Wednesday, December 11, 2013

On movie criticism

Let’s talk about movie criticism. Obviously, I critique movies on this blog – sometimes my opinions are overblown and endowed with all kinds of, ahem, “colorful” language and metaphors. That’s just what I do. But beneath it all, I really do try and add in some real analysis. I care about movies. I love films and consider them to be important art just like great works of literature or music.

Most importantly, I think criticizing movies is important. Free, intelligent discourse in which you shouldn’t have to censor your opinion and each party learns about the other’s tastes and maybe takes some new way of looking at things away from the whole thing. Maybe that last bit doesn’t happen very often, but at the least, it’s fun. It’s enjoyable to have a real good, unguarded, no-holds-barred talk about movies.

Which is why it pains me so much whenever I hear the tired arguments against such thinking: “Oh, you’re being too negative.” “Oh, just enjoy it for what it is.” “You can’t enjoy anything, you’re too critical.” The list goes on and more nonsense dribbles out of these peoples’ mouths that I have gotten sick to death of. Frankly, I’m tired of this kind of shit. It’s time to speak up, for once, in favor of critics.

The big thing people love to harp on is the choice of words used. Apparently it’s not okay to say something “sucks.” You have to say you “personally did not care for the film, but completely and utterly understand where everyone else is coming from, and acknowledge the film has points to it that some people, somewhere, might find agreeable in some fashion.” Throw in an extra “IMO” for good measure and you’re set.

What is this shit? Can’t we just be adults and accept that people have different opinions and ways of expressing themselves? Nobody with a rational mind, who functions in society, is actually looking down on you for enjoying a fucking movie. Saying something “sucks” is not secret code for “you are Hitler reincarnated if you like this.” Get over it.

Because, really, that’s where the problem really stems from – not even the words used so much as the sentiment perceived to be behind them. And I kind of get it – when someone hears one of their favorite movies badmouthed, sure, they get defensive; everyone kind of does, even if they don’t acknowledge it. That’s why the heated, no-holds-barred debates I mentioned earlier pop up between friends and acquaintances. It’s healthy to disagree and to talk to other people who disagree. I get that some people don’t like to debate, so fine, you don’t have to.

But all I ask is this: use your brain a little. Just an inch should be enough.

Use your brain and see that this person would have to be incredibly pathetic to actually think less of you for enjoying a certain movie. Realize that when people say something sucks, or that they didn’t like it, IT’S IMPLIED ALREADY that they respect your opinion on a basic, congenial level. They don’t have to explicitly say it like some kind of goddamned Tourette’s syndrome tick, like some kind of awful disclaimer below everything they say! “IMO” (in my opinion, for the laypeople) is self-explanatory, too. It’s not needed. Just cut it out. Of course it’s your opinion; whose else would it be? Do people really think there’s some kind of ultimatum iron-clad list of what opinions are acceptable? If you tell someone you think a movie is good, the “IMO” is pretty much implied inherently.

This is just another product of today’s overtly cheery, fake, PC culture sweeping this country like a plague. God, what a worthless, backwards trend. This shit, piling up miles high now, will send us back into some kind of societal stone age. If not a technological one, then a societal one; a stone age of little to no progress being made in any aspect of human creativity or logic. Because a bunch of limp-wristed pussies were afraid of their feelings getting hurt. Guess what, sometimes your feelings get hurt. Then you get over it and focus on things that actually matter. Things of substance.

But no. In place of actual discussion and mutual respect, we get people calling each other “haters.” Don’t like the way someone expressed a contrary opinion on your favorite thing in the world? They must be a “hater.” It couldn’t possibly be that they just are a different person with a different world-view than you, could it? It’s got to be a “hater.” Ironically, these so-called pundits of some kind of new age of tolerance come off as much less tolerant than those they condemn. Don’t use the wrong words, don’t dislike the wrong things around the wrong people. Bullshit, transparent “rules” set up like invisible fences around what should be the endless, boundless expansion of the mind: human creativity.

Where most of this seems to come from is “fandoms” – i.e. huge droves of people united in alliance to one particular geeky franchise, whether it’s Doctor Who, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, et cetera. Nothing wrong with any of those things, but the “fandoms” I do have a problem with. The worst of these types just get too dogmatic about it, unable to accept any differing opinions and getting way too emotionally drawn into it. Which means the medium is doing its job; you should get wrapped up in a good story. But when it comes to the point where you’re getting angry whenever anyone happens to not think these things are the greatest in the entire universe…you might want to check yourself into a hospital.

I guess it’s not really the fault of people liking Harry Potter, Doctor Who and the likes so intensely. That just means they have wide appeal and people can really get into them. But when you start actively calling it a “fandom,” and swearing some kind of oath to it, it’s just too fucking much. Fandom denotes a cult-like mentality that ends up robbing any kind of real logic or thought. Mention any kind of disagreement with these people, even mention that you like your own favorites better, and they go insane. Like whatever you want, love whatever you want – but don’t let yourself lose your ability to discern and think.

Whether you agree with me or disagree on some of these points, the upshot and the factual basis of all of this is simple: Movies are released to the public, to be criticized. That’s the whole point. Whether the criticism comes from a standpoint of picking apart little details, or of looking at the movie as an emotional whole, all criticisms are still valid, and when a film is released, it is subjected to whatever analyses and criticisms the larger public wants to use. Some people will have greatly informed criticisms, others just the casual ones of a weekend with nothing else to do but see a movie. Either way, it’s all equally valid and shouldn’t be shat upon because your feelings got hurt.

Our ability to look at films in different ways is what makes films so powerful. We take into account all kinds of things. Some of it is overt and conscious, such as whether or not we found the film initially appealing on the surface. Other times, we apply prejudices and biases – racial, sexual, et cetera. We all come from different walks of life, and we bring our different points of view with us when we watch a movie. That’s what’s so great about films to me, that we all have such differing views. Likewise, some will express their views in strong, robust ways, and others in more laid-back ways – it’s all cool. Just chill the fuck out and accept and that people won’t always act the way you want them to.

So, really, if you are the type of whiny fuckin’ crybaby who applies any of these old clichés (“You’re just too picky,” et. al), you’re pretty much the enemy of art as we know it, and could very well be the downfall of human creativity. These people want a world full of smiling faces without an iota of dissension in the ranks, a festering pot of blandness without a single interesting opinion in the mix. They will pave the road to a world without any great art left, because hey, why bother discerning between good and bad art? Just appreciate it for what it is. Don’t be so picky and judgmental. Just turn your brain off.

I don’t know about you, but that’s starting to sound too close to a Clockwork Orange-type situation for my likings.

But then again, there is one thing we can all agree on…

Kick-Ass 2 is an unholy abomination and should be destroyed at all costs!

Yup, tune in next week for that review!