In the lobby of a local cinema, I was approached by a journalist conducting interviews.
INTERVIEWER: Excuse me, sir, would you mind telling me what movie you’re going to see?
GIBBS: Uh, sure. I’m about to see Jurassic World 2.
INTERVIEWER: Very good. And why are you excited to see this motion picture?
GIBBS: Oh, I saw the trailers for it and I thought they looked pretty good.
INTERVIEWER: Would you say this looks like a life-changing movie?
GIBBS: (chuckling) Well, no. Of course, it’s a dinosaur movie. I’ve seen plenty of them, and they aren’t exactly life-changing.
INTERVIEWER: Perhaps you don’t think movies can be life-changing?
GIBBS: No, that’s not true. I’ve seen a few life-changing movies. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia changed my life back when I saw it in 1999. But there are scores of classics, too, which have changed me for the better. Ordinary People. Ace in the Hole. Babette’s Feast. I definitely think a good movie can make you more humane, more understanding. To understand all is to forgive all, as the French say, and God will forgive us the way we forgive others, so a good movie can certainly have great spiritual value.
INTERVIEWER: But not Jurassic World 2?
GIBBS: No. I’m only seeing this because—
INTERVIEWER: Well, perhaps Jurassic World 2 is going to be very memorable. It will not change your life, but you will dwell on it, ruminate on it, nonetheless. A film doesn’t have to be great in order to be of value. When you leave the theater this afternoon, how long do you think you will ponder Jurassic World 2?
GIBBS: Ponder it? Um, you know, probably not for very long. There’s really not much to ponder. To be honest, I’ll have probably forgotten I saw it by the time I wake up tomorrow.
INTERVIEWER: I see. Well, perhaps the really great movies that can make you a better person are hard to track down? Great things are rare, after all.
GIBBS: No, actually. There are plenty of really great movies I could check out for free at the library down the street. Great movies are easy to come by.
INTERVIEWER: Yes, well, I am sure you’re not seeing a great movie this afternoon because you’ve already seen them all, correct?
GIBBS: Well… No, that’s not the case. There are scores of great movies, or movies that I’ve heard are great, that I haven’t seen. I haven’t seen many Kurosawa movies. I haven’t seen Ran or Seven Samurai, but people rave about those pictures. I haven’t seen any Tarkovsky movies, though I’ve heard Stalker is amazing. I don’t know Ingmar Bergman’s catalog very well, though people always say Wild Strawberries is very beautiful. They say the same about Yasujirō Ozu’s movies, like Tokyo Story. My mother doesn’t like foreign films, but she says she always cries at the end of Tokyo Story because it’s so profound.
INTERVIEWER: Apologies, sir, did you say you could get these great movies for free at the local library?
GIBBS: Um, yep. Yes, I could.
INTERVIEWER: And how much did you just pay to see Jurassic World 2?
GIBBS: Eleven dollars.
INTERVIEWER: Sir, I don’t want to misrepresent you, so I would like to make sure that I have your story straight: You could easily and cheaply acquire beautiful films which you would remember for a long time, change your life for the better, and grant you a more human and forgiving spirit, but you have instead decided to pay eleven dollars to see a dinosaur movie that will not make you a better person and which you will entirely forget about in just a few hours?
GIBBS: (sense of moral helplessness intensifies)
GIBBS: (comes out of deep thought) Look… look… We can’t always watch the best movies, you know? Sometimes we just need a little diversion, a little fun. A little fun isn’t the end of the world.
INTERVIEWER: How do you think a shallow person would justify seeing Jurassic World 2?
GIBBS: I’m sorry, what was that? I didn’t hear the question.
INTERVIEWER: I’ll speak up. How often would you say you watch forgettable movies which will not make you a better person? Twice a year? Three times? Four?
GIBBS: Sometimes. I do it sometimes.
INTERVIEWER: But not most of the time?
GIBBS: (becoming lost in thought again) Uh…
INTERVIEWER: I should remind you that you’re under oath.
INTERVIEWER: Just a little joke.
GIBBS: Look, I don’t think it’s worth making a big deal out of this.
INTERVIEWER: Don’t think it’s worth making a big deal out of what, sir?
GIBBS: Out of silly movies, that’s all. People like to see big, dumb, exciting movies from time to time. It’s not a crime.
INTERVIEWER: Do they like to see these movies “from time to time,” sir?
INTERVIEWER: And these movies aren’t a big deal?
GIBBS: No! You know, Chesterton once said that angels could fly because they took themselves lightly.
INTERVIEWER: How often do films like Jurassic World 2 come out in theaters? Once a year?
GIBBS: It’s more often than that.
INTERVIEWER: Three times a year? Fou—
GIBBS: I mean, big budget, dumb, exciting movies are pretty common.
INTERVIEWER: Big budget?
INTERVIEWER: How big?
GIBBS: You know. Movies with two hundred million-dollar budgets are pretty common anymore.
INTERVIEWER: (mops brow) Two hundred million dollars? Sir, if these movies aren’t a big deal, how can studios possibly recoup such massive budgets?
GIBBS: Well, these movies are pretty popular. The last Avengers movie made close to two billion dollars, so the budget was a good investment.
INTERVIEWER: Sounds like the last Avengers movie was a pretty big deal. Would you say that Avengers movie will be a frontrunner for Best Picture at the Oscars?
GIBBS: Lord, no. Really popular movies tend to not win Best Picture at the Oscars.
INTERVIEWER: That’s true, sir. Did you see Moonlight, the film which won Best Picture last year?
INTERVIEWER: Not many people did! Moonlight was the 92nd highest grossing film of the year, which actually makes it one of the least popular films released in the theater that year. Isn’t that something, sir? The best film is also one of the least popular. Fascinating stuff.
GIBBS: Well, I’m sure it’s been that way for a while, right?
INTERVIEWER: Not at all! Here’s an interesting point to ponder. In 1979, the highest-grossing film of the year was Kramer vs. Kramer, a family courtroom drama with no special effects which was made for $8 million dollars. It won Best Picture.
GIBBS: Actually, you’re wrong, pal. I think Return of the King won Best Picture in 2003, and it was also the highest-grossing film of—
INTERVIEWER: Kramer vs Kramer also won Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress. Did Return of the King win any of those awards?
GIBBS: No, just a bunch of technical awards.
INTERVIEWER: Rain Man is another example. That one came out in 1988. 1988 was a turning point in American cinema. It was the last year the highest-grossing picture of the year had no special effects in it. Rain Man was the highest-grossing film of 1988, had no special effects, and won Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.
INTERVIEWER: If you look at a list of the ten highest-grossing films of the year now, they’re all gazillion dollar special effects bonanzas that aren’t going to win any awards for truth, beauty, or goodness. That’s just the way it is nowadays, sir.
GIBBS: I know.
INTERVIEWER: Sir, I just have one final question for you. It’s more of a thought-experiment, I suppose.
INTERVIEWER: Let us say that in the year 2020, just eighteen months from now, the highest-grossing film of the year in America is a quaint drama, made for just a few million dollars, about two brothers who hate each other finding a way to reconcile with one another. Let’s say this film— this plot— rakes in more money than any other film which comes out in 2020. Sir, what do you think would have to happen in this country in order for such a film to be so popular?
GIBBS: If such a film was the most popular film of the year… I would either assume that America had lost a nuclear war and we could not afford to make any other kind of movie… or that Jesus Christ had made His bodily return to earth. Those are the only two ways such a thing would happen.
INTERVIEWER: Thanks for your time, sir! Enjoy your dinosaur movie!