Faces & Dialogue


I’ve been watching a lot of British telly lately.  I’ve given up on U.S. networks and programming.  I miss closeups of faces in movies that have intelligent dialogue! Special effects don’t cut it for me, I’m tired of seeing people murdered and maimed, I’m tired of silly reality games, I’m tired of young women with their boobs out to there and dresses that end half way up their thigh.  I’m tired of being SOLD all the time.

I think the reason I love to read is that I get more dialogue that way.  So many movies spend all their energy in action and have nothing to offer your brain.  At least with a book your mind has to keep working even if the dialogue isn’t terrific; you get to imagine what’s going on instead of being force fed a never ending stream of images.

As for faces, well, you can tell so much about a person, or a character from their face.  And faces don’t lie. They may put on masks, but ultimately they give themselves away.  If you doubt me, the pay attention to the face of young actors and actresses as they inexpertly turn for a better camera angle — ever aware of the importance of image.

Quite understandably I grew up on “old movies.”  When I was young they weren’t “old” movies.  They were reasonably current, having been made in my time, or maybe since my parents were married. That included a lot of material; there were a lot of movies made from the beginning of WWII until our family had a television or my parents would roll out the station wagon for a trip to the drive in movie. But two things in common with many of the movies of that era were lots of face shots and lots of incredible dialogue.  That and the fact that “stars” tended to be a little older and more mature than they are today.

I’m tired of programs where women seem to have nothing in their wardrobe but cleavage and leg.  There was a time when women seemed quite happy to dress with a little modesty; when everyone didn’t have to be sexy; when it was OK just to be a person.

I know that I’m outside the target demographic for today’s movies but I have to say that I find a lot of the characters in today’s entertainment (including TV) to be unbelievable.  So many actors (meaning male and female) are playing roles that they would never inhabit in the real world.  People don’t rise quickly to positions of power in average kinds of jobs. There might be one or two, but certainly an entire police department isn’t going to be under 40.  And as young as Navy pilots might be, they aren’t Luke Skywalker young.  I accept that there is a certain amount of “suspension of disbelief” involved in entertainment but it seems that the industry has pushed well beyond my limits of disbelief.

I miss faces with lines.  Plastic surgery and the never ending pursuit of youth has robbed actors and actresses of personality.  Too many women look the same today.  I long for a little individuality.  With the ability to cut and paste faces until they achieve some sort of presumed perfection comes also the reality that it no longer matters as much what the actor/actress looks like because they aren’t all that different from the herd of potential players.  As long as they are young and attractive and can speak a line — that’s all that matters.  And the industry can go through as many young bodies as it wants.  There will always be another young man or woman willing to do whatever for the chance at a career.

I miss dialogue that makes we think.  I miss dialogue that inspires my vocabulary.  I miss the carefully crafted turn of phrase.  I secretly think that part of the reason certain movies keep getting re-made is that they contain elements like dialogue, like quiet moments of reflection, like insights into humanity that are hard to find in today’s fiction. Rather than find someone with skill to create something really new and worthwhile it’s easier to cherry pick out of the orchard of previous works in the hope of a big reward. After all, that way you don’t have to PAY for the process of creation and you have your “project” already defined without risk.

We’ve been playing around with our Cable subscription and our Amazon Prime Video subscription.  We don’t seem to land on many conventional channels any more.  In pursuit of something more challenging we find ourselves watching more programs and movies that are created/produced in other countries.  Even if some qualities of the program/film suffer at least we get a.) new scenery, b.) insights into other cultures (albeit skewed for entertainment),  c.) ideas about how other people react to the same human situation we find ourselves in.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not upset.  I’m not even complaining.  I’m merely stating the facts of how I feel.  I don’t mind that I find myself missing certain things.  I’m not the targe audience. That’s OK.  Besides, feelings of longing give rise to a desire to pursue something better. The more the current trends turn me off the more likely I am to find better ways of spending my time. Win/Win!

I  have to wonder, however.  Given the fact that so many Baby Boomers are retiring and have more time to spend with their TV it sure seems like the industry is screwing itself by producing baby food when there has to be a market for programming with meat and intelligence.

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7 thoughts on “Faces & Dialogue

  1. So spot on, Peter! I love British Telly, and can highly recommend the Acorn subscription through Amazon and Britbox. Other than some sporting events we hardly ever watch network or cable anything. British detective shows such as Vera or George Gently are so well done.

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  2. We’ve recently watched two Spanish TV series with English subtitles with people who seem real: The Grand Hotel and Love in Times of War. We also love British and Australian mystery series. And shows like Doc Martin that explore everyday life among people with character.

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    1. I can’t say I’ve seen any Spanish TV that I can recall.

      Australian programs are interesting not only from the aspect of a significantly different culture but also from a significantly different legal system.

      And, yeah, programs like Doc Martin are fascinating because the characters are quite well developed but also because with a series like that they can continue on season after season without having to make the episodes increasingly convoluted to hold an audience that tuned in for novelty and excitement.

      >

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  3. Peter,
    With all due respect, if you feel American TV has little dialogue or substance, you just haven’t looked in the right places.
    FX, THAT, AMC, and USA networks have some original programming that doesn’t rely on beautiful people and special effects.
    The TV series Fargo, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Americans, and even Mr Robot. Theses are programs just dripping with great dialogue and storylines. These are just a few of them on standard Cable or Satellite.
    American Crime Story: Versace murder is currently running also now.
    If you need more, the EPIX channel has 3 channels for a very small fee, $5-6? .Berlin Station is very entertaining. There are more on Showtime and Starz that are worth the money fee.

    I your age, I read at least 2 books a week. I read for the same reasons you do. These books let me just use my imagination and supply the imagery, but the programs I’ve mentioned are just well written and acted stories that also allow you to understand today’s culture. Our Grandchildren and Children are shaping the culture in a way we need to understand so we can offer input they will take seriously.

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    1. Dave, Points well taken on several areas but I’m interested to note that the programming you mention is not generally part of the so-called major networks. You have to be able to afford cable, and in some cases premium cable to access “better” programming. I think that says something in and of itself.

      Our tastes do vary. I watched one or two episodes of Breaking Bad and found it not to my taste — because of the subject area. We both watched the first couple seasons of The Americans but as the series got increasingly violent we found it less interesting.

      It does seem that with many series the creators have to keep increasing the size of the cast (to bring in new story lines) or to make the content increasingly more complicated so as to hold the attention of viewers with a short attention span, or maybe just to keep thinking up stories. After all, there are usually a limited number of writers on any series and how many episodes can they come up with. I think that’s also why many series that begin will don’t last many seasons — they exhaust their creative juices and end up having gone down a dead end road.

      As for reading, most of the time I am working on 1-2 books a week. Though there are periods of time when I go a couple/few months and don’t pick up a single book. I tend to stick with LONG books. I enjoy reading enough that something only 200-300 pages goes by too quickly. I’m wanting there to be more content than I find in a short novel. I want to get to know the character more intimately than a short novel can introduce me to. In the off times my brain goes to other projects aside from reading.

      I completely agree that we need to stay abreast of the culture if we hope to have any continuing influence with our young and grand- generations. The world is indeed changing rapidly, and the “old” either must stay current or risk irrelevance.

      That said, I still struggle with wasting my time on entertainment that I find to be pablum for people with short attention spans and warped humor. Most of the time it works out OK — I try to understand the young; they try a little to understand me — works most of the time. Kind of like traveling in a foreign country that doesn’t speak English — if you attempt to communicate they will too. >

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  4. Once upon a time I used tv to zone out after a long stressful day, with remote in hand, of course, so I could avoid the ads. Now that those long days are gone I limit my tv time and, like you, search for meaningful content. Thanks to Amazon, Netflix, and PBS I have plenty of programs from which to choose.

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