A Short Lesson On Three Words We All Need To Avoid

This all started when I was listening to Mark Kermode reviewing Django Unchained. Though I have to listen to him again miss the point of Inglorious Basterds (And for someone as smart as Kermode he seems to miss the point of a lot of films, barely seeing past their surface elements, unless of course it’s a film he likes – but that’s a post for another time) he launches into his criticism of Django. A few buzzwords appear here and there and it’s about what I expected. He’s generally smart in what he says, I just don’t tend to agree with him.

As an aside, a fair bit of criticism was reserved for the use of the word Nigger, arguably the most detestable word in the English language. Being it’s set in a time and place where the word would’ve been used liberally I can’t see the issue with this, even Huckleberry Finn, a great work of literature, is liberally peppered with it – again because of the time and place it’s set. This is somehow presented as a valid criticism. I don’t care that the word was used in Jackie Brown or Pulp Fiction, they’re not this film. The use of the word here is meant to be ugly. But I digress.

Then came the comments from listeners and this is where I start to get annoyed. But I’m a glutton for punishment and I needed something to moan about so of course I continued to listen, despite knowing I could switch over to the smooth 70’s station at any moment.

Don’t get me wrong, there are people that post intelligent, thoughtful, witty comments on websites or on shows like that. Some of the best discussion on film out there is to be found on comment sections. Sadly it’s also home to some of the worst. It’s the latter I’m talking about, the ones who use the dreaded buzzwords that show a total lack of real thought. So let’s take a look at those words and why you should avoid them:

Boring – I hate this word in all its uses. It means nothing, it serves no purpose. It offers no insight into your view. “I found the dialogue boring.” – Well what was it that was boring? Did you feel shut out because they used words you didn’t understand, was it the words themselves or the delivery? You should really take the time to ask yourself these questions before you find the time to comment, because otherwise you’re just wasting a thought.

Pretentious – Inigo Montoya once said something about words and their uses. This is the catch-all phrase for when someone doesn’t get something, or it ends up being different from what they expected and they don’t like it. It’s an overused, misunderstood word that gets bandied about, again in lieu of any real criticism. It also places a film in a weird box wherein it can only aspire to me what the individual allows it to be, if it shows unexpected ambition it’s suddenly labelled with the dreaded P-Word.

Rip-Off – Learn the difference between a rip-off and a homage. Think not about where the elements were taken from, but what’s been done with them. It’s such a catch-all term that’s been used to incorporate any number of things. Spoof, Homage, Influence, Satire; I’ve seen all of those things called a rip-off. Artists re-iterate and re-imagine all the time and great art comes from it. Snakes on a Train is a rip-off, Transmorphers is a rip-off, there are few works that are wholly original and, even when you think something is, there’s usually someone to tell you that there’s an obscure Belgian film out there that did it first.

I’ve been guilty of using all three of these, far more than I’d like to. But it happens, it’s a fact of life. We all fall back on things we’d prefer not to. The great thing about the internet is that it’s given a voice to all of us, should we want to use it. But not enough of us think about what we want to say, we just want to be heard.


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