Is the poor quality of Marvel films exaggerated?

Yes, it fucking is.

I am not going to pretend Marvel films are full of technical marvels. I don’t watch them for the directing, cinematography, editing and dialogues. I don’t pretend them to be arthouse works worthy of awards.

But, to say they are the worst films, isn’t that disingenuous?

As escapist as they can be, I genuinely love how they treat human emotions. Let me tell you some my favourite scenes from those films.

When I first watched Guardians of the Galaxy, I genuinely thought Rocket would be another comic relief. I was proven wrong when he was revealed to harbour internal anguish as he perceives himself as a laboratory ‘freak’.

When he is grieving Groot’s death, Drax wordlessly console him. Despite their differences, Drax can empathise as he also knows how it feels to lose loved ones tragically.

In the sequel, Yondu’s funeral scene is accompanied by Cat Steven’s Father and Son. The song about father-son relationship reminds us about the genuine familial bonding between Yondu and Quill; by doing so, we focus our attention to Quill’s personal grief.

In Infinity War, there is a scene where Thor is having an intimate conversation with Rocket. The former claims he is emotionally fine, even though his speaking tone and body language say otherwise. It reminds us how in the real world, we should learn to take cues as not everyone can open up comfortably.

Also in the same film, there is also the infamous annihilation scene, in which many people are heartbroken by Peter Parker’s death. As he is the youngest main character, it is just heartbreaking to watch. Gone to soon, one may say.

In the beginning of Endgame, Natasha Romanoff is seen eating peanut butter sandwich while trying to hold back her tears. Later on, Thor can be seen as an overweight alcoholic who tries to put up a happy facade; many think he suffers from PTSD. Both are representations of the world still trying to cope with the mass annihilation five years prior, visually emphasised by the grey-based colour palate.

In the middle(?) of the film, Tony Stark  travels back in time and accidentally meets his now-deceased father. Judging from his awkwardness and him hugging his father in the end, he clearly misses his feather dearly and is overwhelmed by the encounter.

Its ending is also very bittersweet.

The reversal of the mass annihilation is undoubtedly a positive turn of events. But, we also cannot ignore that two of the main characters we are emotionally-attached to sacrificed themselves in the fight. In the fight for greater good, there is no such thing as a happy ending.

After travelling back in time to return the Infinity Stones, Steve Rogers does not return to the present time. Instead, he chooses to stay and spends the rest of his life with his significant other. While we are happy for him and he does return as an elderly man, it somehow feels like we are losing a dear friend.

I just love how the film ends on a calm note. Instead of bombarding us with fast-paced montage, we are allowed to absorb the emotions. Not just the one we are experiencing in the ending, but also the ones we have experienced throughout the series.

Obviously, Marvel Cinematic Universe are not the only emotionally mature films around. Pixar films and How To Train Your Dragon (I haven’t watched the sequels) are also known for that aspect.

But still, I have my share of films and it is hard for me to find films which actually make me feel like a proper human being. And yes, I also have a hard time finding such arthouse films.

I have often talked about how Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman are my favourite directors. However, as much as I love their works, I also find theirs to be emotionally distant.

Yes, their works dwell deep into the human minds. But, Bergman’s depiction of the human psyche is extremely intricate while Tarkovsky’s are laced with philosophical musings.

And I almost forgot to mention Stanley Kubrick (which is also one of my favourite directors, but I keep forgetting to mention him), whose films are infamous for their coldness.

The problem with arthouse films is they are so cerebral, we need to think hard first before we feel the emotions beneath. Even then, there is no guarantee we will end up feeling anything.

Hence, if I want to watch films that make feel like an emotionally well-rounded human being, I prefer ones like Marvel.

Admittedly, the depiction of Thor’s PTSD is polarising. Some people think the PTSD turns Thor into a comic relief while others consider the portrayal realistic. As I have never suffered from it and I have never had direct one-to-one contact with people who have, I cannot say which opinion is the right one.

But, I can say this: it is refreshing of Hollywood to depict mental illness sufferers as the actual sufferers instead of ones who inflict suffering.

Oh, and I don’t get how anyone can think Marvel films ruin cinema when we have films like Michael Bay’s and comedies starring like Adam Sandler among us…

… When pop cultures in general have been accused of artistic mediocrity since forever.

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Casualties of feel-goodism 2

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I am not going to talk about the 2019 Oscars-winning supposedly anti-racism film Green Book specifically. While I have heard about the white warrior trope accusations, I haven’t watched the film. Therefore, I cannot talk about it.

But, I can talk about fans of the film, film ethics in general… and a bit about one of its screenwriters.

The fans believe the film deserves its victory because it is heartwarming. That sentiment alone easily reveals two problems.

First of all, how the hell is feel-goodism a sign of merit? I thought we judge films based on how effective their storytellings are, NOT based on how good they are in making us feel good about ourselves and the world we live in.

Second, the film is supposedly about racism and the title itself is based on a series of books that helped black Americans avoiding racist establishments during road trips.

Describing ‘bigotry’ as atrocious is an understatement. Whether you experience or witness it, its existence reminds you about how monstrous the world we live in. If you become aware of your own bigotry (and assuming you thrive to be a decent person), you would be horrified about how much of a monster you were.

Basically, bigotry is NOT heartwarming. When a film about bigotry makes you all warm and fuzzy in the inside, there is something wrong with either how you interpret the film or how the film depicts bigotry.

Either way,  for some reasons, you haven’t fully grasped what bigotry actually is. Maybe the protective bubbles haven’t bursted yet.

I am not saying a film about the harshness of reality should not make you feeling warm and fuzzy; I think it is self-righteous to believe so. What I am saying is the warmness should NOT be the only thing you feel.

If such film does have some cheerful moments or ends on a glaringly hopeful note, it should NOT be entirely sweet. Instead, it should be an emotional rollercoaster. It should be bittersweet.

Yes, a socially-charged film can indeed be too good to be true. Ideally, when that feeling

It is one thing to enjoy escapism. But, it is another when the escapism commands us to blur the line between reality and fantasy… and we unquestioningly oblige.

Oh, and I should mention that the main white character in the film, AKA the redeemed racist, is based on a real person… and his son is one of the screenwriters, who was in hot water for believing in an anti-Muslim conspiracy.

Even though he did apologise for it, wouldn’t the combination of his (allegedly past) bigotry and conflict of interest be a concern for fans of the film?

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Cinema is not inherently artistic… and never was

Just like photography, cinema would never exist without the invention of cameras… and technologies are invented either because they are intended to make our lives practically better or just for the sake of inventing.

And when people started using video cameras, they didn’t immediately make arts with them.

The oldest surviving film (emphasise on the word ‘surviving’) is the two-second long Roundhay Garden Scene, created in 1888; it simply depicts people wandering around in a garden. The first film which can be considered as arthouse is L’Inferno, released twenty three years later. Prior to that, narrative films were generally intended to impress the audience with groundbreaking special effects; resulting artistry was a bonus.

If I talk about Hollywood specifically, artistic integrity was not even mainstream before the 1960’s.

Many films from the Classical Hollywood era are plagued by escapism as shown by their black-and-white characters, avoidance of realism and straightforward narratives; the exaggerated acting and brazenly-artificial studio settings visually accentuate the theatricality and the absence of subtlety.

I don’t know how anyone can think Classical Hollywood is the most artistic Hollywood.

I have met people who believe so because the actors were supposedly skilled not only in acting, but also in singing and dancing. But, whether they are talented or not, I still don’t see how their talents guaranteed the artistic integrity of the off-screen crew members.

Maybe they confuse artistry with feel-goodism. I am inclined to believe so because I have met people who ‘think’ good films are ones that make them feel good about themselves and the world they live in.

It is a reasonable perspective if you are fucktarded snowflake who thinks the world owes you positive emotions 24/7.

If you want to see Hollywood at its most artistic, take a look the films of the American New Wave or Hollywood Renaissance* era which spanned the 60’s and 70’s, decades after the birth of the industry. It was an era in which directors, NOT the studio executives, were kings and they had the liberty to be gritty, countercultural and nuanced with their storytellings.

But, even then, American New Wave was not as idealistic as it seems.

In the 60’s, Hollywood was easily rivalled by TV and most movie-goers preferred the perceivably-superior European and Japanese films, compelling studio executives to finance more idealistic filmmakers. For a while, the decision was financially worth the risk.

Basically, even though the filmmakers did have artistic integrity, the same thing cannot be said about the executives. By the early 80’s, New Wave films were no longer profitable.. and studio executives quickly became the kings once again, consequentially putting an end to the era.

Mainstream films from this era are not substantially different from their present-time counterparts: they are all financed, promoted and distributed by utterly profit-oriented corporate businesspeople.

No matter how artistic they are, they are still commercial products… and the same thing can be said regarding any commercially successful works of entertainment.

I used to think people who define cinema as nothing but an art form were petulant; even though the word ‘cinema’ already has its own objective definition, they create their own and present them as the only correct ones.

Now, I don’t think it has something to do with petulance. Those people are simply historically illiterate about the thing they love.

But, I will still call them petulant, anyway. It is fun to insult people and make enemies out of them.

Yes, I am aware of the hypocrisy.

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*I deliberately did not use New Hollywood. Even though it seems to be the widely used name, I am not a fan of it because the adjective may leads to confusion due to its broadness.

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Parasite rightfully won

I have seen way too many people attributing Parasite’s victory at the Oscars to its popularity and it being a foreign-language film.

They are so smart, it hurts.

Not every award is like the Kids’ Choice Awards. Believe it or not, some awards like the Oscars are presided by a handful of (presumably snobby) juries who judge the nominees’ objective merit, NOT their popularity. One can argue the juries are misguided with their judgement and they have been criticised for it. But, it is very certain they don’t care about popularity.

And the data backs me up.

Avatar, one of the most highest-grossing (and one of the most overrated) films ever, was (idiotically) nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars… and yet, it was defeated by Hurt Locker, a film I would never heard of if it wasn’t for its victory. Don’t forget that Marvel Cinematic Universe, the highest-grossing film franchise of all time, have yet to won a single Oscar; they are more successful in awards that specialise in speculative fiction.

Oh, and don’t forget that film snobs looooove Parasite. On Youtube alone, you can find lots of them ravingly reviewing the film… and mind you, those people do not care much about popularity. They don’t have problems berating films they deem dreadful, no matter how popular they are! In fact, I feel alone because it is hard for me to find people who enjoy both Parasite and Marvel films like I do.

The thematic analyses are even more plentiful. Thanks to those Youtubers and their equally passionate audience, the surge of its cinematic exegeses feels never-ending, proving how Parasite is a dense and meticulously-crafted work.

Those who dismiss the legitimacy of its victory are either driven by xenophobia, anglo-centrism, neoliberalism or a combination of some or all of them. I am confident with my assertion because their dismissiveness contradicts the observable facts and I have seen many people hating on the film because it is non-American, non-anglophone and critical of capitalism.

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Jiří Trnka’s The Hand: not falling for the other side

If it wasn’t for my Intro to Animation class, I would have never heard of this stop-motion animated masterpiece.

To summarise the plot, it tells the story of a harlequin whose impoverished yet contented life of flower pot-making is disrupted by a literal and seemingly-omnipresent hand who demands him to make hand sculptures instead, compelling him to constantly fight for his freedom. Unfortunately, near the end of the story, he dies when one of his pots accidentally fell on his head (seemingly foreshadowed by the recurring accidental pot-breaking). He is given a lavish funeral by the hand.

One can guess why I love this short film.

It is an allegory of censorship enforced under authoritarianism. It sublimely evokes the terror of living as an artist and entertainer in such condition, amplified by the fantastical elements and the atmospheric percussion-oriented soundtracks. In fact, both Wikipedia and IMDB categorise this film as horror.

Unsurprisingly, I picked The Hand as one of the animated shorts I analysed for the final essay. My writings were even abysmal then. Thankfully, I lost it. But, I remember having a great time analysing every single one of them.

While analysing it, I found two peculiarities.

First thing first, the funeral. Why would the hand hold a state funeral to a rebel? Surely, shouldn’t he be demonised as an enemy of the state in the end?

Well, I found an article (forget which one, cannot find it again) about how the USSR and its satellite states honoured their artists posthumously, regardless of how obedient or disobedient they were; the writer said even Trnka himself was given a state funeral.

As I am too lazy to do more research, I cannot confirm or debunk the article’s factual validity. But, as the hand symbolises an authoritarian government (I cannot think of any other interpretations), what the article is saying makes too much sense for me to dismiss.

This reminds me of the legendary and ideologically-dissenting director Andrei Tarkovsky (can’t stop referencing him). After his death, the Soviet authorities regretted that he died in exile. Yes, linking Trnka, a Czechoslovakian puppeteer and animator with, to Tarkovsky, a live-action Russian director who loved exploring the metaphysical aspect of humanity, is far-fetched. But, I can’t help myself.

Oh, and the hand.

At first, I noticed the hand was a left one. I assumed it represented the far-left government of Czechoslovakia. But, when I took a greater look, the hand was not always left.

Sometimes, it appears as a right one. In fact, the first hand sculpture to appear in the video depicts a right hand.  So, I quickly dumped the interpretation, dismissed it as reading too much into things. But then, I remembered the funeral scene, where the hand can be seen making a salute eerily similar to the Nazi one; I could hear my classmates’ shock.

I was more baffled than shocked, as Czechoslovakia was a communist country, not a fascist one. Due to my slowness, it took me days to realise the film criticises authoritarianism in general, not just the communist Czechoslovakian government.

The film also subtly warns us to not fall for any forms of extremism. Your suffering under a far-left government cannot morally justify your support of a far-right government… and vice versa. One form of  zealotry does not justify the other.

I write as if I grasped the thematic depth immediately. I didn’t. Back then, my mind only thought about the Far-Left vs Far-Right.  It took me years to realise how the message is also applicable to any kinds of extreme dichotomies.

Yes, I know I seem to be reading too much into things again. The nazi salute may not be one after all and I don’t know enough about different types of salutes. I also cannot prove that extreme dichotomies in general were what Trnka had in mind.

But, you have to admit: the film does not target a specific ideology. My interpretation fits really well into the narrative.

The overtly-polished Casey Neistat style

I call it the Casey Neistat style because that’s how others call it (even though some people think the style predated him) and I don’t have an alternative name for it.

From the title, you can easily tell I am not a fan.

Okay, I am not saying I hate the aesthetic. I actually think it looks beautiful and proves every image can look pretty when captured by the right person. But, that’s also my problem with it: it looks TOO beautiful.

Before I was immersed in Youtube cultures, I had already watched arthouse films like Andrei Tarkovsky’s and Ingmar Bergman’s. They are visually stunning and narratively compelling (for me), exposing me to cinematic art works.

Also resulting in my high expectations of vloggers like Neistat.

It is already ingrained in my mind that good cinematography HAS to be accompanied by compelling stories. But, vlogs don’t tell ‘profound’ stories (mind the quotation marks), even when they showcase out of the ordinary events or the lives of perpetual travellers.

If anything, those vlogs feel pretentious. The polished cinematography seems to do nothing but overcompensating the passable narratives.

Oh, and when I said that vlogs are not narratively profound, I meant it as a compliment. Because they are supposed to narrate Youtubers’ semi-personal lives, I always expect raw and mundane storytellings; that is what I find attractive about vlogs in the first place!

I actually do enjoy some Neistat-esque vlogs, like the ones of Evan Edinger, Terry Song and Adam Neely. The difference is theirs are more stylistically restrained, allowing a greater presence of rawness and mundanity.

Thanks to its participatory nature, Youtube has opposites for almost everything. For Casey Neistat style and the likes, there are content described by Nerd City as post-ironic.

I cannot make myself enjoy the works of Youtubers like Filthy Frank, MaxMoeFoe and IDubbz (his Content Cop videos are an exception). Apart from the crassness which I find extreme (even for a relatively crass person like me), I am also anxious about the blurred lines between irony and sincerity.

But still, despite my inability to relish such content, I cannot help but respecting those creators for their unsuppressed mockery of the insincere and synthetic charm endorsed by the establishment. While I admittedly do embrace some of the establishment’s ideals, I also despise the idea of venerating them.

Thankfully, despite the increasing pressure of uniformity, the platform still has a sizeable freedom to dissent, something those employed in the ‘traditional’ media can only dream of. Therefore, almost every imaginable type of content has a place on Youtube*.

Whether it is aesthetically and thematically extreme** or middle-of-the-road, you will definitely find it.

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*Obviously, there are restrictions to what can and cannot be uploaded. But, it is no secret Youtube content policing is both ineffective and misguided. ‘Lawful’ videos can get taken down and ‘unlawful’ ones stay. Supposedly, people have found porn on the site; while I do have found softcore films, I have yet found hardcore ones.

**Post-irony is extreme due to its depictions of life as an inherently ugly entity. But, I would argue overtly-polished aesthetic is also extreme for its overtly beautiful depictions of life; once one is accustomed to it, acknowledgement of the ugly reality feels taboo.

A bit of tangent here:

Andrei Tarkovsky said he utilised both colour and monochrome scenes in his films because those shot entirely in colour felt like animated paintings for him and therefore, felt ‘too beautiful’ to be realistic.

I never thought that I would reference Tarkovsky’s philosophy while discussing Youtube.

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Parasite: what a treat

Yes, there will be spoilers. Click away if you haven’t watched it.

Seriously, click away!

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This essay is a two-parter. Part one is about my analyses of the film; they are brief and surface-level because many people online have done great jobs with the dissections and I don’t have anything significant to contribute. Part two is about why I personally love the film.

Part one

First thing first, I am annoyed by how some people interpret the significance of Jjapaguri; they think the two instant noodles represent the two poor families while the sirloin represents the rich one.

While it does make sense, people seem to miss one fact: the rich characters are so rich, they easily put expensive Korean beef to their late-night instant noodles meal without a second thought! Don’t let one’s obsession with symbolism makes one misses the obvious.

Another obvious thing people miss is Min-Hyuk. They feel bad for him because Da-hye, whom he has a crush for, ends up falling for Ki-woo.

Why should we feel sorry for him? Yes, Min-hyuk chooses Ki-woo as his replacement because he wants to protect her from perverted college boys. But then, he also says he will date her once she has reached the age of consent.

To paraphrase the situation, Min-hyuk wants to fuck Da-hye once she turns eighteen and he assigns Ki-woo to protect her virginity. Yes, it sounds worse if I put it that way. But still, he is obviously not a saint. Oh, and don’t forget that the scamming was his idea.

As an Indonesian, I am taken aback by the depiction of the wealthy couple. Even though they are Korean characters written by two Korean screenwriters, they affirm the clownish caricatures of wealthy people that have been lingering in my mind for a long time. It actually increases the universality of the already-thematically-universal film.

I don’t know if others experience the same thing. But, I find atmosphere turns sinister once we are first introduced to the Parks’ household. I attribute it to Lee Jung-eun’s performance as the housekeeper; she did a great job portraying a seemingly-innocent person who harbours a great secret underneath.

Seriously, the first time I saw her, I was instantly suspicious. She gives the film a really nice slow burn; the plot twist and unexpected ending feel natural.

Somehow, a part of me also want attribute this to the house, even though I cannot put my finger into it. Yes, the house is indeed what I expect from cartoonish rich characters: expensive, spacious and yet too soulless to live in. But, it is not necessarily sinister.

Maybe the soullessness adds to the slow burn. Just maybe.

Dammit, I almost forgot about Song Kang-ho’s performance.

The day after the flood, his character Ki-taek starts to get visibly upset after realising how rich people like the Parks are leeching off the misery of the poor. One can tell that he is going to snap, without knowing how and when; it makes the atmosphere even more sinister.

If Song was a shit actor, this would not work at all.

Part two

Admittedly, I was worried.

Before I watched the film, I was already hyped out by the online excitement of filmgoers. I was even more hyped out by its victory at the Oscars, triggering those emotionally-fragile, xenophobic Anglo-centrist Americans. I feared that I would be disappointed. But, I watched it anyway….

…. AND HOLY FUCKING SHIT, WHAT A FUCKING MASTERPIECE!

Obviously, I did not act like one of those demented preachers giving Friday sermons when the credit rolled. I spilled my overwhelming excitement solely to my online friends.

You can tell how much I love the film.

Despite the massive hype, I am still deeply impressed by the film. I already knew that bad fate was awaiting the characters and yet, the finale still hits me hard. The film is so technically masterful, it is extremely dense with visual and verbal figures of speech, resulting in seemingly never-ending interpretations. Don’t forget the performances of the actors, whom I believe should had been nominated for the Oscars.

As a result, I get extremely excited. For me, when dealing with the cinema, ‘excitement’ is an unpredictable feeling and hard to run into; I cannot foresee which films that would enliven my soul.

If I show you an exhaustive list of my personal favourites, you would see a significant chunk of them being critically-acclaimed arthouse works with metaphysical themes. Surely, if I want to constantly feel the excitement, I need to simply watch films that fulfil those categories, right?

Well, no.

Being critically-acclaimed and arthouse does not guarantee that I will love them; I have watched award winning arthouse works that I either despise or don’t care for. Metaphysics is also such a broad field and not every metaphysical theme will intrigue me. In fact, a handful of my favourite are not critically-acclaimed, arthouse and laced with metaphysical elements.

Statistically, Parasite has a small chance of becoming a personal favourite of mine. Yet, here I am.

It shows how special this film is for me.

 

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How NOT to praise Baby Boomers

 

Praise them for boosting the prosperity

Obviously, this has been brought up many times before and it only applies to modern countries which economic booms happened almost right after the second world war.

If you want to credit anyone who created the booms, credit the Boomers’ parents and grandparents. They were the ones in charge.

In my home country Indonesia, I would not say they ruined the economy. They did improve it. But, our country has yet to become an economic powerhouse with extremely low poverty rate and high rate of ease of doing business. The improvement is meagre and unimpressive.

If anything, many joined forces with Soeharto in making the country a more sectarian, more anti-intellectual and more brutal place to live. Many were already adults in the early years of his regime; therefore, they had the option to not get brainwashed. I am sure those who participated in the still-glorified anti-Communist purge were also Boomers.

Praise them for having great taste

Well, admittedly, Boomers do have a great taste in music. But, I cannot fully praise them for having so.

Why? Because their taste was mainstream. Therefore, they were not special. That’s like praising someone who was raised among English speakers for being fluent in the language.

I prefer to credit the pre-war generations for influencing the Boomers’ musical taste. I mean, they were the recording studio bosses! They were the ones who decided what kind of music the youngsters at the time should listen to!

Oh, and don’t forget that Boomers are also among the current music producers who churn out craps, sacrificing artistic integrity for profit’s sake.

If I want to go further with American Boomers, not many of them had a good taste in cinema as well.

The Hollywood Renaissance, which was marked by directorial independence and respect of artistry, would not exist without the university-educated young Americans who loved watching the more aesthetic European and Japanese cinemas and formed the majority of moviegoers in the 1960’s America.

That’s a very specific demographic. Unless a boomer was among the moviegoers studio executives tried to pander to, we cannot credit him/her for a having a good taste in films.

Praise them for their great personalities

Some Boomers are known for overplaying their greatness and accusing Millennials and Gen Z for being entitled snowflakes, even though they themselves were raised in a significantly more prosperous era (again, in some countries), demand absolute respect just because they are old and get offended by OK Boomer, one of the mildest memes ever.

When they do admit their roles in wrecking the prosperity (which they enjoyed immensely), they shamelessly and openly wash their hands of their sins and act like old age and near-death are to be regarded as absolution.

To sum things up, they are conceited, delusional, fragile, hypocritical and irresponsible. Only donkeys think any of those traits are wonderful in any ways.

Oh, and even if I am willing to pretend military enlistment makes one an inherently heroic and courageous person (it inherently does not), you cannot use the American war in Vietnam to make the Boomers look heroic and courageous.

Why? Because conscription.

Able-bodied young men were obligated to enlist, whether they wanted to or not. If they were indeed heroic and courageous, they would have enlisted voluntarily without being forced to. They would have to enlist simply because they loved the idea of serving their countries (or, to be more accurate, their countries’ political establishments).

We can also use this argument to debunk the myth of the ‘heroic’ and ‘courageous’ generations of both world wars.

Praise them for their progressiveness

Some Boomers claim they are the bastion of progressiveness, supposedly due to many of them being Hippies in the olden days. So, let’s just pretend the Hippie movement was indeed all about peace and freedom (sceptical about it).

I may acknowledge that Boomers did lead a sexual revolution in the west. But, that’s the extent of their progressiveness.

Even the resulting sexual liberty was still very heteronormative. The west started to become widely pro-LGBT rights just mere two decades ago; even as late as the 90’s, gay Hollywood actors were forced to stay closeted.

If anything, many Boomers in the US and UK ended up voting for conservative governments in the 1980’s. And you cannot convince me there are none of them in the reactionary and war-mongering establishments.

War-mongering…

Never mind the Afghan and Iraq wars. How can one defend a generation for being peace-loving while at the same time lauding them for participating in a war?

“You are a hateful, ageist Millennial!”

No, I am not.

My words are expressions of frustrations against the ageist Boomers who try to convince everyone about their generation’s absolute supremacy. If I am a hateful ageist, wouldn’t I use their old age as an argument of how pieces of shit they are?

Obviously, if you really want to defend the Boomers, you would need facts and refrain from dramatising them. In order to do so, you need to be a reasonable and truth-loving person.

If you are a Boomer who believe in your generation’s divine greatness or a younger person who believes we must always respect ALL older people regardless of their actual respectability, then you are neither reasonable nor truth-loving.

If you belong to either category, then I can easily dismiss your argument. You cannot prove anyone wrong by using falsehoods and overstatements.

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Are Marvel films “cinema”? (And a long rant about snobs)

 

Yes, they are. And yes, I am late to the party.

My short answer should be the end of the story. But, I can’t help myself from ranting and letting cretins ruining my days.

Yes, it is “days”. Plural.

On Facebook, a land where intelligent discourses thrive, I made posts on multiple pages and groups on why I disagree with Scorsese, Coppola and their defenders.

Surprisingly, my comments were more well-received than I expected. It feels nice to know I am not alone with my frustration.

Unsurprisingly, I also encountered detractors -two to be exact- and their overall counter argument is something I have seen read and heard before. Yet, it still manages to ruffle my feathers.

Basically, they told me that instead of being “unfairly dismissive”, I should eat the “humble pie” (one of them said that exact term), acknowledge that my taste is shit, acknowledge that my opinions regarding cinema are and will always be inherently less worthy than the ones regurgitated by award-winning directors and acknowledge that I am being pretentious for thinking mine can be better than theirs.

Five reasons why it is a bullshit argument.

Reason one:

Awards are not always what we think they are.

They do not always indicate appreciation of merits. They can also be used as indicators of how much certain individuals and their creations are beloved by the establishment.

You cannot expect me to believe they are always about merits when James Cameron’s Avatar, a film which success was entirely dependent on special effects and 3D theatre presentations, was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

Reason two:

It advocates status-worshipping.

Surely, if one wants to determine the merit of an opinion, the most important thing is to analyse the reasoning and evidences being used instead getting fixated on how much the establishment loves the opinion maker.

It is not anti-intellectual to simply question the so-called experts. If anything, it ensures they are being held to the highest standard.

Oh, and if you encounter the “Marvel films are not cinema” remark online and you don’t know who said it, you would not assume it was made by intellectual adults hardened by life experiences.

No, you would assume it was made by immature and pretentious snot-nosed teenagers who think their tastes are the most sophisticated ones.

In fact, it is way less understandable when a adult does that. You would think life experiences will make her/him more mature and reasonable.

Speaking about pretentiousness…

Reason three:

Those two snobs don’t know what pretension is.

I don’t have my own personal definition of what cinema is as I choose to stick with the most objective one available: the production and distribution of films.

As much as I despise films like Michael Bay’s and Batman vs Superman, I have to acknowledge them as parts of the cinema, just like my favourite films are.

It is arrogant for anyone -Scorsese and Coppola included- to think their subjective definitions of certain words are the only right ones.

They are trying to convince us that their unsound and petulant remarks are more profound than they really are. They are trying to convince us that among billions of human beings living right now, people like them are the only ones who “get” cinema.

In short, they are fucking pretentious.

I, on other hand, try my best to be as objective as possible by not letting my hatred of certain works hinder my judgement and by not pretending my taste is best.

One of my detractors also nitpicked about my wording. He said it was pretentious of me to use the word “one” as a pronoun.

When one realises one does not have any good comebacks, one can simply retaliated by splitting hair in front of one’s opponent.

Reason four:

They insist on thinking in boxes.

It has been ingrained in their minds that loving films like Marvel’s is an absolute sign of mediocre taste. As I can enjoy them, they perceive me as thoroughly unsophisticated.

But, I also told them about my love of Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick, three directors who are frequently considered as among the best by film snobs.

So, if one takes their words as the truth, it means I have a really good taste in cinema.

Well, not to my detractors.

Even with my repeated claims that I love those directors, my detractors kept pretending I could only love Marvel and Marvel only.

Their black and white mindset cannot comprehend how one’s taste in anything can be difficult or even impossible to pigeonhole.

If they immediately acknowledged my love of those directors, they would have to accept that tastes can be complex. But, as they insisted on thinking in boxes, they ignored my statement and kept claiming their non-existing aesthetic superiority.

One of them eventually did acknowledge that I am a fan of those directors. But, even then, it did not stop him from using the condescending tone.

For him, it does not matter if most of my favourite films are arthouse. Love just one Marvel film and I will ruin the whole batch.

He probably thinks taste is literally measurable… like a literal, physically-embodied chemical which can literally be poisonous.

They actually make me proud of myself for having unpredictable and relatively complex taste.

Yes, I used the word “complex” to describe myself.

Reason five:

Where is the fucking humble pie?

If they wanted me to eat the bad-tasting yet nutritious humble pies, they had to painstakingly make one for me.

Instead, they took a huge dump on the dining table and claimed their faeces is the humble pie; the refusal to consume is a sign of one’s infantility.

When I kept refusing to do, they started shoving their faeces into my mouth. Unsurprisingly (and ideally), I retaliated by throwing their shit back to their faces.

When they showed no signs of stopping, I started to take a dump myself and do the same thing.

Interestingly, when I said the arrogance of snobs put off others from even considering to try something highbrow, my detractors dismissed it.

They said it never happens and I am just making excuses for people to be comfortable with their aesthetic mediocrity.

Except, it does happen all the time.

I have seen people defecating on certain works even though they have yet to experience them. The behaviours of the fans are considered more than enough to determine the quality of those works.

I have seen people hating on Harry Potter, Steven Universe and anime solely because of their toxic fandoms. And yes, I have seen people hating on fine arts and quality entertainment because of the exact same reason.

Yes, what I just said are anecdotes. But, at least, I tried to make my claims sound more believable.

My detractors, on the other hand, didn’t make the efforts. Instead of trying to give me evidences to counter my claim, they simply dismissed it.

If anything, the (thankfully not literal) excrement fight I just described above actually supports my claim. The evidence that is against them was displayed right on their screens.

Their arrogance begets my arrogance.

How can they expect me to eat humble pie when they have never eaten one themselves?

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Yes, I know I should not let their snobbery ruined my days. I also hate that I ended up resorting to arrogance as well. Even though I am way more reasonable than those two, I believe there is no winner in this fight.

But, cultural snobbery has been frustrating me for years because of the disservice they have committed against the masses.

I would love for films like Andrei Tarkovsky and Ingmar Bergman’s to be even more popular. I would love them to greatly influence film industries in the incoming years.

I would love if the creative industries of the incoming years allow idealism, artistry and experimentation to thrive more.

I would love if the masses are starting to think more critically about the entertainment they enjoy and stop associating popularity with quality.

But, thanks to those snobs, my desires will always be make-believes.

Thanks to them, the masses will keep on associating mindless escapism with “humility of the ordinary people” and intellectually-inclined admiration with “vanity of the elites”.

Those beliefs are obviously not true. The presence of humility and vanity does not correlate with one’s standing in a society. But, as those snobs prioritise their egos over actually enlightening others, they unwittingly perpetuate those falsehoods.

They shoot my feet, accuse me of committing self-harm, shoot their own feet and accuse others of violence.

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A childhood treasure I didn’t know having

When I was a toddler, I remember watching feature films from those gigantic laser discs and one of my favourite films to watch was Disney’s Fantasia.

The original one, NOT the so-so sequel.

Back then, I didn’t try to comprehend the plots. I was simply mesmerised by the beautiful colours and shapes, adorned with harmonious classical music. It felt like I was watching a magically-animated painting, accompanied by a live musical performance.

Along with my beloved encyclopedias, I credit the film for making my childhood a colourful and vibrant life chapter where even the sky was not a limit. It felt like every inch of the universe was worthy to unearth.

When I started attending primary school, VCDs had become widespread. I started to watch more movies on the smaller discs and I started neglecting their bulkier predecessors. So, between pre-school and adulthood, I forgot about the existence of the film.

Yikes.

I managed to watch it again when I was eighteen. As I already started becoming a snobby cultural critic, I started to appreciate its merit.

Even though I don’t think it was an extraordinarily groundbreaking film*, it still effortlessly stands out among many Hollywood flicks. To this day, I am still surprised that one of my childhood favourites is of high quality. Most of them tend to be shit.

And, because of its uniqueness, it shapes my taste in the arts and entertainment as an adult.

Magically, absurdly and subconsciously realistic

The segments that feature abstract animations are my very first exposures to abstract art. Now, I am one of those weirdos who genuinely enjoy staring at abstract paintings.

I don’t care about the lack of coherent narrative. As long as the combination of shapes and colours impress me, I will consider the paintings beautiful regardless.

I also have to credit it for inspiring me to love surrealism and magical realism, making me attracted to the weird and inexplicably fantastical.

Nowadays, some of my favourite films include ones with strong metaphysical themes and/or ones that portray the inexplicable. They include Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and The Shining and much of Andrei Tarkovsky’s works.

While Fantasia is of neither genre, its sublimely fantastical depictions of natural phenomena certainly help opening the path.

And it is certainly metaphysical.

Unhinged sophistication

When I listened to Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring supposedly for the first time, it felt like an inexplicable surge of nostalgia ran through my veins, as if I had heard it before. It turned out I had: it is one of the soundtracks of Fantasia!

My early exposure to the modernist composition possibly influenced my taste in classical music. I prefer the more stylistically-eclectic and/or “unhinged” newer works -like ones by Stravinsky (obviously) , George Gershwin and John Cooliged Adams- over the older ones, many of which I find a bit too saccharine.

In fact, I now love to complain about how films, especially fantastical ones, are too dependent on cliche-sounding orchestral music and are too afraid to utilise more ambient, more eclectic and more “untraditional” compositions.

The lovely dread

Chernabog is probably one of my first exposures to “scary entertainment”, even though I was never terrified by it. Again, I was too busy mesmerised by the beautiful animation.

Beautifully haunting and sinister animation, showcasing something one can describe as a symbolic representation of the dark side of humanity.

As an adult, I have a weird thing for entertainment with ominous atmosphere, as in you feel scared even though nothing scary is happening on-screen. You know, actual horror instead of cheap jump scares.

I am not a fan of the show Criminal Minds due to its dehumanising depictions of mental illness sufferers. But, I do love the episode where the heroes unwittingly cooperate with a police station where virtually every officer is corrupt; it genuinely feels like they can be ambushed at any time. It feels like real life horror.

Horror is not about what you explicitly show, it is about the feeling of terror you induce on your audience.

Connecting non-existing dots

Admittedly, what I just said do sound far-fetched.

It is indeed absurd to claim one feature film dictates my entire taste as an adult. There are many things that can be taken account as the influencing factors.

As I hinted in the beginning, I also read encyclopedias frequently as a young child and some of them not only discuss “weird” paintings and sculptures, they also display the photos. Basically, they partook in the exposure.

One of my favourite musicians is Chrisye, an Indonesian Pop singer whose early works reek influence from Genesis -a Progressive Rock band- and the band’s genre does sound “unhinged” to the “untrained” ears. After discovering that particular musical style, I ended up craving for more “weird” sounds.

And those films that I love, I also have to credit my time wasted on Wikipedia and my Media Studies classes as contributing factors; I would not have heard of Andrei Tarkovsky if it wasn’t for the former and I would not have watched a single film from West Africa if it wasn’t for the latter.

My love of ominous entertainment may also be rooted by many years of watching horror films and eventually ended up frustrated with the excessive amount of cheap jump scares, craving for actual feeling of terror.

Oh, and don’t forget about my personality. Our personalities not only dictate how we interact with each other, they also dictate what we love and hate.

I am a weirdo and have been called such since forever.

Therefore, my current taste can still come to being even without Fantasia in my life.

But, still…

As I said before, the film is a huge part of my childhood. While it is clearly not the only factor that shapes my taste, it certainly is a major one.

It certainly accelerates its formation and it certainly aggravated its potency.

Without the film, it would probably take me a much longer time to love the things I now love.

*I refuse to call Fantasia a groundbreaking film because I don’t think it is.

Yes, it certainly has a relatively unusual approach in regards to moving image narratives and may be unappealing for those who want more glaring expositions, who think escapism equals quality and who cannot give more damn about visual artistry.

But, if you dig deeper into the history of cinema, you would see there were already ground-breaking cinema movements -like surrealism and Italian futurism- that predated the film’s existence.

And works of those genres are bizarre and incomprehensible for the masses. Not matter how weird Fantasia is, I still think it is relatively comprehensible.

If anything, its audio and visual aesthetics were already conventional at the time of its release.

The risk-taking was indeed high. But, it was not that high.

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