Wednesday, June 20, 2012

R3V13W3R$: Open Mind During, Not Before

I mentioned it before: a few times, I've seen bad movies not on purpose. I don't mean entertaining not-good films, like Tango & Cash - I mean Transformers and The Island and Resident Evil 3. I went to those because my friend Greg invited me, and I liked him a lot and he was going through a difficult divorce.

The real issue is that I "knew" these movies would suck without seeing them. It's natural, definitely, yet it's often a bad sign - sometimes in people, but always in a reviewer. (now that I mention it, if you wonder where "R3V13W3R$" comes from, click here.)

How can you trust my opinions? If you walk into something with a bad attitude, by and large, you will often come out with nothing more than the same lousy mood. Expectation has a huge impact on perception; it's a fact.

And that's leaving taste aside - what's actually important to a person. Some people really enjoyed all those lousy Martin Lawrence and Rob Schneider films! Someone out there loves Jack & Jill, or Human Centipede (the Paris Hilton of movies), or Glitter, Gigli, Ishtar, Cop Out, or Die Hard 4.

My fair attitude means that when someone drags me to a pic I expect to hate, I will dread it - right up until I take my seat and the movie starts.

I've been let-down by pix that couldn't hold up despite a great budget or cast. I've been stunned by films I was sure would Suck Hard, or even Suck Hard With A Vengeance. So I ditch my worries when the trailers end, and hope for the best. I might as well be positive about it, and, even weak movies can have some highlights...
Of course, because life can sometimes be like some cruel monster-maze filled with grinning scarecrows sent here to torment and manipulate you, even my lofty approach has its drawbacks.

For Transformers, I just thought "ok, I'll forget that I hate Michael Bay; I know you'll be carefully-shot, just be a good action film." And the fact that I lowered my expectations means that I was actually even more annoyed when it failed by lesser standards, too.

Think about it: your kids get straight C+'s in school and you ask them to work harder and get into the B-range. After providing some help, they get C-'s. Now, those new grades feel more like D's, don't they?

This is the weird reality of being a fair-minded lover of film. When I see an Indie or foreign movie, I generally demand less; if their film stock looks grainy, or if the sound isn't perfectly-edited, I don't care. A real artist's intentions matter, and you should trash the execution when you think they're not trying hard enough. Or when they have no real intentions (no thesis).

At the 12AM premiere of Harry Potter And The Sorceror's Stone, I was merciless. I can't abide a massive budget with such a sloppy result. Radcliffe may be fine now, but he was pathetic at first; there were many better child actors. The script and pacing had problems. The CGI Dog sequence had bad editing - like a preview cut. Columbus is not a good or mature director, but he's too experienced to release that. It's #$@#ing Potter.

Primer, Brick, and El Mariachi were made on tiny budgets. Hell, Robert Rodriguez signed up for a drug trial and used that cash to fund Mariachi! Why be a hard-ass when it comes time to watch those? Meanwhile, the Star Wars Prequels had the financing to do anything  - so why accept bad dialogue and plotting?

I'd normally give more examples - enjoying a movie mostly because I knew nothing about it, or expected better from some director or cast. This shouldn't become an essay-length entry unless someone else wants it to, so you can find those stories in my reviews. Being brief: I keep an open mind while I watch a film, no matter what I think about it beforehand.

I think you should, too. Not everyone is good at keeping a level head and/or trying to judge something by decent or fair standards. Sorry to brag, but that's how I roll. A freshman director's horror pic will often have bad special effects, rough dialogue, spotty acting; something made by Wes Craven or Tim Burton has no excuse for the same. Adjust your opinions accordingly. It really is that simple.

It's also much easier to do when you're in a theater. I think it might partly be from the cost, the mood of the crowd, or the effort to go out. Or even the ritual of buying popcorn and entering our modern pop-culture arenas. To me, the important parts are the dim lights, large screen, and pro sound - they make all the difference, and I know that going out to a film definitely alters your reactions.

I can be judgmental - especially about motion pictures. But it's never without good reason, and when it comes from sheer cynicism (Bay, Cage, Sandler, DeNiro, Pacino, Rattner, Murphy, Lawrence, Lucas, the list goes on...), I would fight myself to put it aside. I deserve the chance to enjoy a movie, the filmmakers deserve the chance to prove themselves, and my readers deserve a fair review.

Like facing execution, I've hoped for the best every single time I've sat down, when lights dim and the show starts. And in my reviews, I'll do that for both of us.

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