Why Do You Watch Films/What Kind of Movie Watcher Are You?

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Dream On, Nov 8, 2019.

  1. Dream On

    Dream On Forum Resident Thread Starter

    This thread is kind of inspired by a discussion on page 1 of the Scorsese vs. Superhero thread between @Chris DeVoe and @RayS .

    To summarize:

    - Ray mentioned that he doesn't watch films for escape, but rather for intellectual engagement
    - Chris mentioned if he finds himself intellectually engaged by a film, then he knows he's not being emotionally engaged - i.e. if you can sit back and think about a movie, then you aren't letting yourself just be moved by it

    I found this little exchange to be very interesting, and had me thinking why I watch movies. I think it just depends what kind of mood I am in at the time - that will dictate what kind of movie I seek out.

    I definitely watch for intellectual engagement quite a lot - this is why my favorite genres are mystery/suspense and drama; plus other genres to the extent that they have intellectual elements to them. For instance, I am not a big fan of sci-fi, but I have seen sci-fi movies that contain a lot of drama and raise some interesting questions within their worlds.

    But I also watch genres like action and comedy, which frankly I don't have as much respect for. Part of it may be to tap into certain emotions (thrills, laughter), but I think part of it as well is that I gravitate to these types of movies when I just want to kill some time. It's similar to channel flipping and landing on a sitcom or something like the Food Network. These movies are generally not worth much thought after they have been seen - there are exceptions though. And yes, I have generally avoided superhero movies - the ones I have seen did not make me want to watch any others. I think whatever themes are raised by these movies, and whatever amazing action sequences they present, can also be presented in more conventional action films, with original characters and storylines. Making these properties irrelevant unless perhaps you are a huge fan to begin with - but then, I don't really think the comic book experience translates well to a movie. Anyhow, I understand why these movie franchises exist.

    I should mention that emotional and intellectual engagement are not confined to just the genres I associated them with in the above two paragraphs. And I think there is often both within the same movie, and even at the same moment. The viewer just needs to kind of compartmentalize each one.

    On a side note, whenever I watch a movie, I bring up the IMDB app and give it a rating (not a written review, just a number rating). This allows me to track what movies I have seen. Before submitting a rating I will read some reviews. Movie reviewers...what a miserable lot this is! Every movie has people ranting about it and dishing out terrible scores. Most notably some professional reviewers, who seem to really relish just dumping on a film. It begs the question, why not find another profession?

    I generally give good scores; I think that's partly because I seek out good movies, but also because I can usually find some redeeming qualities in most films. So I give a lot of 6/10 or 7/10 scores; any better and the film must have been special or memorable in some way, and any worse it must have started to get pretty bad. But like I said, I can usually find good qualities; as long as I am reasonably entertained I will probably not nit-pick every little flaw in a film and then trash it for those reasons. These are movies, not real life. Half of the criticisms people raise you can actually explain away with a little thought, so often the criticisms aren't even valid.

    Anyways, I'm kind of rambling. Please vote and discuss...
    Grant and RayS like this.
  2. Jazzmonkie

    Jazzmonkie Forum Resident

    Tempe, AZ
    Which engagement encompasses entertainment value?
  3. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    It is not an either/or. For instance, I believe I mentioned one of my favorite films, Terry Gilliam's Brazil. After a long battle with the studio, his edit was finally shown in theaters and I was able to see it at AMC's Ward Parkway 14 theater.

    The film hit me so hard emotionally that I was still sitting there after the credits had finished, just gutted. We talked about the film for hours afterwards, so we obviously had been intellectually engaged, but while we were watching it, neither of us were thinking about the film.

    How do those who say they watch films intellectually do so? Are you leaning back in the recliner of your mind thinking "that was interesting" in the same way that professional comedians never actually laugh at each other's jokes, but instead say "that was funny"?
  4. Not Insane

    Not Insane You talkin' to me?!

    One movie that engages both and always leaves me in a puddle of tears: The Time Traveller's Wife. One of the best stories ever put to film.

    The end will rip your beating heart right from your chest.
  5. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Central PA
    Watching a film these days puts me in an "open book" mood. Our life has become a weekly standing date at the local non-traditional cinema, often choosing what we see from three screens on the basis of what we haven't seen yet, and preferably with as little foreknowledge of the film as possible. So we perhaps don't know week-to-week if we're in for an emotional, empathizing experience, or just sitting there with the film "rolling over us" on its' own terms.

    The presence of a good Cafe Americano during the evening screens doesn't hurt, either. I have often had the experience of the brain jumping into all sorts of topics, questions and distractions while watching, depending o whether or not the movie also raises issues for thought outside of what's going on outside of the traditional narrative we are watching ("This brings up the question...how different are child-rearing techniques here from those of a Russian gulag..."; "I wonder if her relationship is based on her previous boyfriends..."; "Is the weather here a factor, is the filmmaker trying to tell us something...?"; that sort of thing).
  6. Not Insane

    Not Insane You talkin' to me?!

    Since we got Amazon Prime, and only watch "free" stuff, we've noticed we start a lot of movies and turn them off after fifteen minutes. I just put on Overlord last night, being a huge WWII buff, and I found the beginning of the movie very compelling. But then it got into being a "monster movie" and I turned it off and watched a few road rage videos on Youtube before hitting the sack.
  7. Not Insane

    Not Insane You talkin' to me?!

    First, Brazil is one of my all time favorites. I owned it on Lasserdisc.

    Regarding intellectually - That is when I'm trying to figure out what secret the movie is hiding. What they are planning to surprise us with, etc. Though I'm not into whodoneit movies, it's like trying to guess whodoneit.

    It's becoming easier and easier to figure out the twist before it's revealed however. I don't know if I'm getting better at it or the stories are not as good at hiding it.
  8. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    When I first heard about it, I was excited. Then I learned that it was a monster movie and I skipped it. I mean, what the hell? D-Day was somehow not exciting enough and they had to jazz it up?
  9. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    If I find myself in that situation, I know the film is not compelling. If I can stand back enough from the film that my mind wanders off to second-guess the screenwriter, I'm being cheated out of the entertainment that I paid for. If I wanted to be with my own thoughts, I can do that for free, I don't have to go to a theater.

    It's like those people who "figured out" The Sixth Sense before the reveal. That's just sad, in my opinion. I was able to watch it the first time and have one experience, then watch it a second time and have a completely different one. The first time, the "anniversary dinner" scene was about a relationship falling apart, and I thought his wife was being cold. The second time, she was heartbroken and in mourning. And both times, it was the exact same bit of film, the only difference being my foreknowledge.
    Frozensoda likes this.
  10. Not Insane

    Not Insane You talkin' to me?!

    Regarding The Sixth Sense, I'm with you. I'm also with you regarding what it means if I'm trying to second guess a movie. However, my wife says it's my MO. It's simply what I do with ALL movies. In fact, I've had to learn to shut up during movies for just that reason.

    Movies rarely hold me all that much. It is a very special and rare movie that does. Again, one that really stands out is "Time Traveller's Wife". In fact, I read an article in a Sci-fi blog that asked physcissts the question, "scientifically, what time travel movie is probably closest to what it would really be like", and that movie was the top pick. But the love story is absurdly compelling.
  11. I'm glad to escape, but "escapist" films are very much hit-n-miss for me (and more miss, than hit). Good art-house movies are my escape, as well as good documentaries (of a wide, WIDE variety of topics).

    90% of the movies I see are in actual (real) theaters, including a fair number of documentaries too (as many as I can find time to go see).

    Glad to get emotionally moved, but that's not the first thing I'm looking for.
  12. Holerbot6000

    Holerbot6000 Forum Resident

    GREAT question - I would say my engagement is largely emotional - I either am going to be able to immerse myself in this world or I'm not - it's more intuitive than anything. I will occasionally definitely try to challenge myself intellectually by exposing myself to something that has reputation of significance or is outside my usual sphere, but even then, if I don't connect with the material at some level within the first 20 minutes or so, I'm probably not going to stick with it. I think you develop an instinct for these things after awhile also.

    The fascinating thing I have discovered as I have put my movie watching into overdrive these last few years is that the 'intellectualization' is always going on in the background regardless. You start to spot trends and similarities and make interesting connections and see how one dramatic approach might be better suited than another. I feel like I have developed something of an eye for the mechanics and the intellectual tropes without any of that intruding on the pure visceral enjoyment of the story. I guess I am saying that I basically watch movies the same way I listen to music. (Epiphany!)

    Generalizing certainly and a jibbering baboon definitely, but hopefully I got my point across...:nyah:
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
    Chris DeVoe likes this.
  13. Siegmund

    Siegmund Vinyl Sceptic

    Britain, Europe
    I want both, but rarely get either.
    Sinister Footwear and GodShifter like this.
  14. You did the right thing.
    ' Overlord ' is terrible. Didn't have to be but it is.
    Chris DeVoe likes this.
  15. Chris DeVoe

    Chris DeVoe Forum Resident

    There is an amazing film still to be made about D-Day, and no zombies, werewolves or mummies are needed.

    If they need an angle, may I suggest that some director read about Operation Fortitude and Juan Pujol's vital role in it. The truth is far more compelling and crazy than a dozen zombie films. Most people don't have any idea that all of this happened.

  16. the pope ondine

    the pope ondine Forum Resident

    I guess"
    Both, but usually for intellectual engagement....i cant turn off my mind sometimes if its a good film....but sometimes I just feel im being manipulated and i check out. but really, everything has some element of emotion in it.
  17. Dream On

    Dream On Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I guess it can be either or both - depends what you find entertaining. I thought about adding an option like that, but then I figured when we boil it down it's basically one of emotion or intellect that we are looking to stimulate.

    It depends on the film. I get your point - if a scene is supposed to create an emotional response in the viewer and doesn't, then it failed. But, not all movies are like that.

    I think what I enjoy most are those slow burn TV shows. I love Lost and Fargo, for instance. Over the course of 10 episodes (Fargo) or approx. 120 (Lost), you can really do things a 2 hour movie simply cannot. But of course there are films that accomplish the slow burn. Such a film will not take the viewer on an emotional rollercoaster throughout; rather, it will invite thought and guesswork, and lead to some sort of emotional peak near the end of the film. The joy is mostly in the setup, when the groundwork is laid slowly in front of us.

    Finally, a film can cause emotions but almost at the same time raise questions in my mind that I ponder for a few seconds only. So I think you can be both emotionally and intellectually engaged. One does not have to shut off the other. It's basically two parts of the brain firing at once.
  18. GodShifter

    GodShifter \m/®

    Dallas, TX, USA
    I don't care. I just want to be entertained. If the movie makes me think, great. If I just find it exciting and griping, great. If it does both, great. If it does neither, not so great.
    Deuce66 and Chris DeVoe like this.
  19. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident

    There is only one kind of movie. To quote Dino de Laurentis on his "King Kong": "My monkey? He's a gonna make 'em cry."
  20. johnod

    johnod Forum Resident


    I think this is the ticket right here.
    With the exception of the Brazil specificity

    What more could you ask , or expect, of a movie?
    Chris DeVoe likes this.
  21. Dream On

    Dream On Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Not many movies are going to deliver that amount of impact, so I'm not sure I would ask that from every movie that I see.

    I think different genres deliver different things, and within each genre, some stories will be more interesting. Some characters more engaging. Some settings more amazing. Etc. This depends on the script, and the skill of those involved. But it doesn't mean the lesser examples of each genre have no merit.

    Sometimes I think people ask for too much. At the very least a movie should be interesting, enough to hold our attention for 2 hours. Whether it does so via emotional engagement or simply by engaging our minds, either can work. Those transcendent experiences would be nice to have all the time, but then they wouldn't be all that special, would they?

    And I think some of this falls on the viewer. I see comments from people who bail on a movie if it doesn't connect with them in 15 minutes. I say, you have to put more effort into it than that! I rarely bail on anything...TV show or movie. Some things just take time but I find the reward is almost always there. At some point things begin to click and things start to get interesting, even if it's just mildly so - some people will say, then why bother if a movie is just ok? But again, not every movie will be Citizen Cain, and to expect that will only leave one disappointed most of the time.

    I think the poll shows people want both, but maybe they want an intellectual experience more often than an emotional one.
    Chris DeVoe likes this.
  22. GregM

    GregM Ready to cross that fine line

    Daddyland, CA
    The emotional part of the equation is too subjective. My favorite films have long since ceased to have the emotional impact they did the first time I watched them, but what keeps me coming back is the story itself, the ideology behind it, the strength of the acting, direction and cinematography. Take some of Nolans' material where they repeatedly hit you with images of a child or the symbol of a child's toy in different contexts. It works on many levels. The first time I see it, there's an emotional wallop. But on subsequent viewings the brilliance of the symbolism can take me to another place. That's what keeps me coming back to some of my favorites, and what I hope for in discovering new movies.
  23. Grant

    Grant Fight The Power

    United States
    I borrowed this from the other thread to kind of answer this one.

    I do need for a film to be deep and thoughtful/to provoke thought for me to enjoy it. Just the way i'm wired. Just like I don't like casual conversation, I don't like lite movies.
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2019
  24. Luvtemps

    Luvtemps Forum Resident

    When I was younger it was just for entertainment,today I look for how strong the storyline is-acting-realism-the score-and most important for me-lenth,I can watch a[90 minute]movie on cable-give me at least two hours!!
  25. RayS

    RayS A Little Bit Older and a Little Bit Slower

    Out of My Element
    Since I helped to serve as the "inspiration" for this thread, I should probably chime in. :)

    I think some of the posters are equating intellectual engagement with a meta viewing process that takes one out of the story. Others may agree, but this isn't what I mean about my own experience. As a for instance, I can watch the end of "Casablanca" and ponder whether I would do what Rick does ... or if Rick is foolish and should be selfish, or (when watching it in 2019 terms) why Ilsa doesn't step up and decide her own fate like a grown up. I'm not thinking about whether the writers made good choices or the director did his job well - I am engaging with the story. Perhaps an even better, more "intellectual" example. My favorite scene in my favorite movie - the flashback scene in "Crimes and Misdemeanors" in which Judah's long-deceased family members argue morality. To me it is an incredibly powerful scene, but not on an emotional level. It doesn't elicit a visceral response, it elicits a cognitive one (and very powerfully, IMO). That's what I want most from a movie.

Share This Page