attention span for what?

I had May 5 marked on my calendar (yes, I still use paper calendars, in addition to electronic calendars). That’s when Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 came out.

I also had May 19 marked. That’s when Fast X opened.

I saw, and enjoyed, the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies (and also the Guardians Holiday Special). I’ve also seen and enjoyed some of the Fast & Furious movies. Without thinking about it very deeply, I had assumed I would probably see the latest installments of both franchises, but when the premiere dates approached my enthusiasm was almost completely lacking.

There are a few factors, but the one which struck me as interesting was that Fast X is 141 minutes long, and the Guardians movie is 150 minutes long.

(I should mention that Martin Scorsese and James Cameron have produced very long movies recently, and they have both complained about the various complaints about that. I have not seen those movies, but that’s mostly because at this point I’m not interested in either director. I don’t believe run time was a factor.)

However, recently I have been watching and studying and enjoying David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (146 minutes), Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight (168 minutes), and Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 (163 minutes).

Is this apparent inconsistency because I’m sick of superheroes and related subjects? No, I’m still looking forward to the final episodes of the show Doom Patrol, and the upcoming third season of The Witcher, and I’m hoping for another season of the wonderful Harley Quinn cartoon show.

Thinking about this, I realized one difference between the various long movies mentioned above: The Guardians movie and Fast X are, I’m sure, full of non-stop stuff — explosions and quips and rushing around and family and cliffhangers, plus endless callbacks and references to earlier movies (and TV shows), and foreshadowing about the next movie or TV show.

Even thinking about this feels exhausting. What do Mulholland Drive, Hateful Eight, and Blade Runner 2049 have in common (in addition to being, in different ways, amazing to look at)?

They take their time.

They’re not based on the assumption that I have no attention span.

As Major Marquis Warren says around the middle of The Hateful Eight (which was not going at a fast clip to begin with), “Let’s slow this way down.”

Now, I’m not advocating that modern movies get even longer than they are — many movies are much too long for my taste as it is, but what’s most tiring to me is the quantity of stuff, not the number of minutes.

Also, the movies I do enjoy watching, as listed above, all stand alone. You don’t have to prepare by doing homework to understand what’s going on.

By the way, I often wish for a version of Blade Runner 2049 where the music is at full volume but the (mostly forgettable) dialogue is somewhat muted. Now that I know the plot, just allow me to focus on the amazing music and gorgeous visuals.

Speaking of amazing visuals, I still remember seeing The Avengers and Prometheus on the same weekend, and noting that every frame of Prometheus was better to look at than any frame of The Avengers. That doesn’t make Prometheus a “better movie” — it has massive flaws in areas where The Avengers has, at minimum, competence — but sometimes it’s enjoyable to see a movie which takes advantage of what a film can be and do.

I also think of this when I see YouTube reaction channels, accustomed to modern movies, go back and watch The Shining or Apocalypse Now or 2001 or The Godfather or Dr. Strangelove, or Rio Bravo (there’s a movie which really takes its time).

Or maybe it’s just the difference between movies made to be seen in theaters and movies which will mostly be seen on smaller screens in surroundings with many possible interruptions. Going back and watching old TV shows now, even when the commercials aren’t there, the rhythm is still the same, where right before each commercial break there had to be something to try to hook you into not switching the channel.

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