Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Love or Hate Movies... I vote why?

I'll admit I have a lot of pet peeves when it comes to movies, and the people that watch them. I can't stand the "OMG GREATEST MOVIE EVER!" people any more than I can't stand the "OMG WORST MOVIE EVER!" people. Yet amongst both there lies a third group of people that have been ever growing in annoyance with me... the "oh, well you either love it or hate it" people. I'll admit I've done it, you've done it, we all have... the question is why?

Well let's go with it. The conversation usually goes like so:
#1: "Wow, have you seen ________, I just did and I thought it was amazing!"
#2: "Ah... yeah.... well.... I dunno... I just didn't like it so much, it was ok I mean, but overall I didn't like it."
(awkward pause)
#1: "Oh, well I suppose it's one of those films you either love or hate."
#2: "Yeah... that's it"

Really? You either love it or hate it? I'll be honest every time I see this in a review, there's a 95% chance I'll neither love it nor hate it. So why do we use it as an excuse for disagreements over film taste? Examples: Repo! The Genetic Opera, I know lots of people who loved it, lots who hated, and lots who were indifferent towards it (myself included). Inglourious Basterds and Watchmen this year whipped out the Love It/Hate it tag, which has been paraded around forums for the films like it's a statement of absolution... when it fact it's not.

I don't get political much (yes I do), but people don't fit into tiny boxes. In fact to say that you can either love a movie, or hate it, and not possess the ability to recognize both good and bad qualities of a film, analyze them and apply a personal scale judgement is an insult to our abilities as humans. I understand why we do it though, it makes discussing films a lot easier, and conversations less awkward... and at the same time: "Well it's one of those films you either love, hate, or feel somewhere in the middle about" doesn't quite carry the same ring to it. Oh well, I know I'm on a rant, but then again I wanted to be.

All I'm saying is that instead of love it/hate it, perhaps we can just respond:

"Ah, well every film affects everyone differently, that's the beauty of it."

Sure, it's not as catchy, but it at least acknowledges people's ability to possess a wide range of feelings about something without being simply classified.

All I'm saying though (as oppossed to someone else) is the next time you reach for the love it/hate it cop out, think it through, and ask: is it really so simple?

10 better thoughts:

The Mad Hatter said...

Yeah, I'm with you. I think the Love It/Hate It label is applied too liberally. It goes without saying that it applies to cult films (like Repo), but off the top of my head, the last movie I can think of that was truly love it/hate it is MOULIN ROUGE!

Personally, I just think mass audiences are getting equally difficult to impress and afraid to think. The general populace doesn't want to be challenged by a film, nor do they want to take a moment and add it all up.

I guess what I'm saying is - you're right, movies aren't nearly "love it/hate it" as often as some might say.

Great post!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I think there are two sides to the love/hate it argument.

Either the person is just lazy or it has to do with audience reception. Like if a movie comes out [Juno for example] you see it, think it pleasant, nothing exceptional...and then the whole world falls in love with it and it's sort of a kneejerk effect and you have to hate it and eventually the audience love becomes overwhelming that it seems everyone loves it so the rest just have to hate it on principal. This also happened with The Dark Knight...which I thought was okay, but not exceptional.

Univarn said...

@MadHatter I do agree that general audiences are more and more looking for "escapes" in film, and not challenges... which I wouldn't say is a bad thing. Granted it's not th eonly thing people should do.

@Andrew Totally agree, the films I gave as examples are just off the top of my head. I do think that the divide between love and indifferent becomes so great people can't always seperate middle opinions from the opposite extreme... happens a lot in politics.

The Mad Hatter said...

@ Univarn... Here's what I'm wondering: mass audiences don't want to be challenged, but are they alright with not being completely bowled over?

It feels like any film that isn't a complete gotta-see-it-gamechanger is seen as being a turd. Is that fair? Why should we expect every quirky indie to be as life affirming as THE FULL MONTY?

Maybe audiences aren't just looking for escapes, they're looking for a knockout...indeed, something they'll love. And when they don't love it, they aren't left with a feeling of hate...they're just left with ambivilence.

Univarn said...

@MadHatter I'd say general audiences don't mind some subtext, but I'd argue the action and/or comedy has to equal out in order for them to maintain fandom. The Dark Knight is a good example of this, there's lots of moral ambiguity and underlying moral questions in the film, but at every turn they are introduced so is high intensity action/thrill sequences. Even Wall-E works for this example.

Though I do think audiences are cautious of films that have little to no subtext (such as the box office flop Shoot 'Em Up), or ones that try too hard (Surrogates).

That Show Sucks said...

You've opened my eyes to what I've said far too much: "you love it or hate it". You're right, it's not that easy. Usually I find myself not really loving the movie nor really hating it, but somewhere in between. It takes a lot to impress but also a lot for you to really hate a movie. It just has to plain suck.

Simon Hardy Butler said...

Nicely done analysis, Univarn! I used to believe that certain performers and directors had such distinct styles that it was impossible to feel anything but extreme sentiments toward them (such as the Marx Brothers or Sam Peckinpah). But I agree--this is a rather simplistic view of film. Talent such as the folks I mention above surely deserve more nuanced approaches to assessments of their work...and I, for one, am all for that.

Keep the fine critiques coming! Cheers. :-)

- Simon

Anonymous said...

I always felt that you get two preferences as a film-fanatic. One, whereby you can analyse in critically and academically and it comes out on top - whether or not you like it or not (So, maybe you can't fully appreciate the whole context it was released within or something but, as a critic, you have to factor in a lack of context on your behalf...) and then you get other films that - for some reason or another - you have a personal passion for. For me, the 'Saw' movies are a personal interest, while critically I can appreciate how its not perfect by a long stretch.

I reckon the 'love or hate' tag is generally applied to films in the letter category, which sometimes have a huge cult following, but ultimately are 'loved' by one viewer for whatever personal reason, but hated by someone who doesn't have such a personal connection to it. No ones ever going to say "well, you either love or hate Bringing Up Baby"

Aiden R. said...

Well played and totally agree. The love/hate thing is some bullshit, that's the beauty of rating systems. Hard to add anything to the rant, but yeah, I hear ya, man. Right on.

Anonymous said...

Followed you here from Hatter's journal. Excellent points. I think the problem is that most folks aren't willing to have conversations about films beyond whether a film is good or not. They're willing to settle for the thin argument and move on.

It says a lot for the regard of film as an art form in popular culture, versus purely a form of entertainment. Whether they want to think about films below their surface or not, people continue to use the language of art appreciation to describe movies. They just rarely get below the surface.

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