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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is it a cop out to say a movie is “for the fans”?

Kenny Ortega, the director of Michael Jackson’s This Is It was sure to let everyone know prior to Tuesday night’s worldwide simultaneous premiere — at which lots of critics were present — that the film is “for the fans.” In case anybody missed his comment, a placard as the film opens reminds us of that.

Yesterday in an interview at Cinematical, Troy Duffy, director of The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, which opens tomorrow, had this to say:

There’s gonna be critics who, I’m sure, harpoon this thing, and nobody likes to have their work hated and shunned by anybody, especially somebody with sort of a public voice like a critic, but I think what Billy was saying was that this one’s never been about that. It’s always been about… the fans found this thing and made it. It was beyond criticism at the time because there was no big f*cking red carpet and advertising campaign. We weren’t asking anyone to buy anything. This movie was virtually abandoned, and the kids found it. They made it their own thing, and they didn’t really give a sh*t what critics said. And they started protecting the film on the Internet. Every time you see a bad comment about Boondock, the next ten comments are Boondock fans calling that guy a douchebag.

Duffy seems proud of the fact that even his fans seem unable to defend his films on their own merits, and must resort to namecalling.

Is there something disingenuous, on the part of filmmakers and their fans, about the assumption that a movie that is “for the fans” is somehow exempt from criticism, or that criticism of such a movie simply doesn’t “count”?

It seems to me that any thinking fan — and perhaps that’s a caveat that just doesn’t often apply — would be offended by a film that merely pandered to him or her instead of being worthy on merits beyond that. It seems to me that any thinking filmmaker — and again, perhaps I assume too much — would strive to make a film that would appeal to “fans” and critics alike… because, after all, aren’t critics the most devoted film fans of all?

Is it a cop out to say a movie is “for the fans”? Is it an acknowledgement that a movie cannot be considered very good except by those so invested in it, for whatever reason, that they are unlikely to fail to love it unconditionally?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • bitchen frizzy

    My smartass answer is, “Aren’t all movies ‘for the fans’?”

    My other answer is that sometimes popular movies don’t get good reviews, and vice-versa; so there does seem to be a dichotomy – sometimes – between “critics” and “fans.”

    So “for the fans,” in the context of the apparent distinction between critics and fans, does seem to be a valid way to describe a movie.

    And no, from a certain point of view, there’s nothing disingenuous about asserting that the critics don’t count. If the filmmaker wants to make lots of money or be wildly popular with the lowest common denominator, then from that point of view the critics are not so important.

  • Brian

    There’s a reason certain films and filmmakers (and in the case of MJ, musicians) are referred to as having “cults” . . . The level of disappointment felt by those fans when a new movie comes out from their beloved filmmaker/franchise and fails to perform is akin to that felt by cultists when their promised apocalypse doesn’t come on the date specified by their prophet. It’s embarrassing to admit the possibility that your belief in the infallibility of your favorite prophet, or filmmmaker, is wrong, so to cope, you’ve got to redirect that anger at the non-believers.

    So yeah, it is a cop-out to point to such a group of fiercely faithful, possibly self-deluding zealots and say you made a movie for them when you fear — or observe — that nobody else is going to take it seriously. It’s even one rung farther down than the “it sold lots of tickets so screw the reviewers” position (a.k.a. the Michael Bay Ego Shield).

  • JoshDM

    Rented Transformers II : Revenge of the Fallen last night. Big fan of Transformers.

    That movie was not for the fans; it was complete, poorly-edited dreck.

  • bitchen frizzy

    –“So yeah, it is a cop-out to point to such a group of fiercely faithful, possibly self-deluding zealots and say you made a movie for them when you fear — or observe — that nobody else is going to take it seriously.”

    Okay, in the case of a movie liked by very few people at all, saying that it’s “for the fans” is a copout. If it’s unpopular and panned because it sucks, then it’s just a bad movie, not a misunderstood movie.

    A Michael Bay blockbuster that makes lots of money in spite of bad reviews really is for the fans.

  • starr

    Well, I loved the first one. I didn’t think it was a “good movie”, but that was pretty far from the point, and I didn’t care that by many standards it totally sucked. And I don’t care that the sequel is going to — I’m still going to see it and, probably, have fun. I mean, it’s just a movie.

  • Accounting Ninja

    “For the fans” is a huge red flag for me. It almost says “Please, do not think critically about this film at all!! If you should happen to hate it, well, you aren’t a Real Fan, because this movie is ‘for the fans’!”

    Two movies in recent memory: Transformers and Star Trek, claimed to be “for fans”. While Star Trek was okay, I still felt let down by it. Transformers was god awful. Between the cliched and sexist “romance”, to the plots that didn’t go anywhere (the blonde spy lady and her friend. WHAT was their purpose again?), to the utter lack of Transformers or changing of personalities (did not like nonverbal, animalistic Bumblebee). I was a huge fan when I was young.

    But of course, if someone on the internet complained that they were fans but felt the movie was crap, they got blasted for not being Real Fans, or being too picky, or not satisfied with anything, etc.

  • Actually, real fans criticize the hell out of their beloved item but continue to watch it. Just look at the Doctor Who fan boards. There’s a tremendous amount of bile directed at Russell T. Davies, but they all still continue to watch the program. Now there’s the same amount of whining about Steven Moffat and new Who Matt Smith – and the new series hasn’t even started!!! That’s real dedication.

    These people who defend crap as “it was meant for the fans” don’t know what being a fan really is…

  • ashok

    I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that filmmakers who say their movie is ‘for the fans’ are usually talking about a really terrible film. I hear that comment coming out of the mouths of people like Michael Bay and Brett Rattner every time they come out with some new stinker.

  • Paul

    Any movie with a number on the end indicating a sequal (or more) is for the fans. I don’t care if it’s Star Trek or Lethal Weapon or Freddy Krueger. But the number on the end of the title isn’t always an indication of quality.

    But I agree that if a movie is advertised as for the fans, it gives me pause. Maybe the movie sucks, or maybe the movie is so dependant upon backstory that it cannot function alone. When I am a fan, I don’t mind the latter too much.

    But for a movie reviewer to say that a movie is for the fans, that’s just stating an opinion. If you like Star Trek, you’ll like this movie, etc.

  • Bluejay

    If “for the fans” is meant as a defense against any and all criticism, then it’s not valid. Any movie should be as well-constructed, well-told, well-acted, and well-edited as the moviemakers can make it, striving to meet or exceed the standards of their craft.

    However, a good film doesn’t always have to aim for the masses and can certainly be just “for the fans” in terms of subject matter. I enjoyed the documentary “Done the Impossible,” about the fan community that sprang up around “Firefly” and “Serenity”; I thought it was “for the fans” AND a well-made doc at the same time.

    For that matter, a good film CAN aim for the masses and be a fan-pleaser. I first saw “Serenity” before I’d heard of “Firefly,” and thought the movie stood solidly on its own terms; having since become a fan of the show, I can also see how much love and passion and commitment to the fans went into making the movie. So: no, “good” and “for the fans” are not mutually exclusive, and “for the fans” should be no excuse for poor work.

  • Accounting Ninja

    I loved the first X Men movie, even though I wasn’t a fan per se (watching the 80s X Men cartoon for a few months as a kid and loving it doesn’t count as “fan”). I became more of a fan after that, though not diehard. But the movie was great on its own IMO.

    A few years later I heard from diehard fans that have been following X Men from the beginning that that movie had messed up chief plot/character canon. Fair enough, though I still enjoyed it.

    Even with Transformers, my main beef wasn’t reimagining the universe. That’s fine if it works. It doesn’t need to be a carbon copy of the 80s movie (like with my husband, who would expect NO LESS! I found his attitude a bit unreasonable :D)

  • Bluejay

    Accounting Ninja: Actually, I feel your husband’s pain. A carbon copy of the 80s Transformers movie would have suited me just fine. :-)

  • Is it a cop out to say a movie is “for the fans”?

    Just once I’d like to see a filmmaker say, “This movie is for all the people out there who hate this kind of stuff.”

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