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Filmism.net Dispatch December 9, 2012

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Everyone who's even obliquely connected to the movie or media industries has felt it. The overwhelming peer pressure to conform to the critical consensus. You're polished at discussing what a master Paul Thomas Anderson is versus what an obtuse hack Michael Bay is. You'd never admit to not understanding Donnie Darko the first time you saw it and you'd never say how much you love Eddie Murphy's films of late (unless you knew you had time to outline your defense and your audience aren't all holier-than-thou film toffs who'll just smirk and turn away in derision).

But we've all got aberrations from the accepted norm in our cinematic taste, and the pleasant thing about talking to people who aren't in the industry but who just like going to the movies is that they're never ashamed of their choices. I'll never forget the twentysomething woman who told me without batting an eyelid that her favourite actor was Steven Seagal. I imagined her sitting in a suburban theatre with her motor mechanic boyfriend eating popcorn and whooping along with him every time Seagal's unchanging stare and ponytail takes down a bad guy.

It's a strange phenomenon because it can make you feel like you don't deserve to be writing about movies for a living or a beloved hobby. When a movie comes out and the critical film firmament fawns over it but it just hasn't grabbed you, there's almost a sense of shame involved, as if this is the movie that revealed you for the Philistine or idiot you are.

The secret is to just keep reminding yourself that films are subjective, like any art form (in fact more so because they encompass so many creative disciplines simultaneously), and our appreciation of them depends on so many detailed factors there's almost no accounting for.

Give a film critic or movie lover enough time and don't interrupt him or her with a 'you don't know anything' attitude and you'll hear some very interesting points of view about films that are universally acknowledged as being terrible (or brilliant).

As for mine? I thought The Hunger Games was completely hatstand, with nothing to offer that stuck with me. I didn't understand why everyone thought Drive was so brilliant (haven't we seen that strong, stoic hero who never speaks a million times?) It wasn't until Rise of the Planet of the Apes was over that I even remembered the fact that the apes talked throughout the entire original series, because when Andy Serkis and his CGI hordes spoke I found the whole thing completely laughable. Robert Zemeckis' Flight started great but petered out, and I suspect the continued fomenting of opinion won't remember it fondly in a couple of years. How about movies you hate that everyone else loves and vice versa.

And in the interests of disclosure, I find Paul Thomas Anderson's films as cold and uninvolving as they are well made, and say what you like about Michael Bay, he's a good editor and he knows how to fill a forty-foot screen.

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