Stephen Speicher

V for Vendetta (2005)

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40 posts in this topic

With a screenplay written by the Wachowski brothers, creators of the Matrix trilogy, V for Vendetta is a very fine example of the dramatization of ideas.

A rather engrossing story about a dystopian Britain twenty or so years from now, V is ideally suited to the individual who takes ideas seriously.

The movie is about a mysterious, masked man of very high principle who single-handedly takes on a Fascist British government. The rebel's legend-in-the-making echoes the true story of Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the British Houses of Parliament in the 17th century.

The hero is unabashedly Romantic. The fixed expression on the mask he wears as he taunts the Establishment recalls Victor Hugo's The Man Who Laughs, and scenes of his relationship with Natalie Portman's character, Evey, briefly remind of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. The hero confesses to being inspired by Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo.

Philosophically, the script is not in full agreement with Objectivism, but this is easily ignored. Esthetically, aside from a few lines of distractingly-corny dialogue, the movie is stunning.

The thought that occurred to me when it ended was: "If only the Wachowskis were Objectivists!"

There isn't a boring moment in sight or sound; there is fine acting, direction, cinematography, well-placed music all around, as well as effective action set-pieces that mesh seamlessly with the plot.

On the whole, I would say that V is the kind of Romanticism that Hollywood should be churning out by the dozen. And what a Hollywood that would be!

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I was disappointed by this movie.

Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

Like The Matrix trilogy, made by the same creators of this film, "V" presents a "Franken-philosophy" one might hear from a first-year philosophy student. There are interesting bits and pieces, but the whole is left unintegrated and muddled.

I got the impression that freedom and liberty are good things, but what exactly those are and why they're good are unclear. Individual rights never come up. Freedom is treated as a self-evident axiom that has been forgotten by the general population (which means it isn't self-evident). The TV speech is presented as the cause for the uprising, as if telling people they gave up their freedom for security would automatically lead to freedom. (If that were true, we wouldn't need Ayn Rand; Ben Franklin would have been enough: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.") I don't buy it.

The character "V" is partly a distant shadow of the swashbuckler-poet Cyrano, part terrorist, part psychopath. He's willing to torture a woman he supposedly cares for, and considers it a good thing! Is he a hero for bringing down a tyrant? Does he end the tyranny, or just lay the groundwork for another tyrant to take over? Has he done anything to lead the general culture to freedom, or has he just destroyed some buildings?

Who are the heroes? Is it Evey, who sends a train full of explosives on its way to destroy Parliament? Is it the non-conformist outcasts of society, who are the victims of the oppression?

Artistically, the "average joe" scenes were bad. Often the camera would turn to unnamed people for reaction shots to show that V's ideas were reaching them, making them think, but that all seemed so forced. Why not name some of them, concretize them into actual characters in supporting roles? One could say that's Evey, but she isn't a bystander. She's caught up in the plot and takes an active hand in its pursuit by helping V.

All in all, I wouldn't recommend it.

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This movie can be summed up, for me, in one thought: always almost, but never there.

Many times in this movie, I felt it almost reaching a point. For example, why is freedom worth fighting for? Or what is freedom? Or what are ideas, words, and meaning? Each dialogue, to me, was an attempt to prove a point...by not proving one. Throwing out fancy words and phrases and seemingly advanced philosophy, this movie attempts to cram everything into a small box, and thus busts at the seams. Everything from gay rights and freedom of speech to anarchy and the epistemological meaning of words are crammed together. Thus, almost every critical moment of the movie left me asking, "yea...and?", while never achieving a certainty.

There were some interesting parts of the film, and a few enjoyable moments (one needs look no further than my signature!). Some of the dialogue was well written, and some of the scenes were a pleasure to watch.

Overall, I gave it a 6.

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

He's willing to torture a woman he supposedly cares for, and considers it a good thing!

I'm actually curious about this part.

She did in fact come up to him and ask for his help. He asked her again, and she said that she would do anything to help him.

Could this not be (as it was presented in the movie) his way of helping her? Afterall, he did torture her, but nothing near the point of death (ie, you never saw blood).

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

I'm actually curious about this part.

She did in fact come up to him and ask for his help.  He asked her again, and she said that she would do anything to help him.

Could this not be (as it was presented in the movie) his way of helping her?  Afterall, he did torture her, but nothing near the point of death (ie, you never saw blood).

Could you see Galt doing the same to Dagny? Roark to Dominique?

Why not just sit down over a cup of tea and EXPLAIN the situation? The message is: reason is irrelevant; one has to resort to violence and torture to change the mind of another.

I have ZERO sympathy for this view and after that scene lost any sense of V being a hero.

---

After my post, a couple more thoughts came to me. This movie presents a libertarian view of freedom, in which the concept is left undefined, and ANY means to get that freedom are justified. And, in fact, what V calls freedom is actually anarchy. It amounts to: I should be free to do what I want... period. Let's not change the government, let's destroy it.

Also, it should be mentioned that there are many allusions to America's war on terrorism, persecution of Muslims, banning of the Koran, and a government conspiracy to create general fear among the population of some outside group (in this case, Muslims) in order to establish tyranny. That's a line from the REALLY radical wacko leftists.

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

Could you see Galt doing the same to Dagny?  Roark to Dominique?

In a way, I could. In a way, I could not. I'd agree with you though, a cup of tea would have worked much better. And if she did not agree, then so be it. I think the whole idea of "having to have a love story" threw a knot in that one.

Also, it should be mentioned that there are many allusions to America's war on terrorism, persecution of Muslims, banning of the Koran, and a government conspiracy to create general fear among the population of some outside group (in this case, Muslims) in order to establish tyranny.  That's a line from the REALLY radical wacko leftists.

Actually, there are a lot more things than that. For example, why the heavy emphasis placed upon homosexuality? Or, that small but important comment about how it was Conservativism that led to Totalitarianism?

It might help you to know that this comic was written in Britain as a commentary against Margaret Thatcher, during her term. They viewed her conservative policies, such as de-nationalising the railroads, as a step towards Totalitarianism (funny, huh?).

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I haven't seen it, and I decided I wouldn't bother when I heard the director explain (this is perhaps not exact, but it's very close), "The movie's not saying what's right or wrong. The morality of it is ambiguous."

Just what I need: yet another (intentionally) morally ambiguous film from Hollywood.

But then, what can be expected until O'ists begin making films?

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Charles, do you remember where you heard that quote?

Mostly I ask because it was almost dead-on.

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Loved it, I give it a 9.

Spoilers follow...

The core idea as I understand it is that once people decide they will not let fear rule their lives, then they are truly free. By "free", I didn't feel they meant anarchism, but the true, individual, reason based freedom. The way this is showed is that the collective freedom obtained by the people at the end of the movie is seen in context of the individual, reason based freedom attained by Evey.

It is not a movie that aims at displaying how to arrive to a perfectly moral government, and I don't think it should be criticized on this basis. It is one that tells a story about how to get rid of a very, very bad one. There's heroism in destroying a fascist dictator, even if one doesn't have a good follow-through.

Philosophically, the movie is much more coherent than The Matrix trilogy. It is not an Objectivist work. I believe the concerns about underlying Anarchism are real, but I think they are toned down in the movie and they didn't bother me. I believe they're more prominent in the graphic novel, and it's clear to me that the "V" logo is meant to be reminiscent of the "A" one.

The torture thing bothers me, but so did the love scene in The Fountainhead at first. I need to think about it more. It's obvious that the torture in question is mostly (though not only) psychological, and that the physical piece is very limited. Not trying to relativise it, but the term torture can mean many things, I thought the precision was warranted. Dramatically, I think that the right way to do that would have been to have Evey really arrested, and eventually rescued by V. The point he makes here is that people cannot always have the right force of conviction until they are actually tested. I don't think this is false and for that reason, no, a cup of tea wouldn't have worked. I think the author chose this because he is himself very misguided, and there's no doubt in my mind that, from a philosophical standpoint, this is the gravest failing of the scenario.

I didn't feel that the references to the Iraq war were veiled criticism of it. Rather, they served to anchor the movie in our reality. The movie makes it very clear that the dictator is a Religious fascist of the worst sort, and I didn't see it as a criticism of America & Capitalism.

The references to the Koran and homosexuality didn't remind me of wacko leftist propaganda, instead, they clearly reminded me of Nazism (with Muslims replacing Jews). Through the entire movie, I got much more the impression of a religious Nazism, than in Bush-style conservatism ran amok. (This being said, if the movie is indeed a criticism of Bush-style conservatism, then it's not very far from the argument presented in The Ominous Parallels.) The director went out of his way to show that the dictator was *not* part of the Conservative Party, as the pie chart describing the vote shows clearly the conservative block to be separate from the winning party (and tiny). The iconography is clearly reminiscent of Nazism.

Given the context of a Nazi-like government, I think that Evey is indeed a complete heroine to bomb the parliament, especially in a situation where people are warned long in advance (i.e., it is a symbolic, signalling device, but the human loss is minimized.

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JR,

Two or three nights ago there was a program about the making of the film on either the SciFi channel or FX, but I don't know what the program was called.

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I agree with most of what Joss Delage has written above, and

Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

I want to add that the torture scenario does not trouble me at all. This is Romantic art, not Naturalism.

About blowing up buildings, so did Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. After all, Roark didn't have to blow up his creation. He could have just cut his losses and let it go.

I disagree vigorously with the movie's critics on this thread, thus far.

What movie can or ever has given an explicit, lucid enunciation of individual rights, or a proper morality, etc. ? I submit that no movie really can. That is not the role of movies - it is the role of literature - non-fiction, to be exact. Even in philosophically-explicative fiction like Atlas Shrugged, Galt's speech juts out because of its didacticism -- the speech is only literarily integrable because of the context of the speech, and after lengthy consideration of the whole work by the reader.

Movies that spend a lot of time on actually stating ideas, instead of dramatizing them, are boring. This is why I'm not a big fan of Inherit the Wind.

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

V for Vendetta is one of the best movies I've seen in a while. If I had to describe it in one sentence to an Objectivist audience, I would say that it's like taking Ragnar Danneskjöld out of Atlas Shrugged, giving him a smiling mask, and placing him in a futuristic totalitarian Britain. It's the concretization of a man of supreme intellect using force to combat an oppressive government.

Are there other ways to combat totalitarianism? Of course.

Is it completely justified to fight back in self-defense - force against force? You're damn right it is! ;)

P.S. The "torture" scene bothered me a bit as well, and I agree with Joss that I prefer his dramatic solution - but it wasn't enough to ruin the movie by any stretch.

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

The "torture" scene was a brilliant device, both dramatically and character-wise. It elevated Evey to the person she wanted to be, and to the woman wanted by V. V is not an Ayn Rand hero; he was born of tragedy and outwardly lived a darkened life shaped by the events of a darkened world. But he lived a private life of great beauty and intellect, and died unable to integrate the outside world with his own. But V was a hero nonetheless; he fought against the evil that gave birth to his tragic being, and fought to make the world right again. He helped to create Evey, the spirit he loved, who would live in the new world he made possible, as long as Evey was strong enough to want it too. A beautiful man. A beautiful woman. A beautiful film.

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I gave it a 9 only because I thought it could use a little streamlining, otherwise it would have been a 10. This is a really unique film.

I cannot add anything further that the four previous posters haven't already said. Only to say I sorely wish we had more films like it.

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There is a thread about the movie "Majestic" which captures my reaction to this movie. Yes, it is good art. Yes, it is an anti-totalitarian movie. But it is who the movie implicitly considers as the totalitarian threat that ruins it for me. This movie is pure 100% leftist propaganda. It is meant to bash America. It denies the very existence of the evil of Islam. In fact it validates and supports them. That in itself turns my stomach. It also offers the very conspiracy theories that Arabs use in attacking Israel, ie variations on the "the Jews poisoned the Arab water supply to kill their sperm and commit genocide." I think of this movie as the kind of movie that Michael Moore would write if he wanted to paint himself as a terrorist, or as he would consider himself a "freedom fighter."

I am no fan of Christianity, but as has been argued on Free Capitalists thread regarding Christians, many Christians of the non-Evangelical variety are the most American loving people in the country, even if they don't understand the Enlightenment roots of the republic. This movie attacks Christianity as a surrogate for attacking America; ie "all those dumb flyover state hicks that have American flags waving on their porches." The fact that it is Islam the world over that is waging a war in the name of theocracy is completely ignored by this movie; again that is unforgivable. And of course this movie is thoroughly anarchistic in its approach. There is not even one line in the movie that offers a positive that is being fought for. That much at least should have been given and that it wasn't is a failure of the film. Arguments that Galt's speech would be a detriment to the film and out of context are straw men. Libertarians are probably having orgasms over this movie.

Finally, I know that my opinion of this movie is the minority view and I accept that. I respect that opposite view even if I don't agree with it. Movies have so many elements to them and different people stress different aspects to arrive at their conclusions. I know that it is not always wise to overweigh the politics of a movie. But when it is one of the major elements in the film, explicitly or implicitly, I can not ignore it. Such was the case with V. So in the end I rate this film very low as I couldn't wait for it to end and would have liked a refund.

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

The "torture" scene was a brilliant device, both dramatically and character-wise. It elevated Evey to the person she wanted to be, and to the woman wanted by V. V is not an Ayn Rand hero; he was born of tragedy and outwardly lived a darkened life shaped by the events of a darkened world. But he lived a private life of great beauty and intellect, and died unable to integrate the outside world with his own. But V was a hero nonetheless; he fought against the evil that gave birth to his tragic being, and fought to make the world right again. He helped to create Evey, the spirit he loved, who would live in the new world he made possible, as long as Evey was strong enough to want it too. A beautiful man. A beautiful woman. A beautiful film.

I agree with what you've said here, Stephen. I thought the torture scene, that is, it's outcome---the choice Evey made---was perfect and necessary, for her and for the film as a work of art. I didn't stay to watch the film credits---I felt too exultant to sit any longer; I just had to get out and walk and look at the sky and experience, physically, that great sense of being light and lifted.

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[...]Esthetically, aside from a few lines of distractingly-corny dialogue, the movie is stunning.

Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

I just want to clarify what I meant by the above. The lines I have uppermost in mind came at the end when London's citizens, dressed as V, took off their hats and, about the same time, Stephen Rea's character, the conscientious detective, asks Evey who V was. She replies with something like, "He was my father, my mother, my sister, my brother......all of us."

I would have personally (not philosophically) preferred that she have only said, "he is all of us" -- the references to unchosen family threw my emotions off a tad.

The clarification is necessary because I don't want to leave the possibility of an impression that I considered any of V's poetic delivery "distractingly-corny."

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For the most part, I've agreed with what most of you have said in analyzing the movie.

I'd like to point out that the rule of reason weblog has a good assesment of the movie also. It can be found here:

http://ruleofreason.blogspot.com/archives/...303786144288157

"Monday, March 20, 2006::

'V for Vendetta's' counterfeit revolution

I understand why libertarians are all orgasmic over V for Vendetta, the Wachowski brothers' adaptation of Alan Moore's dystopian graphic novel. Much akin to libertarian itself, this is a movie that glorifies revolution without ideas.

The movie's premise is as follows: fueled by the collapse of the US and its failed war against Jihad and after enduring a biological attack that killed 100,000 Britons, the United Kingdom has become a totalitarian dictatorship. One man, concealing his identity by his omnipresent Guy Fawkes mask and known only as "V," begins a violent crusade to destroy the government.

Why does "V" engage in his crusade? As the victim of the government's medical testing, "V" knows that the current governing party created the pandemic that led to its current stranglehold on political power. Does "V" communicate this seemingly crucial fact (and the philosophy behind it) when he seizes the nation's airwaves to mark his destruction of London's Old Bailey in the beginning of the movie? No, there's no Galt's speech presented here. "V" simply states that something is wrong with world and that Britons should join him in the streets when he blows up Parliament a year later in honor of Guy Fawkes Night. After declaring to one of the film's villains that "ideas are bulletproof," does "V" offer any glimpse of what ideas his revolution fights for, instead of what it fights against? Again, "V" is no John Galt. Instead, he is a bloody anarchist who enshrines vengeance over the principle of individual rights.

So while "V" can quote the Jeffersonian admonition that "people ought not fear their governments, governments ought to fear their people," he can't seem to quite recall the portion of the Declaration of Independence that established why a people would ever need to create a government in the first place. V for Vendetta offers chum for practically anyone who would like to unleash a blood frenzy against government, including Muslims upset about Koran abuse, homosexuals tired of government oppression, people opposed to genetic engineering, surveillance cameras, taxation, or the war in Iraq--with "V" it doesn't really matter why. If you hate the state, "V" throws you a bone. Only intellectual revolutionaries, such as the American founders or Objectivists, are left out of V for Vendetta's premise.

And in a moment of utter irony, despite seeking to slip in an indictment of the Bush administration's expedition in Iraq, V for Vendetta nevertheless copies a key element of the administration's Forward Strategy for Freedom: the imposition of political change though force, without any corresponding intellectual argument or change [bold added].

And that's why at the hour of "V" triumph, when Parliament is destroyed, the tyrants are slain and the masses take to the streets, one can't help but wonder "and now what?" Such are the fruits of counterfeit revolutionaries.

::: posted by Nicholas Provenzo "

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Warning: There are spoilers about this movie in this post.

Two additional comments.

1. The torture scene was not necessary, nor moral, nor practical. In the end hundreds (thousands?) of people don masks and take to the streets. They understood (supposedly) the issues involved. Even the little girl got it. Why not Evey? She was in an even better position, having spent so much time with V, to understand. Yet for some unknown reason, a rational approach to persuasion wasn't provided. If Evey didn't understand, then V should have let her go. Nobody has the right to torture another. And the gall to profess deep feelings for her on top of it!

It reminded me immediately of the lying manipulations of an abuser who plays with his victim until that person comes to sympathesize with the abuser. This is something beyond a Stockholm syndrome effect. I'm disgusted just thinking of it.

I asked earlier if one could imagine Galt doing this to Dagny. Recall that he asked Dagny to pretend that she had tracked him down for the reward money, so that Mr. Thompson et. al. wouldn't suspect he had feelings for her and torture her to make him talk. He said he would kill himself before seeing her tortured, in order to protect her. THAT is love. THAT is heroism. V does the opposite.

2. Consider the climactic destruction of Parliament. We see this landmark destroyed for its symbolism. Yet were innocents still in the there?

I'm reminded of Timothy McVeigh's attack on a federal building in Oklahoma. As someone (Dr. Peikoff?) pointed out, his actions were based on a collectivist premise. Even if the work done in the building were evil (which I can't confirm), no discrimination is made between the guilty and the innocent. All were made to pay. Isn't that the same case with V? No point was made in the movie that the innocents were out of the building, nor whether the building was occupied at the time. The issue, according to the story, is irrelevant. In other words, the guilt or innocence of these people is irrelevant. Again, those are not the actions of a hero.

One could argue that his actions should be judged by the standard of wartime collateral damage: if innocent blood is spilled, the guilt for it lies with the initiators of force. If that's the case, does it need to be brought out explicitly in the movie? Offhand I don't recall any discussion about innocents at all.

Also, consider the timing. We've just seen V sacrifice himself in order to take out the two top bad guys. Hasn't he satisfied his vendetta at that point? Why proceed to blow up Parliament? V has already roused the masses. Blowing up the building looks pretty and is very perceptual, but that doesn't justify it.

The British government has a long history that includes many pro-freedom acts, starting with the Magna Carta. In the name of freedom, surely that tradition deserves more respect. Why not overthrow the government and restore that tradition? Blowing up the building is symbolic of rejecting not just the current tyranny, but that tradition of freedom as well.

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SPOILERS FOLLOW

2.  Consider the climactic destruction of Parliament.  We see this landmark destroyed for its symbolism.  Yet were innocents still in the there?

Given that the attack takes place at Midnight and that he gave people a 1 year advanced warning, I think he's done all he could to make sure that no innocent would be harmed, no?

One could argue that his actions should be judged by the standard of wartime collateral damage: if innocent blood is spilled, the guilt for it lies with the initiators of force. 

Precisely.

If that's the case, does it need to be brought out explicitly in the movie?  Offhand I don't recall any discussion about innocents at all.

I don't recall this point being brought up explicitly in any war movie either.

Also, consider the timing.  We've just seen V sacrifice himself in order to take out the two top bad guys.  Hasn't he satisfied his vendetta at that point?  Why proceed to blow up Parliament?  V has already roused the masses.  Blowing up the building looks pretty and is very perceptual, but that doesn't justify it.

Of course, not. If killing the 2 remaining baddies satisfied the vendetta then it would be nothing more than a fight against individuals, as opposed to a regime & a system. Killing the bad guys wouldn't change the system if there wasn't also rallying and motivating symbol - like the storming & destruction of the Bastille. The masses would go back to apathy if he didn't demonstrate that he has the government beat on its own grounds.

I think that the question of whether the parliament was the best symbol is valid, and it would have been more appropriate to destroy a building symbolizing the dictatorial government exclusively, but that's a minor point.

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The British government has a long history that includes many pro-freedom acts, starting with the Magna Carta.  In the name of freedom, surely that tradition deserves more respect.  Why not overthrow the government and restore that tradition?  Blowing up the building is symbolic of rejecting not just the current tyranny, but that tradition of freedom as well.

I agree with this and I think it underscores that this movie is decidedly anti-intellectual and that its primary concern (actually its only concern) is with pretty pictures (which admittedly there are many). This movie is leftist propaganda combined with a glorification of anarchism. I simply don't understand the gushing response by many Objectivists. But then again, art is a deeply personal affair. When I left the theatre after this movie I felt like I needed a shower.

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I agree with this and I think it underscores that this movie is decidedly anti-intellectual and that its primary concern (actually its only concern) is with pretty pictures (which admittedly there are many). This movie is leftist propaganda combined with a glorification of anarchism. I simply don't understand the gushing response by many Objectivists.

There are many possible reasons explaining the wide variance in estimations of movies in general, and in particular of this movie as well. Often there are gross mis-identifications and mis-interpretations of fact, both of which I think have been evidenced here by detractors of this film. I joke sometimes that we may have seen different movies, but truth be told many times I think others have not really seen the movie at all. Criticism is often heaped not on the film as presented, but rather by comparison to what the reviewer thinks the film could or should have been. Sometimes the context for judgment is set in advance, which is one reason I hardly ever read any reviews of movies until I have seen the movie myself.

There are countless other reasons for gross disagreement, but, regardless, a long time ago I decided to hardly ever spend time justifying or explaining to vehement detractors why I place so much value on some particular film. I do not enjoy seeing my values run through someone's personal grinding machine. It is usually sufficient for my purpose to succinctly state the value, and let others decide.

But then again, art is a deeply personal affair. When I left the theatre after this movie I felt like I needed a shower.

You might try bringing wet wipes to the theater. They work for me after the fact when reading particularly horrendous reviews.

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