I turned off two movies this week before the end. This is a good development for me. It only took forty years. To be able to decide, mid-way into a film, or even after fifteen minutes, I’m not feeling this, I don’t have to see how this ends. Ah, it’s a relief. The first was Hidden by The Duffer Brothers. I decided to watch this because I like Stranger Things, and I wanted to see what they did in their first feature length film. I could tell straight off that it was going to be well acted, well shot, but it’s also dark, moody, set in a fallout shelter, and I wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t particularly interested in the family’s situation, and nothing about it seemed particularly unique in the way that my favorite film that takes place in an underground shelter, Day of the Dead, is unique. And since I was getting close to finishing up the second season of Glow on Netflix and the third season recently dropped, I thought to myself, why am I watching this and not that? And I turned it off and switched that on.

The other movie I turned off was The Curse of La Llorona. Some of you reading this, if there is in fact anyone reading this, might be wondering why I was watching La Llorona at all when it was panned by critics. And there are a few reasons: 1. I don’t agree that everything the critics say is bad is bad and I don’t think that everything they say is good is good (for example, a few weeks back I watched Captain Marvel on Friday night and Glass on Saturday; Captain Marvel, the critical darling, struck me as dull and uninspired, entertaining but uninteresting, much like some of the early Phase 1 character intros, the first Thor or Captain America: The First Avenger; Glass, on the other hand, with its 37% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, might have had problems, but I found it to be a lot more interesting and engaging and playing with ideas about superheroes I’d never seen anyone try to bring to the screen before); 2. Especially with horror, the critics can be harsher than a movie really deserves, so it was possible despite the shellacking that La Llorona might have something redeeming going on); and 3. I’ve like Linda Cardellini ever since Freaks and Geeks and she plays the lead here.

Unfortunately, I would use the same words for La Llorona as I did for Captain Marvel: dull and uninspired; though, of course, I should probably make clear Captain Marvel was a vastly superior film to La Llorona, which I’ll also point out is faint praise. Sorry for the rambling sentence there. But what was the problem with it? I can’t really say. Cardellini is good in it. Most of the actors were good. And the film looked good, but it looked like every film these days, professionally shot, easy on the eye, but without anything unique to it. In fact, now that I write that, I think that was the problem. Everyone showed up to La Llorona to put in a day’s work. It’s competent work (at least as far as I could tell, remember I turned it off after 40 minutes or so), but it felt like no one cared enough to try to put any passion into it. Which is how a lot of the movies I’m watching these days, including Captain Marvel, feel. I’m not the first to note that television tends to be a lot better than movies these days. I was listening to Dax Shepard talk to Danny McBride on the Armchair Expert podcast yesterday, and he mentioned he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen a film where he’d come away really excited about it and wanting to tell a friend to rush out and see it, but that it happens all the time with TV. And I agree with him, which is why when I turned off these movies, I put on Glow. My wife came into the room while Glow was on, and I said, “I really fucking like this show,” and she sat down to watch that episode and two more with me even though she’d only caught a few scenes of season one while walking past on her way to do other things.

And while we were watching a scene came on that involved Alison Brie’s Ruth and Betty Gilpin’s Debby that in a metafictive way illustrates what I’m talking about with passion. Debby’s just broken Ruth’s ankle in a match and they’re in a hospital room together. Their show is in trouble because it’s been more to a 2 am slot and is probably going to be canceled after the season ends. Debby says something along the lines of, “Who cares? It’s just a job…” To which Ruth responds, “I care…this is the best job I’ve ever had.” And you get the distinct feeling that this isn’t just Ruth’s opinion, but Alison Brie’s as well. Her character is the source of much of the creativity and invention for the show within this show, but you get the feeling that the show itself must be a blast to work on, you get the feeling that all of the actors care a great deal about its success, and I’m not getting that feeling from a lot of movies these days. I’m trying to think of the last time I saw a movie that really moved me, that carried me away, and by this I mean a new film (the fact that I watched Easy Rider again last Saturday in honor of Peter Fonda and found it inspired and brilliant doesn’t count because the movie was made in 1969). All the movies I see feel like they’re made by a committee striving to take any mark of uniqueness or originality out of it, and I think Captain Marvel is a prime example of this. You get a sense that the actors are committed, Brie Larson is great as Captain Marvel, Samuel Jackson, also fantastic, but the script was stale. For the first twenty minutes, we’re in a futuristic world on another planet and Captain Marvel has amnesia, so it’s hard to get a sense of her character, and so we’re not given much reason to care. This crossed with the CGI leaves us untethered for the first quarter of the movie. I think they assume that since we already have some background in the Marvel universe that we’ll give them a pass, and I’m sure some watchers did, but I was out of it from the get-go. The film had to win me back over once she got to Earth and engaged in her repartee with Nick Fury. But even then, the jokes were flat, they didn’t come off. It’s like they were trying to go for the humor in Thor: Ragnarok, but couldn’t quite pull it off, and that pulled me further out of it.

In any case, here I am leafing through my schedule planner where I mark down the things I do every day, including the movies I’ve watched, and to get to one that really touched me, I’m going back to July and The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which was a gorgeous moving film that I probably should have gone out and recommended to more people but didn’t. And a week before that I watched Free Solo, which was amazing but won the Academy Award for best documentary, so I’m pretty sure that got the recognition it deserved, but in between that there’s been another string of duds like Aquaman or overrated awards season fodder like Steve McQueen’s Widows, which was perfectly entertaining, though also problematic (honestly, to wedge a topic deserving of its own film like a police shooting of an unarmed black man and the grief that follows into a subplot of a heist movie felt tawdry and like the guy who made 12 Years a Slave should have maybe known better). Maybe it’s time to get off watching movies the way I used to and catch up on all those series I haven’t seen in full like Breaking Bad and The Wire. In any case, it was a big step for me, turning something off, tamping down my completionist tendencies and opting for something I’d like more. Maybe it’s the mid-life crisis thing: I’m recognizing more and more now that time is passing and if I’m not enjoying something, I should just stop and turn to something I’ll enjoy more. Now if only I could apply that lesson to other parts of my life…