Well, folks, with the Golden Globes just past, the SAG awards just winding down, and the Oscars poking their glittery little noses around the corner, it’s that time of the year again: pretentious movie appreciation season!
Detecting a note of bitterness, are you? Yeah, you caught me. Don’t get me wrong–I’m 100% movie nerd, right down to my core. I get chills watching a truly masterful film, and nothing makes me happier than when a film manages to surprise me (if you like being surprised by films, never study the three act structure). That said, my appreciation for a truly intelligent, insightful and artistic movie stands in direct contrast to something else I feel very strongly about: what it means to be “a good movie.”
Unpopular Opinion Time: a movie does not have to be High Cinema in order to be a great fucking movie. A well-crafted rom com or action flick that does not so much as accidentally stumble into a puddle of deeper meaning is a better film than most of the pretentious, half-realized “character study” dramas that everyone is always hyping up come Oscar season (I’m looking at you, Slumdog Millionaire).
Here’s the thing. Movies are, first and foremost, entertainment. They exist to provide people an escape from the real world, in the form of an adventure or a romance or some other vicarious experience. Often, those same stories also serve to hold a mirror up to reality and communicate an idea, but that can’t happen unless the movie itself is worth watching. A film can be so insightful omg, but if it’s un-watchable, then it has failed on its most basic level.
Conversely, if a movie utterly fails to make any sort of Profound Statement about the State of Humanity or whatever, but still keeps the audience entertained and happy for an hour and a half, then that film is a great fucking movie, period. If the comedy makes you laugh and the romance makes you “awww…” and the fight sequences convince you that you are capable of kung-fu, then the film has done its job and anything else is just bonus.
I’m not saying that the Expendables 2 should win best picture, or that Les Miserables and the Hobbit don’t deserve all the accolades they’re probably about to win (we might need to talk about the Hobbit in another entry, guys, because droooool). It would just be nice if, while we’re salivating over hamfisted attempts to make us think, we also take some time to remember the movies that made us smile.
Your friendly neighborhood philistine,
“I don’t believe just ’cause ideas are tenacious means that they’re worthy.” -Tim Minchin, White Wine in the Sun
P.S. On the subject of arthouse dramas versus films in which a ton of shit blows up: Mr. Eddie Izzard (yes, I know I’ve linked this routine before, when I was talking about Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, but it’s a brilliant routine and I like it, dammit, so tough shit).