DATELINE: Time is Short
We have just informed well-intended friends who always recommend long movies to us, that our tolerance level has passed beyond endurance.
We are no longer putting three-hour movies on our dance card.
Gilligan’s Island started out as a three-hour tour, but turned into an epical series with TV movie sequels.
In our misspent youth, we watched Lawrence of Arabia multiple times. That was four hours a shot. We also took in films like Cleopatra, or Ben Hur. It may be we saw them more than once.
Today long films are not a sign of epic historic proportion, like the Bridge on the River Kwai. We watched recently again Once Upon a Time in the West, which was not only long—but slow. Those oldies were fascinating, whereas today’s movies are pompous, overwritten stories by directors who happen to think of their own self-importance before the audience’s bladder.
Hitchcock thought film should err on the short side to match the human kidney tolerance. Even he exceeded our new guidelines by pushing movies to two-hours.
Nowadays we always figure there are six minutes of credits at the end. That helps if we skip that, though we are loath to do so.
We still believe the best movie is under 90 minutes. As much as we dislike Woody Allen, he had the right idea. Many of his best movies were only 75 minutes in length. Including credits.
Before you point out that we have watched many series like Downton Abbey, Bette and Joan, and Endeavour, all recently, we would point out that those are episodic and run usually an hour.
Most of the time they’re also self-contained. It took 25 years to film all of The Poirot Agatha Christie stories. We don’t intend to take 25 years to watch them. However, they are usually about an hour in length. A few of the classics are shorter movies. More than tolerable.
The upshot of our complaint is that we are no longer in the market for epic movies to be watched in one long sitting. Our life is now counting down to a precious few days.
If we’re going to spend time on a movie, hovering over three hours in length, it had better be special.