My World: Patricia Sargeant
Do you love movies but have a different take than your significant other? Patricia Sargeant's world is all about movies and so is her husband's, but from completely different points of view...
Movies are a big part of my world. I love them. I love the escapism, which is similar, although not quite the same, as the escapism I find in a good book. With books, I do my own casting, and Idris Elba is my perennial leading man. In movies, casting is left to the whims of the draw.
My husband and I are addicted to movies. Don’t get me wrong. We’re not looking for a 12-step—or even a one-step—recovery program. Besides, since the cost of movie tickets has migrated to the stratosphere, we’re much more discerning in our movie addiction. When we first started dating, movie tickets weren’t nearly as exorbitant as they are today—my husband and I have been together for decades.
A little background: My husband is a videographer—and a very talented artist. I’m a storyteller. Together we’re Pictures and Words.
As far as movies, we’re both partial to sci-fi/fantasies like Star Wars (episodes 4, 5, and 6), Star Trek (various releases between us), The Matrix (the first one), Terminator (the first one), Alien, Aliens and Avatar. Oh, and most of the Marvel Comics movies, although even with those we have our difference of opinions. I love the adventures, the action, the believability and the suspension of belief in sci-fi/fantasies. Besides, if I’m going to donate an organ to pay for a movie ticket, I need to get the payoff in big—and sometimes overly dramatic—special effects.
Like most people, after we see a movie, we chat about our impressions of the film over lunch. Did the movie meet your expectations? How would you rate it on a scale of one to ten? What did you really like? What did you really dislike? What would you change? When we first started this tradition, my husband always commented on some aspect of the cinematography that I hadn’t even noticed. On the other hand, I’d bring up lines or plot points that hadn’t registered with him. At first, our conversations were fun—but weird. At times it felt as though we hadn’t seen the same movie. Our exchanges went something like this:
Him (disgusted): That movie didn’t have any kind of a look or style.
Me (shocked): But the story ....
Or another example:
Him (excited): That movie had high production value.
Me (shocked): But there was no character arc.
It didn’t take long, though, for us to realize that our often—always?—very different takes on the movies we saw were the result of our filtering the films through our career callings. He was all about the pictures; camera angles, lighting, sound mixing. I was wrapped up with the words; character development, plot points, tension. (Let me pause here to point out that there was some crossover even in the beginning. Sometimes, for example, I found a movie’s sound mixing to be distracting. Sometimes he thought a movie’s dialogue was lame.)
Once we realized that we were grading the films based on our professions, our chats became even more fun. Instead of trying to figure out which one of us lacked reason and which one lacked taste, we were able to relax and learn from each other.
Let’s use The Matrix—the first one, not its sequels—as an example. My husband pointed out that when the characters are in the matrix, the scenes have a blue tint. When the characters are in the “real” world, the lighting has a green tint. In addition, each of the movie’s scenes are framed like comic book art. Just take a quick look at The Matrix’s opening scene for a brief example. It’s so cool. That deliberate framing coupled with the blue filter helps bring out the sense of the movie’s alternate universe. The blue tint for the matrix, the green tint for the “real” world, and the comic book framing gives The Matrix its unique look and style
High production value scenes, simply put, are those scenes that look expensive. They add a touch of quality to a movie. To be blunt, they keep the movie from looking and feeling cheap. One example of a high production value scene is the scene in Titanic during which Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are standing on the bow of the ship—the lighting, the expansive ocean, the horizon. It’s a signature scene.
Returning to The Matrix , it’s difficult for me to select just one scene as the movie’s signature scene. Every scene—and every angle of every scene—in that movie was designed with great care and deliberation. Or at least that’s the way it seems. But if you tempted me with a Boston Cream doughnut, I’d choose the helicopter crash as The Matrix’s signature scene. Talk about special effects! The helicopter turning at an angle as it speeds over Neo’s and Morpheus’s heads toward the glass skyscraper. The resulting waves of glass and metal as the helicopter smashes into the side of the skyscraper. The ginormous explosion that propels shards of glass toward the screen, toward us. Trinity’s bungee-jump out of the crashing helicopter. The golden flames, black smoke and silver glass that chase Trinity as she swings toward us on the end of the rope that Neo is gripping for dear life while we all hold our breath, waiting to see what happens next. So intense. And so very cool. (Yes, I love The Matrix.)
It’s funny. Now that I have a better understanding of the parts that fit together for the whole cinematic experience, I can usually put my finger on why I thought a movie was just perfect—or what I thought was missing. I can more clearly explain what I found so satisfying about the film or conversely, what left me feeling “meh”.
And—bonus!—my husband was able to pick up a thing or two from me regarding the movie’s storytelling. It still tickles me when he complains that there wasn’t enough tension in a script or that the main character didn’t have a character arc; that she was the same at the end of the movie as she was when we first met her at the beginning. In summary, my husband and I have long since blurred our roles of Pictures and Words. We’re like that line in the Hall & Oats song, When two become one, who is the one to become?
In addition to enhancing my movie-viewing enjoyment, I’ve also been able to apply the cinematic lessons I learned from my husband to my storytelling. I try to plant at least one “high production value scene” in each book. And I try to frame the scenes to convey a mood. I’m still working on the sound mixing, though.
Thank you for joining me at the movies. I’ve had fun strolling down memory lane and revisiting The Matrix, and I hope you’ve gotten something helpful from this peek into this aspect of my world.
Patricia Sargeant also writes as Olivia Matthews, and her latest book Peril and Prayer: A Sister Lou Mystery, comes out in July 2018.
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