I like Batman & Robin. A lot. Possibly even more than The Dark Knight. I thought that the shot-by-shot remake of Psycho was a good idea, and well executed. Very few of my favorite movies are not American made. And I’m a fan of Ben Affleck. . . as an actor.
How did a (somewhat) well raised film fan come to this low state? Well, it’s been a long and arduous process. To help figure this out, I’m going to have to look back at the major phases of moviewatching that I’ve gone through in my life.
As a little kid, it was all about monster movies, cowboys and superheroes. The talking parts were tolerated so long as they were leading to either an explosion of action, or the revelation of some fantastic vista. Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Tron, Star Trek, Transformers. . . These were my bread and butter.
While still in elementary school, I also began to get into horror movies. Sure, like I said, I was into monsters from the get go. But the monsters that I liked when I was little were BIG; King Kong, Godzilla, and all the Harryhausen beasties from various Sinbad movies. Terrifying at times, but ultimately more cuddly than scary. But I knew of the existence of monster movies that were not made with little boys in mind. For the child, the horror film was the kissing cousin of the porn film; Completely taboo, and as conceptually terrifying as it is fascinating.
Once I finally started watching horror films. . . I gotta admit, it was a bit of a letdown. Most of these movies were far from terrifying, with the exception of a few gems. But I remained a fan, enjoying the special fx and general fun.
Midway through Middle School I began to become interested in films made outside the US, and smaller independent films made within our borders. There was a great independent art house theater within walking distance of my house, and they would let me in to see anything that I wanted to watch, regardless of rating. Right next to the theater was an independently owned video store, which also carried a vast selection of hard to find movies. This is when I first started to actively pay attention to director’s names, and to read books that would point me in the direction of cinema’s classics.
By the time I entered High School, it was full bore. All the usual suspects; Lynch, Kubrick, Altman, Huston, Melville, Chaplin, Cronenberg. . . etc. Finally, I was watching the truly great films, leaving behind these movies made for the mass of unwashed plebeians. And this particular phase lasted for some time.
Until one day, a revelation. A lot of “art” films, even ones considered to be classics, are actually fucking terrible. A lot of the French New Wave is universally revered garbage, while some movies that are brilliantly made, such as Evil Dead 2 and Dawn Of The Dead, are dismissed by critics offhand based solely on subject matter. Calling something “Art” just seemed to be a type of branding for a particular audience. People who wouldn’t be caught dead belly laughing to a Three Stooges flick can find solace in the pleasant chortling they expel while watching the latest Woody Allen “masterpiece”.
Currently my viewing is, as always, a mixed bag, but I do tend to favor things with guns and monsters. So, what does this say about my taste?
Well, I don’t think that my path is the same path that everyone takes. For example, my buddy Pete never got into horror movies as a kid, and just went straight into the classics. Only recently have I introduced him to the joys of The House By The Cemetery and Troll 2.
I think the main problem is, after watching thousands of movies, you start to go a little nuts. It’s the repetition. If you think about it, really every movie you see is essentially the sequel to the last movie you watched. You could watch The Matrix for the first time, followed by The Wizard Of Oz for the first time, and through no fault of either of those films, find yourself analyzing The Wizard Of Oz in ways that you wouldn’t have had you seen it before watching The Matrix. Every movie that you see effects the viewing of the next movie you see.
This is where “objective analysis” becomes increasingly difficult, and I would argue impossible. I can consciously recognize that the movie Aliens is well made, but I’ve now seen so many “Marines vs. Creatures” movies in it’s wake, that watching it is a bit of a chore. So, in talking about Aliens, should I acknowledge it’s obvious greatness as a film, or talk about the fact that it bores the shit out of me?
Probably a bit of both. I like the honest, direct route best. So that’s why I’m upfront about liking such things as Batman & Robin. I bet other critics might be more willing to do so as well, if they weren’t honest to god professionals, and had a reputation to uphold.
And while I’m not a professional critic, I do have one thing in common with them; I’ve seen a shitload of movies. Which I honestly think makes your film taste, to the naked eye, seem absolutely terrible a lot of the time.