People get amazingly passionate about loving or hating a given movie, and their opinions tend to be backed up by evidence that’s anything but empirical and objective. What’s too often left out of the “Are you insane? This movie was awesome/toxic!” discourses are some fundamental yet generally unacknowledged factors that play a large (albeit usually subliminal) part in informing how our movie viewing feelings are formed.
1) Who you see a movie with:
Surely you’ve felt the distress of enjoying a movie while your companion is seated beside you, squirming in evident agony. Conversely, who hasn't felt the delicious rush of joy when you and your like-minded mate decide to ditch a terrible tanker and go striding up the aisle together, to freedom? We're not all Zeligs, but it's a known phenomenon that comedies work better with a large and vocal audience; concurrently, your response can be subtly intimidated when you sense the hostility of a crowd at odds with what you’re liking. And all it takes is being seated near one of those loud purple evil minions from Despicable Me 2 (as demonstrated in the current AMC “Turn off your cell phone” short) to turn an absorbing movie into an abhorrent one.
2) Where you see a movie:
As the movie theater experience has become more problematic, the happier art of home theater viewing has elevated exponentially, but sorry: even your 40-inch wall screen is not up to the task of putting me in the desert of Lawrence of Arabia, nor in IMAX’s Deep Sea 3D. Conversely, I’ll always think of the second Indiana Jones as a cranky bummer because I saw it at a third-rate Times Square movie theater: scratched print, dim projector bulb, fuzzy focus, bad sound, and a floor my shoes stuck to. A low-budget indie that shines on TV may look tacky on the big screen. And some movies can really only be enjoyed in between dozes or doses of medication when you’re 33,000 feet up in the air (they often have Adam Sandler in them).
3) When you see a movie:
There’s a world of difference between seeing a movie's packed Saturday night show on its opening weekend, versus a near-empty matinee at the end of its run. Some movies are less in synch with their cultural moment than others. Every year a formerly "underrated" film is acclaimed a classic, while time has been unkind to many hits-of-their-day. A long-anticipated event of a movie that's been on your calendar for some time creates one frame of mind; a movie you drop into one rainy afternoon on a whim creates another. And never underestimate The Law of Low Expectations: When you see a universally reviled flop, you’re more likely to think, “It’s not that bad,” just as That Movie Everybody Loves may place a “Prove it!” chip on your shoulder.
4) What you bring to a movie:
God, I hate fighting off sleep in the middle of the movie, a struggle made more nightmarish when you miss a plot point or a chunk of story. On the other hand, I've enjoyed certain wacky comedies due to the wacky weed consumed before my viewing. We're now in the most obvious, most idiosyncratic arena of subjectivity, and the one that most people will own up to. A lover of romantic comedies hates Four Weddings and a Funeral... because she once had a bad run-in with Andie MacDowell. My barber (I am not making this up) walked out on Sweeney Todd... because years ago, an old friend of his had his throat cut with a razor. Everything from your politics to whether or not you’re a parent can affect how you experience even the most innocuous cartoon. Unless of course we’re talking masterpieces like Battlefield Earth. Wait, you’re not a Thetan? Never mind.
5) Why you see a movie:
Critics have a vested interest in seeming objectivity (their gig rests on the illusion of their possessing it) and yet honest critics occasionally admit in print when they've suffered screening or festival-overkill and have lost their objective edge. The rest of us have to deal with what the media hath wrought: we're at the mercy of what's in the ether. Early adopters who've seen a film long before the general public gets onto it are especially passionate cheerleaders; mainstreamers in the thick of a trend tend to like what's already been liked. Why you see a movie (to catch up with the buzz, be ahead of the curve, indulge a date, keep a child company, fill in a filmography gap, et al) is of course a factor in why you may love or hate it. And if you’re seeing a movie because you have to – i.e. you’re related to, or friends with, someone who’s in it, or made it… Need I say more?
These are the Big Five, so far as I can figure, and I wish that what we talk about when we talk about a movie’s quality would honestly reflect these factors more often. A lot of why we feel what we feel about a movie isn't necessarily about the movie itself, and there’d be less contentiousness (and pretentiousness) in our responses if we were quicker to admit it.