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The Issue I have With Mainstream Movie Criticism op/ed

I’ve always had trouble understanding why everyone loved Logan in 2017. To 13 year old me, it was just a movie, where things just… happened. Characters talked, a story progressed, and eventually, the movie just… ended. I never agreed with the raving critics about how amazing it was, I didn’t know the logical reason as to why it was so amazing.

This was at a time where I rated every movie that I saw. And, I had a specific way of rating them which I would continue to use for years to come. There were always certain aspects of each movie that I would give “points” to, I guess. I would always go over… did it have good acting? If so, that’s a point. Maybe a half-star or a star. Good cinematography? (Which, at that time, meant to me, did it have pretty colors?) Give it another star. Was the writing good? Did it have good quotes? Give it another one. I always tried my best to make my ratings the most logically sound and reasonable- I wanted it to make sense, and be as objective as possible. Some of my favorite Youtubers at this time were Chris Stuckmann and Jeremy Jahns. They rated things in a similar way- we would go over… is the CGI good? How about the comedy? Most of the online movie criticism I was exposed to (which, 90% of it consisted of comic book movies) was clean-cut and straight-forward. That way of rating things always made sense to me. If this aspect of the movie was good or bad, it would increase or decrease my number rating. This movie is bad because it was too serious, this movie is good because it keeps a balance of seriousness and comedy. And that’s really all the mainstream view of movies is, still to this day. And it took me a while to realize that, it shouldn’t be that way. At least, I don’t think it should.

An aspect of art I really like is its subjectivity- in that, there’s really no way to deduce any art piece as “good” or “bad” because that would be an absurdity. Because we all have different surroundings and experiences, we are all different people with different lenses. We are emotional beings. We’re capable of logic and reasoning, for sure, but it’s only so limited by a million different, irrational factors that make us human. Something that helped me in my realization of this is watching almost all of Charlie Kaufman’s filmography. And seeing the impact that these movies had on so many people. Kaufman makes emotional, human movies. It shows through the fact that everyone derives something different from them. To some, they’re traumatic, and to others, they’re enlightening. I think about his films a lot, and what they mean to me is also entirely different from that, in the way that I connect with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaption. And the thing is, despite how abstract his films can be, he never goes to any lengths to explain exactly what he meant to convey through every move and every action. Because he knows how little sense that makes, because his interpretation, even of his own art, is no more or less objective than anyone else’s interpretation. His movies are simply meant to be felt. Art is something that’s made by humans, for humans. And those humans can interpret it how they want- but it’s impossible to get everybody in the world to agree on a rigid viewpoint about one singular piece of art, no matter how logical and no matter how objective that viewpoint may seem.

By this, I mean, art, or movies, in this case, is something that you feel. Movies are not logical, you can’t deduce their quality through a number or a letter. You can decide whether or not a certain aspect of a movie, like a camera movement or an actor’s performance, is good or not, but you can’t decide whether or not a movie, in its whole, is a sum of its parts, is good or not. Movies are a combination of sound and video, and in that are sets, actors, and instruments, which are each made up of their own parts, and so on. All of these make up one, singular, piece of art. All of these things come together to invoke a feeling in a viewer. Movies are feelings, what they’re supposed to do is make you feel. A feeling isn’t something you get from whether the objective choice in cinematography was good or not, or whether or not that one joke landed.

I can’t emphasize enough, how sick I am of hearing the same thing shouted over every mainstream B-movie that’s out this Friday and that everyone will forget about the next. What do I want to hear from critics? I want to know what that movie invoked in you, I wanna know how that shot made you feel. I couldn’t give less of a fuck about whether or not that one scene was kinda cringey, or whether or not that one joke landed. Fuck all about how the CGI didn’t look that good. I want to know what you did after you left the theater. Were you sad? Happy? Angry? Inspired? I want to know what moved you. I want to know how it reflects on your life. And if it didn’t move you then hell, what’s the point in writing an essay about how mediocre a film is when there’s so much more out there to appreciate. Movie criticism, in its current state, is tired. It’s worthless. It has no meaning to it. Despite how appealing it may be, movies aren’t meant to be taken apart and examined for their pieces. They’re meant to be felt. Movies should be like rollercoasters, just ride it. Let it take over you. I’d never leave a movie theater worrying about how the one thing of the one thing was this or that. There’s no use in trying to understand a movie through an objective lens. It’s never going to happen. Embrace the subjectivity of movies. Embrace how movies make you feel. That’s all movies really are, is feelings.

Tonight, I rewatched Logan. In Logan, things happen. Characters talk, a story progresses, and eventually, the movie ends. I don’t really know why, but I love Logan. It’s dreadful and makes me feel sad, but the end is hopeful and inspiring. Everything about it communicates a feeling to me that I don’t get from anything else. The story exists… there’s no allegory for the real world that I derive from it or any huge twists or turns that are meant to mean something. I just view it as a straightforward, linear story. I don’t know- it’s that feeling of loving something. There’s no rhyme or reason to it- it really just... works for me. And that’s okay.

By: Keith Connelly

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