Friday, June 13, 2008

The Larry McMurtry game



The first thing to know about Larry McMurtry is, he's an under-appreciated Living National Treasure. The second thing is, he knows how to have a good time. Here's a prime example of the games artists play with themselves.


There was a time in McMurtry's life - and who knows, this may still be going on - when he would amuse himself by not seeing movies. Instead, he would read reviews and poll many different people, then extrapolate from their opinions, in order to form an opinion about what his opinion of a film would be, if he ever saw it.

He says the truly interesting thing about this game is, what you're really evaluating is the people. It's easy to see what he means. A movie about teen suicide will have a different effect on the parent of a suicidal teen, than on the next person. You have allow for each viewer's preconceptions, political views, home situation, health; take all these things into account, and figure how they would skew that person's assessment of a given work of cinematic art.

McMurtry says, "…. by graphing, as it were, what each could be expected to overpraise, underpraise, revile, not notice, or deliberately ignore, one could acquire a very nice sense of the film."

This is a "kids, don't try it at home" kind of a game. It's not good for a Valley Girl to ask all her friends about a movie, and they all say it sucks, so she shuns it, thus potentially losing out on one of the most revelatory growth experiences that might otherwise have graced her young life. It's never good to make up your mind beforehand. Well, hardly ever. But in general, prejudice is obviously a very poor habit of thought.

That's why it's an artist's game, Larry McMurtry is a grown-up artist with a lot of life experience, and an impressive and very respectable list of professional credits, and a very diverse cast of friends. An intelligent adult can tolerate a whole lot of cognitive dissonance without cracking up. It's possible for a mature person, especially a creative one, to hold a pre-formed opinion, and yet at the same time keep an open mind.

After reading the reviews and asking his friends, and coming to a conclusion about the movie in question, McMurtry says, "To increase the interest of the game I would from time to time actually see a film."

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