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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Column: Guiding opinions

When it comes to movies, my opinions are rarely consistent over time. Instead, I often let other opinions change my own.

“What’s the purpose of a critic?” my technocultural studies professor asked his class one day. He says it’s an age-old question, but I’ve honestly never really thought about it before. Clearly, The Aggie’s arts desk has taught me nothing.

A few hands rose, leading to an agreeable consensus – in short, critics are experts. They guide opinions. They let you know whether a movie is worth seeing or not. I didn’t really have anything to add at the time – it was really a rhetorical question anyway.

But now that I’ve thought about it, why bother with critics? Everyone’s going to have their own opinion, so who cares what someone else has to say about something you experience? But people don’t just split on whether they like or dislike for a movie – they vary in the intensity of those degrees.

To me, critics address that exact variance. For that reason, I’ll often change my mind after reading the review. Even if it’s just a little shift in how I thought of something, I’ll gladly accept a critic’s opinion over mine if it’s convincing enough. And it’s not just critics that I regard – anyone with an impressive opinion could potentially change my own.

I usually try to read reviews (for movies, music, video games, anecdotes, anything) after I’ve already experienced whatever the reviewer is reviewing. I’m easily convinced one way or the other when I’m on the fence about something. An opinion that sounds better than mine is a better opinion, and I’ll gladly adapt it.

One critical flip-flop I’ve committed involved the movie “Blood Diamond,” which I kind of liked when I first saw it on the dorm movie channel. I felt vindicated for never buying jewelry for anyone.

Then, over a year later, my roommate Mark told me how much he hated the movie.

“It’s a piece of shit,” Mark said. He elaborated, citing DiCaprio’s annoying South African accent, corny character development and the main character’s annoyingly memorable, punch-me-in-the-face line: “T.I.A. This is Africa.”

His opinion was awesome, and I wanted it. I changed my mind almost instantly. Mark’s not a critic but it doesn’t matter – his opinion was better than mine. I’m fine with it.

I’d like to think I still have some integrity, though. When I saw Shutter Island last weekend, I liked it more than any movie I’ve seen in years. I don’t really care that we’ve seen the story before or that it was predictable. I would intravenously inject the dark atmospheric feeling into my arms, were it possible. The movie practically made you inhale it.

So when someone told me they didn’t like it as much as I did, I almost questioned my opinion of the movie. But then I realized I didn’t care about what they thought. Not because I didn’t like her or because I didn’t respect her opinion, but because I really liked how the ominous opening bass notes sounded like a foghorn. I like my opinion better than anything the disappointed critics are pouring out.

See it if you haven’t.

JUSTIN T. HO doesn’t know what’s worse: Ding How’s food or the fact that their waitress took a picture of the back of his head with her cell phone camera on Monday. Probably the food. E-mail him with your reviews of Shutter Island to arts@theaggie.org. Maybe he’ll change his mind.

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