At the beginning of this year, I gave myself the challenge to expand my horizons past the Muppets, anything Jim Henson-related, Disney and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This was the year to live up to the stereotype embodied by my fellow Literature and Film Studies students by making myself more “cultured”.
…It’s been 7 months and I have failed spectacularly. Is that such a bad thing though?
I have in fact been leaving my comfort zone, however, it’s been obligatory, fulfilling a requirement for my courses to read certain books or watch certain films. I didn’t ever expect to find myself watching a movie like The Pianist, but here we are. Films that are deliberately sad are films that I tend to avoid like the plague. Although I must admit, there have been times when I have been caught off guard (I still haven’t forgiven the Russo brothers for making me watch Peter Parker disintegrate right in front of my eyes).
Take today as an example of why I’ve been lazy in achieving my New Years resolution. Thursdays are generally quite slow for me, so I took a look to see what was on at the cinema to waste a few hours. Amongst run-by-the-numbers action films like Skyscraper and the Jurassic World sequel was a New Zealand based film called The Breaker-Upperers. Over the years there have been a few NZ films I have generally enjoyed, Whale Rider, Hunt for the Wilder-People and The Piano (not to be confused with the afore-mentioned The Pianist), among them. The title itself wasn’t enough to entice me, but then, looking at the provided information, I saw that Taika Watiti had been involved as Executive Producer.
Click. Off to the cinema, I go! Surely something produced by the director of Thor: Ragnarok, by far my favourite MCU film, would be something I could enjoy, right?
The resulting answer is: Meh.
It was by no means a bad film, it just wasn’t to my sense of humour. Just because a comedy doesn’t make me laugh doesn’t mean it won’t make others let out a few guffaws. It’s odd though because the same, blunt, deadpan, obvious-route form of humour was used religiously by Taika in his take on Thor and I laughed to the point that I was wheezing and clapping like a seal. Perhaps it was the level of crudeness to which The Breaker-Upperers went that completely disconnected me from the film. Isn’t that the most important part of the relationship between the film and its audience? The connection?
Connection means everything to me when it comes to film. I connect to The Muppets because they were my gateway drug to comedy and my passion for the production aspect of the film industry. Furthermore, they are my connection to my inner-child; it’s whenever I watch one of their productions that I feel the most comfortable within my own being, something I have explained more comprehensively in a previous article. I connect to animated films due to my astonishment at how wonderfully the technology allows art to imitate life, just getting even better as the years go on.
The MCU caters perfectly to my love for complex stories that take place over several films/ various mediums. However, even in this, I am still quite selective. I didn’t even like superheroes until I fell in fangirl-love with Tony Stark upon my initial watching of The Avengers. He’s proven to be an awesome character to keep track of, his character arc over several movies staying consistent and making for great pay-offs when he finds himself in life-altering positions. I could never get that if I were to pursue a franchise like The Maze Runner series. The premise, settings and whole angsty-teenagers-against-the-dystopian-society thing just does not do it for me.
When I get hounded by my Film Studies tutors to try and watch all types of genres from all points of history from all over the world, I wholeheartedly agree. There are certain films I will need to be acquainted with, whether for their historical importance or influence upon the industry. It is within my ambitions to become a paid film-critic; to not know film history and recognise the game-changers would be to leave myself at a poor disadvantage in what is a highly charged field of work.
But at the same time, I reserve the right to be as picky as I want. If I happen to write a million articles about the benefits of living by Jim Henson’s philosophy in his films, then I will do just that. It’s not a bad topic, after all, Jim was a very thoughtful and wise man, much to learn. We all have our preferences in a variety of areas in our lives. Our film tastes shouldn’t be treated any differently.
So the next time someone asks if you’ve seen a film and you say no because it didn’t interest you, and they respond with, “WHAT?!?! How can you not be interested, you’re insane!!!” Ignore them. Seriously, just wave it off and change the subject. If it doesn’t catch your fancy, then so be it.
You never know, it might do so at a different stage in your life. The beautiful thing about a film is that it can bring you in by digging into your core, connecting itself to what makes you who you are and resonating with you through its themes, narrative and mise-en-scene, among other things. Just do you. The right films will be there, waiting for you to discover their brilliance in your own time.