The Moviegoing Experience

It might sound silly, but to me, there’s something magical about going to see a movie in the theater.

It often goes something like this. You arrive at the theater, get your tickets, and meet up with your friends. The group of you talk and laugh and share in the excitement of whatever movie it is you’re about to see. When the time is right, you enter the theater and do your best to find some really good seats. In the past, I liked sitting far in the back, but now I like to sit closer, so that the screen fills just about my entire field of vision. Less distracting and more immersive that way, at least to me.

You and your friends keep laughing and chatting until the previews start, which you quiet down for, but you still can’t help but make some commentary on the trailers that you liked or didn’t like. Then, finally, after the screen pleads for you to turn off your phone, the lights slowly dim down, and the film begins. Ideally, a hush falls over the crowd right at this moment.

Seeing the movie itself is magical (if the movie is good, that is), but that moment when the lights go down is really special in itself. To me, it’s just like when you go to see a play and the same thing happens. The dimming of the lights is like crossing the threshold from the real world into the world that the filmmakers have created, pulling you into an experience.

That’s what a movie is to me. It’s an experience. It’s not merely entertainment. Filmmaking is an art form, and sure, there are plenty of films out there that abuse the medium and are not worth anyone’s time. But there are also many films out there that are truly creative. Immersive. Magical. Timeless. Soul-stirring. Riveting. Even life-changing. Those are the kind of movies that I love seeing in a dark theater on an enormous screen with crystal-clear surround sound. I find that it’s the best way to experience the audiovisual art form known as cinema.

Anyway, if the movie is good, you keep your eyes locked on the screen, drinking it all in, enjoying the story and the characters, marveling at the technical skills being put on display, relishing the sound design and the music. Occasionally, you may whisper a reaction or a thought to the person next to you. Other times, you may laugh out loud, or cheer for joy, or even cry your eyes out. And when the credits start to roll, you stand and applaud along with everyone else in the theater. Then you all exit the theater and talk about the movie. And talk. And talk. And talk. You can’t stop talking about it, because the movie impacted you. It meant something to you.

Movies are powerful.

As I’ve said, if they’re good. And also if your theater experience is as sublime as the one I just described. Sometimes, you run into people who don’t respect the moviegoing experience. They range from mildly annoying (someone playing on their phone the whole time) to excruciatingly frustrating (people talking and reacting much too loudly). I feel sorry for these kinds of people. They just don’t seem to understand all the work, heart, skill, and passion that goes into creating a film. They don’t see movies as art. They see them as a fun little escape from the real world for a couple of hours, during which time they can act however they want, regardless of the people around them.

In a perfect world, everyone would want to keep the moviegoing experience magical. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world. So what’s my point?

My point is that cinema is an art form, and one that deserves respect. Seeing a good movie in a theater with an audience that understands this is one of the most magical experiences this world has to offer. I only wish that more people saw it that way.


Well, that was a little more melancholy than I originally anticipated. Anyway, next time I’ll have a more enthusiastic post about my reactions to the E3 reveal of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild! Late, I know, but better late than never. Until then!

The Next Adventure: Zelda at E3 2016

Depending on how long you’ve been reading my blog, you may or may not know that I’m a big fan of the Legend of Zelda series. Ever since I played The Minish Cap on my little Game Boy Advance when I was nine, I’ve been hooked on the sweeping, epic quests filled with monster bashing and puzzle solving that have been going strong ever since the original came out in 1986.

Naturally, when the next big installment in the series was first announced at E3 (that’s Electronic Entertainment Expo for you non-gamers who may be reading this) in 2014, I was pretty excited. Okay, really excited. I may or may not have let out a couple of squeals of joy.

That trailer, despite having a lot less information about the game than I was hoping for, was still more than enough to get me pumped. The new aesthetic style instantly appealed to me, and I relished the idea of more nonlinearity and an even bigger world to explore. At the time, 2015 seemed like a long wait. Luckily, later in 2014, Nintendo surprised everyone by showing some new footage from the game at the Game Awards — check it out!

Naturally, this only got me more excited. This was looking so good! I couldn’t wait to play it. 2015 wasn’t that much father away, was it?

Well, no, it wasn’t. But the problem was that the game got delayed to a 2016 release instead.

My first reaction was something like: Dangit! Why, Nintendo? Why must you make us wait longer? WHY?

My second reaction was a bit more reasonable: Well, I’m sure they have good reasons for it. They said they just need more time to develop ideas they’ve come up with as they’ve been working on it. I’m sure the wait will be worth it.

For a while after that, news about the new game was pretty much nonexistent . . . up until late April this year, when Nintendo announced that the new Zelda was being delayed a second time. To 2017. And it would be released on both Wii U and the new system, currently codenamed “NX,” which is also releasing in 2017.

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I have to admit that I was kind of ticked when I heard that. I still feel kind of conflicted about it. On one hand, they’re taking their time, so it (hopefully) means the game will be really, really good once it’s (finally) finished. On the other hand, according to my knowledge, every major Zelda game in the past has been delayed at least once, so I can’t help but wonder why Nintendo can’t seem to get an accurate idea of what timeframe they can finish a game in.

But hey, I’m far from an expert on how the video game industry works, so who am I to talk? All I can really do is just wait and see what they give us. And when they announced the most recent delay, they also announced that this year at E3, they’ll be focusing a lot on the new Zelda — in fact, it will be Nintendo’s only playable demo at the expo. That makes me happy, because it means (I hope) that we’ll be getting a LOT of new information about the game.

Here’s a a quick rundown of what I’m hoping for!

  • A title. I’m really, really sick of calling it “Zelda Wii U.” I’d like to know the final title, whatever it may be. I enjoy my Wii U and my games for it, but let’s face it: “Wii U” is pretty much the dumbest console name ever.
  • A full trailer. I want to see the characters. I want to get an idea of the story. I want to see many, many more examples of what is going to make this game awesome and what is going to make it stand out in the Zelda series.
  • Lots and lots of quality gameplay footage. I want to see this game in action. I don’t want to see TOO much for fear of spoilers, but I want to get a good idea of what it will feel like to play this game.
  • A music sampling. This will hopefully come with the trailer, but I’d like to hear some of the music from the new game! The Zelda series is well-known for its excellent music, and I can’t wait to get an earful of yet another amazing soundtrack.
  • Reassurance. This is basically a summary of all of the above. After hopefully getting to see and hear all of this, I want to be reassured that the wait will, indeed, be worth it.

That’s about it. Obviously, I’m not entitled to all of this just because I’m a Zelda fan, but at the same time, we’ve had two delays and very little news about the game ever since it was first announced. So, I think it’s about time we get the real scoop on what this game is going to be. Can’t wait!

Are you excited for the game? What do you hope E3 will bring? Leave a comment to let me know. And don’t forget that Nintendo will be streaming their press conference live from E3 on June 14th, 9 AM Pacific Time!

See you guys later! My next post will most likely be a review of the long-awaited Finding Dory. Stay tuned for that!

People

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a mission trip with a group of fellow Catholics to New York City. It was an incredible experience, and one thing we focused on a lot was homeless outreach. This, of course, required us to reach out to individuals who we might otherwise overlook. This taught me a few things. I wanted to briefly share one of those things with you today.

I can generally be pretty shy around people I’ve never met before, and even among people I do know. So whenever I’m in a public place, perhaps just strolling down the street or sitting in a subway in New York, my natural instinct is to keep to myself and my thoughts. Don’t talk to anybody, don’t even look anybody in the eye. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it often blinds me to a certain fact.

All these people around me, these people I’m avoiding eye contact with or just trying to forget they’re there? Well . . . they’re people.

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That sounds silly, I know. Of course they’re people, Matthew. Duh. But do you ever think about that when others are passing you by? Those are people. People with lives, with families (hopefully), with hopes, with needs and wants. It can be so easy to get caught up in ourselves, so much so that we don’t take proper notice of what’s going on around us.

See that homeless man sitting alone on the street corner? See that elderly woman on the bus with no one to talk to? They’re people. And people need love.

I’m not trying to guilt anybody. And no, I’m not saying that I think you should talk to every single stranger you run into. Sometimes people do want to be left alone, and other people just aren’t friendly at all. But I think there are definitely situations we find ourselves in from time to time in which we can feel a nagging voice in our heads. Go to that person. Talk to them.

The Holy Spirit works in funny ways, that’s for sure. And it’s usually a good idea to listen. Who knows? You might just make someone’s day.

That’s all. Until next time!

The Best Thing About “Star Wars”

Wait, it’s Easter! Why aren’t I writing a post about Easter?

Technically, I am. You’ll see. To start, though, I want to share what I think is the best thing about Star Wars.

Okay, so maybe it’s not the best thing about Star Wars, but it’s definitely one of the best things, because I find it to be very inspiring. And it’s this.

When the original film was being made, most people thought it was going to fail.

Many of the cast members were dissatisfied with the script. The studio executives were sure that such an unconventional film wouldn’t make much money. Even George Lucas himself was very disappointed with the film that he got versus the film he had in his head. As grand and exciting as the final film turned out to be, he had always imagined something even grander and more exciting. The technology at the time simply didn’t allow for it.

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“I was compromising left and right just to get things semi-done,” he said in an interview. “I was desperately unhappy.”

In May 1977, the movie opened in 32 theaters in the U.S. Just 32 theaters in the entire country! Crazier still, instead of attending the premiere, George Lucas took a vacation to Hawaii with his friend Steven Spielberg, because he was absolutely convinced the movie was going to flop.

The rest, as they say, is history. It was an instant blockbuster hit. And now, almost forty years later, Star Wars is just as popular (if not more so) than it has ever been.

So what’s my point? My point is that, sometimes, things don’t go our way. Sometimes our plans are destroyed by circumstances. Sometimes reality doesn’t meet our expectations at all.

Sometimes, it looks as though things couldn’t get any worse.

But then, lo and behold, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s a simple message that we’ve heard many times, but I think it’s worth repeating, especially at Easter time. (See, I told you this was actually a post about Easter!)

Happy Easter, and I hope you remember never to give up hope. Later!

Faith, the Future, and the “Falls”

Have you ever worried about the future?

I admit that was a pretty dumb question. Of course you have. We all have. Some more than others, of course, but it’s a pretty universal problem.

Why do we do it?

We’re afraid. We don’t know what might come. We want security. We want good things to happen. We know that bad things can and will happen sometimes, but we don’t want them to.

We want to be in control.

I went on a silent retreat this weekend. There was a lot more to it than what I’ll reiterate here, and it was a very eye-opening and refreshing experience. But for now, I just want to share one thing that I was reminded of.

We’ve heard these words more times than we can count, but they are still worth hearing. We forget them. We even ignore them sometimes.

But here they are again. Four small words.

Do not be afraid.

Read them again.

Do. Not. Be. Afraid.

This is no easy task. It’s natural for us to be fearful of things, including the future — sometimes especially the future. But you know something? We’re not the ones in control. This is not easy to accept, but I believe it is true. I am in control of myself and am responsible for my actions, yes. But I do not control the world or other people’s actions. Therefore, there is uncertainty ahead.

I have trouble with uncertainty. You probably do too.

With that in mind, another thought. Recently, a show called Gravity Falls aired its final episode. It was a near-perfect ending, in my book. During the silent retreat this weekend, after repeating “do not be afraid” to myself, I was reminded of the show.

But I wasn’t reminded of the finale. I was reminded of the second-to-last episode, particularly a scene in which one character is terrified of the future and another character is trying to convince her that she shouldn’t live in denial about it.

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“You’re scared — of growing up,” he tells her. “And who could blame you? I’m scared too.”

A little later in the scene, he tells her this:

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen in the future, but whatever it is, you don’t have to fear, because we’ll do it together.”

Wise words.

Look, I don’t want to get too preachy. But we can’t control everything that happens in our lives. So what’s the point of worrying about the future?

I seem to remember Jesus having a few words to say about this. “Which of you, by worrying, can add even a moment to your life?”

Wise words.

Do not be afraid. Whatever comes, comes. Good and bad.

Will it be easy? Heck no.

But you’re not alone.

Do not be afraid.

Live. Learn. Love.

Let’s do it together.

One day at a time.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” — My Hopes/Expectations

Guys . . . it’s almost here.

The new Star Wars movie is a mere ten days away.

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Has it really been about three years since it was first announced that Disney had acquired Lucasfilm and that they would be making at least three more movies in the series? Apparently.

And has it really been over a year since the first teaser trailer was released? Yup.

Hard to believe. But here we are, in December of 2015, eagerly awaiting the seventh installment in the saga. I don’t think I need to explain all the hype surrounding this movie. You’ve seen it. Even if you’re like me and haven’t watched any of the trailers, you’ve still stumbled across images here and there on social media. You’ve still found out the names of the new characters and what they look like. You’ve still picked up on theories about what the storyline will be.

So, what are my hopes and expectations for this movie?

Good question. And I’ve got a little bit of a curveball for you. I’ve decided that I should do my best to keep my hopes and expectations neutral. Not low, necessarily. Just neutral. As in not really having any hopes or expectations at all.

Let me explain. Just hypothetically, what if this movie is subpar? I know for most of you that idea is hard to believe, but it could still happen. Maybe not likely, considering the people who have made the film, but still possible. Imagine how heartbreaking it would be going to the theater expecting a cinematic masterpiece and just getting a so-so action flick. I’m not saying I really think that’s what will happen, but I am saying we should be prepared just in case.

On the other hand, what if the movie is absolutely spectacular? Everything we dreamed of and more? Well, if we keep our expectations neutral, we’ll be in for a huge and extremely pleasant surprise.

So, what I’m proposing (not just for myself) is to try to forget about the movie. Don’t think about it. Don’t worry, don’t speculate, don’t hope, don’t fear, don’t expect, don’t get caught up reading threads upon threads of people’s comments explaining why they think the film will either be incredible or awful (guilty).

Just wait.

Patience is the key. The movie is coming very soon. It will be here before we know it. If we just stop laboring over anxieties of whether it will be good or not, we’ll be all the more excited when that fateful day finally comes.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be excited. But I am saying that we should stop being hyped. I think it’s a subtle but important distinction.

So, with that being said, I hereby resolve to not read or watch anything related to Star Wars until after I’ve seen the movie. Further, I will not even use the Internet unless absolutely necessary in the week leading up to the film’s release — and not just because it’s going to become Spoiler Town in less than 12 parsecs. I don’t even want to know what critics are saying about it in advance. All I want to know as I enter that theater is that I’m about to see a new Star Wars movie. The rest will follow.

May the Force be with us all. Ten more days. We can do this.

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The next post on this blog will be my review of the film. I hope you check back after you’ve seen the movie!

Love = Feelings?

I’ve been reading a book by Edward Sri called Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love — basically a condensed version of John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility. The most recent chapter I read discussed a topic which I think is extremely important, but also one that a lot of people don’t think about or ignore. I also had a great conversation about it with a friend of mine yesterday, so I decided to write about it a bit while it’s fresh in my mind. Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to keep things short and simple.

Quick note first, though: you should definitely read this book. JPII was a genius. They don’t call him St. John Paul the Great for nothing!

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So, in his work, JPII describes how people are attracted to others in two main ways: physically and psychologically (or emotionally). He calls these attractions sensuality and sentimentality. We are attracted to people’s bodies and also to their masculinity or femininity — that’s a pretty obvious given. We were designed this way, and these attractions are meant to orient us toward another person, eventually leading us to love them in an authentic way.

However, ever since the Fall, lust has entered the picture. People are now capable of misusing their sexual desires in order to use others for their own personal pleasure. The way men and women tend to lust is related to the two main types of attraction; that is, in general, men tend to lust more physically and women tend to lust more psychologically, or emotionally. That’s part of why we have the stereotypes of “all men are pigs” and “all women are overly emotional.”

Now, obviously, we are called to control our sexual desires and orient them toward what they are meant to lead us to: true authentic love. We’re not animals, after all, acting merely on instinct. We have free will. So we hear a lot about how we should be careful about how we look at others, how we shouldn’t use them as objects for our own gratification. And that’s an extremely important thing. It’s certainly not bad at all that we see articles about it all the time (or at least I do; my Facebook news feed is probably different from yours).

However, I don’t see nearly enough articles or hear enough discussion about the dangers of not controlling our emotions properly. And I think that’s a problem. I’m no expert, but I think I can see why a lot of people (especially the younger crowd) jump around from relationship to relationship so much. They get so caught up in the powerful emotional rush they receive from mutual attraction that they (wrongly, of course) think that they’re “in love.” But oftentimes, the relationship isn’t based on anything except the attraction. Just for example, the guy may be dating the girl because of her shapely body, or the girl may be dating the guy because she has idealized him in her head — projecting traits she finds desirable onto him even though he may not possess many (or any) of them. Then, once the feelings fade, there is nothing left for the relationship to stand on, thus leading to breakup and leaving both parties worse off than before.

I don’t want to go super deep into this or go on for too long, but I think it’s important to start a discussion about it. Why is it that so many marriages end in divorce? Why are so many people so unhappy in their relationships? Could it perhaps have something to do with people confusing love with sentimentality? I definitely think so.

The book gives a great example of how we can see this happening in life: James Cameron’s blockbuster film Titanic. People flocked to see this movie, particularly women (or so I hear). They were drawn to the thrilling romance of the main characters, and the book speculates that they were especially drawn to Jack’s sacrifice to save Rose (do I really need to include spoiler tags for this movie?). Women want that. They want a man who is willing to give everything for her, even his life. And this is a good thing. But because that great message was mixed with a “love story” that was based on little more than a sexual attraction between the two main characters, we end up with an upside-down message: that this kind of relationship is true, authentic love. That this is the kind of relationship we all should strive for.

Again, it’s no wonder there’s so much complication in people’s love lives (so-called). Hollywood (and other sources, I’m sure) has taught people that love is equivalent to romantic feelings. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s high time people woke up to this fact and stopped getting caught up in their emotions.

Yes, emotions do come along with love. But they are not what love is. Let’s stop seeing the people we’re attracted to as the fulfillment of our personal fantasies. Instead, let’s start seeing them for who they really are. And from there, we can truly grow to love them authentically.