Pretension; A Discussion of Films, Their Criticisms, and The Belief That a Movie Is Never Just a Movie

It happens in an instant between the moment the film companies get their titles splashed across the screen and the opening credits roll. We’re enthralled, and intrigued; we’re waiting impatiently for the plot to begin and the characters to reveal themselves. In an instant, we’ve been taken away from our lives and placed in the centre of a new one, observing new people, new stories, and new events. A good film has us immediately hooked, wanting to know more about what we’ve seen onscreen – a bad movie has us questioning whether we made the right decision in choosing it – an even better movie asks us to wait and to be patient, because it knows it’s going to get better. A great movie knows that the beginning is just the beginning, and that it has time to amaze us; it knows that it needs time to amaze us and that, like a good illusion, the small details that we miss while we’re waiting are the most important.

Of course, every director, like every illusionist, knows that we’re not really paying attention since we want to be amazed.

We continue to watch as the plot develops, regardless of the introduction and the opening credits, and as the characters begin to reveal themselves. We continue to watch as the visuals fascinate us, and as the effects fool us into believing such an existence is possible. We continue to watch as the sounds’ subtlety silently dulls us into a sense of ease and acceptance. We continue to watch as the cinematography and editing, two of the most overlooked aspects of film, transition us further into the film, while we pay all of our attention to the characters and plot onscreen. A good movie has, by now, eased its way into our psyche and is producing scene after scene of relative perfection. A bad movie has, almost definitely, made us regret our decision. A great movie has, no doubt, made itself evident and has made us aware of its mastery.

A critic may use words and phrases such as “well-cast,” “brilliantly shot,” “terribly edited,” or “wonderfully directed,” and the so-called “Regular” movie-goer may use words like “boring,” “bad acting,” “good plot,” and “interesting,” but the fact remains that the two opinions stem from similar psyches. A bad movie is still a bad movie, and a good plot is still a good plot. The occupation of the critic does not change the fact that criticism is dispensed, and the popularity of the judge does not change the critique they provide. An individual might not evaluate a film based on the same criteria as another, but that doesn’t make their opinion any less valid, and it doesn’t reduce the validity of a film in any way.

Certainly, bad movies and good movies exist within the same spectrum, but our criticisms cannot end there.

The plot finally eases its way into the climax, and the characters have reached the pinnacle of their development; from this point forward, the plot will begin to resolve itself and each conflict will come to a close. The music might swell, the editing might become smooth and fluid, and the plot might resolve itself in the most mundane and contrived of fashions, but it’s undeniable that the film has left a mark on those who have given up their time to experience it. The film ends, the credits roll, and the audience is left to their own devices, but the end, as always, is merely the beginning of a new series of events.

The conclusion of the film brings out our inner critics, and the eventual realization that the film we so heavily and strongly debate is, after all, nothing but a film. As one can possibly imagine, this is simply untrue; though what’s onscreen might be a movie, it not specifically just a movie, in the same way that a piece of art isn’t just a piece of art, and a song simply isn’t just a song. Art, in any form, is not just art, and those that seem to stand by the belief that the contrary is true to maintain a sort detachment are, undeniably, wrong in their assessment.

Interestingly enough, the belief that a film is nothing more than what it appears to be is a sentiment that’s only really expressed when discussing bad movies – entire arguments and debates on The Iron Lady, The Happening, Battlefield Earth, and Showgirls have ended because an individual raised the opinion that “…these are just movies, and we don’t need to take them so seriously. They don’t mean anything.” I understand the sentiment behind the statement – the person who raises these claims is exhausted from debating the merits of a film and simply wants those around them to recognize that there’s little need in continuing the discussion any further. It makes sense for a person to want to move on to a different topic, especially when they’re not enjoying themselves – or when they’re on the wrong side of an argument and have managed to find themselves with their back against a very proverbial wall.

In such cases, the statement is not intended to be taken seriously, and is really an attempt at segueing the conversation forward. Honestly, I understand the sentiment, and given my penchant for debates and arguments, I recognize that there are times when enough is genuinely enough and I need to move on. My concern is not with the individuals who find themselves exhausted from debate, but from those who decide that debate is needless and unnecessary. My concern is with those who claim that a film is nothing more than the sum of its parts without trying to recognize why it might be as such. Once again, this phrase never presents itself when everyone agrees that a movie is good, but only when someone thinks a movie is bad, or only when someone produces an opinion that exists as the antithesis to one’s own.

Frankly, it’s incredibly pretentious, and more than a little condescending.

Granted, pretension isn’t so much creating a void of opinion, so much as providing a topic with more heft than it truly requires; ironically, by not treating a subject with enough seriousness, the same effect is produced. In every sense of the term, it’s equally pretentious to create a vacuum, as it is to fill it with meaningless drivel. Ultimately, it comes down to a matter of opinion and perspective; importance is a subjective concept, and it’s obvious that not everyone will treat the same topic with the same amount of interest as others. Despite this fact, however, art is never just art, and a movie, though definitely a movie, is never just a movie. Believing otherwise is an insult to those who dedicated their time creating and producing the film, and an insult to those who dedicated their time watching and experiencing it.

Ultimately, even the worst film ever deserves to be discussed, debated, argued over, and, most importantly, challenged. Otherwise, the human desire to gain knowledge, and the concept of intelligence, is rendered null and void. Films are art, and as a form of art, they deserve to be recognized as the amalgamation and transcendence of generations worth of intellectual, psychological, and emotional evolution – regardless of whether they get a high rating on Rotten Tomatoes, how much money was spent making it, and how much money it made back.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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