On the other hand, I dislike the idea that any academic observation about cinema is pretentious.
People study films for any number of reasons. There are the technical, dramatic, mythic, intellectual, philosophical and industrial aspects of the medium, each of which has any number of interesting topics within them (those who pooh-pooh the industrial aspect of cinema ought to be made responsible for marketing films like Donnie Darko before anybody has seen them and then they can decide that it is meaningless). My own reasons are personal; I enjoy films and like to get into them, immerse myself in them, pick them apart and see why they tick. However, this is not limited to a simple understanding of how the camera works.
Cinema is an art form, a technological art form, but an art form nonetheless. I believe that in the case of a good film, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is not neccesarily a definable thing, and because you will always find somebody who didn't like a particular film, it means that it isn't a universal thing. Personal taste must be allowed to enter into any particular discussion of film. Unfortunately, one finds a great divide in this aspect between the academic and layman's worlds. Within the realm of academia, one's personal taste is relegated to a footnote in one's discussion of a film, while outside of it, taste is pretty much the only criteria by which a film is to be judged.
I try to balance both these elements in my own take on pictures. As a result, there are times when I may respect a film more than I may like it, and I may say I like a film that I'll admit may not be as good as another I don't like as much. But by the same token, I am as likely to get excited by a well-done element of a crappy film, or a film that may no longer be relevant but has something about it that interests me. Usually, because of my interest in film music this will be an appreciation of the score, but not always.
I remember having been dragged to see Phantoms by Douchebag (I think it was one of the three books he had successfully finished by that point in his life) and while the film itself was total crap, I was astounded by how well-done the sound design of the film was. Had I been keeping this journal at the time, I would have expended maybe two paragraphs on the movie, one expressing how dumb it was and how embarrassing it was that Peter O'Toole was relegated to shit like that these days, the other about how brilliantly done the aural environments were and how the voice timbres were perfectly attuned to them in all the film's situations. I have no desire to see that film again, but if one were to ask me if it was a complete waste of an hour and a half of my time, I'd say "no."
Is that pretentious of me? Or is that being enough of an appreciator of this art form that even examples that I don't like will yield something of interest to me?
In the case I am thinking of, I was arguing about questions of genre with my folks. Now, as should be obvious from this journal, genre is one of my favorite topics. I actually think that in most cases, it is a more reliable classification device for movies than the auteur theory yields. This is not to say that I believe the auteur theory to be without merit. A Robert Altman film is a Robert Altman film, regardless of what genre it is supposed to be in; similarly, other filmmakers have made wrong man thrillers, but only Hitchcock made Hitchcock wrong man thrillers. One could say that in the case of directors of that ilk, where his personality comes through regardless of whatever else may be going on in the film, that often will override other attributes of the film (In my opinion, one should not subscribe to any single way of looking at cinema. That's only stifling yourself. I think the correct view is to have a synthesis of the various different approaches, which I think should be viewed as tools, not philosophies. Because of the fact that these concepts are often taught using authors whose opinions are extremes may often cause students to believe that they have to choose their approach).
Now, I have to admit in the case of the incident that inspired this entry, I allowed myself to be a little too annoyed and I savaged Steve unnecessarily. However, the attitude that made my hackles rise is a Philistine one that I dislike very strongly (and to be fair, it wasn't what Steve was saying, it was where my headspace was at the time), but one that I constantly find prevalant. I feel that all disciplines must be tempered by a healthy respect for other disciplines, and that includes lack of discipline.
I went to school for many years to study cinema. I do not believe that puts my opinion about movies above those who have not. I do, however, feel that my critical analysis of a film holds weight because (but not entirely because) of that. This means that if you pose an academic question to me, you had best expect an academic answer, because that's what you're going to get.