Different Eyes, Different Lenses

I have almost given up discussing movies with other people. My wife and I have very similar tastes in movies, to a point, but we differ wildly on the horror spectrum (I don’t mind comedy horror that much and she’s most definitely not a fan). But I’m starting to realise that the lens through which I see film is one that is sufficiently different that I look like a bit of an alien. It would be glib to make some sort of generalisation about the films that I like or don’t, but they’d almost certainly miss the point. Let’s just say that I am very demanding of the movies that I see and books that I read, because, that way, when you read on, if you disagree with me then you can just assume that I’m too pedantic or just picky for my own good.

Of course, I don’t think I am. It’s just that I look at the world through my own eyes and what I see is what I see.

If I told you that I enjoyed Alien, Blade Runner, Terminator 1, 2, 3, and 2001, you’d probably try and classify me as a Sci-Fi buff – except that I loathed the Planet of the Apes re-remake and the Star Trek reboot. You might be surprised that I found the Lord of the Rings trilogy to be overlong and dull, badly extended and not always changed for the better, then it would be easy to leap to conclusions regarding “book-centric” snobbery. Except, of course, for my enjoyment of “Do Androids Dream…” and “Blade Runner” as separate entities. Same goes for the 2001/”Sentinel”, “Clockwork Orange” film/book – I can and do appreciate works in different areas where inspiration overlaps and the stories change. When it comes to new stories, there’s so much scope to do interesting things and, sadly, so frequently nothing happens that’s really excellent. As an example, “Inception” leaves me cold (well, except for Tom Hardy, his character could have done a lot more). A nice idea, well put together, but a pale shadow of what it could have been in comparison to the work of Dick, Moorcock, Le Guin…

So what else do I like in movies or am I some fearsome film snob? I love almost all films that Bill Murray is in. “Groundhog Day” because he realises what he loves and finally gets the chance to find his way back, “Life Aquatic” because he shows such a clear picture of what it’s like to be heading out towards the far reaches of late middle age, “Lost in Translation” because I’ve spent too many half-forgotten sections of my life floating through the hyperspace in hotel transit (but, no, I’ve never hooked up with Scarlett Johansson or Catherine Lambert). I like “Ladyhawke”, think that “Captain America” had something special about it, enjoyed “Thor” and laughed  and was into it through “Iron Man” – 1, 2 and “The Avengers”. I have watched the new Sherlock movies multiple times and have seen Battlefield LA twice. Yes, I’ve watched a lot of foreign and art film – but I watch a heck of a lot of other mainstream cinema and love it.

I’m not sure I get to call myself a film snob when I have a soft spot for “Dracula AD 1972” or “Quatermass and the Pit”. And, yet, I can’t stand the “give up if it gets too hard” message of “Toy Story III” and, the reason for this post, I really didn’t enjoy the movie “Hugo”.

What interested me, when I posted about how much I disliked Hugo, a couple of my friends immediately jumped in and one asked me if I’d been grumpy when watching it and the other said that the kids had better stay off my lawn.

The very simple explanation is that we don’t all see the world the same way. We don’t see the same movie and react to the same triggers. The elements, the composition, the theme – I rarely watch movies on the big screen as I prefer to see the movie without being overwhelmed by it. (Ok, I saw Avengers on the big screen but how could I not?) What always interests me is the thought that I would or should see things the same way? It’s not as if we all have to be in love with the same person, or all have the same favourite foods.

One of the reasons that I think I work well with students is that I understand and believe that everyone sees the world in a different way. That my students’ view of the things that I teach them travels through their own filters, having made it out of my head through my own filters, and travelling through a transmission medium that also casts a smoky lens over them. If I go out and, in my head, think that I have 100 copies of the same person to talk to, then I have lose 99 of the people in the room.

There are many people who are going to tell my students that they are wrong, when they are being different. My students are going to be questioned, dismissed and insulted for trying to create new things, for having opinions that are their own.

My opinions on movies are worth little, because they matter (or should matter) to no-one else except those who find them useful. But they are a reminder that my way of looking at the world, and my recognition that my students will be different from me in new and amazing ways, are an essential part of what makes me a good teacher.

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