Pretentious Pirates: Why My Favourite Film Is Actually Awful But I Still Love It

There are certain expectations you have to meet when you tell someone you love movies, especially if that other person is a self-professed film aficionado. For example, you absolutely have to have seen *insert random “classic” here*, been to a midnight screening/premiere at least once, preferably dressed as a character from said movie. You also have to have gone at least once to a small, obscure art-house cinema where the seats are sticky and, instead of eating popcorn, people drink chardonnays while discussing the latest feat of an equally obscure foreign filmmaker. God forbid you mention an interest in the cinema without having done at least one of these arbitrary acts associated with a bone-deep passion for “the moving pictures”. Luckily for me, I can often pass this first hurdle in conversation. For me, the real danger lies in the unavoidable follow-up question you get when you pass level 1 in the cross-examination posed by a fellow film lover; the question to surpass all other questions that will determine definitively your past, present and future as far as your acquaintance with that person is concerned. “So then, what is your favourite movie?” To me, it is both the most difficult and dangerous to answer; not because I don’t have an answer (although picking just one film is an almost impossible task) but because of what my answer is. My favourite movie of all time is Pirates of the Caribbean *cue gasp*.

The love I have for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is not such that I wouldn’t notice any ungainly flaws or mistakes on the cinematic front (such as the horrible deformed lumps on the face of the franchise that were Pirates 4 & 5). I would be the first to say that the films, even the original first three, are hardly worthy of a place in the cinematic Hall of Fame. The films can be extremely unique and unseemly ridiculous at their extremes (both united in the character of Jack Sparrow, who often manages to be unerringly brilliant and just plain bizarre in the same breath). The characters become more and more caricatures of themselves the further the franchise progresses, the stunts change from straight up jaw-dropping awesome to just plain over-the-top, the storylines move from imaginative to implausible, and even the hallowed character of Jack Sparrow changes into someone I want to punch in the face. Not the sort of thump to result in any serious damage, just a mild slap to kind of say “what the hell, man”. The films are, however, worthy of place in my cinematic Hall of Fame. Not because they are good, but rather because they form an essential part of the foundation upon which my love for film is built. It’s the same reason I am not ashamed of my choice – because they are essentially part of why I love film as a whole.

To go back to when I first saw a Pirates film; my dad, being the kind of dad who is very thoughtful but also a bit unobservant, had rented a Pirates film. The second one, as we found out halfway through watching it – which made the dramatic reveal at the end, where one of the characters perceived to be dead is shown to be alive, feel rather less climactic as my dad hushedly explained to me and my sister that he was a very important character whose name he couldn’t quite recall. It didn’t matter, because from the beginning to the end, I was absolutely enchanted with the film. The humour, the colourful cast of characters, the amazing environment, the bloody pirates; the film took me on an adventure far away from my living room couch (where my dad was trying to peruse the back of the dvd box because he was absolutely sure he had rented the first movie). The film showed me how amazing it feels to become utterly absorbed by a movie. I had always liked watching films, but in a quiet, casual, if-there’s-nothing-on-tv kind of way. After that first enlightening Saturday night, though, I went on weekly visits to a video store – although I am perfectly happy freeloading on my friend’s Netflix subscription, I still sometimes miss going to an actual store to rent a movie. My dad and I rented all kinds of movies (the most memorable being all six Star Wars films, which we actually managed to watch in the right order) and spent Saturday nights munching on popcorn in the darkened living room after having basically shooed my mother and younger sister and banned them from entering for the next 90 minutes.

Therein lies the crux, I believe: no matter how much people might be expecting me to name a movie that has won at least one Oscar and is preferably over 15 years old as my favourite, I cannot ignore the films and the fond memories they are connected with that first sparked my interest. Which is why I will never pass level 2 in the eyes of a snobbier type of film intellectual – the kind who religiously sleeps, reads and breathes film, but almost always in an impassionate way. The kind who can argue at length about the lighting setup in a certain scene but cannot connect any emotions to the storyline. I have actually met people like this, who devalue and undermine any of my professed interest in film because my favourite movie was not part of their pre-conceived list of films that are deemed “acceptable”. However, I would never dream of trading my colourful patchwork of film history with their neatly organised stacks of movie knowledge. I will never be ashamed of loving Pirates of the Caribbean.

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