Flying Your Film Flag

Posted: June 28, 2014 by moviebuff801 in Commentary

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

This weekend’s release of Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth installment of Michael Bay’s billion-dollar franchise where giant alien robots do battle with each other, and cause lots of explosions in doing so, brings back what’s now become one of the biggest battles in and of itself in today’s film fan circles: the battle of film lovers vs. film snobs. Much like the ongoing war between the Autobots and Decepticons in these Transformers movies, it’s a fight which may most of the time occur “behind the scenes,” but whenever it comes to the forefront, it can sure get nasty. There are those who will argue that directors like Michael Bay are destroying Hollywood by continually pumping out big-budget CGI-fests and that anybody who goes to see them are merely contributing to that downfall, while others just have to say, “Why does it matter to you what I see?” The real question here, from my point of view, isn’t so much who’s right and who’s wrong, but why is this such a big issue in the first place?

Before I go any further, let me just say that in no way is this piece meant as a personal attack on anybody, nor am I trying to accuse anyone. It’s just that this issue has become too much for me as of late, so I felt like getting it out this way. Also, this is being written on the fly, without a clear structure in mind.

To begin with, ever since I started expressing my passion for film — of any kind — through reviews of them, I’ve always told myself to stay grounded and not become too cynical about the state of Hollywood these days or too snobbish about the films I see. My tastes may develop, but I don’t ever want to become too jaded. I believe that to be an important asset for a critic of any kind.  In his last few years, the late, great Roger Ebert (one of my main inspirations for choosing to review films in the first place) notoriously gained a new wave of popularity of a more negative sort by becoming a lot more lenient where his critiquing of films was concerned. For example, he gave films such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Snow White and the Huntsman each a rating of three and a half out of four stars. I myself, like the majority of others who saw those movies, wasn’t a fan of either of them; in retrospect, they both get worse the more I think about them. However, there was still something to be admired about the way that Mr. Ebert was able to have those opinions, express them succinctly and not be ashamed about having them in the first place. Even before his declining years, Ebert gave positive reviews to other widely-dismissed movies such as Adam Sandler’s remake of The Longest Yard and the update of The Honeymooners, starring Cedric The Entertainer.

This represented a certain view he had concerning films as a whole, a view which can be summed up by vaguely using Forrest Gump’s ideal of life itself as an analogy: that movies are like individual chocolate pieces in one big box. There’s a big variety in the types of films out there, with most being different enough from each other that, sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to consider each “flavor,” as it were, on its own merits. Sure, there are basic ideas of what a good and even a great film should be, but not every film serves the same purpose, nor should they. A movie like Transformers is not going to have the same goals as a movie like Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey or, to use a closer example, a film like Raiders of the Lost Ark. One of the best things, in my opinion, about movies as a whole is that there’s such a variety that can in turn invite a wealth of varying opinions about them, as well as various ways to look at them.

I’m fully aware that I’m not as strict in determining good movies from bad ones most of the time, not unlike Roger Ebert himself, but why should my being more lenient on some films in comparison to other critics be considered a bad thing? How does it make me — or anybody else with views similar to mine — any less right or more wrong? Which brings me to one of the main facts at the heart of a debate such as this: no one, and I mean no one, is ever “right” or “wrong” about a certain movie. To assume that’s the case in an area that is completely subjective is incredibly snobbish. You may disagree with someone over a specific movie, but the notion that one of you is right and the other one is wrong is misguided. I see this sort of behavior all too often in various online film communities I’m a part of, as well as in a few face-to-face discussions I have from time to time, and it’s something I’ve become fed up with.

Sounding “smart” about what you’re discussing shouldn’t be the concern; sounding passionate about it should be more important.

Over the past few days, I’ve seen people who are excited about Age of Extinction — myself included — express their excitement, only to be swiftly cut down by other people indirectly insulting them for liking these movies. In a few instances, some have even stated that people who happen to enjoy the Transformers movies — or any other films like them — are no smarter than fourteen year-olds, since the movies seem to have that mentality. When exactly did it become “hip” to call people out for having personal opinions different from yours? When did film communities become dens of rabid wolves waiting for the latest juicy steak to be lowered in? But, more importantly, why? Is anybody who enjoys a Michael Bay movie causing harm to anything or anyone by doing so? And here is where the smart-ass answer of, “They’re hurting the creativity of Hollywood!” usually comes in. But so what? There are plenty of people out there capable of liking classical or more “cerebral” films while also appreciating the entertainment value of movies like Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean or The A-Team. What good does it do focusing on their liking of films like that, instead of the fact that they can still discuss those movies with the type of passion and intelligence that any film fan should appreciate?

Now, I’m not saying all “popcorn movies” should be treated with kid gloves when discussing their merits or flaws — Lord knows there are plenty of big-budget stinkers out there — but what I am saying is that no one should be vilified for liking certain ones. Plus, as long as they wind up being good, what’s the harm in going to see them? Even if film fans still happen to go see every big new movie, does that necessarily mean they’re supporting that style of filmmaking over the kind on display in films like 12 Years a Slave? Not to me, no. If you ask me, there’s plenty of room for both kinds of movies.  All it means is that they simply have a great passion for cinema of any kind. It also means they’re willing to go out and form their own opinions on movies, rather than letting the reviews dictate what they see. Even if they end up disliking a movie, at least they cared enough about it to decide for themselves. And at least they’re able to discuss those particular opinions in a pretty thoughtful and intelligent way. These are also not people who go to see these movies having already made up their minds one way or the other, but rather people open enough to the possibility that a movie like Transformers: Age of Extinction may just pleasantly surprise them. People like that are the kind worth commending and talking with.

I’m reminded of a quote from one of the Age of Extinction promos that applies to this issue: “You’ve gotta have faith, Prime. Maybe not in who we are, but who we can be.”

Obviously, there are those out there who believe films like the Transformers franchise shouldn’t even be acknowledged, and claim that life is too short to be wasted on them. But what’s life without a little adventure? This comes back to my point about right and wrong, though. Again, nobody’s right or wrong in this respect, but there are certain film fans who think they are right in this respect. I object strongly to both that kind of person and that kind of mindset. Loving movies that much is one thing, but condescending to others because of it is another. There’s absolutely no reason to adopt a superior, holier-than-thou attitude in this instance. I’m perfectly fine with spirited debate over movies, in fact I welcome it, but when it devolves into insults and questioning of intelligence is where I draw the line. That kind of stuff has no place in film discussions.

So if somebody you know goes to see Transformers: Age of Extinction, please don’t belittle them or their opinion. You may not want to see it, but they do, and they shouldn’t be invalidated because of it; it’s not like it’s an inexcusable crime. And if you yourself go to see it, don’t pay any attention to the snide remarks hurled at you. Just proudly communicate your opinion; I know I will, one way or the other, and I won’t be ashamed of it, because that’s what being a film fan is all about.  Go on and fly your film flag.

 

Comments
  1. Wow. We don’t share the same circles. You really have people who cut you down for liking Transformers? What a pity. I will say I’m not a fan of CGI, one-liner cliche movies and I’ve never been to or watched a Transformer movie. It’s a personal decision. I do love cinematography and a narrative full of fun banter and intelligent plots. Does that make me a snob? I sure hope not. I will say–go have a great time watching your Transformer movie or your Adam Sandler movie and laugh and escape all you want. Escape, escape, escape. Isn’t that the reason we go in the first place? I have watched all kinds of “crappy” movies over the decades and tend to be picky these days before spending money on a ticket. Maybe it just makes me cheap. At any rate, you raise a great point and your rant was interesting to read. There’s a reason why Michael Bay has a billion in his checking account–he obviously must be doing something right.

    • moviebuff801 says:

      I’m a fan of intelligent films, too. I’m just saying there’s always room and opportunity to enjoy both intelligent films and “popcorn movies” and no one who intentionally tries to balance out their viewing time between both deserves to be chastised just for the more questionable choices. One of the main points I was getting at is how the line between more balanced viewers and those who just go after the “crappy” movies is all too blurred these days, and the distinction needs to be made. Anyway, I’ve sworn off Adam Sandler comedies for good, so please don’t bring him up. There are limits even to what “brainless” movies I’ll watch.

      But thanks for commenting.

  2. I loved this column — great topic! I did go to see Transformers Age of Extinction this weekend and ended up having a lot of fun. I loved the Dinobots and didn’t take the film too seriously and just enjoyed it. There are plenty of movies out there, and I don’t think people should judge each other for which ones they do or don’t like. Again, great column!

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