Anghus Houvouras on the Liberation of Admitting “I Didn’t Understand…”
There is a sequence of community where affable git Troy Barnes, after being dosed with truth serum, makes a series of confessions including “I use comparisons to Hitler to win arguments on the internet in the blink of an eye” and “Women turn me on more in pajamas than in lingerie”. As he gets more emotional, he reaches the crescendo of his revelations, where he tearfully admits, “I didn’t get it beginning‘ before curling up into the fetal position.
This moment perfectly captures the fear people feel about cinematic ignorance. Feelings of shame for not understanding something that others could understand. Admitting “I didn’t get it” feels unfathomable in an online world where we have an infinite amount of information at our disposal, but our ego prevents us from seeing ignorance as anything other than an insult.
Influencer Logan Paul jumped headfirst into this phenomenon when he posted a review of Jordan Peele’s new film nope on Twitter, called the film “terrible” before fleshing out his thesis in several posts. The internet mob came to commend Paul for his attitude while others tried to explain exactly what Logan hadn’t understood about the themes of Jordan Peele’s multi-layered film.
“NOPE” is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time.
I love Jordan Peele and Keke Palmer can play his ass but this movie is objectively slow and confusing with stretched themes that don’t justify the pacing (one thread)
— Logan Paul (@LoganPaul) July 24, 2022
Logan Paul didn’t get it. But the mistake he made was not his ignorance but the way he expressed his confusion as a dictatorial edict.
I’ve spent almost two decades writing film reviews and film columns. Looking back, I can say a few times where I “didn’t get it” and went on the offensive, blaming the film and filmmakers for making something I couldn’t understand or comprehend upon first viewing . I remember not compiling the creatures that appear at the end of Steven Spielberg’s AI: Artificial Intelligence were evolved synthetic beings and not otherworldly aliens. Charlie Kaufmans I’m thinking of ending things flew over my head like a frisbee thrown by a child. Alex Garlands destruction was a film in which I struggled to find the central theme and cinematic coherence.
As someone who writes about movies, it feels like there’s an added embarrassment to “don’t get it”. As someone who consumes all this content and writes about it regularly, shouldn’t I be more observant and understanding? I can still remember the embarrassment I felt while arguing AI with other film fans and had them explain that my perception of the ending was wrong. That everything I had set forth in the film had been disregarded and added up to an incorrect answer. I backed away from the keyboard in shame, the humiliation throwing me into a state of disbelief.
Luckily, the internet has given us an infinite reservoir to dive into after watching a movie. From brief opinions on social media to lengthy video essays that break down creative endeavors at the molecular level. And even then, there can be all sorts of different thoughts about films and the filmmaker’s intentions.
Thanks to Dan Olsen and his YouTube channel Folding Ideas, I was able to dive deep into the subject destruction and look at all the seeds Alex Garland planted throughout the film that would eventually lead to a conclusion many people didn’t understand (myself included). Thanks to the YouTube channel Your Movie Sucks (aka YMS), I was able to watch an incredibly detailed and brilliant analysis of I’m thinking of ending things That made me want to go back and watch the movie again.
The Socratic paradox teaches us that “all I know is that I know nothing”. That’s what film fans have to accept: humility. Rather than staunchly voicing your thoughts as a statement of absolute certainty, accept the fact that there may be more to the film than you initially realized. Good cinema and great filmmakers use the medium in ways that can lead to different interpretations.
Logan, don’t let the idea of ”I didn’t get it” be the end of your exploration of a movie you didn’t get. let it be the beginning