The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog ★★★

VIFF 2021 #21
Vancouver Playhouse

Kinda wish I had ended the festival on a high note with the last one, but it's nice that it worked out to 21 films total for VIFF '21 and I didn't even plan to.

I'm a bit torn on this one. While I can recognize it is an incredibly well made film, I simply did not connect with the material at all. I've gotten to the point in my journey with film that I can't just throw on any "good" film and be impressed anymore.

There was a point in my life where I would like, or love, almost anything I watched. Maybe it's because at the time I was watching very entry-level, crowd-pleasing films from the likes of Kubrick, PTA, Tarantino, etc that are designed for large audiences to like and love. However, I also was not above the trash. I watched a ton of shitty dad action movies, studio comedies, and cheap horror movies, and I loved them too! It was very easy to get a pass from me. I'd give anything that took me out of my undesirable reality.

As I got deeper into film I found myself scouring "best of" lists, googling "essential directors", and filling in the filmographies of my favorite actors with a new movie almost every night of the week. As I didn't really know much for myself at the time, I was watching what people on the internet told me was good, and I agreed with them.

Everything that was acclaimed, I would find a reason to like. I wanted to educate myself with a wide variety of knowledge on the filmic landscape, and I watched everything under the sun that looked remotely interesting. I barely, if ever, did not complete a movie, and rarely did I ever regret watching one. After a while, when all the easy picks had be taken and I started diving into arthouse, I told myself I would only watch the best. Only the true "films" of the highest art form would be watched from then on. I did this for a while throughout a good chunk of my time at BCIT. I covered a lot of ground in this time, becoming acclimated to the so called "greatest films of all time" and familiarizing myself with the most famous and controversial directors. I almost exclusively watched these "good" films, and it nearly destroyed my love of movies altogether.

After a while watching films became a chore. I was working through a checklist, crossing one film off to get to the next. Watching movies wasn't a desire, but a compulsion. I overanalyzed everything I watched rather than enjoying the thing I was watching, and by diving deep into everything I saw I lost the ability to discern what actually resonated with me and what didn't.

I took a break from film for a while when I wrote my first short film. The constant absorbtion of outside sources was draining me from any kind of original thought. It was a short break of only a month or two, and of course it wasn't a complete lack of movies in that time, but rather a concious change of perspective and habit. Rather than watching what I felt I was "supposed" to, I began to watch what I wanted to. I watched what interested me. And you know what? It completely changed my relationship with film for the better. It's when I actually started developing my own taste.

I was tired of checking a letterboxd rating curve to see if it was high enough to deserve my attention. I was tired of looking at the Rotten Tomatoes score, or the IMDB rating, or the top comments on Letterboxd, so I stopped.

I don't seek out to watch "good movies" anymore. I seek out what interests me. This does mean I haven't seen some essentials like The Godfather or Citizen Kane, and let me tell you I am so tired of hearing "You work in film and you haven't seen The Godfather???" I'll watch it when I want to, not because I'm supposed to, because if I force myself to watch something when I don't want to, I'm not going to like it as much as I would as if I did so by my own volition, regardless of how good the movie is objectively.

Power of the Dog is a very well made film. Subtly written; juggling multiple protagonists across its chapter format. Benedict Cumberbatch boasts a strong performance with a convincing yet sometimes distracting American accent. The cinematography is simple and elegant to compliment the story, and Jonny Greenwood sculpts yet another effective score. I simply didn't care about what was happening or what was being said, therefore I don't have any reason to care about this movie.

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