Friday, August 12, 2011
Good Movies, Bad Movies: Is It All Subjective?
Posted by JBT
I was discussing movies with a co-worker the other day and how opinions about films differ depending on the individual. He mentioned overhearing a couple of people say The King’s Speech put them to sleep while he enjoyed it. It got me thinking about the times when my opinion of a film differed from my husband’s or my friends’. Whether we like or dislike a movie is a very personal and subjective thing. How we view a film is influenced and filtered through our personal experiences, our emotions, our likes and dislikes, and whether we’d like to admit it or not, the outside opinions of others.
Whether a film is good or bad is dependent upon one’s idea of what those things are when it comes to film. There are general criteria by which to judge a movie that people more or less agree upon – screenplay, acting, directing, cinematography, editing, simple entertainment value – and these criteria carry a different degree of weight depending on the individual. The importance a person places on any or all of these criteria in judging a movie as good or bad is dependent upon an individual’s preferences when it comes to the films they like.
While our perceptions about some of the films we enjoy or dislike remain firm no matter what, we may come away from a film feeling a certain way about it and then discuss its merits with a friend or read a scathing or a glowing review about it and suddenly find ourselves reevaluating and thinking differently about it.
Our likes and dislikes also greatly influence our film perceptions. If you’re a sports fan you may appreciate films about baseball more than someone who doesn’t follow the sport. Some movie fans enjoy being frightened by horror films while others avoid watching them. Others simply enjoy movies that make them laugh and steer clear of serious dramas and violent action films. Even those films with seemingly universal appeal (a few possibilities being The Godfather, Pulp Fiction, and Casablanca) beloved by critics and the masses have their detractors. One man’s great movie is another man’s dud.
Even though people bring their subjective criteria to bear on their ultimate opinion of a movie, it cannot be denied that some films are just better than others. A person may like Disaster Movie more than The Godfather, but can it be argued that Disaster Movie is actually a better movie? Some films are technically and artistically superior to others, tell better stories and are superbly acted and well-scripted. It is possible to evaluate a film in a way that is not entirely based on a person’s personal taste, yet it is personal taste that determines whether even artistically and technically superior films are films we like and are films we consider good films.
What do you think? Is it all relative, or is there an objective way to measure movies? Tell us in the comments section.