when people defend a film, they often want to jump to discussing what theme it covers or message it delivers. "oh no! it's a great film! see, it deals with ______". this is starting to get to me, because it's exactly why undeserving films are always being nominated and winning with the academy. the past two years have been the best example. crash? million dollar baby? [funny]! better-shot, better-directed, better-acted, and better-written films about "lesser" themes and narrower scopes are often overlooked and don't get their due credit, because films dealing with big and lofty social or philosophical issues are given top priority. i'm not saying that life lessons aren't a good thing to have in movies, and i try not to be too biased against them. however, it's so secondary to the art of filmmaking, imo. it's good to have a message that can move an audience. societally healthy, even. the thing is it's not the only ingredient and definitely not the first that should be addressed in a film's defense. i was comforted the other day when i read a quote by my geminian air sign brother roger ebert that shared this view of mine. [funny], yeah, i get accused of "using critics too much to support my opinions", but most of the time i'm coming to my opinions before i even see what they say. i would appreciate anyone who voices this, but it helps to have someone of his standing go on record with it. he once said, "it's not what a film is about but how it is about it" truer words have never been spoken. hard to blame people for doing it, though, because we're all guilty. it's the quickest thing to point to but ultimately the weakest in my book. how else do you defend a film really? explaining the power of the "how" is more difficult and has less immediacy than the "what". even so, that is what needs most focus when studying the motion picture art. i guess the answer is simple and has been visible right in front of me all along. it's been evasive as i've tried to embrace and accept it fully. people feel what they feel, and it's undesirable and virtually impossible to argue someone into feeling something. and, it's why i'm not as eager to debate the quality of individual movies as i used to be. best to let them discover it for themselves if they're ever to like it. i wish that people would get over this obsession though, because they're missing out on truly appreciating some great aspects of the art when they don't give films that they see as being "unimportant", "about nothing", "immoral", or "socially irresponsible" a fair shake and decide that they dislike them before watching all the way through with an open mind. list your top 5 film ingredients... the things you look for in determining a "great film". my list: 1. cinematography/art direction 2. direction 3. acting 4. score 5. screenwriting it all depends... films of course can be high on the bottom and low on the upper and still end up great.