09/12/2003: "TGIF Moderate Movie – Why Moderate Movies have to be Blockbusters"
Anyone following these musings might have detected a common theme to my Friday picks for movies that Moderates would like. In every case, these movies have been hits. One reader suggested an excellent movie that nonetheless didn’t qualify as a movie that is unambiguously a Moderate's choice. I make no bones about it, saying without the slightest hint of embarrassment that big box office is a critical credential for a movie to make this particular list. No overlooked gems here! Does this mean that I myself don’t frequently enjoy movies that were not big mainstream hits? Absolutely not – I’m quite diverse in my moviegoing tastes and have a high tolerance for a level of cinematic experimentation not likely to be found in your local Cineplex. The issue is reliability, which is what an arts review is ultimately about. Critics (the professionals, not the hecklers) need to write for their audience. A movie reviewer for The New Yorker is not writing for the same audience as, say, USA Today Sunday Supplement readers. In my case, I’m suggesting films that mainstream Americans will enjoy. While an elitist might tar this as “pandering to the mob,” I happen, like most Moderates, to have a good amount of faith in this group. This is the same group that Lincoln called “the People.” Moviegoing is in many ways an exercise in democracy. Every weekend millions of Americans vote with their dollars and time on what movie is most appealing at that point in time. More often than not, the results of these “elections” have stood the test of time, particularly for the landslide victories. So, yes, I trust the peoples’ choice. Like democracy, it’s not perfect, but it’s a better predictor of the long-term judgment of history than the opinions of any single individuals, exalted as they may be.