In defense of blockbusters

I fell in love with Jurassic Park at a very young age and have seen it multiple times since.

Steven Spielberg introduced me to cinema in all its thundering, blockbuster glory. I can’t ever see how that is a bad thing. I grew to love Merchant-Ivory productions, anyway.

Every time a smaller, quieter film arrive in some art house theater, a critic would inevitably point it out as the superior, more intelligence preference, in contrast to those loud blockbusters that Hollywood shamelessly cranks out every summer. Which, frankly, is an insult to a genre that put the film industry on the map and is enjoyed by millions of of people around the world.

Knowing that I am an opinionated individual who consciously, unconsciously, and subconsciously stray from the mainstream, my father always warned me that, if something was beloved by millions, there must be a reason. And that reason is not merely because I’m smart and therefore, have better taste, and they are stupid, and thus they blow off their hard-earned money on Michael Bay-induced explosions and misogyny. That’s not how the world works. Understanding the concept of subjectivity is a bitter and painful process, but a process that must be reckoned with.

Which brings me to the unusual critical reverence of these smaller, quieter, maturer, more intelligent films that seems to bring out the very best of the cinematic experience. There are many of these films every year that show at film festivals around the world and the one that happens to land on a particular radar is praised as a wonderful rarity that should be cherished by anyone who knows anything about anything.

The problem is, there are almost as many small, quiet films as there are big, loud ones. It’s whether or not one is willing to look for them. Some are good, some are bad. That’s how most categories function. For every Junebug, there will be a Transformers, whether anyone likes it or not. Woody Allen and and James Cameron must peacefully coexist in a theater near you.

This brings me to the collected awe when an intelligent, well-made blockbuster hits theaters.

The summer of 2010 brought us Christopher Nolan’s imaginative mind-bender, Inception, raved by critics and audiences alike for being an entertaining film with some sort of blazing originality and intellectual merit.

But it’s not like smart summer blockbusters have never existed before Inception: Nolan’s previous (and much superior) tour-de-force, The Dark Knight, transcended the standards Spider-Man 2 set for the genre and perhaps, redefined the very foundation of the comic book movie.

What worries me the most is when teenagers talk about Inception like it’s the best thing since the invention of e-mail. Then I begin to wonder what kind of junk the film industry has been feeding these poor children that has led them to disregard the past century’s many submissions of intelligent, well-made, and original films and crown Inception as cinematic royalty. Not to say that I don’t like Inception, since I think I have made it very clear that I do, but because I wonder how limited young filmgoers often are.

The point of this post is that, I dearly hope, that filmgoers–especially young people–can be open-minded to all the many different kinds of films out there. I am tired of reading about the “dumb filmgoer” and the “mature filmgoer.” In the end, we have one thing common and that is, we love the movies, and genres and budgets should not be what divides us. May our tastes become seemingly eclectic, but truly reflect on who we are, instead of being cornered by silly preconceptions.



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