From the Archives: How to Enjoy Movies: A Guide for the New School of Film Snobbery

From the Archives: How to Enjoy Movies: A Guide for the New School of Film Snobbery

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.

Originally published at Cinema76

In the world of film discussion, I often speak to people who, despite claiming to be film buffs, don’t really seem to enjoy movies. It’s so odd that something designed to evoke strong emotion, or at the very least distraction, instead draws disdain. Its a parallel to the chefs I see on The Food Network. Do these people even enjoy food? They seem pretty mad about it. Well, except Guy Fieri. He loves food. I digress.

On a very regular basis I give a positive review of a film only to be dismissed because “well, you like everything.” You know what? I do like everything. Or at least I find things to like about the movies I see. It’s wonderful problem to have. Enjoyment of my hobby is something I will always defend, even though I really shouldn’t have to. I watch movies because I like movies, not because I want ill-founded social merit. Surely you ask “but if I like everything, why would anyone listen to me?” People listen to Guy Fieri (as they should). So fret not, image-conscious film snob, for you too can be a starry-eyed film lover without sacrificing critical integrity. Let’s lift that shroud of pretentiousness and turn ourselves into cinematic Guy Fieris. Let’s reclaim our love of film from mopey critique. It’s as easy as these four steps:

1: Consider the filmmaker’s intentions

Michael Bay has a quote: “I make movies for teenage boys. Oh dear, what a crime.” Really, this sums up everything I want to say. If you sit down to watch The Rock and expect subtlety and nuance, you will be sorely disappointed. But this is hardly a reason to call it a bad movie. Like it or not, The Rock succeeds in accomplishing each of its noble goals (for Sean Connery to chew scenery, for scenery to chew villains, and for Nic Cage to use the phrase “Zeus’ butthole”), and does so with style. It may not be your cup of tea, but it hits every intended mark.


2: Remember that there are very few perfect movies…

…and even that is debatable. You say, “but what about The Godfather?” I say, “it could have lost about 30 minutes.” I happen to think Mad Max is absolutely pristine, while others find it to be dated and hokey. Every single movie is going to have flaws in somebody’s eyes, it’s just a matter of how these flaws affect your experience.

I had a roommate a few years back with whom I watched No Country For Old Men. Throughout the entire runtime he was floored. Then came the infamously soft ending, which caused him to scream “that movie sucked!” He maintains the assertion to this day, willfully ignorant of the fact the 95% of the movie rocked his socks. This is a lesson in perspective. Objective perfection is impossible. To expect flawlessness is to stack the deck against every movie you see.


3: Rather than nitpick, seek value

In the initial T-Rex scene of Jurassic Park, there is a popular nitpick: after the electric fence falls, the landscape seems to morph entirely, revealing a cliff that hadn’t previously existed. Why? So that the audience can watch a super sweet action sequence involving dangling off of said cliff, duh. Even though this is a gaping error, it doesn’t really ruin the movie. This is because Spielberg trusts his audience (also that he is a master of movie magic). I’m sure he was aware of the geographic hole in his film, but he’s also aware that if something so arbitrary takes you out of the movie, you probably don’t deserve to enjoy it anyway, you slog. Remember this when you’re about to skewer a film over what is essentially nothing. Would it really make the movie better if there was an extra ten minutes dedicated to mapping out the geography of The T-Rex pen? If you answered yes, go join a convent. Take your vows, for ye can not be saved.



4: Learn what you like, and avoid what you don’t

The hardest thing for the uppity film critic to understand, it seems, is that movies are entirely optional. Unless you are undergoing rigorous A Clockwork Orange style psychological reprogramming, there is no situation in which watching a film is required. So if a movie looks like it’s going to be bad, don’t see it. It’s that easy. I can happily live a life without watching even a single second of the Twilight series. Not only does this save me close to 10 hours of presumable boredom, but it frees me from having to waste my limited hatred reserves on something so arbitrary. I’d much rather hate something worth hating, like hate.

Don’t like a movie that you’re currently watching? Turn it off. There are multiple easy-to-find buttons for just this very thing. Caveat: I’m of the belief that unless you watch a movie, in its entirety your review shouldn’t amount to more than “I couldn’t finish it.” Still, imagine all that joy you can hold on to!

At the end of the day, it’s about perspective. Too many times have I seen people go into a movie ready – excited, even – to just hate, hate, hate. Don’t be afraid to love movies! And if someone questions your integrity over a film preference, I submit that their curmudgeonly opinion doesn’t matter. Art appreciation is all about subjectivity, and when it’s my turn to consume, I prefer to enjoy myself. Just like Guy Fieri.


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