Use Your Public Library

When most people think of seeing a movie, they usually think of seeing the latest Hollywood offerings at their local theater. Seeing movies in a theater can be fun, but expensive. A better option is to use Netflix, iTunes, or Redbox and rent the latest movies you want to see for much less. However, nearly all popular video rental stores stock the movies that were once in the theaters. If you stick to just the latest Hollywood movies, you’ll miss out on a lot of wonderful movies that either didn’t get much exposure or come from foreign countries.

By far the cheapest way to watch movies is to rent them from your public library. Simply browse through the DVD titles in your library and when you see something interesting, check out its popularity on sites like Rotten Tomatoes. Although Rotten Tomatoes isn’t always an accurate gauge of a movie’s quality, higher ratings tend to represent more interesting movies to watch.

Also browse through the previous year’s Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations to see excellent movies that might have slipped past the mainstream theaters. One excellent German film is “Four Minutes,” which is about a pianist prodigy who’s stuck in prison. Another excellent Japanese film is “Shall We Dance?” (Hollywood did a remake which isn’t as good). What makes “Shall We Dance?” especially interesting is the cultural aspect of Japan that makes the idea of dancing seem even more difficult for the hero to achieve as his final goal.

When you watch excellent foreign films, you can study the structure and notice that a movie like “Four Minutes” or “Shall We Dance?” has the same structure as Hollywood blockbusters like “The Hunger Games” and “Terminator 2.” Notice that right before Act III, the hero’s goal seems almost impossible.

In “Four Minutes,” the prison denies the hero the chance to compete in the music competition, so her music teacher helps her escape. Now the hero not only must compete in the music competition, but she must do so before the police arrive to take her back to prison. Also notice that even in great foreign films, both the hero and the hero’s mentor achieve victory somehow.

In “Four Minutes,” the hero finally gets to compete but under her terms. Her mentor, the music teacher, finally feels redeemed in seeing the hero succeed even beyond her wildest dreams. The climax of every good movie, whether it comes from America, Japan, Germany, France, or Mexico, always results in some kind of definite conclusion for both the hero and the hero’s mentor.

Browsing your public library can help you discover lots of hidden movie gems that you might have easily overlooked while searching for another lame sequel to a previous Hollywood blockbuster. Remember, great movies don’t always have the biggest special effects or the A-list stars. Sometimes the best movies are the quiet ones from other countries that just happen to be on your library’s shelves, waiting for someone to discover them.

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