On My Love of Different Movie Genres

I’ve been fascinated with movies since I was a young child. I’d be the one in 2nd grade at school watching a film all the way through, with rapt attention, while peers around me had long become bored and restless.

Having always loved this form of mass entertainment, there are different genres I don’t care to watch, such as combat-oriented war movies, which I used to tolerate viewing now and then when I was younger. I do occasionally enjoy a well-done war-time film that focuses on dynamics away from the actual battlefield. SCHINDLER’S LIST comes to mind here.

As with combat war movies, the same goes for Westerns with me. I’ve probably truly enjoyed no more than I can count on both hands, possibly only on one, and just when I was much younger. The cinema in general was still so novel an experience until roughly around my early 30s. Since then, it’s taken more for a movie to feel novel and, hence, interesting enough for me to want to see it. The old American frontier is a huge mythology of wonder for a lot of folks, particularly, it seems, for those older than myself, though many males in my age group also appreciate that world. But, it’s one to which I honestly can’t relate. All the gun-related violence and accompanying machismo turns me off. My being gay and not fully gender binary factors into this, I admit. I’m immediately an outsider to this onscreen universe. Even so, ultimately that genre tends to glorify the gun via having it be the central means of power and conquest, so tiresomely destructive in a raw, ugly way. We’re seeing these days what gun worship does in our culture. I also have no interest in spending my precious free time filling my physical vision and brain with more toxic masculinity. I already have to navigate it somewhat in my day-to-day life as it is. A certain very troubled man in power comes to mind. No thanks.

As an extension of Westerns, the modern, male-focused action films (including police-oriented ones) largely elicit the same response from me. They come across as Westerns placed in current times. The one exception and admitted guilty pleasure of this category I do watch are the James Bond films (*ducking for cover now from possible judgment by certain readers*). They are fantastical enough that they cross over into fantasy instead of just hard core action. That said, I’ve always viewed them with a mix of emotions, disliking their awful sexism and some of their violence. And the latest James Bond (Daniel Craig, himself a talented actor) is too much of a muscle-pumped brute for my taste. Gone is the suavity of Connery and Moore, the latter being so refreshingly funny, and the Bond I came of age watching. It is encouraging to hear that the next James Bond after Craig retires from one more upcoming film will be a female. Such a change is long overdue.

There is a rare exception I make for the martial arts sub-genre of action cinema: the small canon of Bruce Lee films. As I’ve written elsewhere, I watch him for his beautiful form and dance, which come across to me as artful and fantastical. Lee transcended the genre he worked within and I don’t know if anyone will ever accomplish what he did as a performer. CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON comes close, though that was all due to beautiful cinematography and costumes, interesting special effects, a good storyline, and competent acting. No single actor embodied the main energy or center of the world in that film like Lee did in his projects. And I have no interest whatsoever in watching what seems like overly-stimuli packed modern martial arts films. I find them too fast, busy, and even noisy. (Same goes for me with Anime in general, though I have enjoyed a few earlier produced exceptions, such as 1983’s BAREFOOT GEN.) Any graceful martial artist seems to get lost for me among all the mishegas of such pointless on-screen distraction.

I’ve rarely enjoyed violent horror films, particularly slasher ones, which, on the whole, I’ve never liked. The rare, well-done sci-fi fantasy horror productions, such as the first two and the fourth ALIEN movies, are watchable for their beautiful, dark aesthetics alone. But, then, I’ve always appreciated monster movies, which can artfully externalize the shadow sides of the human psyche, including our deepest fears and inner rage that all of us have surely felt in life as an initial, primal response to adversity.

I will sometimes take time to see early period dramas, depending on the historical period portrayed. Good acting and beautiful costumes also help me decide with what to watch in this category. However, if a lot of violent war scenes predominate in such productions, I tend to hesitate with consuming them. I’m not fascinated by war as I was somewhat when I was young. The less people at large give mind space to war, the more it will fade away as an overly repeated option to solving social and political problems. I’m simply committed to de-intensifying war images in my psyche as best I can because it feels like the right thing to do. Real life and non-movie media emphasize war to fill a lifetime, and then some, as it is. Still, I acknowledge the titillation war images elicit for so much of the public, including consuming them in their movie watching. Sigh.

Romantic and screwball comedies I enjoy on occasion, but they simply are far less compelling and interesting to me than the usually more imaginative, cinematic science fiction, fantasy, and, to a lesser extent, action adventure (e.g., James Bond) shows. Since I tend to see movies with the intention of being transported somewhere and inspired from aspects of my day-to-day life, I naturally gravitate towards these other-worldly performances.

I’ll sometimes see suspense and mystery movies if the storyline is intriguing enough and stars actors who I particularly admire. My imagination has to be captured by such projects, and that is hit or miss with this genre. It’s simply a cinema universe that doesn’t consistently interest me as much as the comparably more flexible fantasy and science fiction ‘verses do.

I used to enjoy many animation features, including most of the Disney ones. I still have yet to see some of those older productions, which I intend to in time. The Disney and Pixar cartoons from the last twenty years or so often annoy me with their puerile humor, which I’ve simply outgrown. Still, some are heart-felt, enjoyable, and imaginative all at once, such as WALL-E and ZOOTOPIA. What I personally experience as a loss in these computerized productions is the natural and subtly rough, unpolished aesthetic that hand-painted animation conveyed from earlier times. That look is more life-life compared to the overly clean appearance of these newer images on screen. The latter convey a certain mild sterility about them that keep me at a distance, ever reminded that I’m watching a movie.

Of worthy mention here are biographical movies. When done well, and if the subject is of interest to me (such as old-time movie stars and/or singers), these screen gems encapsulate the basic, beautiful essence of a fascinating, compelling life, this being yet another window into a very different world than my own.

Then, there’s the often quirky, off-beat indie art films. They are also hit or miss for me, but often hits. I’ll always have head room to view those, though time and convenience often don’t allow seeing as many of these as I’d like. There is no nearby theater where I live that regularly shows many indie (including foreign films) and arthouse productions, let alone for more than a day or two. Same goes for old-time classics, of which there’s a plethora that I treasure. Fortunately, in earlier years, I lived near movie houses that showed a lot of indie, art, and classic films, which I took advantage of. I’ll always be grateful for that. I’ve also viewed a lot of great oldies and indies on video, DVD, and YouTube over the years, and will continue to do so via the latter two means and, perhaps, streaming someday as well. But, none of these options quite replace the all-encompassing large screen medium I enjoy most for fully experiencing a movie.

I haven’t exhaustively covered all of the extant movie genres and sub-genres, the latter of which there are so many, including those that don’t quite fit into any particular category. But, I’ve discussed the ones that especially come to mind for me within such an often magical form of media. In this time of home convenience where small screen streaming is the zeitgeist for the masses, long live my first love of entertainment: the classy big, silver screen.

7 thoughts on “On My Love of Different Movie Genres

  1. You are really great at doing these pictures. I agree about westerns and war movies, Schindler’s List, and my father loved James Bond movies, which he carted us all off to in the summer at the Drive-In. That would have been around 1962-1966. I think they probably considered it date night because invariably, we’d fall asleep, or at least I did. YouTube is my go-to for movies when I get a chance which I have not had a chance in weeks and I’m a repeat watcher, so I find your varied interests in different genres unique. My favorite movies are love stories and family movies. Romeo & Juliet may have been the first movie I saw at a movie theater. That would have been in 1968. Love Story broke my heart in 1970 and Easy Rider is fondly remembered because my father took the time to take my sister and me to see it in 1969 at a movie theater. The last movie I saw at a movie theater was Good Will Hunting in 1997. Thanks for the walk down Memory Lane.

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    1. Thanks for reading, liking, and sharing! It’s interesting that you like love story movies. I do too, but usually if they also fit within another genre I’ve discussed. For example, I also loved Franco Zeffirelli’s ROMEO AND JULIET, which you mentioned. But, I consider it a historical period piece drama, a la Shakespeare (who arguably earns a sub-genre of his own). Like you, I loved EASY RIDER, which might be considered a road trip movie, a genre I admittedly didn’t cover in my piece. (So many genres!) I saw GOOD WILL HUNTING back in ’97 too and liked it. That would be a family film, perhaps? Hard to categorize that one off the top of my head, plus it’s late as I type this. Heh, even my own essay leaves out some film genres I also often enjoy, but I ultimately wasn’t aiming to be exhaustive. So many films, so little time.

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  2. I thought of two war movies that broke my heart – Saving Private Ryan starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon (1989) which reminded me that I saw The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). I was pretty young when I saw that one. I also loved An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) which was more of a love story to me. The same with the other two. So much for hating war movies – nada. I may not like the idea of war, but I cannot deny the pull they have for the conflicted parts of me that feel compassion for the victims and the horrific positions the soldiers are put in and the wish that politicians would adopt an “enough is enough” policy and use that DoD budget to deal with the social problems we have here at home, such as homelessness. In many ways, I think Good Will Hunting was a movie about how our own trauma affects the people we love, and how that love me/leave me alone part of us needs to come to a place of understanding the question – Is life worth living without love? As I write that, I am reminded that the work I’ve been doing for the past four years has been preparing me to open my heart and mind to those possibilities.

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    1. “I am reminded that the work I’ve been doing for the past four years has been preparing me to open my heart and mind to those possibilities.” Such wonderful words, and I’m very glad for you!

      I wholeheartedly agree with all your commentary about war and the politics of it, etc. As for the movies you mention, I avoided SAVING PRIVATE RYAN because it is just too violent with intense combat scenes for me to care to see, even if those scenes were filmed to make a point of how war is so traumatic, deeply harmful to the psyche. As for AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, that is both a nice love story and a touching movie about a man finding himself. I enjoyed the movie when I saw it on video while I was in high school. I have yet to see the classic film THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, but I hope to view it someday.

      I’m glad my posts continue to have you think and feel inclined to respond.

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  3. I see your posts as learning experiences that give me insight as well, never mind thoroughly entertaining. As I am getting more accustomed to the courses I am taking at school, they talk about critical thinking a lot and I am not sure I like it. Sometimes, I feel the intensity and manic pace of this learning experience are obscene. How can you possibly retain 50 pages of reading, take notes on it, discuss it in a group, write essays, and get quizzed on it before your brain has had an opportunity to digest it, and then do the same for three more classes? I wish they would stay in the here and now and not force us to go over the history of the subject we are getting enmeshed in. I could be wrong but I think your posts have been preparing me for the critical thinking I need to get through this college experience. I don’t always know why I am doing what I am doing but in the end, that answer will come. You are a wonderful teacher and I am very thankful for the opportunity to connect in this way.

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    1. Here’s another added paragraph to this post of mine about movie genres (in case you don’t wish to read through the whole piece again):

      “Of worthy mention here are biographical movies. When done well, and if the subject is of interest to me (such as old-time movie stars and/or singers), these screen gems encapsulate the basic, beautiful essence of a fascinating, compelling life, this being yet another window into a very different world than my own.”

      As for the rest of your latest reply, you bring up some interesting points for me in reference to your own experience with taking classes in a school. I agree, the intensity and pace is too much. I’m heartened to hear that my posts help you with critical thinking. Back when I was in college and, later, grad. school, I had to learn how to cope with managing a full course-load while being a slow reader and often slow processor, particularly with some subjects more than with others. Plus, I had a lot of trauma and genetic-based anxiety to boot. I couldn’t always read everything assigned, due to sheer volume of pages, and then write essays in a timely manner. I quietly cut corners where I could, doing my best to not take courses that involved too much heavy reading (thank goodness I wasn’t a lit. major). Often, when I wrote an essay, I would simply pick a certain graspable, but complex enough concept and expand on it with my own thoughts and relevant knowledge base. It worked and I did pretty well overall. Fortunately, in grad. school, we students were not expected to read everything assigned to us during the duration of the actual courses. The reading was meant for us to get to when we could, to deepen our knowledge and weave into our practice as clinical social workers. That was sensible. Undergrad. and pre-college schools generally don’t work that way, at least in my experience. The result in those institutions of learning for students is a lot of cookie cutter pressure and expectation that everyone can and should learn at the same rate and same way, namely rapidly and with a huge volume of stimuli. This is unrealistic and sets up an array of problems for, I believe, a large amount of students. Many of us students have ADD, are slow processors, slow(er) readers, and/or have many other possible cognitive attributes (including anxiety from trauma and/or genetics, which directly impact cognitive functioning, as you know) that render us particularly over-challenged with learning in school. That is a huge topic, I realize, but what I mean to get at is that you are onto something not only for yourself and your experience as a student at a local school, but for so many of us who have had to struggle with adapting to a faulty educational system.

      What I draw comfort from is that part of learning and honing critical thinking skills is prioritizing what to focus on and what to let go by during a term of courses one happens to be taking. Discerning that and drilling down to the bare necessities of what to read and then write about is one’s way of arriving at doing and learning *enough* during the course(s), with the implicit understanding that one can and will continue to learn more after the course itself is long over anyway. That, to me, comprises some critical thinking. Obviously, certain courses that are more quantitative, such as lab and math classes, have more clearly defined parameters with assignment completion, this being freeing in a way, unless, of course, the volume of work is too much against all the other courses in which one happens to also be enrolled. Schools are so often comprised of high pressure cultures to an extreme, and I don’t claim to have clear solutions to change this major aspect of them. However, I am heartened to see here and there when more practical matters are integrated into public education, such as how to balance check books, plant a garden, meditate, etc., etc. That might be part of a way to get away from the over-emphasis of teaching so many facts for students to memorize and then write “critically” about when so much of this info. is removed from immediate, here-and-now human experience. And while honing abstract thinking is of course necessary, spending too much time abstracting and not enough time applying and being (here and now) is imbalanced and, hence, unhealthy.

      Those are some thoughts off the top of my head in response to your experience with school. May you find your own effective ways to be in the here-and-now amongst all the information overload. That may be a main area of learning you are meant to be doing while in school, even if the teachers don’t actually articulate this. I wish you the best with you in your classes.

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  4. Thank you for so thoughtfully commenting on my issues with school. It helps to know I am not alone in my experiences. I think taking an online class may be missing the one piece that being in a classroom would take care of. The validation you get from a shared experience. I agree with you about biographies and for the life of me I can’t think of one I’ve seen but I know I have. LaBamba – Richie Valens Story, Sweet Dreams – Patsy Cline, they slipped through this weary mind of mine and I’m sure there are a whole lot more.

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