In Praise of Mediocrity
Recently, I’ve been thinking about the quality of films. As a film blogger, it’s my duty to recommend the best films out there, and deter people away from the worst on offer. Two features I’m most passionate about are Modern Masterpieces, in which I praise the very best films made in the last sixteen years, and Hatewatch, in which I dissect horrendous films in as much detail as possible. However, I’ve been pondering the large amount of films that fall between these two extremes: Mediocre films.
We’ve all seen mediocre films. Everyone has spent a Sunday afternoon watching a predictable rom-com, a cliché action shoot-em-up, or a weepie melodrama with a suspiciously happy ending. Nobody pays money to see mediocre films in cinemas (I sincerely hope), eagerly queuing around the block for the world premiere. Mediocre films aren’t designed to be iconic forever, a time capsule of cool. Mediocre films are there for us when we can’t really be bothered thinking, or we’re fed up and don’t want to be offended or shell-shocked. They’re the film equivalent of the Kaiser Chiefs; one of their songs comes on, you nod your head in time to the beat, then the song ends and you get on with your life. And honestly?
There’s nothing wrong with that.
We need the comforts of the perfectly average. I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch Oscar-winning dramas and classic comedies, films that broke the mold and innovated genres. What I’m saying is that sometimes, I’m not in the mood to watch black-and-white Swedish films from the 1950’s. There are bleary evenings when the work of Terrence Malick is just too slow. On these evenings, I’ll always go for a middle-of-the-road Hugh Grant comedy in which he plays a bumbling Englishman wooing a supermodel, or a Bruce Willis film in which he wisecracks while twatting a henchman. They might not be challenging, or original, or particularly good, but we’ll always return to them because, like cinematic comfort food, they’re easily digested and satisfy us with minimum effort.
The Rewrite, a bland unmemorable romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant as a sleazy screenwriting professor, was the inspiration behind this post. Watching it whilst packing for a move, I was struck by how predictable and uninspired The Rewrite was – and yet I didn’t mind that I was watching one of the most unspectacular films ever seen. Award-winning epics and provocative masterpieces should be our cinematic priority, but remember to leave room for those predictable rom-coms and cheesy action films that are always there when you need them the most.
By Harry J. Ford
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