A blog about movies and filmmaking.

What’s good, what’s not good

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2010 at 12:03 am

With the release of AVATAR, and pretty much after any “blockbuster” that makes lots of money, but isn’t exactly adored by the critics; there’s lots of discussion about how mainstream audiences don’t know what’s good, or that they only care about movies that you have to “turn off your brain”  to watch. In a couple of recent articles, these concerns have resurfaced, and I felt the need to drop my own two cents.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Now, granted I’m no film professor, or even a film school drop out – hell, I only have an Associates degree in Graphic Design and my favorite movies of all time are westerns – all I know is that I like what I like. Whether it’s an under-appreciated classic like THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE; a French New Wave noir by Francois Truffaut like SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER; a cinematic wonder that might not have revolutionized movies, but is pretty spectacular like AVATAR; or even a lowly indie-movie about an old man who finds some illegal aliens in his metropolitan apartment, like in THE VISITOR; I love a lot of movies. I don’t have a particular genre, film-movement, or even budgetary constraint on the movies that I like. Did I like TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN? Not particularly. Do I personally know someone that does like it, quite a bit? Yes. And that’s their prerogative.

Have I shown that person more “high-quality” movies, like DISTRICT 9 and MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY? Yeah, and he tends to like them as much as any other – what could be considered – common person. “Cinema” as some people like to think of it, is an artform, and just as with cubism or impressionism; it’s not all meant for everyone. Someone who says, “my kid could paint that” is no more likely to like Wassily Kandinsky, than they are a David Lynch or even a Spike Jonze movie. Will they line up to see 2012, though? Sure, and you know why? Because it’s fun. Will 2012 ever be considered top-quality filmmaking? Probably no more than other disaster-porn work like THE TOWERING INFERNO, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, or ARMAGEDDON; but just as those movies all have an audience and fans that adore them, so to will the movies that came out this year that critics didn’t like.

The Towering Inferno

There doesn’t have to be a specific reason why a certain movie can make over a billion dollars in three weeks of release over another barely crossing one hundred million. It’s not specific to economic turmoil, and might have more to do with “group mentality” of not wanting to be left out – but in my experience there are just as many people that will defy seeing/doing something, just because that’s what the “group” does. (I know, because I’m sometimes one of them.) But, sometimes movies are successful, because they’re just plain fun, or moving, or familiar, or completely different. If there were an actual formula to predicting what will be a success, and both a critical and mainstream hit, would we really see as many flops as we do?

People are praising Lars von Trier’s ANTICHRIST and Harmony Korine’s TRASH HUMPERS, but you know what I’m probably not ever going to see them. Does that make me an unlearned heathen? Both are iconoclast filmmakers that I just don’t personally like their style or sensibilities. What if I say that I did like THE HURT LOCKER and GOODBYE SOLO, does that make it all better? How about if I say that ANGELS & DEMONS and GI JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA were both fun movies that I enjoyed this past summer? And I also fell in love with both THE BROTHERS BLOOM and (500) DAYS OF SUMMER? The thing to remember is that every movie is someone’s first, and more than that any movie can be someone’s favorite. My mom’s favorite movie is GREASE, my friend’s favorites vary from YOU’VE GOT MAIL, to OLDBOY, CARLITO’S WAY and L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Everyone has different tastes, and no one really needs to be made to feel guilty – other than some innocent ribbing every now and then – for the things they like. Because WE are all different.

Oldboy

It’s called taste, or preference. Do I know the difference between true art filmmaking and the artistry that goes into making a blockbuster movie? Yes, I do and I have to say that knowing that doesn’t supersede my desire to be entertained and moved by going to the cinema, or popping a DVD into my player. I wouldn’t ever say that I watch certain kinds of movies to “turn my brain off”; any movie I select to watch is meant to entertain me, and for a lot of stories that defy my views of logic, if they do it well, I can buy into it. Because I know I’m not always meant to be seeing reality. Is it all metaphor, or meant to be deciphered with a deeper significance; or is a cigar, sometimes just a cigar that you’re meant to sit back and enjoy for a short amount of time.

This isn’t to say that critical analysis or people shouldn’t look into what is lacking in certain – or in all – movies. Just that I think that in the criticism community, the joy of actually watching a movie seems to get lost. I’ll admit, there’s no way in hell that I would go to a theater to watch ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS 2: THE SQUEAKQUEL, or LEAP YEAR, or EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES; but then I’m not paid to have an opinion for every movie, and I’ll admit I’d probably quickly become jaded if I did. But, maybe that’s a flaw in the criticism community. There’s bound to be someone that can see those movies and understand the audience that it’s meant for; take movies like that for whatever artistic measure is there and try to come up with something to try and persuade people to either see it or not. I’ve been surprised a number of times by movies I thought would be utter crap, only to see them and find them actually charming – recently those movies have been YES MAN and FOUR CHRISTMASES. Barring that, perhaps without any kind of word of mouth about movies that aren’t worth the time of day, the studios and filmmakers behind these kinds of movies might work harder to create something worth seeing – and maybe the chasm between what the “criticism” community likes and what the “common person” likes will close.

Yes Man

Maybe there is answer to this, and maybe there’s more at play than just personal taste. Maybe liking THE DA VINCI CODE and THE MACHINIST is an anomaly, and the general public just don’t know that they’re stupid and need to educate themselves. But, in my experience, people are happy to not dedicate themselves to something they’re not passionate about, and as much as it pains me to say; not a lot of people care that much about movies. If everyone did, then a movie only making a billion dollars would be at the bottom of the scale – unless the entire world was then covered with dollar theaters. So, maybe instead of spending so much time worrying about why people like certain crappy movies, how about we just start enjoying the movies that we do like.

The Fountain

Let the unwashed masses like their Professional wrestling, Nascar, Transformers movies and Patrick Swayze. I’ll be over here liking what I like and experimenting with what I’m unsure about. After all, if no one else ever liked THE FOUNTAIN, I know I did and that’s all that matters to me.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by colemanranahan, John Muth. John Muth said: Some thoughts on movie tastes, reasons for bad movies & why we're all allowed to like the movies we like: http://wp.me/ps9nC-6x […]

  2. Here are a couple of movies that I would like to recommend that seem pretty awesome. Here are the synopses that I have covered on my blog for Extraordinary Measures
    http://cbt20.wordpress.com/2010/01/12/biotechnology-in-the-media-8/ and Daybreakers. http://cbt20.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/biotechnology-in-the-media-7/
    May be of interest.

    • Thanks for the recommendations – and I fully intend to see Daybreakers, and actually didn’t really want to see Extraordinary Measures, but a friend convinced me. 🙂 But, I don’t really know how this comment corresponds to my blog post…

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