Beyond “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it”: My Evolution as a Moviegoer

It all started with The Grand Cinema. The idea of discussing a movie intrigued me, so I became a regular at The Grand. When I learned of the Film Club, which had a discussion every month, I joined that, too. However, I have never thought of myself as being a “film buff.” I do think of myself as very much a “discussion buff.” Hearing what other people see and experience in a movie has turned me into something new, a person who approaches movies in new ways. I predict there will be continuing changes in my responses to movies as I continue to participate both at The Grand and in the Film Club.

When I read movie reviews, I have difficulty, especially with the words often used. About the movie, “The Master,” Moira MacDonald (Seattle Times, September 21, 2012) observes, “Following ‘The Master’ is Riveting.” Within the article she uses the word “mesmerizing.” Neither “riveting” nor “mesmerizing” communicates anything to me.

The New York Times movie review section of September 21, 2012 refers to “The Master” as “confounding and amazing.” It goes on to assert “Must be seen to be believed, and wrestled with for a long time after.” Still very little information for me.

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times also uses the adjective “mesmerizing” and asserts “unbeatable acting” in his review title. He comments on “an impeccable Philip Seymour Hoffman” which could mean he dresses well in the role, giving me nothing substantive to use as I try to decide on seeing the movie.
Nevertheless, the pull of having a discussion after the Saturday 2:50 p.m. showing pushed me as usual into seeing the movie on Friday so I would have time to reflect on what I thought of it prior to the discussion

As I have listened to how other viewers react to movies in the last several years, I have learned to look at my experience very differently than I did in the beginning of my membership at The Grand and later in the Film Club. I have learned to “see” and “experience” a film through other people and what they share. Consequently, I approach each movie experience with a broader perspective. This broadening of my perspective is what keeps me involved in both venues. [Remember, I am not particularly in love with movies!]

In discussions, we are often asked to rate a movie from 1-5. Sorry, but I can’t do that any more. I’m creating a list of ways in which I am learning to say what I think of a movie that represents the fullness of my reactions. For instance, my current list (which I expect to change over time because of new experiences, new learning, and new realizations) consists of (1) storyline, (2) actors, (3) acting, (4) message, (5) how absorbed I was, and (6) what I call “technical.” To me, at my present level of development as a film viewer, “technical” includes lighting, cinematography, placement of scenery, and more that I have no inkling of at this time. In order to respond to the question, “What did you think of that movie?” now I think in terms of those six measures. No longer can I honestly say whether I “liked” it or “disliked” it.

That was so much easier!

Edryce Reynolds

September 22, 2012


One thought on “Beyond “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it”: My Evolution as a Moviegoer

  1. This is a remarkable essay, Edryce. It very clearly outlines that when it comes to art generally, and film specifically, it is never too late to alter the way we both we perceive it, appreciate it, and discuss it. What I like about leading a discussion at the Grand is that there is no time limit; about an hour and a half is my personal best, and 25 minutes is the shortest. At the film club discussions we try and discuss three films in 120 minutes, giving about 40 minutes per film, and sometimes as more interest flares up for one film, the third one gets short shrift.

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