Is There Objective Quality in Movies?

There’s a good friend of mine who likes movies a lot. Sometimes, we will go down a list of movies and compare our reactions to them.

He will often say something like, “You either like a movie or you don’t. It’s just opinion.” And it seems he often wants the discussion to end there.

I found it interesting that he doesn’t seem to like giving reasons why he liked a movie. And, after asking him, he told me that he doesn’t like reading movie reviews–which are essentially the opinions and evaluations of other people regarding essentially the same objective experience (the movie.)

That certainly is okay, but I wanted to know what goes on underneath, in our love or hate of movies. Why do we love one, and hate another?

I find it fascinating how radically different that different people’s reactions can be to a film.

Also, I heard a famous online interviewer the other day say that, as a kid, he loved the movie, ALTERED STATES, but when he saw it again recently, he thought it was “cheesy crap.” Was this a matter of personal development and age and experiences that caused the new negative evaluation? (I am guessing I would still think ALTERED STATES is awesome, but I will let you know the next time I watch it.)

I found these two little experiences interesting, so I wrote this article.

While we can have an opinion about whether we liked a movie, is it also true that there is no truth or validity to the statement that some movies are great and other movies are trash?

Can a person call a movie, “a deep, meaningful, beautiful, and profound work of art and truth, that accurately portrays important elements of actual human experience”–and have that statement be valid?

I personally believe that some movies are great and others are trash. I believe in objective quality. I don’t believe that movies, or anything else, are only a matter of personal opinion. It seems to me that to think that would be the same as saying that there is no reality.

Until I thought this out and wrote this out, I didn’t understand the reasons for this very deeply.

Certainly, a movie is made up of many elements that we can have an opinion on: story, cinematography, music, editing, directing, acting, and many other elements. It seems we can often easily agree on the relative quality of these elements, but not of the overall movie.

Why is that?

I think it is because to say we like a movie is to say, often, that we resonate with, or approve of, the underlying message of the movie.

Every movie has an underlying belief system, or a lack of one. Every movie has its own outlook. Though the movie itself is not conscious and self-aware, the writer and director were, when they created it.

The film has its own emotions, its own thoughts, its own personality, its own experiences, its own reality, in the subjective sense of inner realities.

Just as with a person, the elements that we pay attention to, combined with our subjective life experiences, or our subjective life experiences at the time, will create our reaction to a film. When I say subjective, I do not mean that these experiences were not based on objective experiences and interally valid reactions, as if they were arbitrary. They are not.

At heart, we all want to be understood. Being understood is a great part of what we experience as love, because it is a part of love. Again, that is not just a subjective experience, but also it is based on realities that are not easily changed, if at all.

Is it true that if someone doesn’t understand our favorite film, that they don’t understand us, or that they don’t value or love us?

I don’t think so, but it certainly can feel that way.

This is also why a certain person’s writing or painting or music can deeply affect us, and cause us to have a profound reaction, whereas another’s art seems to us to be of very low quality–it “does nothing for us.”

So, here’s what I have come to understand. I think that a person should be able to identify which elements of a film, the archetypal framework or attitude of a film, spoke to him. What was it about the film that opened the door to deep beliefs or emotions or points of view?

Opinions about movies, songs, books or art can sometimes, unpleasantly, get very heated because it may be basic values, or experiences, or attitudes or beliefs that we are really talking about.

Movies are a way to evaluate what we most deeply believe and value, the outlooks we hold most dearly.

When we look at movies this way, a whole new experience at the movies, and fruitful interactions with our friends and other people, can begin.

Curtis Smale

 

 

 

 

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