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How Do You Pick Your Movies?

Updated on July 5, 2012

© B. L. Bierley 2012

Non-Blockbuster Taste

Not everyone is born with the same likes and dislikes in polite society. What makes you laugh or cry or experience anger isn’t the same as what makes another person feel that way. Some things are universal for the masses. Classical music rarely makes people angry (annoyed perhaps, but rarely angry). Puppies and kittens are usually good to make a person smile. And yet there are subtle differences of opinion in every venue. That’s what makes the world go around. But in mainstream entertainment it’s really every man for himself! Let’s take a look at movies for an example of this.

In the world of movies, it’s the media that sets the tone for success in drawing in viewers. Box office numbers often affect the way we choose a film to watch. Why do we let people steer our tastes this way? If a movie doesn’t hit the box office with both fists swinging until it hits the hundreds of millions does that make it a bad movie? I would like to offer my point of view on the subject of movie tastes and why we shouldn’t be so quick to throw stones or skip over those late-night flicks on television when you think no one is watching.

In doing this I hope to encourage more people to pick movies based on their preferences and instincts, no matter what a critic or box office numbers say as to a film's value or popular reception. If we let such disconnected things make our decisions for us, what's next? Will they tell us when to eat, sleep, play the saxophone? I say it's high time we took back our right to be entertained! Who's with me?


Lowbrow—Not for the Stuffy or Pretentious!

Okay, first a disclaimer. I love movies. When I was a little girl my parents moved our family briefly to a more metropolitan location. Living in town that year was the point in my life when regular network television channels and TV movies were sidelined to make way for their provocative older sister: Cable Television! When my parents opted to pay for HBO I became enthralled with movies. Okay, let’s say addicted. My husband Cap says often that I spend too much time (read: money) watching movies. I am addicted movies the way some people are addicted to chocolate or nail-biting. I remember back then watching movies on the sly, movies that my mother said would not be appropriate for me. The Elephant Man, The Exorcist, and The Shining were a few of the gems I snuck in whenever I managed to find time alone with the TV all to myself. I would watch whatever was coming on during those magical moments when nobody was around to fight me over channel selection. I think I hardly slept from September to January during my ninth year of life because of movies like those, but anyway, that’s beside the point.

Subsequently, my taste in films (much like my musical taste) is not easily classified. I like many varying types of movies. I will admit that I am unabashedly drawn to the drama and bare-bones exposure of the human condition called life. I like a good story told in a way that makes sense to me or to the story itself. Even when stories are uncomfortable for the masses, I will sit like a statue and follow every word and action with rapt attention. Nudity isn’t a turn-off, nor is language or violence. And gratuitousness in any of these is just funny to me.

I even love independent films that most people would overlook. I don’t just go for the indie films, though. I watch mainstream blockbusters, too. I have all of the Twilight movies currently out on DVD for example. Yes, I admit it! I read the books in a fantastical daze like a teenager experiencing the first blush of romance. Go on and judge me if you want. And afterward it was only natural that I would want to see those beloved characters portrayed on film. Some of my contemporaries have argued with me that by supporting these money-hungry works I’m setting a bad example for younger generations with regard to taste. But I don’t discriminate. I have watched “Oscar-Winning” films that, for lack of a better term, sucked. I have also watched independent dramas that went unnoticed at the box office that made me weep for the realistic portrayal of the characters illustrated within the cinematic web. So I don’t judge people for their taste in film. I don’t take critics at face value either. I have found that certain critics agree with my taste the majority of the time, and some critics’ opinions are ones I use for my “What-Not-to-Watch” list.


Like Finding Love in the Strangest Places

Often I am caught up in stories I stumble across on my paid-television channels at night when I can’t sleep. Arguably Cap would say it’s because I’m caught up in these movies that I can’t sleep. Either way, there are a number of films I’ve discovered that way. Tigerland is one example. I found this one when my youngest child Ziggy was just a tiny baby, needing to be rocked and fed at two in the morning. I turned on the television and was drawn to the attractive male cast in my sleep-deprived condition. The movie was edgy and dark, but it had good acting and enough crazy to be believable for what it portrayed: training soldiers to prepare them for the Vietnam War.

Sometimes I find films that have been lambasted or worse—totally ignored by the press. Yet I watch them and find within their storylines a kindred presence or real moments that I can sink my belief into. The film Life as a House is another of my favorites that wasn’t a big money-maker. Kevin Kline gave another Oscar-worthy performance (was nominated for a Screen Actor’s Guild Award, at least) in that movie, in my humble and honest opinion. But it went mostly unnoticed. Hayden Christensen didn’t do so badly either, earning a Golden Globe nom for playing an emotionally distanced and conflicted teenager to near perfection. In fact there were a lot of big names in that one (winners of Oscars, BAFTAS, some theater awards, etc., etc.)! However, it barely made a blip on the media’s radar. Sadly not many people of my acquaintance have ever even seen it. So I don’t trust the media or the critics completely.

In case my older recommendations aren’t trustworthy enough, let me suggest another. Crazy, Stupid Love was an eye-opener! It had more depth than the mainstream media gave it credit for. Even though I’m a sucker for action movies or comedies with any of my favorite actors in them, this movie was a little treat that came in way under the radar and is now one of my favorite movies!


Not For Everyone, But Strangely Better for Some

Don’t mistake my enthusiasm. I don’t think every movie I watch is fantastic. I’ve seen some whoppers where I’ve left the theater and asked myself why I wasted the hours and the money on that un-explainable mess. I blame the media for sucking me into some of the worst whirlpools of confusion ever to be recorded on film. In this rare instance I’ll name one. Life Aquatic was not worth all the media attention and hype it got, folks. Kudos if you understood it. I did not. Cap has yet to forgive me for dragging him to that one. Then there are films where the acting is … if we can’t say it’s good, let’s say intriguing, but the writing and/or the storyline is erratic or disturbing or just a freaking disaster to follow, yet for whatever reason I am drawn to it like a spectator at the scene of a horrific car crash. (Bitten anyone? Yeah, I know. Sadly me too!) Most times I will stay to the bitter end, even if the movie is brutal. Every story needs closure.

I am even drawn to movies most people wouldn’t dare admit they watched in polite company. Shame is one such film. I’ve written a review of this movie (which I wrote simply for anyone who wants to know what an average gal thought of it). I’ll post that review as soon as I get the stomach to type it. Honestly though, films like that are similar to watching a painful wound fester. You can’t make the infection stop or get away without knowing if the wound will eventually heal or turn septic and kill everyone involved.

Do You Have a Point, Cathy?

Yes, my point in this blog is this: we all have personal tastes in movies that we shouldn’t let the media lessen with their flashy numbers and rankings. Even if you never admit it in public, everyone has peculiar movie tastes they cannot escape. Do not be afraid to venture out for a film that the masses haven’t recognized for its internal worth. You will see some horrible movies now and then, but there will also be some gems hidden among the coal.

With movies of any genre, I say embrace your taste. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise if you like something that some would label as crap or less-than-stellar as a form of entertainment. Think of the things you might be missing occasionally if you constantly bow to the opinions and views of others. Stop and smell the popcorn!


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