I didn’t have time to see many movies this week (only three! how embarrassing). So let me give you your zero-dollars’ worth at the top of this newsletter, with a few bonus paragraphs.
on Wednesday that I was glad I saw Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood
before it could be harvested for hot takes by Film Twitter, not to mention the dozens of professional critics and bloggers who are under pressure to offer a unique perspective on the film.
A couple qualifications: I believe the desire to critique film (and all art) is inherently valuable, and I do believe that that film has problems that should be discussed and which will alienate some viewers. However, among the group of folks who write and tweet about the movies, the deck is stacked against those who would offer a nuanced review, acknowledging the good and the bad.
The easier way to be noticed in today’s social/media economy is to be negative. As Tristan Harris said
on an episode of Recode Decode
that I produced earlier this year:
For each word of moral outrage that you add to a tweet it increases your retweet rate by 17 percent. So if you say, “It’s abominable!” “It’s a disgrace!” “Oh these assholes that …” You just get attention.
I’ve thought about that quote a lot in the past few months.
Had I seen a lot of fiery hot takes about Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood before I saw the movie, I wonder if I would have liked it less because I went into the theater primed to be looking for flaws. And what about someone who’s not masochistically committed to seeing as many movies as humanly possible? For them, an apparent “consensus” around this messy movie’s badness might discourage them from ever seeing it, and deciding for themselves if they like it.
Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood will be fine without any help from me; in its first week in theaters, it has already grossed a respectable $55 million
in the US. But more generally, as someone who loves talking about movies with other people, I worry about what this means for film culture. If we dismiss ambitious-but-problematic works without seeing them, then we’ll be left with the rare universally-acclaimed gems — and ten tons of inoffensive crap.
Anyway! Here’s what I’ve been watching this week …