Why I could never be a movie critic

Within the last few weeks, Robby and I have probably watched more movies than we have in the entire previous year. These movies have been from a variety of years and genres. From old Bill Murray comedies (Groundhog Day) to Robert Redford classics (The Hot Rock) to BBC series (Wives and Daughters) to family films (The Ant Bully) to documentaries (The September Issue) to recent releases (Inception), we've definitely been getting our money's worth from our Netflix account.

Spending all this time watching movies has made me realize again that I am not the greatest film critic, and this is why: I like movies that make me feel good. Period. I can watch a movie and recognize that it has all the makings of a great film: good acting, great characterization, fantastic special effects, beautiful composition. But if it has me continually squirming for fear of what might come or feeling unsettled hours after it's over, I hate it. I don't care how realistic the effects were or how well the character was developed. I want redemption at the end, and I want a lot of it. I want life to be the overarching theme, not death. I want to feel like I can do anything, just like the character did, and that good always prevails, no matter how unlikely it may seem. If it's action, I want just enough to keep me sitting up in my seat without having to cover my eyes. And if it's drama--though I tend to shy away from those because they're emotionally draining and my life already is emotionally draining--I want it to be more implicit than explicit and for all to work out in the end. And I want a lot of things left out - sex, violence, crude language. In fact, I'd be ecstatic if every movie was edited to be PG.

And if I can't have all of that, I want to laugh a lot at things that are genuinely funny, turn off the television, and go to bed without any disturbing images rattling around in my mind.

I think this is why I tend to like movies that are either based on books I've already read and loved or stories I already know well. I didn't know how to handle Inception (did good even prevail in that story?), but The Last Airbender? That's a story I can wrap my mind around. I'll give that the former was a "better" film in terms of acting and complexity, but the latter ended with me smiling and hoping there will be a sequel. Besides Eclipse and Harry Potter, probably my favorite film last year was How to Train Your Dragon. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to have my very own dragon. That is a successful movie.

I suppose I am glad there are people out there who have a slightly stronger stomach (and heart and mind) than I. Some movies should be made, even if I don't like them or won't watch them. And I recognize that life is not always pretty, and there is importance in capturing the sadder parts of life. But even the saddest and darkest story of all time -- man's sin and Jesus' gruesome death on the cross -- ends with light and joy.


  1. So, I do agree: my favorite movies are the ones your described as your favorite. But, as you know, I still get sucked into those mind-bending originals like Inception! Either way, I think our growing "picky-ness" over the types of movies we like is a good thing.

  2. I think you miss some of the point of being a discerning film viewer, Candace. Most people consider me to be a "picky" movie watcher and (I hope) a somewhat discerning critic. However, that doesn't mean I automatically prefer tragic, violent films with sad endings. I definitely prefer films with redemptive qualities. However, I prefer that my redemptive films be of high quality in acting, writing, production values, etc. And I find that most standard movies such as so-called romantic comedies with obligatory happy endings are actually non-redemptive in that they affirm mediocrity and conformity to the world, rather than excellence and a seeking of something higher and greater. I could go on and on, but I won't.

    I will, however, leave you with an example of what I find to be redemptive, high-quality film-making. Pan's Labyrinth is one of the most beautiful, achingly tragic films I've ever seen. However, its ending depicts the very essence of redemption, love and sacrifice. Is it sad? On an earthly level, yes. But viewed through heavenly eyes, the ending is gloriously joyful and unforgettable.


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