I make a lot of definitive statements as the Deja Reviewer, judging this and that movie in ways that I think are reasonable and sometimes daring. But doing this leaves me open to the possibility of having to eat humble pie every now and then. Sometimes my errors are so egregious, I feel the need to go back and correct them. In this case, I figured out (nine years too late) that I was wrong about some movies being better if you skip their first half.
A Day in the Life
It would have been better to say that once you have seen them, it’s interesting to go back and start those movies halfway through to gain a new perspective. It might even be fun to see if they still make sense without having context for later events in a film. The fact is that “a day in the life” is absolutely essential to starting any narrative. We need to know what life is normally like for a group of characters before we can appreciate the significance of the disruptions to that norm.
Harold Ramis’s Wisdom
I remember hearing that the original writer of Groundhog Day wanted to start with Phil already stuck in a time loop, and we as the audience would have to acclimate to the strangeness of it in a hurry. Harold Ramis was wise to change it so that we get to see Phil as a weatherman in Pittsburgh before driving down to Punxsutawney. We get to put ourselves in his shoes and think about how we might respond to such a bizarre situation.
The Video That Helped Me Realize My Mistake
What made me come to understand the error of my ways is a Filmento video entitled “Underwater – How to Fail at Alien.” Ironically, I’m going to skip ahead to the part of the video most pertinent to this discussion. But feel free to watch it from the beginning. Basically, it’s about how a 2020 film called Underwater failed to copy what Alien achieved in 1979. Another irony is that in the article I wrote years ago, I criticized Alien for taking so long to get its story going. After watching this video, I realize just how wrong I was about that and about film openings in general.
My advice about starting the film with Kane’s death would be horribly misguided. We need to see him and his crewmates interact, watch Kane’s curious nature get out of hand, witness Ripley and Ash make opposing decisions in response to dangerous situations, and more to give the famous chestburster scene dramatic weight. I was horribly presumptuous and foolish to say otherwise.
Can’t Skip the Start
I cringe when I read some of my early work on this website. I suppose that’s a good thing because it shows that I’ve grown as a writer over the last 10 years, and I do my best to avoid making the same mistakes I made in the past. The only way to become a better writer is to keep writing. The fact that I publish my work as I write it every week without fail means I get to run the emotional gamut from triumph to embarrassment.
I suppose this is a natural extension of my recent decision to cease putting words into filmmakers’ mouths. I’ll keep trying to do better in how I write about films, and I appreciate everyone’s patience with me as I continue on my journey of self-improvement. If I want to become the kind of man I yearn to be, I can’t skip any of the work at the start of the journey.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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