Friday, July 28, 2023

Notes on Film: Gratitude Through Movies

 by Anthony King

Last week I was having a hard time coming up with something to write. Because of something someone said to me the day before I was throwing myself a little pity party. Self-pity can be a terribly destructive drug. Social media (the world) is full of self-pity addicts – present company included. During my descent into sadness I said, “I know what I'm going to write about next week!” Well, as they tend to do, emotions have shifted/moved on/changed/etc. since seven days ago. I'm no longer in that place, thankfully, and it's because I was overcome with a sense of gratitude shortly thereafter. More in a bit, but first, what I've been watching.

I am so excited to see Disney's Haunted Mansion (2023) today. My family and I will be hitting the 4pm showing followed by dinner at the pizza joint next door. In preparation I watched one Disney spookfest I'd yet to see and revisited the original tale of Gracey Manor. Last week Paul Farrell wrote a great essay on Tower of Terror (1997), D.J. MacHale's movie version of the attraction at several Disney park locations. The movie aired as part of The Wonderful World of Disney and stars Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst. It's cheesy and cheap and has Disney Channel Original written all over it, but it's also charming and endearing and tons of fun and will most likely end up on my yearly watchlist of spooky season treats. That night I introduced my family to Rob Minkoff's The Haunted Mansion (2003) starring Eddie Murphy. The movie rightly receives a lot of flack, and its 2.6 average rating on Letterboxd isn't necessarily wrong, but I love this movie. I watched it for the first time in 2020 and saw it for its bad CGI, at times brain damage-inducing dialogue, and dumb storyline. That said, I enjoyed it for what it was three years ago. This time around, though, I saw a completely different movie. The comedy is hysterical, the CGI is what it is given it's 2003, the ending is very sweet, and the spooky vibes are exceptional. This is a four-star movie for me, and will also now be included in the yearly Halloween movie rotation.
I watched a couple new horrors worth noting. Ryuhei Kitamura's The Price We Pay (2022), streaming on Peacock, is an insanely violent and nihilistic tale you'd never expect from looking at the poster. Patrick talked about it a month ago and rightly didn't say much about it. It stars Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff as criminals who have taken Gigi Zumbado hostage and have decided to hole up at a farm house in the middle of nowhere. It's a little The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), a little Don't Breathe (2016), and a little Martyrs (2008). It's extremely violent and poses the question: Aren't tall women scary? I loved it. I followed that with a Shudder original Quicksand (2023) about a soon-to-be-divorced couple in Bogota, Columbia who go hiking and get stuck in... well, you can probably guess. As tired as I am about the trope of couples breaking up and some traumatic incident bringing them back together, Quicksand has a real ick factor that masks some of that melodrama. You get fire ants, giant snakes, and a crime aspect. It's definitely worth 86 of your minutes.
Stephen Scarlata's long-awaited documentary Sharksploitation also hit Shudder last weekend. Using Jaws (1975) as a sort of jumping off point, the film talks to everyone from filmmakers, writers, actors, scientists, and conservationists. While it documents the history of the sharksploitation sub-genre, hitting on major points in the timeline, it also acts as a sort of myth-busting documentary about the damage some of these films have caused re: unwarranted fear of sharks which leads to unnecessary killing of the great fish. It's always great to hear filmmakers like Adam Rifkin, Joe Dante, Roger Corman, the Asylum crew, and more talk about their work and what inspires them, but the real stars of the documentary are the scientists and conservationists. Wendy Benchley, wife of Peter Benchley, author of the original novel Jaws, spends a lot of time talking about her and her husband's work to bring attention to ocean life. The other marine biologists and scientists they interview are extremely personable, hysterical, and bring much-needed insights to life underwater. I had sharks on the brain so I followed that with Jon Turtletaub's Meg (2018), a movie I'd wanted to see since it first came out but for one reason or another didn't. My wife was out that night so the boys and I sat down for some fun. And fun we had. It's big and dumb and extremely funny and ridiculous. I loved every minute of it. And when I mentioned that The Meg 2 comes out next week they both jumped up and down with excitement. So I guess we're doing that now.
Now onto the topic at hand. My son and I met his friend and his friend's dad at the park last week. When the dad asked what I do I told him I have a podcast and I write about movies. He asked for details so I told him that I review Blu-rays, and he says, “Oh are those even still a thing? Doesn't everyone stream?” I explained in short (and through gritted teeth) about collectors and how some movies are only available on disc. Then he says, “Huh. What's the point? Do people read it?” Down the tubes I went. This, of course, was my own doing. I didn't have to let his words affect me. And as far as I could tell he wasn't being malicious; just curious. Sometimes our words don't come out right. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and I hold no resentment against him. But I still spiraled for the rest of the day. (Thank goodness I had a meeting that night to talk about it and pull myself back up.) I responded with, “You know, I don't know if A LOT of people read my stuff, but I know SOME people do.” So if you're reading this, THANK YOU!

Many of us write because we want to. It doesn't matter if we get paid to do it or not, we just love to write. So the next day, back in the light, I woke up with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Each morning, before I get out of bed, I spend a few minutes in meditation and run through a gratitude list (it's a peaceful way to start the day). This site, Patrick, and the people in the FTM community flooded my thoughts. Patrick has worked his butt off to create a safe haven on the internet – a place notoriously filled with hate. Yet FTM is truly a community about (say it with me) MOVIE LOVE FOR MOVIE LOVERS. A couple times a week I get to write about movies (and whatever all this is) and give it to my friend to put on his website where people come to read it. Does it matter how many people? Not at all. I don't write for anyone but myself. Yet people do read the site, watch the Reserved Seating videos, and listen to the podcast, and we hear it brings people joy. It brings me joy to be able to do it. And what is it that brings us together? The movies.

There is a certain group of people I met on Twitter that have one connecting factor: F This Movie! Some of us are podcasters, some of us are writers, some of us are listeners and readers. But we were brought together because of this site and everything Patrick has done. It all comes down to his (our) love of movies. And I'm grateful for that. We should all be grateful for that. I spent last night talking to two of these people I met because of FTM. We talked about movies and life and '90s NBA and the Beatles. This summer my family got to spend an evening with the Bromley crew and Adam and Rosalie. We had such a great time and to be able to finally hug Patrick, Erika, Adam, and Rosalie was very meaningful to me. I see pictures of Rob and his son on the train and think, “God, what a great dad.” I listen to JB and think, “When are you going to write a book, J-Bones?” So I guess this is just a note of thanks to Patrick, the FTM crew, and all of you. My default mode seems to veer on the negative side, yet as soon as I thought about our little world over here I immediately sprang back to life. Thank you!


  1. We appreciate you! Keep up the good work!

  2. Almost everything about this is awesome! (That other dad at the park was kind of a jack ass.) Keep the columns coming and thanks for reminding me that the Haunted Mansion opens this weekend.

  3. It's almost funny how people are surprised that stuff is happening outside of their bubbles.

  4. I love that Kirsten Dunst face. So junk that Tower of Terror is not on Disney plus!

  5. Anthony,

    With regards to the friends dads comments: the stuff about physical media vs streaming is understood and expected. i think there's alot of ways to approach it but in the end i think that we physical media collectors just connect with cinema on a far different level than most. We embrace cinema and enjoy it passionately and deeply. Its like owning an album of a fav band vs scrolling around the radio for something to listen to. It makes sense that most casual movie fans tout and appreciate streaming, its awesome. However it makes equal sense that we physical media fans embrace unlimited access to high quality versions of what we love and the opportunity to dig deeper into them via bonus features.

    With regards to his comment "do people read it". i think theres alot of ways to approa...actually no there isnt...f#@k that comment. its snarky, reductive, demeaning, judgy, and completely uncalled for. Thats all i have for him. Now..for you...i have this.....(soapbox speech in 5...4....3...2....

    Being a passionate movie fan is certainly something thats doable can watch and enjoy and learn about and read about movies, solo, all day long. BUT having the opportunity to share with others? Or learn from others? To find out folks agree with a random unique take you have? To enjoy a healthy critical differing of a movie? To have a safe space devoid of bullsh@t internet negativity? To have a community of folks with similar passions who share with each other? To have your eyes opened to countless new suggestions, genres, movies, books, podcasts? Well that is something very special. VERY special. And i know NO better place on this entire interconnected webscape that does this than F This Movie. NONE. This is completely the result of the passion and dedication of its creators, content providers, and its family of users. This is completely the result of articles like the one you posted above and do so regularly. So...if perchance someone ever again asks you "do people read it?" please feel free to do the following: chuckle a little at their request and say "yea, im pretty sure they do" and then swing by here and share more of your writings, suggestions, and musings. The F This gang will be here waiting for it.

    Peace .n. "We are the Music Makers and We are the Dreamers of Dreams" -Wonka via Oshaugnessy


  6. I enjoy reading your columns and also regularly listen to your podcast if I have seen the movie. Thanks for your contribution!

    BTW, a couple "cult movies" I might suggest you consider: Electra Glide in Blue (1973) and Babylon (1980). And maybe Antarctica (1983), although that's more just unknown than a cult movie.

  7. Agree with the sentiments above. This column rocks and it makes my life better every time you put it out. So I hope you know you're making the world (at least my small one) a better place.

  8. Anthony, I'm a little behind on my reading/listening this week so I just got around to this column. I echo others' sentiments that it's such a joy to read what you write, listen to your thoughts on podcasts, and see your enthusiasm on social media. Speaking for myself, I have found the FTM community only within the last 5-6 years, and it's been truly life-affirming. I love the positivity, the genuine connections and laughs and care that are shared among the contributors and the readers/listeners. Even if no one outside this small circle "gets" what FTM is about or who it's for, no one can diminish what its impact is for us.

    I'm grateful for you, friend! :)