Nowadays a movie instantly gets points with me if it has opening credits. I’ve never liked the trend, more popular now than ever, in which new movies deny us any credits until the end, usually starting off with the title and nothing else. Somehow it has come to pass that some movies are too “serious” to begin with the self-consciousness of announcing their contributing artists, which, so the thinking goes, prevents a viewer’s complete immersion into the start of a film. I couldn’t disagree more.
On artistic terms, I find the absence of opening credits to be utterly pretentious, but, thinking more practically, I simply find it annoying. I like those opening five minutes, or those five minutes after a prologue, in which I can ease into a movie during its credits. I also like knowing which actors I’m about to see, which cinematographer was involved, and, of course, which writers and director are responsible. I hate being driven mad during a film when an actor’s name escapes me and I spend precious movie time trying to jog my memory. This doesn’t happen when the credits are at the beginning.
I know we’re long past the days of the old studio names meaning anything, but lovers of old movies can tell you the different feelings they get when they see the MGM lion or the Columbia lady or the Warner Brothers shield before an oldie begins. Film-company logos are meaningless today and yet now we ironically get to see so many more of them. Since movies get financing from so many places and have so many producers, movies now often begin with several introductory logos, one after the other. By the third or fourth one, I’m convinced the movie has started, but, no, it’s just another logo. Then all the names of these individual organizations appear on the screen together and I’m almost ready to go home. Everybody wants their moment, I understand, but I don’t have to enjoy it.
So, we finally get to the credits at the end of the movie, and they last a minimum of five minutes. I stay to see the cast and then I leave. I know this is considered a sacrilege, especially coming from someone who writes film criticism, and I also know that I probably miss all kinds of jokes and tags (and bad songs hoping for an Oscar nomination), but I can’t help myself. I was listed in the end credits of The Jerky Boys (1995) for my few lines as a reporter in the opening scene (even though you can’t really even see me). Seeing my name was fun for me, and maybe for the people who know me, but no one else cared. Everyone deserves a pat on the back, no question, but why do I have to be present for it? Again, I look back to the old days of “The End,” often followed by the cast list but that’s it. Makes total sense to me.
Though I like easing into a movie via credits, I don’t need to ease out of one. I’ll never forget seeing Vertigo for the first time. When it ended, in all its stunning abruptness, I was floored. The lights came up. I was spared today’s films’ five more minutes in the dark and I loved the contrast, loved being shocked back into real life, which made it even more powerful. I like taking a movie out the door with me, rather than being “over it” after five to eight minutes of endless names.
I know, I know, I’m a dinosaur whining about how old movies are better than new ones, just a reactionary moviegoer trying to reach back into the past and not move forward. But to me it just looks like common sense, and if it wasn’t broke why did they fix it?