For those of you who read my post from last week (hi, Mom), I finally listed my ten favourite movies from 2015. And for those of you who know me, you may have noticed one curious omission. Yes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was not on the list. But how could this be? you ask. And you ask rightly. Matt Abra not putting a Star Wars film on a “best of” list is like the Academy not putting Meryl Streep on an Oscar ballet – it just doesn’t happen. So what gives?
First off, let me be clear – I loved The Force Awakens, and I thought it was the best movie of the year. And a part of me even wants to say that I came to that conclusion objectively (it was, after all, legitimately triumphant cinema), but you can also make the argument that, for me, any Star Wars film with a pulse and a worthwhile story and a sense of fun is instantly crowned superior by my subjective emotions. Some people even felt that critics were a bit too kind to The Force Awakens. They were idiots, mostly, but they did point to an interesting reality: Star Wars is so inbuilt into the collective consciousness of movie-goers, critics included, that culture will influence their perceptions as much as actual achievements, as long as the movie is halfway competent. And I’m not just talking about nostalgia. Like The Beatles before it, Star Wars goes far beyond nostalgia—it represents a cultural paradigm, an inter-generational mania, a force! (Pun very much intended). Star Wars not only reshaped movies forever, for a lot of us, it defined our very understanding of entertainment, art, and fandom.
When it comes to my own tastes, and indeed, my own favourites, I am the first to admit that I am boring and predictable. Often, if I expect a film to be my favourite of the year, it will be. Case in point – The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar, Star Trek. Which is kind of odd, because, as this blog shows, I constantly advocate against raised expectations. If you ever call a film “disappointing,” you probably have yourself to blame as much as the filmmakers. The best way to be satisfied by a film is to be realistic about its potentiality.
And yet, The Force Awakens delivered. It didn’t satisfy everyone, because a lot of “everyones” like to nitpick their way to dissatisfaction. Whenever someone tells me that there were too many “plot holes” in a movie, nowadays it is very hard for me not to say, “Maybe if you were more perceptive, you could have filled them in.” Nevertheless, the majority of people were satisfied by the film, enough so that you could actually feel that cultural weight back on planet Earth once again. Star Wars was back. Everything that we loved about it was re-established.
But I didn’t put it on my list. And there is a small part of me that considers the decision a little disingenuous toward J.J. Abrams and everyone else who brought The Force Awakens to life. They did masterful work, and should be acknowledged for it (especially since the Academy criminally failed to do it). But it’s a decision that is pretty much out of my hands. I didn’t make it because I wanted to be fair to all the other movies last year (how could they compete with 33 years of built-up passion?), and I didn’t make it because I wanted to be less predictable. The honest truth is that Star Wars has, for me, detached itself from conventional cinema. Louis CK once noted that humans developed so far that they removed themselves from the food chain, and Star Wars took my passion so far that it removed itself from comparative analysis, and thus cannot go against others within the media. Star Wars is not a movie for me—it is a phenomenon. As my sisters and I once noted, it stands on its own pedestal. We have our favourite movies, and then we have Star Wars. So really, what’s the point in ranking it? It would be like trying to rank your own children against all the other children. It would be like Superman fighting Batman (oh…wait).
So, disagree with this decision if you’d like. As usual, I will be here, on the other end, not caring what you think. Just know this—I truly believe there is a difference between love and favourites. We all have our favorites, and then we have our true loves. When the latter comes along, what chance do our favourites even have?