Films and Cinema: Some more thoughts

Blogging about films comes in many forms and styles. Some bloggers write solely about the subject, often with passion and detailed research or experience. A few publish chatty posts about films or genres that they enjoy, or the latest releases they have just been to see at the cinema. If you want to get serious, you can find blogs and websites where films and the cinema industry are discussed and debated at an academic level. Certain productions and individual directors are dissected with surgical precision, and some scenes, even just on-screen glances, are examined as if seen under a microscope.

Many bloggers, myself included, just have a part of a wider blog dedicated to the subject. They post occasional reviews, overviews of current or past trends, and offer their own opinions on what makes a film good or bad. Many enjoy the ‘top list’ approach, where the blog author suggests their own list of the top ten (or more) films of all time, or in each genre. This often generates lively debate, and comments for or against the published choices. Most people like to be in groups, and sometimes seek like-minded individuals to agree with, and support. You will see the same bloggers commenting or posting similar articles on their own sites, which is all a welcome part of forging a blogging community.

Others like to arrive on these blogs with counter-arguments. They claim to know about the films mentioned, and present evidence or personal experience as to why the review is incorrect, or not to their taste. On many occasions, their arguments are sound, and well-informed, though sometimes they do appear to be rather pointless, and come across as spiteful. Luckily, I have not been the recipient of this, but have seen it happening on many other sites.

After four years of blogging about many things, film and cinema included, as well as having more than twenty articles on the subject published elsewhere, I have not been shy in expressing my own opinions and ideas. As anyone who reads this blog will know, I have little or no time for the comic book franchises and super-hero blockbusters that fill the cinemas these days. I am not a fan of American romantic comedies that I find to be generally unromantic, and unfunny. And I am even less enamoured of the endless and pointless remakes that smack of lazy film-making. Only this year, we have already had remakes of Ben Hur, and now The Magnificent Seven, as well as others.

On the positive side, both British and American serious drama has continued to impress, as well as the excellent foreign films generally known as ‘World Cinema’. There have been some very good historical and period films, and a few inventive horror releases. Despite the reliance on populist films to fill the multiplexes, it would appear that the film industry is in good health overall.

So, why this post?

It recently occurred to me that I was guilty (as are many others) of taking the subject rather too seriously. After all, they are just entertainment. Better acting can often be found in TV dramas these days, and streaming services are changing the face of the industry. The recent crop of ‘Nordic Noir’ drama serials on TV in the UK are every bit as good as anything on the big screen, with each double episode as satisfying as a two-hour film. DVD releases sometimes even offer the viewer the chance to change the ending, or see alternate cuts of the same film. If we are going to continue to write about this subject, we have to be aware that tastes are changing with the times too.

Just because I say a film is a ‘masterpiece’ doesn’t make it one. It is just my opinion. If someone adores a soundtrack because it seems relevant to them, that same music might well ruin the film for someone else. Jarring visuals and camera angles that are thought to be innovative and cutting edge might bring high praise from certain bloggers. But for others, they will make the story confusing, and hard to follow. So in future, I aim to be less pretentious, use less references, and to try to have more fun with the category. It will only ever be what I think anyway, and is unlikely to change anyone’s mind.

After all, it’s just a film.

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39 thoughts on “Films and Cinema: Some more thoughts

  1. Hi Pete, I agree about the range of foreign stuff on All4. I just watched ‘Witnesses’. It’s a French noir detective series. Alas, I started to take it seriously and became rather irritated by some of the policing decisions and was further annoyed by the main characters choice of shoes and coat… Time to watch some comedy I think. Regards Keith

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  2. Films are indeed entertainment… and after all, they were created simply to make money for everyone involved with making and producing them. But the value is in creating interest which in turn creates the box office draw, and the money. For the most part they are a mirror of our present society. The plot, the screenplay, the photography, the special effects, and the actors, all help to create that box office draw. What we once thought was a hot film, ten. twenty years from now looks like something I’d not spend a nickle on. Our level of sophistication changes/evolves hence the ongoing challenge of keeping the public enticed with new product. But some film attempts make little sense (I often lament after watching some poorly executed film, “Look, if you really needed to spend the money for that why not just give ME the cash.”). You mentioned the remake of Ben-Hur. Ok.. I was entertained and the different storyline from the original with Heston was ok. But….. no one in their right mind plops down money to try and out do the original classic!

    Then you have the other side… in my day The Exorcist scared the damn bejeebers outta me. At the time I worked in an electronics store and we had one of those new fangled top loading VHS machines playing a couple VHS movies throughout the day. I played The Exorcist continually just to get past how scared I was of that film; I needed to be desensitized. Fast forward 30+ years and my kids.. the Millennial Generation, were scared to death over Blair Witch Project. I thought THAT movie was pretty boring, and I saw no redeeming fear factor in that film. My kids watched The Exorcist and laughed through most of it.. especially the head spinning and pea soap expelling. It’s all a matter of generational perspective and level of sophistication.

    If anything movie reviews should be geared toward a specific interest group.. and less about effete snobbery of the classical acting skills. Example….. “Tom Cruise’s efforts in the film lacked the power and intensity of Sir Olivier and reflected more the artful portrayal of of a Neanderthal effort mimicking Shakespeare’s Yorick… who was simply a skull anyway.” I mean, WTF. Tom Cruise IS Tom Cruise! He’s not Masterpiece Theater and no one expects him to be. Yet I still see his movies because he’s in them. I don’t need a review to tell me that. 🙂

    On the other hand… if I had read a review in advance that Oblivion was a piece of crap I might have saved a few bucks. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for the thoughts, Doug. I agree that The Exorcist may not hold the same horrors for a generation used to video games, and zombie series on TV. I did like ‘Blair Witch’, and thought that the end was disturbing and unsettling. You are spot-on the point of this post though, which is about changing tastes, genre-specific acting, people like me having to get used to it, and waking up to smell the coffee.
      Regards, Pete.

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  3. Pete, I love your movie reviews and all of the lovely bands you post on here. Many I’ve never heard of, but have now added to my list of faves, while others here have reminded me of wonderful memories from the past. A song can easily open up a certain beautiful door to a lovely stored memory.. Just keep doing what you do, if you need to change it up a bit do so, but never stop offering us all the enlightenment of film and music… Take care, Laura

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    1. That is worth a great deal to me, Nandia. I was looking back over some reviews, and beginning to wonder if I was in danger of ‘pontificating’ too much. I will take your kind words on board.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  4. Keep up the good work, Pete. I enjoy reading your reviews. Opinions will always vary from one viewer to another, although some viewers are a little more astute than others. Still, sometimes it’s not so much the quality of the film itself that makes for a positive review but rather how the film’s subject matter relates to the viewer on a personal basis.

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  5. Well said, Pete. I remember Bill saying the cardinal rule as a movie critic is to give praise to a bad movie. I can find something good to say about any film as well as point out flaws. As a writer, if it’s a good story and I care about the characters, I can often forget a lot of flaws. With special effects, some work for me and other times not. Something I watched 20 years ago and thought it was fabulous escape now has me shaking my head why I liked it so. In other words, it’s subjective, and as time progresses and we grow up and mature and watch more and more movies, one sees the patterns and storylines coming a mile away.

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    1. That last bit is so true. I sometimes wonder if I have just seen too many films, or if there are only four plots in existence. Then again, some film-makers feel the need to telegraph any twists so far in advance, it is hardly worth watching the rest of the film.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. Once in a while, an original film comes along, though (e.g., “Requiem for a Dream” or “Brazil”). I agree that Hollywood is spending too much time rehashing older films. There is a lot of original material out there that is just begging to be filmed. I enjoy your reviews tremendously.

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  6. Though I am not a fan of the big screen, I love reading your reviews. Nissa is raving about Train To Busan, a South Korean zombie horror film which was recently shown here. Come to think of it, I can’t even remember at least twenty films that I watched before and liked.

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  7. I used to watch films all the time, but as Hollywood’s imagination slowly but persistently died away, so did my interest. I got tired of paying good money for boring movies, rem-makes and sequels.

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  8. Oh, don’t give up your reviews, Pete! And I’m with you on Nordic Noir…..there have been some excellent series, from The Killing via the Bridge to the more recent showing of Beck – I’m hooked!

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    1. I’m not giving up at all, Sue. I am just not going to take it quite so seriously.
      I have many good foreign TV series saved up for binge-watching. They include the last series of ‘The Bridge’, ‘Deutschland ’83’, and ‘Blue Eyes’. Something to keep me amused when the sun stops shining!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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