That’s a common question I get after people find out that I watch a lot of movies. And sure, it’s just small talk, but on the other hand, I am from Finland and I don’t do small talk. Unless there’s a pragmatic intent, every discussion is either a matter of life and death or at least aimed at gaining a new insight into the nature of reality, so let me dwell on the answer way too much than would be appropriate.
Let’s begin with an anecdote. I’ve know this lesbian couple for a very long time. One of them is into hardcore punk. She even played her classical guitar in a punk band when we were teens and used part of her food allowance to pay for the bands rehersal time, so that her parents wouldn’t find out about all this (yes, she had a food allowance, because her parents were often away for work). She told me on a few occasion that she wanted to play topless when they finally found a gig (which I did oppose as we were underaged), but that never happened. Her girlfriend is a metalhead. She used to try to push copies of her Napalm Death, Morbid Angel and Godflesh CDs on me. (In hindsight, I probably should have taken the Godflesh ones, because I do like that band quite a bit.) And me? Kind of omnivorous, but I guess if I was forced to try to analyze what I listen to a little further, I would say all sorts of indie.
Yet, I have this memory of three of us sitting/lying around on my couches listening to Sade’s Diamond Life. Now, if you are not familiar with Sade, you are missing out. They have only released six albums during their 40 year career, but all six of those records are very, very good. The thing is that compared to punk or metal, Sade is extremely non-threatening. They just happen to do that non-threatening soul/smooth jazz/sophisti-pop/progressive soul/R&B (according to Wikipedia) thing just very, very well. At least well enough to appeal to the three of us. I would encourage you to check them out, but as they have sold something along the lines of 60 million albums, they don’t really need my help in marketing them.
The point of this story? Just that taste is complicated. Well, at least if you are not trying to maintain an image and choose your preferences based on that rather than what you find enjoyable or interesting.
So, how about those movies? Where to even start? Let’s start with this – these are the last 10 movies I’ve given 7 or better on IMDb:
Entergalactic – An animated romantic comedy (also marketed as a musical, but while there is a lot of music by Kid Cudi, who is also one of the writers and the star, it is not a musical in the sense that the music would drive the story forwards; the movie does also suffer a bit from the typical Hollywood approach of there being only two jobs: boring office jobs for boring people and creative jobs for everyone else)
Limite – A silent movie from early 30s, where we see three people wasting away on a lifeboat and then flashbacks of their previous lives.
Censor – A horror movie about a woman, who feels guilt over the disappearance of her sister during her childhood. She is now a censor of so-called video nasties, which seems to be affecting her grasp on reality.
My Sailer, My Love – A romance between to elderly widows and the contention between the male part of this couple and his daughter
Zola – A story of a young exotic dancer, who gets in over her head when someone tries to coerce her into sexwork
Smile – A horror movie about one woman’s struggle against a spirit of some sort transmitted to her by a patient
Speak No Evil – To call this a horror movie is a bit of a spoiler, but it’s all over the marketing, so there we go. It’s about a Danish family, who go to meet another family they met in Italy. The other family lives in a secluded house somewhere in the Netherlands (if you are not aware of European geography, these are small countries not very far from each other – there is a slice of Germany between them, but that’s maybe 250 km)
Top Gun: Maverick – doesn’t need an explanation.
Linda Linda Linda – A Japanese film about high school girls, who want to play a small music festival in their high school. A very feelgood movie where all the challenges are very harmless, but still a movie worth watching
Angel’s Egg – Another Japanese movie, but this one is an animation about a girl protecting an egg in a seemingly post-apocalyptic world.
So, there’s a romantic comedy, three dramas, three horror movies, one blockbuster, one feelgood movie and one… experimental fantasy movie about the creator losing faith and trying to cope with it. Of course, only 10 movies is a pretty small sample of all the shit I’ve seen (as of this writing, I’ve rated exactly 3900 feature films on IMDb, which based on previous experience is maybe little less than 90% of all the movies I’ve seen, but obviously this is hard to discern is based on “feels”), but I do think it is repreentative in some ways. I am often more inclined to give chances to horror movies, so I do watch quite a few of them. The reason being that bad dramas are just boring, but bad horror movies at least have some qualities, which make them worth sitting through (most of the time). Dramas are over-represented, because in some ways it is just a catch-all category, where a lot of different movies get put, because we don’t have other commonly understood subgenres for them. You wouldn’t think those three movies are of the same genre, but just aren’t sophisticated enough to distinguish between them in terms of genre.
I would probably watch more experimental movies, if I had access to more. In general you have to work to be able to see them, whereas it’s easy to go and see something like Top Gun: Maverick. Even if those weird little art projects do get any sort of distribution, they might only have a few screenings in the theatre near me, where as Top Gun: Maverick had been out for almost four months before I finally went out to see it, so looking at it from that point of view, simple access does also affect the kinds of movies I see quite a bit, which is kind of sad (although if I would have gone just a few movies deeper, there would have been W, Feminine Masculine, Flux Gourmet and No Smoking lurking in the shadows).
In reality, I don’t really have limits genre-wise. I just like pretty much everything. There are certain types of movies within genres I really don’t like. Well, maybe two types that come into mind immediately: pointless franchise movies and Oscar-bait movies with big stars, whose egos take over those movies (this doesn’t always happen in these kinds of movies, but you probably know exactly what I’m talking about). Sure, there are bad movies within all genres, but those two are the things that really get on my nerves. I do generally look for different things in different genres (okay, that feels like a tautology).
I like dramas where I can sympathize with someone (I don’t need to identify with the characters, though), I like comedies that try to take a stance on something, I like horror movies that try to teach us something about ourselves or the society, I like action movies that actually try to build up the characters (just visuals aren’t enough for me) and so forth.
What do I actually answer when someone asks that question about what kind of movies do I like? Depends, but in general I try to use examples, because they can be very helpful. I might use the opportunity to raise awareness on some obscure European movie, or I try to push the person off-balance by bringing up examples of very weird movies, or I might genuinely bring up something these people can actually go out (or stay in) and see and would maybe be interested in while still expanding their tastes.
I just like movies. What else is there to know in actuality? Well, I could do one better and say that I like arts. Movies just happen to be a form of art I have easy access to, so they have become my de facto art of choice. I do still listen to a lot of music, read books, read comics, visit art museums, marvel at architecture and so forth, but movies are the one art I feel confident enough to talk about, even if my point of view might be less educated than that of many other people, but at the same time, having seen well over 4000 movies and having spent way too much time thinking about them, I do have my art brute takes on them, which I do feel can be valuable.
So there, just a little over 1500 words. Almost like small talk.