It happened in 2015 with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It happened in 2016 with La La Land. I saw it happen again last year with Get Out surprisingly. It will probably continue to happen as long as movies exist. What is “it” exactly? Why, the ubiquitous Internet backlash, of course! This phenomenon appears whenever a certain film attracts too much attention or praise. Then like clockwork, the naysayers arise from the dark corners of the Internet to criticize said film in an attempt to quell the overwhelming positivity. To be honest, I’m also guilty of this sometimes, but for the most part, I absolutely hate seeing a good movie unfairly buried through no fault of its own. With this mini-rant, I will try to find a solution that reduces the amount of Internet backlash from our discussion on cinema.
The main culprit of Internet backlash centers around award season, primarily the Oscars (because I couldn’t care less about those pointless Golden Globes). The most relevant example is the aforementioned La La Land which received a record-tying 14 nominations from the Academy in 2016. Coupled with the near-unanimous critical acclaim, this made Damien Chazelle’s musical the prime target for backlash. People felt the need to stress to their friends who hadn’t seen the film, “Well, it wasn’t that good.” Let me be perfectly clear: awards DON’T MATTER. Regardless of how many articles I write about the Oscars, they’re just for fun; winning “the most prestigious award in Hollywood” doesn’t automatically serve as an indicator for quality (looking at you, Crash and Shakespeare in Love). The fact that La La Land managed to tie Titanic and All About Eve for the most nominations is a cool trivia fact and nothing else. I mean, I think La La Land is close to perfect, but I would never discourage anyone from voicing a differing opinion (hehe). So please don’t make hasty decisions and rush to post negative comments based on awards alone.
This brings me to another interesting point: when did we decide that a movie had to be compared to another in order to determine its quality? Sure, it makes for spirited debate, but the world of cinema was never intended to be looked at as a competition. Do you think Spielberg constantly wonders if Scorsese is making a better movie than him in the same year? No, they’re all artists who take the process of moviemaking seriously without feeling the need to one-up a fellow professional. Look at La La Land again and Moonlight, the film that actually won Best Picture (still not bitter at all). When the real winner was revealed, I saw reactions from passionate fans who lauded Moonlight as far superior to La La Land which had already gone through prior backlash. Why can’t we examine each movie on its own without unfairly alluding to something else? Both of those films are fantastic and the only thing separating them is your personal preference. The way I see it, the only fair method to judge two movies is when they are exactly the same (i.e. a shot-for-shot remake). Even within genres, it’s hard to do so because the spectrum is quite broad; can you objectively compare Guardians of the Galaxy and The Dark Knight for instance? Therefore, other than for entertainment purposes, it makes little sense to indulge in an argument about movies, removing some of the backlash since unfair comparisons subsequently wouldn’t come up in conversation as often.
Wait…am I saying there can’t be any debate about cinema whatsoever? Of course not, but I hope that the way we do so is carried out in a respectable fashion. Don’t wait until the end of the year to denounce a movie you saw in February; I recently saw a YouTube comment about Get Out complaining that if you take out the social commentary, it’s not a very good film. Um, excuse me? Aside from the fact that you can’t remove certain elements to fit an agenda, this person seemingly went on a tirade for the sole reason that he was tired of hearing everyone praise one of the best movies of the year. It sounds like an obvious truth, but it’s worth repeating: if you saw a good movie, you saw a good movie (and vice versa). Doesn’t matter if it was five years ago or five minutes ago. Awards recognition, critics’ opinions, or other external factors shouldn’t play a role in determining your personal enjoyment of it. Yes, it’s difficult to avoid listening to outside sources, but I hope that over time, you’ve been able to form your own opinions about cinema. Therefore, you should also know how to back those opinions up. I once got into an argument with another blogger who claimed that Toy Story was overrated (long overdue backlash, but still). When I nicely asked him to explain why, he got defensive and couldn’t give any legitimate reasons beyond some form of “it looks dated.” Film criticism is strongly encouraged, but there are certain circumstances where it’s less welcome. If you didn’t like Get Out immediately after seeing it, go ahead and voice that opinion. If you took some time and then came to the same conclusion, be my guest. But when you suddenly feel the urge to go against the grain just to create some backlash, take a step back. Adding your own vitriol to an otherwise tame debate isn’t helping anyone.