Monday, February 10, 2014

Talkin bout Movies - The Rubric

I love talking about movies, but I have a hard time answering questions like, "What's your favorite movie?" or "Was X movie good?" I think anybody that watches a lot of movies or thinks about movies might have this same problem. I also never take "ratings" or "grades" of movies too seriously because what criteria one considers in rating a movie can heavily influence whether it gets a good rating or a bad rating.

For example, one could say that the Transformers movies are dumb action. One reviewer might say that because they're dumb, they should get a bad grade, and one reviewer might say that because they're fun action movies, they should get a good grade. In addition, an important thing to realize is that both assessments are equally valid.

With that in mind, I wanted to explain how it is that I evaluate and think about movies that I've seen with six different criteria and hopefully a lot of examples of each. Very rarely is a movie totally perfect or a complete failure -- even a bad movie can be a fun time if you watch with a few friends and many beers. And some movies are good only for certain people or during certain eras. So the six criteria I have are 1) Was it made well? 2) Did it contribute to either a larger issue in society, to culture, or to movies in general? 3) Was it entertaining to watch? 4) Would I watch it again? 5) Was it worth watching at least once? and 6) Who would enjoy this film?

For example, How to Train Your Dragon is one of my favorite films, and I would largely say that it is a "good" movie. It was 1) made very well, 3) entertaining to watch, and 4) I've seen it several times. However, can I say that it 2) contributed much to any important issues to society, the human condition or what the fuck ever? Not really. And did it add anything to culture of movies? Did it utilize a new movie-making or story-telling technique? Not at all. And while I do love this movie, 5) I don't think anybody is going to be missing out if they never saw it in their entire lives. Finally, the number of people who would enjoy this movie as much as I would is relatively large, and it's hard to hate it -- it is just a fun little animation movie -- but there is a certain category of person that I think is immediately turned off by these "simple story, quirky characters, coming-of-age" animation-type movies.

Another example, the original King Kong: This movie is overbloated, boring and extremely dated, but it did have a huge impact on movie-making techniques and the public conscious, so it's not completely without merit. Is this case, the movie is 1) well-made for its time, 2) contributed greatly to movies in general, but 3) is boring as fuck to watch. I would 4) never ever watch it again and it 5) wasn't even really worth watching to begin with. In fact, the only reason I watched it in the first place is because 6) I'm a snobby asshole who likes to say that I've seen all the classics.

I think it should be clear by now, but let's do one more example. The Greenskeeper! This is a pretty shitty movie. (I'm going to dispense with the numbers because I understand it's getting annoying.) It was not made well, and contributes absolutely nothing to society, but because it was a shitty, goofy movie, I had fun watching it with my friends. Would I ever watch it again or was it even worth seeing the first time? God no. And the only people I would recommend this to are drunk people who want to get together with their buddies and laugh at a poor attempt at horror movies.

So, there you have it. Even the "best" movies have their flaws, even my personal favorites are not always great, and even shitty movies have value. So, next time I'm talking about a movie, expect to see these six criteria.

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