MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

I Hate It Because You Love It

Every year, after the dust settles post-Oscars, it becomes easier to see the recently nominated films more clearly. There is so much passion on both sides when it comes to almost every film that it becomes hard sometimes to parse through your nuanced feelings about a film. Similar to a political race, the Oscar nominations (and especially the journalists who work the beat) wind up forcing zealous film fanatics to take one side or another when it comes to some of the movies. And then that’s where things go a bit haywire for me, just as I assume they do for many folks.

You see, for the most part I find myself immune to the hype before I see a film. I might have certain pre-conceived notions about certain filmmakers and actors, but when the lights dim I’m always hoping to see the best movie ever made. But the only pure reaction to that film comes immediately after seeing the film because once you begin to talk about a film, your opinion morphs slightly. So if I turn to a buddy after the film and say, “What did you think?” it will inevitably influence my opinion – even if it’s just a little bit. If he likes the movie more than I did, his passionate defense of what I didn’t like will force me to make a decision: either I can see his point of view and agree that he’s right or – more likely – it’ll make me dig deeper to find flaws I didn’t give much thought to before, in an effort to bolster my argument.

When I come home and go on the internet and see comments on message boards agreeing with my friend instead of me, it will again make me dig even deeper into the film with greater fervor. So by the end of this whole little process, a film that I might have thought was perfectly mediocre becomes a film that I passionately detest and it winds up having nothing to do with the film itself, but the supporters of that film.

Recently, I think a good example of this was Juno in 2007. There was a great deal of hype before I saw the film, but I genuinely wanted to love the film. When I walked out of the film, I shrugged my shoulders and thought it was a trifle of a film that really didn’t merit serious discussion at all. But when I went to my favorite websites and saw people I respected trying toseriously discuss the film, I couldn’t believe it and it made me recall all the innocuous moments that I had let slide; those moments now made my skin crawl. So while my opinion of the film overall didn’t change massively – I didn’t like it originally and I still didn’t like it – it did change significantly, dropping it from the tier of “mediocre” to “awful” based on the reactions to it. Because now I couldn’t just throw the film in my brain’s rubbish bin, now your passion is making me have to relive the whole mediocre experience all over again, just so I can try (and fail) to prove you wrong.

It’s like in basketball (or any sport, really) when a certain player is underrated for so long that they become overrated. When a film like Juno or Little Miss Sunshine (a film I quite liked) comes along, everyone talks about it because it’s “the little film” and it’s so underrated, but then they wind up overrating the film themselves. It’s all about context; not to keep harping on this one film, but while Juno might be better than the average teen-focused film, that doesn’t make it better than the average film, it’s just good for what it is (if you think it’s good at all). So in the NBA, Ben Wallace might have been a really solid role player in his time with the Pistons, but that doesn’t mean he should be treated and paid like a superstar.

As I mentioned with Little Miss Sunshine, sometimes these feelings of unworthiness can lessen my feelings about a film I did enjoy. This past year I had that experience withFrost/Nixon, a film that I enjoy immensely until I heard it being bandied about for Oscar nominations. It would have held a special place in my heart if nobody had heard of it, but now that it’s an Oscar-nominated film, it doesn’t seem as special to me and I don’t know if I really have a desire to return to it. Hey, I didn’t say any of this was rational, but a big part of why we love cinema is the personal nature of it. Discovering an unappreciated gem is one of the highest highs we can attain as film-lovers, but when everyone else finds that gem too, it makes it shine a little bit less. It’s kind of like finding a beautiful, secluded beach that only a few locals know about and then returning a year later to find that they’ve erected a huge resort on the beach and tourists are everywhere. Of course, we were just tourists too, but we were there first.

The Academy Awards always heightens these feelings every year because, unlike in sports, there aren’t any movie stats that can be used in arguments. The only ammunition that can really be used is the Academy’s opinion and usually, that will solidify opinions that have already been formed. If the Academy chooses a film you love, then they “finally got one right” and if they choose a film you detest, then “they screwed up like they always do.” The subjectivity of film is one of those things that makes going to the movies so fun and simultaneously so damn frustrating.

I’m sure a part of all of this has to do with my habit of being a contrarian, especially when there is a overwhelming majority of people who believe one thing. My first reaction in those cases is a tendency to be skeptical about what I’m hearing from those people. I remember getting a call from my friend Jack after a midnight showing of The Dark Knight and telling me that I had to see it immediately because it was one of the best movies he’d ever seen; not just comic-book movies, but movies in general, and this is coming from a guy who knows almost as much as me about film and film history. So, I sat down hoping to feel the same way as my good buddy, someone who I usually see eye-to-eye with. When I didn’t feel the same way, I couldn’t wait to tell him how wrong he was because, well, I just love to tell him he’s wrong.

But it turned out to be a really disappointing argument because of this: he agreed with practically everything I thought was wrong about the film. I’d told him that the Two-Face storyline was nonsensical and rushed and he agreed. I told him the whole part in China was unnecessary and he agreed. I told him that Christian Bale growled too much when he had the suit on and he agreed. So I said, “Jack, if you agree with all of this, then why do you still insist on saying it’s such a great movie?” And he said, “Because it just worked for me.”

And that, my friends and dear reader, is what it all comes down to. Every single movie in the history of cinema can be nitpicked and torn apart if you want to, but if it’s a really great movie there’s probably less of a chance that you will. Ultimately, some films “work” for you and some don’t and we’ll wind up defending those ones that worked and attacking the ones that didn’t. But for every film that didn’t work for you, there’s somebody out there who loved everything you hated. And if you’re anything like me, it’ll just make you hate it even more.

– Noah Forrest
March 6, 2009

Noah Forrest is a 25 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writers and do not neccessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon