The Twinkie Defense

Biggest Mirror apologizes for our recent decline in posts. The past two weeks have seen two moves, the most recent to an entirely new house that needs furnishings and work. Now that things have settled down, we aim to bring you the same high-quality pop-cultural analysis, dashed with mild self-hatred and moderate pretension. Kthx!

Moving changes a lot of your conceptions of what you will and won’t watch; the sake of roommate unity is often on the line, especially when you’re in the minority in the collective taste of a group. My new roommates are something like the Fairy Godmothers of entertainment technology; they flitted in with the biggest TV I’ve ever seen, a complete surround sound system for said, a PS3, an Xbox 360, a Wii, and an Apple TV. Overnight, I’ve gone from watching movies on my computer screen to watching them on a high-def monster in full Blu-Ray glory. So when they said they wanted to watch anime, I was certainly in no position to argue. My sheaf of French art films from Netflix are going to have to get some surreptitious viewing, that’s all.

I don’t have anything against anime on a constitutional level. In high school, I was briefly entangled by two Japan-loving friends into the genre, but I think they were disappointed when my tastes ran less to “Naruto” and more to “Ebichu the Housekeeping Hamster” (still one of the funniest/raunchiest shows I’ve ever seen). The romantic fare, notably “Kare Kano,” played better with me, but it wasn’t compelling enough for me to really seek out the manga or the show.

We watched “Appleseed: Ex Machina,” a serviceable, if implausible futurist actioner. Even with its numerous plot holes, it looked damn good in Blu-Ray, and I found myself absorbed in a way I haven’t with many of the artsy-type films I’ve been watching lately. It reminded me of a time earlier this summer, when I was coaxed into viewing “Resident Evil: Apocalypse,” which I also found shockingly entertaining.

My name is Allie, I write a high-culture blog, and I enjoyed “Resident Evil: Apocalypse.” There, I said it.

It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with watching these films. In fact, watching them has taught me to stop judging people as much for liking them (always a good thing when your primary hobby is soaking in pretentiousness). What’s even stranger, though, is that I’ve begun to wonder if my understanding of movies is really complete without ever having watched them.

I’ve been a big reader of film criticism since my earliest days; once I realized that critics seemed to champion most of my favorite early-childhood fodder (“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “The Hudsucker Proxy,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”), I quickly became enamored with reading whatever it was they had to say. Suffice it to say that I was the only twelve-year-old around who was seeking out Tarantino films and considered Philip Seymour Hoffman to be her favorite actor.

Part of the reason why movie critics don’t like genre movies, on the whole, is that they’re stubbornly formulaic. If you watch the latest cop, superhero, and horror films every week for a year, it’s not going to be long before you realize that there’s nothing new out there. So all but the most innovative genre flicks tend to get trashed. Critical teacher’s pet that I was, I learned to avoid them. Besides, how could I justify watching the Morgan Freeman thriller-of-the-week when I hadn’t seen anything by Cronenberg or Ozu or Renoir? There was a whole world of cinematic history to catch up on, and turning on some mindless Hollywood crap seemed anything but worthwhile in the face of all the learning there was to do.

I’ve come to realize, though, that watching Hollywood crap is maybe the only way to learn that these things are good. Every movie that’s made is going to give some kind of thrill: a really good stunt in an otherwise crappy action film, a hilarious throwaway line in a mediocre comedy. Dull colors, uninventive camera angles, bad acting, and poor plotting are mostly absent from the long list of modern classics; they’re all more or less perfect, and that’s great. But understanding that perfection from this perspective is like trying to understand what makes a really good meal without ever having had a bad one. You can enjoy the meal, but there’s no real point of contrast. (An alternative perspective: Oscar Wilde once said that “if nothing is serious, nothing is funny.”)

So I’m going to try to indulge in more movies that wouldn’t normally make my radar, and try to better understand what makes them a little less than perfect. When I do get back to my raw-food diet of international art films and classics, maybe a few Twinkies along the way will make me appreciate them all the more.

Or maybe they’ll just send me into glycemic shock.

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