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Oppenheimer… Barbie… can you watch a movie in a vacuum?

or: how I learned to stop worrying and love the film


It was a great time to be a film lover the last two months. Almost all headlines raised anticipation for two movies that were not sequels and featured no superheroes. It might be a turning point and a transition away from the IP era – the Disney-as-an-autocrat era. Then something happened when the movies were released. Now the headlines don’t encourage anticipation, excitement, and joy. They do what headlines do best in the click-bait age. They sell the cancer of anger and division and sully every event with their mark.

Barbie isn’t about an exciting new movie anymore. It’s about sticking it to someone. Don’t get excited about seeing a new story, get excited about who it’s pissing off. You hate those people, so take joy that they’re angered by the message. If you are one of those people that’s so angered, you should hate the movie because the movie is propaganda and dangerous. It has to be one or the other.

Oppenheimer isn’t about an exciting new movie anymore. It’s about a message and if you’re not on board, then your anger is fuel for my joy. If you truly believe the movie is based on a flawed argument, then you should hate the movie as a propaganda piece that influences the support for policies that danger national security. It’s not about getting excited for a movie anymore, it’s about breaking people down into two wings and encouraging a dogmatic hate for each other. It’s religion. Every opinion and emotion needs to be turned into an act of heresy. That’s the age we live in and it infects how we appreciate the world around us.

nolan gerwig

Is it possible to watch a movie as though we aren’t playing a zero-sum game? To really appreciate a movie, you need to be able to watch it with a blank slate. It’s a story, a fable, and it’s either an interesting one or it isn’t. If a story only piques your interest because it works as some sort of confirmation bias, then is it really a good movie or just smoke up your ass? If you don’t like a movie because you disagree with what the movie is saying, are you missing out on the entertainment value of the story? Imagine wolves hearing the tale of the three little pigs. Their review would probably be negative and point out the author’s ignorance when it comes to the animal kingdom. Prejudiced storytellers who care nothing about a wolf’s natural dietary needs. Imagine the headlines from the wolf-press. Better yet, imagine the headlines from the pig-press. “Wolves are losing their shit over Three Little Pigs, and it’s awesome!” – Huffington Post.

I don’t know if you can watch a movie in a vacuum, but I know it would make for a better movie-viewing experience. I also know if people can learn to enjoy things without fearing how it impacts their standing in their echo chamber, then we’ll be a healthier society for it. I know how I feel about the message behind Oppenheimer and Barbie. I also know, as a filmmaker, that these are two incredibly important films and to ignore them as complex pieces of art is how we lose art to the Disney corporate executive boards of the world.

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