PART FOUR: MOST PEOPLE ARE IDIOTS
Some people just don't seem to 'get' films. Not only can they not tell the difference between a good film and a bad film, but they will in fact try to tell you that the bad films are the good films, and vice versa. This can make you want to bash their teeth in with a nice hard betamax copy of Werckmeister Harmonies. Almost as bad, or some would say even worse, are the undiscerning idiots who will watch only what they consider to be good films, or legitimate 'cinema' (cinema is a word you will hear academics say a lot when they just mean 'movies'- like independent 'cinema' or horror 'cinema'). I say undiscerning because this course of action immediately excludes many trashy 'so-awful-they're-brilliant' cult films, and also gives too much credit to films that do not entirely deserve it.
If you ever find yourself studying Film, you will inevitably come across both of these types of film fans. My main piece of advice when dealing with either one is this; never back down from your point of view. At all costs, never let them make you think you are wrong. A good thing about a subject like Film is that similarly to Art or English Literature there are very few definite answers to anything, unless it's a simple fact, like who directed what in which year. Most of Film Studies is based on one premise; 'look at this film. Is it any good? And Why?' The problem with this method of study is that most people (and by most people, I mean everybody) believe their opinion of a film to be Right, Correct and Irrefutable. This is the natural state of things, however, you do occasionally have to be open to interpretation. There will be times when you have missed the point, either because you were too hung over to concentrate properly in the lecture theatre, or just because it went over your head. There's nothing shameful in this; give the film a second watch, chat to a few people about it, try to pay attention during the seminar, and if you still don't get it, well then, the film is probably what the late great Bill Hicks used to call a 'piece of shit' (see video below).
Like I said, once you've made up your mind, never let anyone else make you think, even for a second, that you might be wrong. Trust me; it's far more likely that the person you're talking to is an idiot. Nevermind that they got into the same Film Studies course you did, that doesn't give them the right to tell you that some boring, badly made and derivative film is the equal of oh, say, The Silence of the Lambs. I remember once having a ten minute conversation in the middle of a seminar with a guy who was trying to tell me that Hannibal, the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, is a good movie. I (of course) was arguing the exact opposite. Anyone with half an eye can see that Hannibal is the most badly written, badly shot, badly acted, badly edited... in fact, think of any aspect of filmmaking and stick the word badly in front of it and you've pretty much got a clear picture. Every time I see a bad Ridley Scott film, and believe me there are more than you'd think, I always think the same thing. "Ridley, Ridley, Ridley. What happened to you, man? You used to be cool." How can the man who directed Blade Runner and Alien also direct Hannibal, Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood? Some things man is not meant to know.
Anyway, the point is that no matter how much I stared in disbelief at this guy and explained slowly and loudly that he had it all wrong, it was to no avail. This was mainly because he was doing the exact same thing back at me. There are a lot of arrogant Film Students out there who have no more grasp of movies than a dog barking at a television because there's another dog on the screen. You don't need to be arrogant to be a decent student of Film; all you need is to cultivate an annoyingly accurate grasp of eveything from German Expressionism to Hitchcock's MacGuffins. In this way, if you can't win a standoff with an idiot by breaking down the other person's will until they admit that they just might be wrong, then you can least avoid them catching you out on anything and hold onto your position, thereby not coming across like a Film Studies Phony.
The Film Studies Phony will be discussed (at length) in the next post of 'How to Study Film'.