Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Mindless Debate


Are 'Mindless' films really mindless? No. Stop trying to fool yourself into thinking they are, because all you're being is counter productive. Oh, and the same thing goes for all the people trying to label every third film as being mindless. Now before I go on, let me get this out there - I'm not defending crap movies which were made with the knowledge that they were crap but going to make a crap load of money anyways. The problem here is not a question of relative quality, it's a question of perceived acceptance.

You see, every single one of us at some point in our life has liked a film that, all things considered, has the narrative depth of a car dealership commercial. It's just a fact. Yes, even those so prudish they would never sit within smelling distance of a major theater chain. Oh, and I'm also talking to you, people who like to hide behind action not willing to admit they've seen a couple movies with deep social messages and character development and kind of enjoyed it.

But in a manner that puts politicians to shame, neither side is willing to budge from this arbitrary and entirely pointless "us versus them" mentality. Which only goes to further embattle and firm the opposing viewpoint, and does a wonderful job of progressing the world of cinema absolutely nowhere. Not to mention dragging out every debate on a blockbuster

Just because something is mindless, or indeed very mindful, with respect to its conception doesn't make it good or bad. It is the execution that matters, and the quicker we admit that, the better off we'll be. Of course I think the films that are most often received as 'best' are films that find a way to blend mainstream entertainment and social context in a way that people can digest relatively easy. Just look at the last handful of best picture winners - if you don't mind my using that as a scoping device.

King's Speech blended comedy and history; Hurt Locker had high tension thriller with war drama; Slumdog Millionaire delivered stylistic action/feel good with coming of age poverty drama; Crash gave us... wait, let's not go there. But the formula works, and while I may not gush over him, it's one directors like Christopher Nolan know very well. If you want more than just an immediate splash, you've got to go the middle route. To blend seemingly mindless action with social commentary. Too much in either direction and you'll lose the other group, but if you trickle down the middle, the cash and people will flow for years to come


10 better thoughts:

Bill D. Courtney said...

Is Inception being labeled a mindless film online?

Univarn said...

@Bill "But the formula works, and while I may not gush over him, it's one directors like Christopher Nolan know very well." That formula being "...films that find a way to blend mainstream entertainment and social context in a way that people can digest relatively easy." Therefore the Inception photo represents an example of a film that blends mindless action with a thought provoking plot (which is why it's by those two paragraphs). Hope I cleared that up.

Alan said...

There are a lot of folks on the web who overlook entertainment in favor of depth or "Art". I'm not ashamed to say that I love Mean Girls :)

Nikhat said...

Mean Girls is not mindless. I can explain a number of relatively unrelated topics using that film.
That film is a gem.

God you are talking about mindless...welcome to 95% of Bollywood today.

Dan Heaton said...

I agree that mindless isn't the best term. It's come to stand for sloppy, dumb, or filled with explosions. Like you say, the better approach is to look at how the material is handled. There are films that tackle huge issues that are just awful. Whatever term is used, the main thing is explaining what is stupid and supporting the argument. I don't agree, but someone could argue that Inception lacks intelligence. The main thing is whether they can support that claim.

cinemasights said...

After writing a very terrible script for a sci-fi/action atrocity, I found you have to do a lot of thinking to write a horrible movie story.

Castor said...

@ Alan: But Mean Girls is awesome!

simoncolumb said...

To be honest there is a way of commenting on a film post-viewing whereby the morals, success and popularity of a film reflects the mood of the audience/society. TRANSFORMERS 3 being successful? Why? What does that say about society? Not much.

Univarn said...

@Alan Looks like you inadvertently opened a can of worms. Anywho, I do agree there are both kinds but I think both are wrong in thinking it makes them any better than the other.

@Nikhat One could easily make the argument that any film is mindless give the right amount of effort :)

@Dan Very well put and I wholly agree

@cinemasights After having written a downright dreadful fantasy book I would say it's very easy to spend a lot of time coming up with something that is very awful.

@simon I would make the case that our society has come to accept - if that's really the best word - that the stimulation received from explosions and physical fear far exceeds any stimulation that can be achieved through intellectual discourse. Then again, intellectual discourse sounds like a History lesson on ancient Persia which certainly isn't going to help (well not until you get to the war bits).

Dan said...

It's a complaint leveled at many violent films in that their violence is just exploitation and mindless. It can be unfair though because so any films such as Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange or Craven's The Hills Have Eyes are actually making relevant and intelligent social comments on the society we live in.

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