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A Beginner’s Guide to Classic Cinema Part III: Art vs Entertainment

This is what you get when you Google gratuitous violenceThere are a lot of reasons why I watch films but they all boil down into two main categorical reasons. I either want to enjoy a provocative story that expands my world view, or I’m just looking to relax and slip into the absurd. Using this reasoning all films can be place in one of two categories. They are either art or strictly entertainment. I’ve often lamented Hollywood’s absurd predisposition towards violent, oversimplified summer blockbusters, but the fact is sometimes those absurdly awful films are just what the doctor ordered. That doesn’t mean I’m suggestion you should abandon all my previous advice and dive haphazardly into the cinema sea. Not all mega-budget explosion ridden, plot hole riddled Hollywood drivel is particularly fun to watch. Allow me to explain.

Artistic films are driven by important elements like plot or characters and are often described as thought-provoking. Films that are simply entertaining are driven by little more than an urgency to top the last scene’s gratuity with even more gratuity. They sometimes are completely devoid of plot all together and are often thought to make a person lose intelligence simply by watching them. They contribute little more than a stream of pop culture references to society.

The most noteworthy of the entertainment for entertainment’s sake films are often known as cult classics. These are movies that bombed at the box office but by the time the movie was released on video people began to sit up and take notice. I suppose the most well-known cult classic is Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but I’d rather focus on the slightly lesser known king of the B movies, Evil Dead 3, or as it is better known as, Army of Darkness. This little gem stars the Bruce Campbell and is full of everything that makes a bad film so entertaining. It’s got over the top one-liners like “Give me some sugar baby,” cheesy special effects like Campbell being attacked by a skeleton thrown on to the set by a stage hand, and a plot so absurd it makes a faked moon landing seem plausible. How could you not love this movie?

Entertaining films are the guilty pleasures of the cinema world. Often the best of the worst feature actors and actresses you have heard little about and were made with a budget smaller than my last student loan payment. Though well-known actors like Samuel Jackson take on movies like Snakes on a Plane simply for the entertainment factor. For me the archetypal movie for entertainment value is Antonio Banderas’s 1995 classic Desperado. The plot has something to do with a mariachi band’s quest for revenge or something irrelevant along those lines. What makes this movie great is the sheer absurdity of the fight scenes. Banderas and his band mates have converted the tools of their trade into epic killing machines. How does one kill with a musical instrument in the most dramatic fashion possible? How about installing a rocket launcher in your bass guitar case in such a way that every time you shake it it reloads? Not quite enough? What if these rockets explode with enough force to send your enemies comically spiraling across screen? Does that do anything for you? Desperado does not make a respectable social commentary on the plight of the Mexican people, or try to engage its audience on anything beyond the most basic level and yet it’s just a lot of fun to watch.

That brings us to another important point. Movies viewed for their entertainment value only are much more enjoyable in the company of others. Sure, a movie about neo-Nazis surfing in a post apocalyptic southern California sounds hilarious, but without someone to share the burden some of the comedic value is lost. Misery loves company, and this is especially true when watching bad movies. Art films can be viewed privately and discussed at length at a later date, but just try striking up a conversation about Princess of Mars around the proverbial water cooler. That being said, I’m interested in hearing what our readers have to say on the subject of entertaining movies vs. films with artistic merit. What are your favorite films with little to no social impact and why do you like them? Is it the hyperbole of it all? The poor special effects? The gaping plot holes? I’m genuinely interested.

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One Response

  1. I do trust all the ideas you’ve offered for your post. They are really convincing and will definitely work. Still, the posts are too short for newbies. May you please extend them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.

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