Before I launch into my rant, let me be clear about a few things. First, I think the films that one loves for personal reasons is an entirely valid and valuable.There is nothing wrong with this, and if I had to choose between my personal favorites and the films that I think are intersubjectively great (but not films I particuarly enjoy), I’d choose the former. Second, I do have an interest in the personal favorites, especially if I like or am interested in the individual.
However, when it comes to critics (generally speaking) or when we’re talking about great or bad films—which are often different from personal favorites—then I’m not interested in hearing about one’s favorites. It means very little. I realize this might ruffle some feathers, but let me explain the reason I feel this way. Imo, personal favorites often depend on very personal reasons—reasons that are peculiar to that individual. If other people don’t feel the same way, to the same degree, then the reasons mean little and therefore the film’s worth will mean little as well. The example I always use involves action films. I have an inordinate interest and love for well-choreographed fight sequences; I also have an inordinate love for challenging predicaments the hero faces and clever, yet satisfying, solutions to these predicaments. A lot of people like these things, but a lot of people don’t like them as much as I do. So if I say I loved The Incredibles and I cited these reasons, the vast majority of people who don’t feel the same way would just shrug their shoulders. The reasons are meaningless to them! And rightfully so, imo. Now, there may be other reasons for thinking highly of the film, and insofar as those reasons are compelling to large numbers of people, then those reasons would be meaningful—but this would be getting into intersubjective territory.
Now if you were interested in hearing about my personal favorites—say, because you were interested in getting to know me better—then, of course, talking about films like The Incredibles would be entirely appropriate. But if you wanted to know about the all-time great films, mentioning The Incredibles wouldn’t be appropriate (assuming that one can’t make a case that goes beyond my personal reasons—and I’ll assume that). It would be kind of a lame answer.
I get especially frustrated when I sense that critics are telling me their personal favorites when they’re talking about the best films—of the year, decade or all time. I mostly feel like the reasons they’re choosing the films are for highly personal reasons—or at best a combinatino of personal and intersubjective reasons. But which ones are the bigger factors? I have no idea. Unless I was specifically interested in the critic’s personal favorites, I don’t really want to hear about them when they’re choosing these best/greatest lists.
I remember one user on here long ago that listed films he had not seen in his all time best film list because he just assumed something like 8 1/2 would go there when he saw it.
As silly as that is, it is just a touch sillier than making a distinction between best and favorite.
*I remember one user on here long ago that listed films he had not seen in his all time best film list because he just assumed something like 8 1/2 would go there when he saw it.(
For the record, I don’t agree with this approach at all.
Yeah, I know you and I strongly disagree about this issue. (Hopefully, Greg won’t come in here, and the two of you wont’ gang up on me.)
Should I stay out too?
I dunno, Jazz, at some point you have to admit that you are responding to the movie and that is a big part of what constitutes greatness. And, furthermore, I think it’s important to listen to people as they talk about their personal favorites; it gives us perspectives on movies we might not otherwise encounter if all we ever did was talk about intersubjective criteria. I’d never want canonization to become a rigid scientific process.
To me, the best part of film criticism is seeing other people break down their responses to a particular work. In turn, good criticism, helps me to clarify my own responses.
“I get especially frustrated when I sense that critics are telling me their personal favorites when they’re talking about the best films—of the year, decade or all time. I mostly feel like the reasons they’re choosing the films are for highly personal reasons—or at best a combinatino of personal and intersubjective reasons.”
Isn’t this basically the beginnings of the process by which a film would come to be regarded as intersubjectively “great”, Jazz? What’s the difference between telling us about a favorite and telling us about a “great”?
Yeah, if you’re just going to gang up on me. ;)
I dunno, Jazz, at some point you have to admit that you are responding to the movie and that is a big part of what constitutes greatness.
Well, this is where things get complicated (and I’ve always had trouble with Greg on this point). I do respond to films that I think are great, but I tend to think that response is universal. For example, I think Casablanca is a great film and I respond to it emotionally (and I enjoy it; it happens to be one of my favorite films.) Ditto Seven Samurai. But my emotional response isn’t highly specific to me—a lot of other people respond to it, too, so I think the themes and execution touch upon something universal. That’s really different from my example with The Incredibles. The degree to which I like fight sequences, etc. is NOT universal, but specific to me;
And, furthermore, I think it’s important to listen to people as they talk about their personal favorites; it gives us perspectives on movies we might not otherwise encounter if all we ever did was talk about intersubjective criteria.
It can be valuable insofar as they’re referring to intersubjective principles and criteria, imo. If I’m telling you how great The Incredibles is, but I’m waxing poetic about the fight sequences, action set-pieces, etc.—and you don’t care about those things—will what I see mean much to you? I mean, it’s possible that this will reveal some insight that is meaningful to you—and I do think that can happen when people talk about their favorites. But my sense is that is rare (especially since people don’t often go into specifics).
I’d never want canonization to become a rigid scientific process.
FWIW, I don’t think the process I’m talking about is like that.
The latter, imo, is based on principles and criteria that many of us would find compellign—especially with regard to whether a film is good or not. The former is often based heavily on principles and criteria that is highly specific and peculiar to the individual.
“The latter, imo, is based on principles and criteria that many of us would find compellign—especially with regard to whether a film is good or not. "
Give me an example of someone doing this effectively.
Sorry to pile in… but:
“…principles and criteria that many of us would find compelling.”
This sounds pretty scary to me. Who’s to say what many of us would find compelling? What happens when our tastes change over time? Will these principles and criteria change with us?
Mainstream Hollywood seems to have a set of principles and criteria in mind that they think we (the general public) should find compelling. But it feels a lot like brainwashing to me…
Wouldn’t any set of principals meant to steer taste/appreciation of entertainment/art (even well-intentioned ones) feel like that eventually?
Dennis Brian: "I remember one user on here long ago that listed films he had not seen in his all time best film list because he just assumed something like 8 1/2 would go there when he saw it.
As silly as that is, it is just a touch sillier than making a distinction between best and favorite."
^ also sorry to “pile in”… nooot ;)
For CK, several arguments could be made:
>The technical excellence of various components of the film (cinematography, writing, sound/score, editing, etc.);
>The way all of these components, as well as the individual scenes, come together to form a unified whole—to the extent that a viewer might feel there is no extraneous scene or major flaw. In other words, the film gives the impression of perfection.
>The insights and themes are universal and resonates with a wide audience over a significant period of time—i.e., it has a universal and timeless quality.
>The techniques and other aspects of the film are influential and even ground-breaking. (I’m not entirely sure on this point, but if this is true, then this would be another example.)
A really good case would use specific examples from the film, but I’m going to cop out on that.
Here’s something to think about. What makes a film like CK better than G.I. Joe? Is this purely a subjective judgment, so that if someone thinks the latter is superior to the former than it is equally valid as the opposite? Personally, I don’t think so. For the sake of argument, let me assume you agree with me. How would we know that CK is a superior film? My sense is that we know because of certain principles and criteria that most of us find compelling—criteria like technical excellence, originality, wholeness, profoundity of feeling or ideas, etc. A principle might be a film achieving objectives in an extraordinary way. If we could make a strong case that CK does this, while GI Joe does not, then this would be a compelling argument based on a compelling principle.
We would be faced with a similar challenge when talking about specific filmmakers. How do we know that Terrence Malick is superior to the average film student?
“For CK, several arguments could be made”
OK . . . but I’m wondering if you have an example of someone writing about a “great” film who accomplishes this sort of thing to your satisfaction?
You mean you wanted me to give an example of someone’s writing that satisfied me? (I’m not sure I could cite one—but that has more to do with the fact that I don’t read a lot of criticism.) But I think what I’m saying can happen (and probably does happen) during conversations—probably ones on this site.
Btw, you see how the CK example is really different from my comments about The Incredibles, right? My sense is that conversations about favorites lead to details like the ones in my Incredibles example. In some ways this makes sense. People are really excited about aspects of the film that excite them personally—and these are often (or sometimes) very peculiar to the individual. And if they’re not peculiar to the individual, parsing out the reasons that are peculiar from the ones that aren’t can be difficult.
Well, if we’re gonna rant…
It’s all bullshit, people who are supposedly well educated and well informed are gonna sit there and try to tell people what they should like, that is the height of oppression. I’m gonna like what i’m gonna like and i don’t give a good goddamn whether or not I’m suppose to like it based on what some self-proclaimed genius says.
We aren’t in this world to be told what we should like, we’re here to figure out, so figure it the fuck out on your own.
Critics are like politicians, it ain’t about the people, it’s about the special interests, it’s about making sure they still get the free previews.
How can a critic be trusted when money is changing hands?
The only thing worse than a critic is someone in the studio marketing department, but is the critic anything more than a marketer, i say no.
They are marketing their supposed gift of divining quality cinema, they have the balls to think they know better, and the ego to force their mental vomitings on the literate public.
What critics are doing is shoving their taste on people, they don’t know quality more than anyone else, they just know their preferences.
And anyone that wants to play some supposed critical film education degree BS, come the fuck off it, it’s still all about preference, people are not robots, their own biases will get involved and any piece of paper they received due to their overpriced education that helps to feed their delusions of actual competent knowledge is nothing more than expensive toilet paper.
There is no best, there are favorites, and besides, I’m certainly not gonna accept the position of the person who has never endeavored to create a film them-damn-self.
My personal favorites are just that. Whether they be for the content, visuals, or just great film making in general, all in all, when I watch a film, if it puts me in awe or in a good mood, it usually becomes a favorite. Ten times out of ten, all three things I mentioned are the case. Then again, from someone else’s perspective, they might feel entirely different about how I feel about the above mentioned. That’s why they’re called PERSONAL favorites. PERSONAL.
@Uli – That first and last quote pretty much sums it up. Nice rant by the way =D
@Jazz – This may have been asked of you in another thread somewhere, so forgive me if I’m repeating something.
Do you have this same conundrum with other art forms?
In my view the question of “Greatest Movie of All Time” is an impossible one. Picking out one single film to represent the pinnacle of greatness among hundreds of thousands of movies is a fool’s errand. I think it’s more helpful to talk about “Great Movies” in general. And this is something that I think Thompson alludes to in her assertion that we could choose either How Green Was My Valley or Playtime as the greatest.
It is better to try out things like “Best Noir”, “Best Comedy”, etc. I know that genres can create false boundaries at times, but it seems far more useful to me than attempting to have one movie that lords it over all other movies, regardless of how dissimilar they all may be. For instance, if someone were to say that Kind of Blue were the greatest piece of recorded music of all time, it would be scratching my head – not because I don’t think it’s a great album, but because I see no way to compare it to Beethoven’s 9th or Abbey Road or Red Headed Stranger or…you get the point. They’re all music, but they’re not comparable.
To me, stacking something like CK next to The Incredibles is folly, not because there is an apparent difference in quality, but because they are so throughly different from one another.
Saying that these so called “personal favorites” are just that, favorites, and not necessarily “great films”… is more or less admitting you have “bad taste”. Even if true, why would you ever admit that? I mean, nothing wrong with that, you are allowed to have any kind of taste you like, but give yourself a little credit. You never know who else might also enjoy one of your little “pet favorites” for similar reasons. And once you have a bunch of people who feel the same way as you, guess what? A canonized “great film” is born.
My personal favorite movies have influenced me at a personal level, I have a thing about fathers so a great deal of my favorite movies have to do with father son relationships and not all of them would be considered great films but I love them and watch them over and over. I also think that it is in our nature to be swayed by personal experience in any endeavour that man undertakes, I saw the documentary the Cove and the part where Flipper’s trainer recalls how Flipper or rather susy, i believe is what he called her, loses her desire to go on living left me in tears because in my life I had seen that in a loved one, I believe that great art in whatever form always reaches out to touch some part of us that is both universal and very very personal.
Aren’t personal favorites considered great to one’s self if they’re your favorites? Also, how does having a personal favorite film make you admit that you have bad taste? Makes no sense. There is no good taste or bad taste. There is only your taste when it comes to favorites. Bad taste and good taste = other people’s opinion’s. Hense, no longer personal. Does that make sense?
Honestly, that’s a little hard to answer because I don’t spend time analyzing other art forms like I do with film. But in general I would say the same applies in other art forms as well.
In my view the question of “Greatest Movie of All Time” is an impossible one.
To be clear, this is an issue of greatest versus favorite. By “greatest” I don’t mean one. Think of it as a first tier films—that we could call all-time greats or hall of fame films to use Kristin Thompson’s approach. I’m less interested in choosing one film as the all-time greatest.
It is better to try out things like “Best Noir”, “Best Comedy”, etc.
On a side note, I think this another intersubjective principle or rationale one could use to argue for a film’s greatness—if you can make a compelling case that the film is a the apotheosis of a particular genre, that would be one basis for it’s greatness.
Here’s the way I get around the difference: evaluate the film based on what it’s about and what it’s trying to do. CK is has more dramatic and serious concerns I think. On the other hand, TI has some serious themes, too. But the idea is to evaluate films based on the terms and conditions it has set for itself. If the film meets these terms and conditions, it is a good film; if it meets or exceed them in an extraordinary fashion, then we can say the film is great. (I think this approach helps one not allow one’s personal preferences, tastes, experiences, interests, associations, etc. inappropriately get in the way of evaluating the film.)
^ That is kinda my point Shaun, if there is no good or bad “taste”, then there is no difference between a favorite and a great film. And if that is true, why not act on the assumption that your own “personal taste” is sound? You might be surprised how many people feel the same way as you do about a particular film that you previously considered a “personal favorite”, a “guilty pleasure”, what have you.
Gotcha, and let me rephrase. Favorites are a taste. They are your taste. Not someone else’s. There, I think I fixed what I was trying to say.
And saying that your “favorites” are not necessarily great films implies there is some kind of collective external “taste” that exists out there separate from your own personal taste, and you admit to being “inferior” to it. Otherwise, why can’t all of your favorites be “great films” even if this “collective taste” says otherwise?
Also, why would one be surprised if other people liked a particular film that one likes? We all have our own tastes and if some of us happen to like the same film, then, hey, what do you know? Similar tastes. Not trying to argue by the way, just trying to give my two cents on your comment.
The easier position is to state that there is no difference between “favorite” and “best”, and I think for many there is no difference. But for most people, there is a difference. crushes on actresses, soundtracks that remind one of youth, movies that remind you of your buddy Bill- there are many ways for a film to try to win you over by ingratiating as opposed to impressing.
If the world was ending, and Jazz had a chance to save one movie, put it in a capsule, and launch it into outer space…. and he picked the Incredibles … how mad would you be?
Getting off subject. Are my favorites all great movies? Yes. mwa ha ha – to me
Is there a collective external taste that exists out there from our own taste? Yes.
Am I inferior to it? Yes. Aren’t we all just a piece in the puzzle.
Can all of my films be considered great even if collective taste says otherwise? Yes. I say they’re great.
Also, Tucan Sam says “They’re great!”
Saying that these so called “personal favorites” are just that, favorites, and not necessarily “great films”… is more or less admitting you have “bad taste”.
Not really. It’s saying that what you like isn’t necessarily great. Just think if this is not true: everything you like is a great film, and everything you hate is a bad work of art. Really? Are is your taste really that refined and wonderful? I think this is pretty rare myself. Now, I think there is (or can be) an overlap between favorite and greatest, but they’re not necessarily the same all the time.
Even if true, why would you ever admit that? I mean, nothing wrong with that, you are allowed to have any kind of taste you like, but give yourself a little credit. You never know who else might also enjoy one of your little “pet favorites” for similar reasons.
But look at the key reasons I enjoyed The Incredibles—i.e., great fight choreography; action set-pieces—I also loved the way the superheroes used their powers as a team. Do these sound like compelling reasons for the film’s greatness? Would it be reasonable to use these criteria to determine if other films are great or not? That would be ridiculous, right? Yet, I personally enjoy those things, and I realize that my enjoyment is way higher than the average moviegoer or even cinephile. I think we all have preferences like this. For some people, it involves certain actors; or maybe a certain aspect of filmmaking. I have a friend who loves good dialogue. Maybe it involves a certain subject. I loved Of Gods and Men and Ordet largely because it reflected my own Christian beliefs. Does the fact the film did this make the film great? I don’t think so. We could cite other reasons for the greatness of both films, but one of the big reasons I really liked both has to do with something that is specific to me (or a specific group of people).
PJ said, My personal favorite movies have influenced me at a personal level, I have a thing about fathers so a great deal of my favorite movies have to do with father son relationships and not all of them would be considered great films but I love them and watch them over and over.
This is a good example of the type of reasons that are very personal and specific. It’s these type of reasons that often make us really love a film or not. My point is that these reasons often don’t serve as appropriate basis for greatness. This doesn’t diminish the experience or the value of the film for the individual. Even if The Incredibles isn’t a great film, I still love it—so much so that I honestly don’t care if it’s a great film or not.
But when we’re talking about greatness in a more “objective” (read: intersubjective) way, these really personal reasons aren’t appropriate. Unless you love fight choreography in the way that I do, my reasons for loving The Incredibles will be meaningless to you. Again, rightfully so—if we’re evaluating the quality of the film.
…I believe that great art in whatever form always reaches out to touch some part of us that is both universal and very very personal.
Right—the key word here is “both.” If I’m liking a film for reasons that only apply to me (or very small group of people), doesn’t this weaken the film’s claim to greatness? But if the film is taps into something universal, then it should appeal to a wide audience. Casablanca is one of my all-time favorite films. I love the theme of sacrificing one’s self for a higher cause or principle. That’s one of the reasons the film resonates with me so much. But I also think this idea has universal appeal, and it’s one of the reasons the film is so great.
collective external taste = sheep think
think for yourself
I wouldn’t be mad. I’d be glad. Then again, I’ve never seen the Incredibles in it’s entirety.
baa. baa. Look, I’m a sheep. baa. lol
Go Incredibles! May you reach another planet where you can be watched by aliens!