Anyone who knows me can tell you that I don't just watch TV and movies. I get invested in shows and films, falling in love with the characters and staying up late to think about conspiracy theories. I have bored my friends with more than one rant about the importance of the development of a certain character, or the political underpinnings of any given sci-fi show. I have very strong opinions about the media that I consume, perhaps especially with films. And one of the biggest problems I have with movies is the severe lack of critical appreciation for blockbuster movies.
Within every field of art, there are forms which are considered acceptable and forms which are considered plebeian. It's Mozart versus Ariana Grande, "Downton Abbey" versus the "Real Housewives" series. Within film, it's movies like "Birdman" versus "Avengers: Age of Ultron." It's a clear dichotomy between films that win Oscars and films that win the box office, but I think that this needs to change. Popular movies should start being integrated into the awards system. There's a certain disdain for popular culture which is prevalent in our society, and I'm pretty bothered by it.
Blockbuster movies are often at the cutting edge of visual techniques and new types of storytelling. Movies like "Jaws," "Star Wars," "Jurassic Park," and "Avatar"took people's breath away in theaters, as new forms of filmmaking were used to tell unique and vibrant stories. But beyond just visual storytelling, blockbuster movies can mirror the contemporary world in a way that isn't typically addressed. The "X-Men" series, particularly "X-Men 2," addressed the issues of outcasts and even segregation in society, serving as a powerful allegory for the treatment of minorities. "The Dark Knight"captures the zeitgeist of post-9/11 America perfectly, questioning the nature of terrorism. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" was also incredibly politically conscious, discussing how freedom can exist when government conducts such heavy surveillance on its people.
Then you have the question of diversity in film. The "Fast & Furious"franchise just released its seventh movie. The cast of this movie is incredibly diverse, featuring characters from across ethnicities and backgrounds. Blockbuster movies, including "Star Trek"and the upcoming "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," often present a version of society that more accurately reflects the real world, with characters who aren't just white males. I'd like to take the time to remind everyone that out of the nine Best Picture nominees at the 2015 Oscars, eight focused on the trials and tribulations experienced by gifted white men. Not that all blockbuster movies should win Best Picture, but they should at least be recognized on the awards circuit for their contribution to the art of filmmaking as a whole.
This is not to say that all blockbuster movies are awesome. There are some truly awful movies in the world that still make over a billion dollars at the box office, notably the "Transformers"franchise. But I would argue that there are some highbrow movies featuring A-list actors and stellar directors that are just as bed. Every genre has its failures. We should not degrade popular movies because they're popular, we should degrade them if, and only if, they aren't actually good.
I know that, occasionally, blockbuster films get critical recognition, such as "The Lord of the Rings"series, but these movies are the exceptions that prove the rule. We, as a culture, are too quick to condemn something because it is beloved by the masses; we label it a guilty pleasure and move on. But I firmly believe that blockbuster movies can be just as good as small, independent films, and we should treat them accordingly.