I actually have the credentials to be a total cinema snob. I got a piece of paper from Webster University that says I can be. It was mostly an accident that got me this piece of paper. I love movies. I have always loved movies. It comes from my dad who loves movies and used to sit me down and tell me to watch certain movies because he figured I would like them and, most of the time, he was right. This is how I became fans of “Fail-Safe,” and “The Wild Bunch.” I also saw the suite of Man With No Name movies by Sergio Leone that starred a young Clint Eastwood in a poncho and bad dubbing.
Apparently if you attend a school like Webster University, which has a large theater and film and media department then you get the chance to watch a lot of movies. You spend a lot of time dissecting moves the way scientists will dissect a frog. You take a lot of film history classes. You also get to take classes that meet once a week with names like “Film Theory and Criticism: The Films of Martin Scorsese.” This class would get together, watch “Raging Bull” or “Taxi Driver” and then discuss it like the end of the world depending on us discovering religious symbolism in “Taxi Driver” and then write a four-page paper about it. Also, apparently, if you take enough of those classes you can graduate with a Certificate in Film Theory and Criticism. That’s what I got and that was my minor and that’s why I am, essentially, still not gainfully employed to this day.
In each of these classes there was always the Cinema Snob. You have probably run into these people before. These are the types of folks who sit around watching “Citizen Kane” for fun. While I too appreciate that movie and have watched it more than once I am also willing to admit that it isn’t exactly a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat romp like some other movies. It is long and ponderous and way too serious about itself.
These were the folks who couldn’t seem to watch a movie in its historical perspective. I have a good friend who is like this. He watched the movie “Birth of a Nation” in a film class and could only talk about how bad the plot was. When I tried to stress that the fact it had a plot was still relatively revolutionary at the time and that the movie was complicated and had an epic feel and that was revolutionary fell on deaf ears. Yes there are terrible flaws in this movie including its shocking and bald-faced racism, but you can also appreciate the movie in its perspective. This is a movie that had huge, epic battle scenes that had never been filmed before. It was one of the first to use the camera to some effect rather than just letting it sit passively by.
There are those who, I think, sometimes lose sight of the fact that movies are to provide some kind of escape and should still be fun. I run into too many people who seem to want movies to change their lives or their perspective on the world. They want deep characters and complicated plots. These are all good things. These are things that elevate movies into the realm of cinema and art, but they don’t have to be there every time. I think a movie can still be fun.
I have brought up a certain movie time and again in my writing that I hold up as an example of a guilty pleasure and loving a movie just because it is fun rather than, oh, good. This movie is the Bruce Willis vehicle called “The Last Boy Scout.” This movie, when looked at logically, makes little sense, is not even the tiniest bit even remotely possibly, could never happen and has the characters doing things that they just could not survive. If Bruce Willis’ character were a real person in real life there is no way he would be alive by the end of this movie. This is a movie that has a character shot through the hand in one scene and then throwing a football while riding a horse a second later. I am fully and freely admitting this is a very stupid, silly movie.
Want to know the other thing about this movie? If you can literally shut down your brain for a while and stop trying to be logical or make sense out of it is a movie that hits the ground running and never stops. I mean this movie opens with a football player carrying a gun onto the field and shooting the other team and ends in a football stadium with a sniper getting chopped up by helicopter blades. The bad guys are really bad. The good guys are good enough for you to cheer for them. Then the bad guys get their comeuppance and they get it good.
I saw this movie on video with a bunch of friends in college. None of us was expecting a good movie. We were looking for a movie to make fun of. We didn’t get a good movie but we got a movie that was so earnest in its badness and willingness to baffle us with B.S. that we were all swept up into the story and cheering by the end.
The movie “Desperado” is still one that can spark arguments between me and one of my friends. Again, this is a movie that makes little sense. Not one second of this is believable in the real world. However, I am an old comic book fan. I am a guy who believes a radioactive spider-bite can make you able to stick to walls and give you a “spider sense.” Therefore a guy with a guitar case full of guns who never runs out of bullets isn’t much of a stretch for me on the believability scale. I laughed and cheered and had a blast watching this movie. My friend thought it was the dumbest thing he has ever seen.
There are just those who think that everything you do should somehow enhance your life. If they aren’t watching a television show with profound writing or reading some ridiculously complicated book that somehow gives them deeper insight into the inner-workings of their psyche or the world around them then they feel like the time isn’t well spent. This same attitude, logically, gets applied to movies. I, personally, feel that entertaining yourself and letting yourself forget about the world for a while is worthy cause and that being entertained is enough of a reward.
Of course, as I say this, I have recently been asked by a certain online magazine to be a movie critic to review DVDs and have those reviews linked to Rottentomatoes.com. Once I start reviewing these movies it may turn me into one of these cinema snobs. I think too many movie critics turn into cinema snobs and, in some ways, that makes sense. If you had the job of reviewing movies then you might want to have some quality and you might get a little jaded.
Still, I hope I will always believe that there is room for movies that are fun and not profound. I think there is room for “National Treasure” and “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Not everyone has to be a literal adaptation from the original source and not all of them have to change the world. They can just be fun.