Sunday, 7 February 2010

Opinions change...

I've been thinking about this a bit recently, about how my opinions on movies change over time, and it's come to the forefront of my mind quite a bit recently.

For example, James Cameron's Titanic - a film which I automatically liked when it first came out and I saw it on rental VHS. Then over time I began to resent it somewhat, and saw it as the ugly duckling of Cameron's filmmaking career, disregarding the sheer scale of technical achievement on the project.

I remember vividly in first year university, in the first semester, in one of the first seminars for the Key Issues in Film Studies course and the topic of discussion got onto Titanic, and we all gave our opinions of it around the circle of students, and I gave a hideously smug and smart-arsedly dismissive comment about it. Then again I was 18 at the time, and have changed a lot in the old noggin' department in the intervening almost eight years.

A few years down the line and I'd made my peace with Titanic, and realised that yes - this was a big filmmaking achievement (as Cameron's films almost always are, come to think of it). I'd only seen snippets of it on Sky Movies, and it was usually the bit where the ship sinks (which is one of the most visceral guilty pleasures in movies I can think of - after all, this was a real disaster that killed many people).

However, with the coming of Avatar I started sniffing around Cameron's body of work again (including the two documentaries he shot during his fictional filmmaking hiatus), and I have since bought for a few quid, the 4-disc Deluxe Collector's Edition - which I will soon delve into. The main purpose was to indulge in the extras, however there are many things right about Titanic as a film - even if I still think the class war love story leading up to the big event is a bit grinding.

In terms of more recent viewings, I remember in 2008 blogging about Pineapple Express, and Tropic Thunder - preferring the former over the latter. I have since changed my opinion on that one too. Pineapple doesn't play as well as it did in the cinema (perhaps partly down to having only watched the extended version the three times since getting the DVD, singularly and in a group atmosphere), and Tropic Thunder now plays even better for me on DVD - which has been re-watched a similar number of times (also in group settings).

I remember saying how Tropic didn't fulfill its main theme, or wasn't consistent in it what it set out to achieve, while I thought Pineapple was more consistent across the board. Now I think that doesn't matter with Tropic, as it's just such an endlessly enjoyable movie - a great comedy, and a great action movie in its own right. I still really enjoy both movies (and always did), but my view of Pineapple has dipped somewhat, and my view of Tropic has gone up a couple of significant notches.

This now brings me to a final film (or films) - Hostel. I have always been dismissive of the derisive "torture porn" label, so the type of movie Hostel is was never the issue. I'm not entirely sure what it was, but I felt it was missing something. I'd immediately rather enjoyed Cabin Fever, but Hostel just wasn't clicking for me at the time, and I've always been a bit disappointed by it ... I'd thought it was a bit too slow in the lead-up, and had perhaps gotten a bit beat-down on it by a number of rabidly opposed voices from horror fans online.

However, having spotted the Hostel 1 & 2 3-disc DVD box set for a fiver, I figured why not? Again, the intention was to indulge in some DVD special features, but having now gone through the first film's extras (except for the four commentaries, which I'll get to eventually over time), but I've found myself developing a much better understanding of the film itself. The intentions of Roth and Co are laid out on front street, and suddenly it clicks. I now really quite respect this movie - and it definitely has been one that has remained stuck in my head somewhere since seeing it ... I just think that at the time I wasn't quite ready for it, not in terms of gore, just ... I'm not sure.

So I can now count myself as a firm champion of Hostel (rather than an unsure supporter) ... now, will my view of Hostel 2 improve after the extra features and in light of my raised and hardened opinion on the first movie? I still think Hostel 2 is the weaker of the two, no question, but again it has remained in my headspace somewhere since seeing it, and even though I was fairly disappointed by it at the time, there were still many things I really quite liked about it.

Similarly my opinion of Roth has improved - not that I disliked him, I'll be clear about that - but it is now abundantly clear to me that there really is something more going on in there, once you sit down and see what he himself has to say, rather than what everyone else thinks.

I think my view on Hostel 2 will improve after I explore the extra features and allow the filmmakers to express it, and their intentions, to me (via the extras) in their own words.

So there we have it, just a taster on how my movie opinions change and shift over time, with some prime examples.


Benjamin said...

I've watched special feature before and suddenly thought more of a film. When they explain things in a certain way you see where they were going and you think better of it. Then I watch the film again and wonder what happened to the really good film they described in the special features! Despite what they wanted to achieve, they really failed to get it across and the featurette is exposed as a huge con to make you feel better about buying a shit film. This was true of Tomb Raider, Hulk, Alien 3, I could go on. Films really do speak for themselves and I've never been swayed in to liking a film by anyone else's opinion. Swayed into disliking yes, but not liking.

My opinion of some films has improved with repeated watching though, like the Big Labowski. I thought it was rubbish the first time but the second time I kept going, "oh this bit! This bit was funny!"

Nick Thomson said...

A bit weird that other people's opinions can make you think *less* of a movie, but not more...

Have you seen the extended version of Alien 3? Sooooooo much better than the theatrical, although I do actually quite like Alien 3 - as it's own film mind, *not* as a sequel to Aliens.

I think part of my problem with Hostel originally was that I was coming at it from the wrong angle, I was missing the 'back-packer movie' part and was entirely waiting for the horror movie part.

Looking at them again, and seeing what's going on underneath the surface, made me appreciate them much more. They still have their flaws, but yeah, while I was never really opposed to them (the first at least), I was a bit let down by them - however now I have a higher opinion of them, but the sequel is still definitely weaker than the original.