Posted by me on the Filmspotting Forum, where I dwell under the pseudonym, "Oldkid"
Film isn't just one thing. Painting is a visual art. Music is an audible art. Novels are a storytelling art. Film is all of this, or just one, or some combination of them. Film can have a black screen with no sound for thirty seconds and, depending on the context, it can have the deepest meaning or emotional impact. Film is the most complex art form we have, and perhaps only the Wii has the potential of giving us more. But for now, film is it.
Because of this, film has the greatest potential to be different things to different people. Everyone looking at "Starry Night" by Van Gogh sees something a little different. But that is nothing compared to a deeply rich film like Kieslowski's Blue or Coppola's Apocalypse Now. Some claim these to be among the greatest works of art of all time. Some won't appreciate them at all. But one thing is for certain, they speak to each of us differently, and for different reasons. That is what great art does. And the greatest of art sticks with us over time.
Given the complexity of film, it doesn't surprise me that our reactions to it is complex as well. I have my multiple rating system, and yet I find that even that system is inadequate to express my reaction to a film, as I gave Rachel Getting Married all top scores, but had more than twenty films I appreciated above it. What my marathon is helping me understand is that my appreciation for film is complicated enough that I can't dissect it precisely.
So I will have contradictions between my rating and my ranking. And you know why I don't mind that? Because it means that I am a human being-- complex and difficult to put in a box, like every other human being. And film is one of the few mediums that is rich enough to be able to compare to a complete human experience.
Our ratings of movies is funny, really. Do we rate our top 100 life events? How could we even judge such a thing? And, honestly, I see the best of films as being among my favorite life events. Yes, watching Spirited Away is as much a great event of my life as is watching my son be born or travelling to India. No, I won't rate these events, because they can't be measured like that. Nor can I say which event of my life I "enjoyed" the most, as if human experience can be judged on the level of "enjoyment". So, why should we judge film that way?
I really do like rating films. It's a pastime. But my determination of those which I put highest isn't limited to "enjoyment" nor to "greatness", however we might measure that. Rather, it is experience. Which film has become a part of my life more than others? Which film has become a memorable experience that I cherish? I have a hard time cherishing Rachel Getting Married as truly great I think that film is. But I can, and do, cherish the experience of Wendy and Lucy. And Nausicaa. And even Hunger and United 93-- although that may be hard to imagine.
I praise these filmmakers not just for technical ability or for the ability to take the most complex art form and create something truly wondrous with it. I praise them for enriching my life.