Monday, July 14, 2008
A friend of mine and I saw "Hellboy II: The Golden Army" on Friday. Before I get into the meat of this post -- which is not, as you might expect, a review of "Hellboy II" -- I'll just say I enjoyed the movie, laughed at the funny parts, thrilled to the action, and sat in awe of the imagery and graphic design. I felt my eleven bucks was well-spent (we went to the Arclight, which is more expensive than some theaters locally, but has, in my opinion, a better film-going experience, tra la la).
Then we ran into another friend as we were leaving the movie, and the first words out of his mouth -- I'm not kidding, here -- were, "What a load of crap."
Now. Watching a movie is a subjective experience. It's an interaction between you and the filmmaker. He/she creates and presents, you absorb and respond. What you absorb and how you respond depends on your expectations, your attitude toward the filmmaker and the genre he or she is working in, the screenwriter's ability to construct a script, the technical competence of the production crew, the performance of the actors, and the director and/or producer's skill in managing it all. Every aspect of this experience -- from the production, to your observation of the results -- is dependent upon a subjective appraisal. There is no absolute, concrete reality, no definitive, absolute consensus. Every movie, no matter how good or how bad it's judged to be by the film-watching population at large, offers ample opportunity for dissenting views. There are people who think "Lawrence of Arabia" is overblown, colonialist bull-hockey. There are others who think "Plan Nine From Outer Space" is the finest American film since "Citizen Kane."
The French love Jerry Lewis.
But when you leave a film, and run into friends, and the first words out of your mouth are, "What a load of crap," you are not presenting your opinion as a personal, subjective appraisal of the moment, but as the definitive, absolute, real-world summation of an undeniable objective reality.
You're forestalling any honest discussion because you're defining the entire experience in objective terms. "What a load of crap" could just as easily have been "God could have made this movie, it's perfect." In effect you're stating that anyone who doesn't agree with your summation is literally out of touch with objective reality.
It ain't film criticism.
It isn't even a statement of honest opinion. (A more honest statement would have been, "I didn't really enjoy that much," or, "I was disappointed," or "I don't like movies that bombard you with visual imagery," or some other comment that accepts the idea that what you're asserting is your own personal view, and doesn't invalidate the views of anybody else.)
After that opening salvo there wasn't much to say. I could choose to agree with his opinion, or I could engage in a fruitless debate asserting my personal view as objective reality. I couldn't really discuss my experience of the film.
There was a time in my life when I would've jumped on that "debate" and done my best to tear down this friend's view of reality.
These days, I'd rather just admit I was disappointed by his reaction.
But that's my opinion.