Years ago my friend Brian sent me a quote from W. H. Auden: “The only sensible procedure for a critic is to keep silent about works which he believes to be bad, while at the same time vigorously campaigning for those which he believes to be good, especially if they are being neglected or underestimated by the public.” There is something to that. Consider Love: I only knew two things going in. One that I liked the look of the poster, which promised astronauts (generally a thing I like). Two that Love is a terrible, terrible name for a movie, particularly one that should by all rights be science fiction.
I knew going in that it was going to be a toss-up as to whether the movie was as interesting as it looked or as bad as it sounded from the title. It turned out to be pretty bad, with an opening vignette about a confederate soldier that doesn’t really go anywhere and an ending that’s pretty derivative of 2001: A Space Odyssey and not much that’s exciting in the middle. But is it worth bringing this movie to the attention of people who have probably never heard of it just to trash it? Isn’t it better to just pass over it in silence?
There’s a degree to which I think yes, it is better to pass over it in silence. But criticism is about the critic as much as it is about the critiqued, and I think that my interest in this movie says something about me that’s worth discussing: I often decide to watch movies for entirely dubious reasons, so my aesthetic judgment should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
After all, if I’m going into a film that is probably going to be bad knowing that it’s going to be bad then what kind of common sense do I have? Sure, a part of it is open mindedness and a willingness to experiment – traits which often fail me but have also lead to some cool discoveries – but a lot of it is simple pigheaded refusal to be properly selective about what I watch. I am a grown man. Why am I spending 90 minutes watching something just cause the advertising for it was shiny?
Winner: I definitely lost on this film; it’s still debateable about whether or not the existential battle has also been lost