There’s a question that I’ve been asked a lot in the last few years, since I finished my Masters of Screenwriting and starting ‘fixing’ bad films on a reasonably popular podcast. It gets phrased in different ways, but it essentially boils down to some variant of ‘are you too analytical to enjoy films?’ or ‘has doing your masters/podcast/reviewing/writing ruined movies for you?’
I find this question immensely frustrating, so let me state this categorically; there is one barometer for how I feel about a film, and that is how I feel about a film. Studying screenwriting can teach you to appreciate elements, reviewing can help you understand why certain aspects work or don’t work, but ultimately nothing can take away how something makes you feel while watching it or the impact it has on you afterwards. Simple as that. My opinion is probably somewhat affected by what I’ve studied, but when all is said and done a film either speaks to me or it doesn’t. At worst, my knowledge of story and film makes me less tolerant of films I already dislike and more appreciative of films I already love.
Recently somebody on the Sanspants subreddit was complaining about me (this happens a lot) because apparently I only angrily criticise films ‘to be cool’. This person reasoned that I couldn’t possibly have really disliked Rogue One or Jessica Jones or The Cursed Child; I was just attacking things that people liked to be controversial and get a reaction. Plus, the argument continued, I had gone on record saying I love the Saw franchise! Therefore my opinion is evidently incorrect.
Well, yes, and also no. My opinion is my opinion, and opinions are subjective. I like the Saw films because I grew up with them and have a lot of nostalgic love for the series, I disliked Rogue One because I thought it was an actively bad movie that relied on cheap nostalgia and fan service to disguise its very obvious failings in the apparently unimportant areas of story and character.
But then, the counter argument goes, I loved Jurassic World, which was guilty of the exact same crime, right? Well, it’s hard to quantify these things. Jurassic World had problems, but it also made me feel like a ten year old. You can’t take that away from me any more than I can take away your own enjoyment of Rogue One.
There seems to be this idea on Twitter and Reddit that I will fly into an incandescent rage if you say you disliked something I love (Hannibal, Jaws). I probably propagate this notion through being very passionate and unafraid to express that passion, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned through doing Movie Maintenance it’s that films speak to different people in different ways, and as such there’s not really any such thing as an objective opinion on a film. So no, I’m not offended by someone loving Rogue One or hating Hannibal. The truth is I couldn’t care less what films you like or dislike, just like no-one is under any obligation to care about my opinion. That might seem self-contradictory considering I’m on a podcast literally built around opinions, but just because I disagree with someone doesn’t mean I’m not interested in what they have to say. Debate is invigorating and fun, even if you are ultimately very unlikely to change someone’s opinion on a film that made them feel a certain way. Personally I love understanding why somebody had a different experience in the cinema to me, but understanding that won’t change my own experience. It just enriches your cinemagoing, like reading a good, cogent review that makes points you didn’t think of.
So please, if you’re going to write off my opinion because I’m ‘too analytical’ and therefore unable to just enjoy a film, remember I love Jurassic World more than I will love my own children and once you’ve finished remembering that, just shut up. Likewise if you’re going to use the films I love that you don’t to try and deflate some perceived authority on film which I can promise you I don’t have.
In short, keeping enjoying what you enjoy and disliking what you dislike. I’ll be doing the same.
Writing words about writing words.