What makes a movie good?

Is a movie good because some critics say it’s good? By the way, what is a critic? Isn’t a critic just an audience, albeit more informed? And if so, just like every other audience, they will prefer some certain kinds of movies to others. In other words, they merely function as a filter through which a movie is ranked higher or lower than others.

Is a movie good because most people say it’s good? No, it’s not, at least in my case. I wasn’t into Marvel movies as much as people of my generation. But there’s nothing wrong with liking a movie that is favored by the masses and regarded as low-brow by the intellects in ivory towers. That attitude of bragging about the dumbness of pop culture is also in fact mauvaise foi, that is to say inauthentic and defined by the pressure from social forces. So, just be self-indulgent. Basic tastes show nothing but a sign that we still retain connection with others, that we still share some values with people around us. And on the other hand, loving something that is dismissed by others proves your uniqueness. Either way, it is understandable to say that there’s differences between people’s evaluation, and it’s just idiotic to sacrifice our genuine feelings for the masses’ validation.

There’s a common method in assessing movies which is breaking the movie down into different aspects, such as cinematography, editing, casting and acting, film score and music, and so on, then rating each aspect with the scale of 5 or 10 point, and finally summing up the quality of a movie by the overall score it gets. But isn’t this method problematic when it fails to recognize the dynamic interactions between the elements? Take Black Mass, for example. Every aspect of it could be 10/10, but the overall score should not exceed 7/10 (cf. Mattimation). Also, we cannot treat every movie the same. Special effects should be one of the areas of analysis in The Lord of the Rings, but not in Brokeback Mountain. This formalist approach didn’t take into account how varying the reception could be, either. A movie that is appreciated by this person could be denounced by another. In short, this analyzing-summarizing method, despite its seemingly rational attitude, is indeed wrong-headed.

So if we should not base our judgement solely on critics’ opinions, public’s opinions, or a common analyzing-summarizing assessment tactics, then what else should we rely upon?

To me, in stead of spending time seeking validation from movie critics and ranking systems, why don’t we just listen to our heart and mind? Ask ourselves, is this movie touching us? Does it offer any scenes that we keep mulling over and revisiting? Does it shake up our worldview or consider an aspect of human behavior that we never considered?

A good movie must first and foremost be the one that makes us feel good. It makes us moved by the depiction of brotherhood in adversity, of striving that failed but worth, of melancholy in the inevitable decay, of justice for those who deserve it. It wowed us with the brilliant plot or sophisticated characterization, with aesthetically pleasing visual elements or sound effects, with vibrant acting skills or magnificent production design. There are million reasons to love or to hate a movie, but they should come from within us.

I came to believe that movies, or any other forms of art, are representations of life, and a better question to ask is not how good a movie is, but which “type” of life this movie nurtures. For life is limitless, movies should be infinite in its forms, from which one may find their “type”. With this in mind, we can see that “guilty pleasure” is actually not a thing to be ashamed of. A bird should not be ashamed if she hates swimming, and a fish should not feel guilty if he cannot fly. We were born different “types”. By listening to our heart and mind, we come closer to our “type”, who we truly are.