My taste in film

I've been reviewing films for more than a decade here, but it wasn't until recently I realized I've never formally written about my taste in film. Those who've read my reviews know that my preferences are a little different from the norm, but unless you've been following me quite rigorously, it might be a little puzzling why certain types, countries and eras are underrepresented. To provide some basic insights (and prevent convoluted discussions elsewhere), I figured it would be smart to collect some of my ideas, preferences and beliefs in a centralized post, so they're easily accessible when needed.

battle between the heart and the brain

My sweet spot: where genre meets author

There are a million different ways to categorize films, but I usually go for three primary groups (arthouse, blockbuster and genre) and plot them on an axis that ranges from operational (your average director-for-hire) to author (directors with a clear vision). Within that particular categorization, I tend to favor the films that have strong genre elements, but are defined by their director's signature styles. It's a rather small niche and my favorites aren't limited to just that tiny segment of films, but that's where most of my absolute favorites reside.

My soft spot: Asian cinema

I have no clear explanation where my fascination for Japan (and by extension, many of the East-Asian countries) comes from, but it's been there from a very early age. From my love for Nintendo and JRPGs to anime and manga, there's something about their way of dedicated visual storytelling that appeals to me on a very basic level. There's also a commitment to purity that seems to push their films further beyond the limits of what is generally accepted and prevalent. It's certainly not by choice, as Asian cinema is hell to keep up with, but thanks to the internet it's at least an option.

Why I prefer contemporary cinema

Most cinephiles love classic cinema, I generally do not. That's a bit of a bummer, but I consistently prefer more contemporary films, even to the point where revisiting older favorites rarely results in an improved experience. Specifically for films, I tend to love the potential for increased control and expression that technological advancements offer, but it's a preference that stretches well beyond the realms of cinema (i.e. games, music, fashion, ...). That doesn't mean I don't watch classic films, I'm not a quitter and I'll keep trying to find something I love there, but after about 500 pre-60s film and not a single personal favorite, chances are fairly slim it's ever going to happen.

Style over substance please

In the same way I prefer melody and rhythm over lyrics in music, I prefer the abstract beauty of the audiovisual experience in films. I rarely get intellectually triggered by a movie, to me most of them feel too (mis)leading and labored. When a director has a specific point to make, he can build an entire film around it (from styling and mood to characters and dialogues) to illustrate his point, but that doesn't make it valid or truthful. Film is pretty bad at capturing the complexities or reality and a little too effective at hitting emotional triggers, which makes me distrust whatever it's trying to sell. Hence, I find more worth in style-driven mood and atmosphere.

My biggest pet peeve: soundtracks

Music is one of the cheapest ways to add tons of atmosphere to a film, even so soundtracks are criminally overlooked. You can do so much with sound manipulation, creative matchings of music and film genres, feedback between sound and visuals, but most films don't go beyond generic background noise to avoid uncomfortable silences. As someone who loves mood pieces and visceral experiences, it feels like an underrated and undervalued part of cinema.

Why I'm not very interested in standard film criticism

Most film critics love intellectual readings and adore classic cinema, so there's already a big mismatch there. Furthermore, most critics write/talk about films to pay the bills, meaning their writings come with a certain loyalty to the ones that pay them. That is not to say I think critics aren't genuine, but I do think the ones with a very specific taste profile tend to rise to the top, while they limit what they watch and recommend with regard to what's available and what people are interested in hearing about. I wish critics would take up the role of challengers more often, sadly that doesn't sound very realistic. To be clear, I don't mean standard film criticism is worthless or insincere, I do feel it takes up a disproportionate amount of attention while diverting attention away from other deserving films.

My problem with film canon

My issue with canon is pretty similar. It's a self-reinforcing structure that has its use for people who are just getting into film, but quickly becomes counterproductive once you've scraped away the top layer. The film canon isn't nearly broad enough and mostly focuses on specific niches within the cinematic spectrum. Still, it consists of an almost insurmountable amount of films that takes ages to explore. While that in itself isn't bad, people's time is limited and whatever time is spent within the boundaries of the canon, isn't spent on discovering uncharted territory.