Choosing To Like Things

“I guess I just like liking things.”

-Abed Nadir

After two years of film school, my 20-year-old self had come to a conclusion: Modern blockbuster filmmaking sucked. Give me Criterion or give me death!

Film study is wonderful in what you can learn about how great movies came together. You get to peek behind the curtain and see how the great magicians do their tricks. You also become painfully aware of when a film doesn’t live up to its potential. That understanding of what could/should be happening makes you acutely not only aware of when a film is bad, but you can rattle off 34 reasons why. Couple that with youthful exuberance and, well…

I became a snob. Sometimes an insufferable one.

But then, something happened. Friends dragged me to see the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. And I had fun. I cut down on the snobbery and thought about how any film that finds an audience must have some value. To connect with one person is hard enough. Imagine what it takes to connect with millions.

But once you’ve peeled back the curtain and looked at what’s there, you can’t undo that. The desire to point things out that don’t work, or tear things down if they’re particularly offensive, can rear its ugly head at any time. The reasons can range from failures of narrative clarity to issues of representation. These feelings become even more acute when you add in your hopes, and there have been many times (this summer, especially) where I’ve had hopes dashed.

A well-argued post that champions something on its merits has a greater potential for value than a negative post working to tear something down. Even if that argument is sound.

I’d rather like things. I don’t want to remain silent about things I see as destructive or offensive, but I don’t want to engage them here. I’d rather talk about what works. The spectacular things. The times when narrative challenges without becoming inscrutable. Where films bring us real, dimensional humans instead of an amalgamation of tropes and stereotypes. Where the audience gets to witness a true spectacle.

I’ll leave you with a clip. This is the scene that I saw for the first time when I was… maybe 12? My dad sat me down to watch the PBS affiliate’s weekend movie: The Third Man I was already enjoying it, but then this scene happened, and it gave me ideas about what I needed to do for the rest of my life.

That’s the kind of movie I want to spend my time talking about.


  1. The Third Man is one of my favorites. :)

    I really like this. I confess I’m a sometime-snob, and after six years in grad school the critical analysis apparatus is really hard to turn off. But it’s my hope to do what you say: to talk about the things that are good and interesting about a film, and to be honest about the places where I’m personally invested.

    1. Teaching is a big part of what keeps me from going full snob. I don’t bring examples to class from movies that don’t work, and I spend more time talking about the parts of student scripts that are already good/able to be built upon. Focusing on the positive in those situations helped me build that muscle.

      Funny thing: I heard a retelling of the story of the two wolves ( on the radio today, and it seems appropriate to add that link to this post.

Leave a Comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s