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Essay Movies

You Say Tomay-to, I Say Tomah-to

Photo by Peter Lewicki on Unsplash

Is it a movie or a film?

I’ve been called a film snob so many times throughout my life, I’ve lost count. I used to tease people about their favorite movies: “How can you like Top Gun? My cinematic tastes are discerning, for sure. I don’t like everything I see. But who does? 

I haven’t seen every popular movie, either, which throws my friends for a loop: “You’ve never seen The Bourne Identity?” I’m just not interested in everything. Titanic? Never seen it. Gone with the Wind? Nope. It’s a Wonderful Life?

Until last Christmas, I’d only seen bits and pieces of the Frank Capra classic. I finally watched it from beginning to end and thought it was great. One unseen popular movie down, thousands more to go.

Everyone has their own taste in music, movies, anything. Do I look down my nose on other people’s tastes? I used to. Back in college, I considered films to be the true art form, whereas movies were the populist variation.

Nowadays, I use the terms “film” and “movie” interchangeably. They are the same in my mind now. “Film” does sound a bit more highbrow than “movie,” but to me it just doesn’t matter anymore. Why should it?

A movie is a film is a movie. All of it is cinema. Back in the early days, they called them motion pictures. It’s still the illusion of reality, projected or streamed at 24 frames a second. 

This all came up again like acid reflux recently when Martin Scorsese made a comment about never having seen the Marvel movies. Theme park rides, he called them. Not “cinema,” like the films/movies of Fellini, Bergman or Kurosawa. The Marvel Cinematic Universe may not be tackling every issue that the great masters of world filmmaking did, but they have their own truth to them. 

Calling a work of cinematic art a “film” wraps it in a blanket of elitism: “Oh, you wouldn’t understand it, it’s a film. Go back to your Fast and Furious movies.” “‘Movies’ are for the masses, no nutritional value to them, not like a good Tarkovsky film.” Untrue.

So once a movie snob, always a movie snob? Perhaps. At least I don’t make fun of people’s tastes so much anymore. Whether you call them films or movies, it makes no difference. Once upon a time, it really did matter. But those days are behind me.

What do you call them? Movies? Or films?

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