By: Connor Lenahan
Something dawned on me the other day while I was finishing the first season of True Detective while flying back from Ireland. I have no business ever trying to become a film critic. Really a critic of television or film. I finally understood why.
Part of this I was already aware of. I’m a positive person by nature, this much is apparent if you even spend three minutes talking to me. I’ve had way too much good in my life to focus on the bad. Being positive is how I live my life every single day and what is responsible for allowing me to return to my feet after injury so often. I don’t like to go negative unless I need to.
Seeing as I view movies and television shows as entertainment I am, more often than not, entertained by them. I simply cannot bring myself to take a hatchet to the spine of something I enjoyed watching. I’m not going to make the argument that The Expendables 2, which I saw in theaters, is a great piece of cinema. I’m similarly not going to lie and say I did not enjoy watching it – I thought it was the perfect thing to shut my brain off and enjoy. If you asked me point blank I’d probably say I liked the movie, before having to describe that this was separate from how I liked a movie like American Hustle.
My friend Garrison Norton had made a comment a few months ago that I seemed to like every movie I saw while I was in college. He had a point, I would almost always come back with a positive review. In my defense, this was partially because I did my homework. I was not about to waste time and money on a movie I knew was subpar. Even though I actively wanted to see Runner, Runner last year I never looked up show times. Why? Because enough people who’s opinions I trust said the movie was “unwatchable.” Pass. Instead I would have weeks where I’d see Captain Phillips and Twelve Years a Slave within days of each other. To be fair, both movies were Best Picture nominees, so having a positive reaction was to be expected.
But that’s what I already knew. This was old news while I ate wasabi peanuts while watching Rust Cohle walk through the Louisiana marsh land. I fully understand that how I watch movies and TV shows is backwards. I’m watching for the characters almost always.
I am far more interested in the people created within these movies than I am what’s going on in them. Obviously there are a ton of exceptions to this, but it’s what I focus on more or less. For example, take the aforementioned American Hustle. The plot to it was fairly complicated and almost purposely misleading for the sake of the plot. This led to some of my friends vehemently hating the movie last year. Meanwhile it was one of the best movies I’ve ever watched. This was almost entirely because David O’ Russell gets incredible performances out of his actors. It makes sense to me that I loved the movie the day I watched it and all four main characters went on to nab Oscar nominations. They were electric and kept my eyes on the screen the entire time. I was far more interested in the overconfidence of Bradley Cooper’s Richie DiMaso, and watching him become that character, than I was about, say the sting they were pulling off on multiple politicians.
I loved watching True Detective because it featured two fascinating characters, Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, played by two of my favorite actors, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson respectively. While I love murder plots, especially serial murderers, I was fascinated by the brilliant insanity of Cohle and the dark realism of Hart. Watching them play off each other was electric. My favorite parts of the series were the moments when they’d draw the contrast between each other’s personalities simply by being alive. Well, that and the long take in episode four.
The plot to the show was highly interested and, admittedly, fairly confusing. I didn’t mind. It was less about the crime than watching them solve it. That’s why I loved the show.
The more I pondered this discovery while moving onto my mid-flight Kit Kat bar, the more I started to think about my other favorite television shows from this summer. Just a month ago I finished House of Cards. For all of my life I have had a propensity to root for the villain in the story without a clear explanation past “because I like them.” In reality, it’s because the villain is always more interesting, at least in any good show/movie. Frank Underwood is one of my favorite television characters because he is electric, devious, and fascinating. I can’t turn away when he’s on screen. The plot to House of Cards is crazy, but I watched every episode with a giant grin as Kevin Spacey continued to be amazing.
Not much earlier before this revelation I had finished listening to Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman. This is one of my favorite books of all time, and again, it’s light on plot. In truth its a character study not only of the three protagonists – Mitch, Julia, and Horace – but the town around them. I’m fascinated by the world created.
And that’s the key. I love when I feel immersed by the world and the characters present. I feel as though I know how to roughly navigate the streets of the fictitious Owl, North Dakota. I feel like I could be of assistance to the campaign of Frank Underwood. I feel like I could bounce ideas off the brains of the two weirdest cops in the south. That’s why I love these shows. And that love makes it impossible for me to be objective, at least for the sake of this website. But that is okay with me. I’m happy liking what I like. I don’t need to be a critic.
Besides, objectivity is overrated.
Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a sophomore at Boston University, majoring in journalism.