The “Eyes Wide Shut” Test

I like to refer to myself as a movie lover and not a film critic.   When reading reviews I see references like “film noir,” “Hitchcockian,” “the style of a French film,” just to name a few.  Usually I don’t understand the reference, nor do I care.  Occasionally I’ll look it up to find out what it means, but I still don’t think it matters.  While I’m passionate about movies, and have very strong opinions about them, I have neither the ability nor the inclination to “critique” them in this manner.  Typically my ratings are based on emotion or gut feelings, not technique or style.  I think I’ve learned a lot from reading countless reviews, but I’m still an ordinary guy with no formal training.

Frequently there is a disconnect between ordinary people and film critics.   This is easy to see by looking at ratings on Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes.  The variation between the ratings of “critics” and “users” is sometimes dramatic.  Interestingly, Rob Gonsalves of opened his review of Sucker Punch (2011) with: “Pity the poor workaday film critics who have to make sense of something like “Sucker Punch.”  I didn’t love Sucker Punch as much as he did, but it articulates my point.  I’d apply his words instead to Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003).   Read Roger Ebert’s review and you’ll see what I mean.

The “Eyes Wide Shut” test is not for situations where there is a disconnect between critics and most users, but rather when there is a disconnect between most of the world and me.  Some films that I dislike are both critically acclaimed and receive high ratings from ordinary film lovers, just as there are films that I like, or at least don’t hate, that receive very low ratings from critics and ordinary folks alike.  Certainly this is not unique to me, and one obvious conclusion is that we’re not all looking for the same thing when we watch a movie.  While this is no great revelation, I have a test for it.  It’s not a test of good taste vs. bad taste.  It’s a test for differing points of view.

To take the test all you have to do is watch Eyes Wide Shut (1999) and Gigli (2003), then decide which one you would rate higher or are more likely to recommend to someone.  You have to watch them both from beginning to end, and answer honestly.  I choose Gigli, and it’s a very easy decision for me to make.

I selected these films for my test because I think they represent the extreme.  Eyes Wide Shut is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, yet it is highly rated by most critics and IMDb users.  On the other hand, Gigli, a fairly decent romantic comedy, universally has been trashed.  It’s even in the IMDb’s Bottom 100.

I know that this is a bit of nonsense, and no broad conclusions can be drawn from the test results.  People are not consistent with their likes and dislikes, as it should be.  We’re only human (that includes critics), and many factors determine what we like or don’t like.   HOWEVER, I’ll bet that if you choose Eyes Wide Shut over Gigli, you also liked The Fountain (2006), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), The Thin Red Line (1998), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).   I would not recommend these movies to anyone except as examples of highly rated movies that are not “my cup of tea.”   I’ll also bet that if you dislike any of the four, it’s most likely The Fountain. 

Obviously there is no right answer to the question, and please remember that this is just for fun, so why not play.  Feel free to comment….or not.

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