On Movies and “Fun”

I have seen this argument a lot when talking to people regarding movies. I have questions regarding the point of movies. Are they really there to entertain? I think film is a medium that is considered to be art, and I am pretty sure art’s purpose isn’t just to entertain. If art were just for entertainment, then I’m pretty sure we could replace all works of art with blue ducks and nothing of value would be lost. I do recommend watching the linked episode of Dilbert. At the very least, it will explain why blue ducks.

One of the interesting qualities of the film medium is that unlike a painting, it is not static. In ways it allows audiences to feel more involved in the events being depicted. How much impact would “Jurassic Park” have had on film goers if it were nothing but a slide show? Sure, “Jurassic Park” may have been a bad example being a major major blockbuster movie.

Also that point wasn’t related to the purpose of this post anyway…

I wonder if people are as harsh on stage plays as they are on films they do not find ‘entertaining’. Would a play such as “Waiting for Godot” worked if it were a film and not a stage production? I do not think so. There’s an expectation one has when going to the theatre versus going to the cinema. One is ascribed a sense of culture and civility, whereas the other is seen as a means to allow audiences to leave their brains at the door and sit and drool for 2 and a half hours.

It is sad then that films that strive to be more than mere titillation are so often looked down upon as pompous or masturbatory while other media gets off relatively scott free. One need just take a look at Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games” to see what I mean. When the film begins it appears to be your average home invasion film. However, the film subverts audience expectations and toys with them as much as it toys with the protagonists. I am sure you can find a number of user reviews on imdb deriding the film for this very reason. It’s not ‘entertaining’ when the audience is made to feel like a monster for appreciating films of its genre, yet it has interesting points to make.

Why is film not allowed to be challenging, bizarre, nonsensical, and in some cases profoundly unwatchable? It adds texture to an otherwise bland tapestry of creative works in the medium. One can only take so many ineptly crafted, lowest common denominator action/romantic comedy/other comedy/horror films a year. At least I hope that is the case. Not every film has to be a “Star Wars” or “Love Actually”. What a boring world we would live in if that were the case. Just take a look at the state of modern First Person Shooters if you do not believe me.

It’s perfectly okay to dislike a movie, but to say it fails as a movie because it failed to be ‘entertaining’ when it was trying to be something entirely different is just not on. If a film has no other reason to be than to be ‘entertaining’ and still fails, well… Okay fine. You win that one.


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