Simple things are better. This is what I'm starting to believe. Simple food, simple sun, simple stories. We live in an age that appreciates complexity and endorses the maze. I like mazes too. But in the end mazes get you to the same place as a straight line.
This is not to say that simple things have to be simplistic. I would even argue that the more clearly and simply something is told, expressed and conveyed, the more complex it is. Once things are streamlined, we retain the essence but lose the appendages. The absence of those offshoots thus allows us to view what we see and hear with an imaginative exploration that would be unnecessary had everything been explained and dissected in exhaustion.
Think of Million Dollar Baby. Love it or hate it, the movie has a pretty simple story. A young boxer coached by an aging boxer. Tragedy results. People are changed. A lot of people who slagged the film slagged it because they had seen it all before, it wasn't original, yada yada yada. Well, perhaps. But as John Irving once said, after you forget the machinations of the plot, what you remember about a story is the emotional resonance that the characters created for you. You may not remember what they did or how they did it, but you remember the feelings the author instigated in your own heart. I can't remember scene-by-scene what happened in Million Dollar Baby, but boy do I remember the effect. Why? Ordinary people in a difficult situation. Bad things happen to them. I feel their pain, as Clinton would say. Simple.
It's not cool or hip or fashionable to acknowledge the simplicity of sentiment, but it's sentimentality that makes the world go 'round. I sometimes think that people don't apply the same standards to art that they accept in life. Meaning, we demand that art be rigorous and cynical, deep and multi-layered, complex and multi-faceted, but what moves us the most in life? The homemade birthday card your kid gives you for your birthday. The rise of the sun on a winter morn. The feel of the first raindrop on your palm. This is what makes our day and deepens our lives. The simple things.
I like a long book better than a short book. I like big movies with big themes and extended running times. But what I remember most from these experiences are the simple scenes and moments that serve as anchor for all that has come before or will follow. Kevin Costner choking up in the courtroom in J.F.K. Rocky pointing out that the trunks on his picture don't match the real shorts he will wear, and the promoter telling him: "It doesn't really matter, does it, Rock? I'm sure you'll give 'em a good show." The look in Eastwood's eyes when he realizes what Hillary Swank is asking him to do. Kevin Costner at the end of No Way Out wistfully quoting exiled Russian writer Solzhenitsyn, thereby succinctly explaining his entire rationale for remaining on the run throughout the film. Al Pacino in The Godather Part III shly telling the priest at the Vatican that it's been a long time since his last confession. Small moments. Simple moments.
The only ones worth remembering, really.