different.

This is not to say that I dislike Hollywood and what they produce. However, when you realize what else is out there, you have a sense that your world has been opened to a new genre of movies that can continue to take you out of where you are right now, and into a place you’ve never been before.

Art imitates reality

James Simpson, ArtSci ’11

Movies can often reflect our own real-life situation. Queen’s has suffered several tragic deaths of students over the past year, including two in the past two weeks.

These deaths have led to increased discussion over the importance of mental health awareness.

One of the most devastating aspects of mental health is the stigma that surrounds it. Often, those suffering from mental illness feel as if they cannot seek help; they feel shame, or believe that there’s something innately wrong with them.

These beliefs are maintained, in part, by popular culture. Indeed, movies are a medium that often cements the stigmatization of mental illness. Consider the recent film, Black Swan. In this movie, the main character, Nina, is haunted by hallucinations and loses track of reality.

As her mental illness progresses unrelentingly, rather than seek help she pushes herself ever harder. In the end she is able to perform, but only at a grave cost to herself.

Nina faces pressure from a wide range of sources. Her overbearing mother insists on complete dedication to dancing.

Nina worries constantly about being replaced, and struggles against herself and her director. She faces anxiety about her perceived competition, and feels as if she must embody perfection.

In many ways this struggle is what we face as Queen’s students. We face enumerable challenges, both from external sources and from within.

We, too, often have overbearing parents, anxiety about failure and worries about competition. We are scared about fitting in socially and strive for our own brand of perfection.

Yet we do not have to end up like Nina. There are so many resources on campus that are designed specifically to lighten the load.

Join clubs to develop social networks of like-minded people. Visit academic counseling to get help with school.

And if it feels hopeless, HCDS is always available and is happy to talk to you. Or call Telephone Aid Line Kingston at (613) 544-1771.

There is no shame in asking for support. If you’re facing a challenge, don’t be like Nina—take advantage of resources available to you.

There is always help available.

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