A few months ago, the internet was raving about the movie True Grit, which is a remake of an old John Wayne movie. A number of my friends had gone to see it, and each of them told me that it is a “must see” film. So my parents and I went to see it. The cinematography was beautiful. The acting was superb. The directing was masterful. The pacing was perfect. It was a very well-made film. And yet, I felt a little sick afterwards. I realized that I really disliked it, but not for any flaw I could find in the film’s technique or style. I disliked it because I didn’t feel as if I was a better person for having seen it. It didn’t invite me to change or see the world differently. It just did a really good job of telling a not very good story.
I’ve been thinking a lot since then about what makes a good movie. A lot of times, I’ll go see a movie in the theaters with some friends, and while walking out of the theater, a friend will say, “That was a great movie!” or “That movie was meh.” But what does either claim actually mean about the film? What follows here is simply my own attempt to construe the issue in a way that makes sense to me.
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