Liking Not-Great Movies

Posted on July 10, 2018 at 8:00 am

I really enjoyed A. Martine’s essay in Medium, In Defense of Passion Over Talent, B Movies, and the So-Bad-It’s-Good Work of Art. An excerpt:

Although I am incredibly critical with films when it comes to quality, I also acknowledge that the issue is much more complicated than that. I have hated films that, objectively speaking, were well-made, and I have loved films that, on an intellectual level, I knew were terrible.

I am at peace with making that distinction because I’ve always had two tiers of judgment when it comes to appreciation, two definitions for “good movies”:

– the legitimately great ones that have made of me a lifelong film fanatic and aspiring screenwriter;

– the ones which, by all arguments, are not. They are incredibly tacky, downright nonsensical, challenge all credibility — and I love them.

I responded:

I think films need to be evaluated on two axes. The y-axis is the aesthetic merits of the film — it is “good?” The x-axis is a different standard: watchability. Many films are unquestionably superb, brilliantly written, filmed, and performed. And yet how often do we pull them off of the Criterion Edition shelve and watch them? The x-axis films just go down easy. They’re films to watch when you need pleasant company or have the flu. Or films to on a summer night after a day at the beach. There’s nothing wrong with movies people like, and nothing wrong with movies you like just because you like them.

I call the films in that second category “flu movies,” and those are the only ones I will buy. I don’t buy movies because they’re great; I buy them because I will watch them a lot. Of course some films are at the top of both axes, like “The Sound of Music” and “The Wizard of Oz.” And I don’t like the term “guilty pleasure.” If a movie makes you happy, you should never feel guilty about it.

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