Maddenation

Remembering the Titans

I caught most of Remember the Titans a couple of days ago, and it left me feeling kind of melancholy. I certainly felt the emotions the movie wanted me to feel: disappointment, uncertainty, outrage, excitement, suspense, sadness, joy, even though I had seen the movie before and remembered, more or less, the outcome. Heck, even if I hadn’t seen the movie, I could have guessed that it would end like it did. In all, I’d say it was an effective movie, well done, especially within the limitations of the genre (and sub-genre, which we might call the Hoosiers or Rudy style).

So here’s my quandary: I have recently survived five years of training against the Pavlovian-emotional-response I’ve just described. It’s not cool to like formulaic Hollywood movies if you’re a PhD in English. You should like films not movies. Remember the Titans is the cinematic equivalent of the Backstreet Boys: finely tuned, audience-directed, quality fluff.

I’m oversimplifying, but not by too much. And I don’t think you have to be in academia to know that there are qualitative differences between movies and films, even if the critics are a bit pompous in their assessments. So what to do? The simple response is to ignore the stigma of liking such movies and simply like what you like. But even that’s not so easy, since what we like is always influenced by an infinity of forces (from our age to our society to our past experience to any number of things). And this theoretical mobius strip is what’s got me reeling (no pun intended, originally, but now that I’ve written it, I like it).

The question I want to leave undeveloped and certainly unanswered is, akin to the People Liking Things They’re Not Good At discussion, what is good? What is art? I just read in Matthew 7 the other day where Jesus says “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” This is more along the lines of moral good (nor artistic good), but it’s connected. I love Jesus, but I think he did some of us a disservice by polarizing things like this (he does it elsewhere too). Makes people think the world is black and white. Maybe this jibes with his instruction that we become as little children, but it misses out on the (Mormon at least) teaching that we should get as much knowledge as we can. The more educated we are, the more we realize that not everything is so easily categorizable, that we are fallible judges, that most artists are morally “corrupt” in some ways (more than the general public, even, since we are all sinners), taking drugs or sleeping around or what have you, but they still produce some pretty good “fruit.”

Wow. That’s not what I thought I was going to say. I thought I was going to say that I don’t care what the academics think, I liked Remember the Titans anyway, because it’s a good story. And even if I can recognize its formula, its feel-good-ness, its clean resolution, I don’t mind it as much as I mind the high-minded criticism that it’s not art, or not a film but a movie. And I do feel that way, just not wholeheartedly, or completely enough to close the case. There’s still a lot to think about here, and there, and everywhere. But here’s a good place to start.

PatrickObservations03/17/03 3 comments

Comments

David • 03/17/03 10:55 AM:

Inspiration is what you’re talking about. It’s why I get the chills when Mr. Miyagi shakes his head in confirmation of Daniel-sahn’s Crane Kick. It’s why I cry during Hoosiers and Rudy. It’s why I tried to learn how to skateboard after watching Back to the Future! You KNOW what I’m sayin.

You can’t just add inspiration to a movie/or film. It happens somehow (I’m not really certain on this part). Just like it happened in the Star Wars movies (for me, all of them), and in ET, and The Goonies. Mostly I think it happens because of where we are in our lives at that point, what touches our heart, what we love. Critically speaking, I’m sure The Goonies didn’t get the best reviews - but how could any sane person believe that it’s anything less than tied for the GREATEST CINEMATOGRAPHAL EXPERIENCE IN HISTORY? (others receiving votes have been mentioned above and also include stuffs like Indiana Jones, Beastmaster, and for Kathleen, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun)

So fuey, or however you spell it, to the critics and academics. What is the point of becoming overly educated to the point where you can no longer appreciate good things? That, my friends, and gentle readers (as Pat would write), is the question I leave you with. Hmmm?!…

Dad • 03/17/03 1:37 PM:

I am reminded of a lunchtime conversation at Exxon many years ago where we were discussing the poor quality of TV shows (and, trust me, they were better back then). One of us (I don’t think it was me) concluded that what was bad was not the TV shows themselves, but our attitude that we were in some way bad for watching them. To misquote Jesus, “bad art will always by with you.” (And, reflecting on that, I come up with, “Do not let knowledge and training impoverish your soul.”)

I do not always understand Jesus either. I believe good trees can bear (some) bad fruit as bad trees can bear (some) good fruit. The same is true of people. And furthermore, we may not always know the bad fruit from the good, especially if we allow others’ opinions to affect us too strongly.

As to the question of movies vs. films, I think the distinction is false; created by snobs to preserve their positions. No doubt there are good and bad movies, or at least some that are better or worse than others. Yet some “bad” movies “move” you and some “good” movies don’t. And as we mature, learn, and are impacted upon by our experience, we may change our taste. So what? In the end all we can say is “I liked it” or “I didn’t” to whatever degree we wish to define it.

The purpose of academics is the enrich our lives by deepening our understanding. If in “deepening” our understanding we dry it out to the point where it looses its taste, then we have pursued a false goal. For a refreshing view on academics, read, The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Patrick • 03/23/03 1:28 PM:

But I think the distinction between “good” and “bad” movies has some validity. Certainly we all like and dislike movies, and, within our family, we often agree on them. Academics too, but they try to justify their likes and dislikes. And I think that’s a good idea in theory. For instance, if I’m trying to workshop a personal essay, I don’t want my classmates to simply vote whether they liked it or not. And I don’t just want a rating on a scale of 9 to 10 (as David would say). I want some concrete information. Some justification for liking it or not. That’s hard to do, but worthwhile.

So I think academics, even though they’re sometimes snobby and opaque, do serve a useful function. But they shouldn’t convince you that your own taste is wrong. And if you like Remember the Titans in spite of the academics, then that’s fine. Can’t we all be brothers?

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