I like to write about writers that have inspired me to write more. But Joe Morgenstern, the movie critic for the Wall Street Journal, has inspired me in a different way.
For most of my life I've taken art at face value. That is, if an artist can do something that I, or the average person, can't do, then I'm impressed. If, on the other hand, I can do it, I'm not impressed.For example, the average person could never paint a landscape like Bob Ross. But the average person could easily duplicate at least half of what you see at MOMA (ok, not easily, but you get the point). So in my mind, that has been the difference between good art and bad art, lots of talent and not a lot of talent.
I've talked to a fair number of people about this that seem to agree. And I think it's pretty understandable. It's like looking at art through the same lens that one would use to look at sports; most people would pay more to see professionals play football than they would to see a 12 year old play Pop Warner. Why? Because professionals are much better than the average. More talent and skill = more quality.
I've been reading Joe Morgenstern's movie reviews for several years and I'm finally beginning to appreciate movies at a much deeper level. His amazing writing and insight into movies isn't just enlightening, it's entirely legitimate and logical. He sees things that the casual movie watcher does not. And after several years of reading his column, he's starting to rub off on me.
I now watch films with a more critical eye. I consider meanings that aren't immediately obvious, I watch how characters are built, how they make us think about ourselves, and the conflict that builds when we cheer for them when maybe we shouldn't, how we dislike them when maybe we should. I've realized that sometimes it's not the happy ending that makes the movie worth watching, often, the story itself is the gift.
From a technical perspective, nearly any film maker with the budget could make, say, Little Miss Sunshine. But very few could create a movie that connects with an audience like it did. In short, and thanks to Joe Morgenstern, I've begun to appreciate film for more than I see on the screen. I've begun to appreciate art. And I think that's pretty neat.