I'd like to start this post by assuming that everybody reading this article loves cinema at any level. Why? Well, there's plenty of chances you frequently visit this site and consequently that indicates you love to be in touch with what's going on in the film industry - not only about the latest news but also about what other fans, like you, think about this or that topic.
Well, having said that, I found myself questioning about how a good cinephile should act and react whenever watching a movie. But what really drove me to write this was after hearing and reading people comments against Josh Trank's Fantastic Four reboot (and they're not wrong). You see, everybody can freely express his/her opinion and of course cinema is all about pleasure ABOVE ALL THINGS (I'll deal with that later). Nevertheless, I though about certain points I consider to be unavoidable. What's more, they should be more commandments than rules.
Do not discourage people from watching a movie
Filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow once said:
"It's irrelevant who or what directed a movie; the important thing is that you either respond to it or you don't."
Therefore, never, EVER, tell anybody to stay away from this or that film! Even if it is the worst movie in the universe, allow people to create their own judgment. Remember when you were at school and you were assigned to read a book for a class? How on earth would you be able to participate without knowing anything at all about it! In order for you to emit an opinion or make a criticism you should know the product. Otherwise, what's the point in repeating like sheep what everybody else is saying if you haven't given yourself the chance to be disillusioned or amazed by "that" movie?
Pleasure over criticism
Film analysis and criticism do not by any means precede pleasure. Every time you're watching a movie for the first time, unless you're too pretentious, the very first thing you should concentrate on is satisfaction. Take for example, again, the Fantastic Four reboot. The fact that someone liked the film you hated doesn't hurt anybody, right? You can ask people "how could you have liked it if it's abominable?". But guess what? You cannot question anybody's pleasure. What if you like pizza and your friend abhors it? There's simply no way you can change his/her mind.
Opinion versus criticism
There's an big difference between saying "I like the movie" and "the movie is good because...". The very moment you start addressing the elements of the film, e.g. plot, story, characters, effects, etc, you're entering into criticism territory. Indeed, there's a substantial difference between what a review is and a critique is but nowadays the two terms have been equally and indistinctly used. What many people take for criticism of a movie is more and more just a review, but the real work of a critic is to examine the operating elements of a film and it can be summarized like this:
Each of these (the film elements) has their own set of criteria that has been established by precedent over the years, and it is the critic’s job to understand enough about a genre to judge how well an individual piece fits within it.
The book is better than the film
Whenever I hear people saying this I'm disappointed. It doesn't matter if you love literature or cinema - or both. There's absolutely no reason for you to compare a book and its film version. It's pointless! The same way every reader reads and interprets a book differently, it's the same difference you'll find when watching a movie based on a book. It would be (at least for me) terribly boring to sit two or more hours watching a film remaining faithfully to the book, piece by piece. What the filmmaker and the screenwriter intend is to portray their own version of the same book that you might have read. For example, I could be telling you "1956's Invasion of the Body Snatchers is nothing compared next to the novel written by Jack Finney of the same name" because there are people who haven't read Finney's novel or didn't even know it existed - but that doesn't stop people saying that Invasion is one of the best sci-fi movies in the history of cinema.
Indie versus mainstream
This is a though one. For some unknown reason there are people who think that all mainstream products are garbage. So that makes them think that all the talent is hidden within independent movies. In a world driven by economy, the romantic idea of making a movie for the sake and love of it is idyllic. No matter how low budget the product might be, the studio would not risk to invest on it without expecting revenue. It's not that Hollywood only produces brainless crappy films but it is true that sometimes you find movies like Transformers: Age of Extinction that shouldn't have existed (see, there's me emitting an opinion because I loathed it based exclusively in my own taste and pleasure) and that reinforces their idea. However, from time to time you get to see mainstream products like Mad Max: Fury Road that are subject of deep analysis, interpretation and criticism.
The commandments I mentioned in this post should serve as guidance but I bet you've found yourself in at least one of those (even I have urged people from time to time to avoid certain movies) but remember: every good cinephile is made out of good and bad movies and cinema, like many other things in life, is about pleasure! Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.