Monthly Archives: September 2012
At the beginning of the week I post another edition of “Film News Worth Your Time”. However, a more pressing matter concerning journalistic integrity and persecution has taken precedent.
Film-Cycle Hall of Fame film critic Armond White has aroused the ire of the film blog-o-sphere with his dual article reviewing both Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and Paul W.S. Andersons Resident Evil 4: Retribution. White makes the bold and well-defended claim that Paul W.S. Anderson is the superior of the two and calls PTA’s “The Master” trash. The Twitter-verse is already ablaze, the review is inciting shouts of “troll” and “hack”. If being a troll means writing daring and frighteningly intuitive cultural commentary, then Armond White is the biggest troll the world has ever seen.
I have a question.
Has cultural commentary and criticism devolved into such a state of herd mentality that the mere suggestion of someone bucking a popular trend or denouncing a fad is sacrilegious? I would have to answer yes, based on the juvenile, asinine, and off-color responses White’s review is drawing. Why is Armond White a troll? Is it imperative that one like The Master to gain acceptance as a film critic? Do you have to thumb your nose at the work of those considered “unimportant” and untalented (like director Paul W.S. Anderson) so that you can seem smart? It’s not like we’re talking about some internet film nerd whose knowledge of cinema is threadbare, at best, and thinks black and white films are “boring.” Armond White’s critics should actually read some of his other less “incendiary” articles, such as his think pieces on David Lean and Vincente Minnelli. Then they would see that he is not a troll, but an uncompromising, intuitive, and challenging film mind. People don’t see this. Why? He offends them by daring to dislike films they “love” (like The Dark Knight, Inception, and There Will Be Blood). However, their love and appreciation for a film and its director is not the pure kind that breeds understanding and growth, but a dark kind that causes jealousy, ignorance, and rabid fanaticism. Sadly, more unsavory off-shoots of the dark kind are now the typical calling cards of most cultural criticism today.
I wrote this article to defend Armond White, but in truth, he doesn’t need my defense. The pride he takes in his profession, the focus he has on the arts, and the childishness of his critics’ opposing arguments, has freed him from any need of defense.
Besides, he has said all he needed to say about the sad state of cultural criticism in his brilliant and timely article, Discourteous Discourse. In the article he asks us to:
“Consider how film criticism now works: Publicists select favorable media outlets to create advance buzz (embargoing others) and then, with frat-boy mentality in effect, no one else in cyberspace dares dissent from the hype.
A new model of cultural response is taking over: criticism of criticism—and critics—as a pointless, snaky substitute for examining films themselves.”
“Attacks from bloggers—crude interlopers of a once august profession— are not about diversity of opinion. What’s at root is an undisguised rivalry. Every moviegoer with a laptop claims equal—vengeful—standing with so-called professionals. Professional dignity is the last thing Internetters respect. Their loudmouth enmity and lack of knowledge are so overwhelming that it is imperative to put this crisis in perspective.
These new social networks overturn the informed judgments and occupational decorum of journalist-critics, substituting the glib enthusiasms and non-discriminating devotion of apparently juvenile cliques. Worse yet, this schoolyard style of peer group fanaticism has devolved into all-out, ugly intimidation: Internet bullying. It has begun to sway the professional ranks already frightened by media transitions that have cost many of my colleagues their jobs.
The most important concern exceeds the critical profession; it’s the danger these changes pose to the culture in general. Ridiculing the need for mature thought and discriminating judgment diminishes film culture. Any opinion that challenges the blockbuster market gets punished. We never experience a healthy exchange of ideas. The social networking approach to criticism encourages anti-intellectual harassment and the excoriation of individual response; it may spell the end of critical habits altogether.”
Testify Armond, testify.
We at film-cycle like to shine a light on film news that we believe is worthy of your time. Every week we showcase a new collection of articles and websites that provide only the most articulate and mature film journalism (with some levity thrown in as well). Instead of going to slashfilm or aintitcool, and seeing the same old stuff, come here. You will encounter film news that will leave you stimulated, provoked, challenged, enlightened and ultimately hopeful about film and the interesting pathways it’s taking.
What do you make of John Favreau? At times he directs with a great since of fun and excitement. Then there are times (more recently) when his work seems so pedestrian and ordinary that it lacks any real skill. At the very least he seems to have good taste in films. Listen in to his NPR interview as he talks about mean streets.
Most movie podcasts are awful. Excuse me if I don’t like listening to a bunch of uncultured immature film school rejects wax poetic about batman movies and Tarantino awesomeness. Very rarely does a podcast come about that discusses film in a very insightful and informative manner. When it does come along though I’m pretty sure it looks something like The Hollywood Gauntlet
You’ll get a real kick out of this. Ever wonder why cats are so popular in our media culture? Think about all the internet memes and youtube videos that feature cats and have gone on to become web sensations. You say you never thought about it? Well the good people at the Musuem of the Moving Image have. Check out their article about the media saturation and infatuation with felines in the 21 century.
Alicia Mayer…. Does the Name ring a bell? Try this. Drop the Alicia and add on Louis B.. How about now? While I’m still unclear exactly what the famillial connection is (I believe she is Louis’ niece……yep just checked, she’s his niece) the fact remains that this website has a collection of great inside information (wonder pictures as well) about the inner workings of the Mayer family and how they contributed to the creation of the old Hollywood system of yesteryear. If your a fan of old Hollywood as I am then you’ll find this website a joy.
Mark Kermode……his work is good in a pinch. As we’ve seen cultural commentary continually degrade over the decades, I’ve found Mr Kermode’s work (both his blog and podcast) a nice oasis for film news and journalism that is at least somewhat thought provoking and intelligent. Maybe its just the accent. Here a video essay from his blog that explores the nature of the theatrical experience.
Seriously, this counts as film news: Joss Whedon Endorses James Gunn’s ‘Twisted Take’ On ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, New Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2 Trailer Has Bella Taking A Leap, Beer: It’s Not Just For Drinking
Star Trek 2 has a new title: Star Trek Into Darkness. Do you get it? They’re literally and spirituality trekking into darkness.
Are we really resorting to lame puns now? This title is literally one of the most asinine and condescending things that I’ve ever read. Why not just call it Star Trek 2: Into the Darkness. Do the makers of the film think the modern audience is so stupid that they need cheap tatctics like that to draw them. They may very well be, but why should it be okay for studios to routinely insult the intelligence of their audience. Thanks heavens the same kind of thinking didn’t go into choosing the titles for the original trek movies. Can you Image:
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan = Star Trek “That Leads Us To Cross A Dangerous Villian and Thus Inspire” The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock = Star Trekking Around The World To Find Spock
Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home = Star Trek The Voyage Home To Earth Where We Live and Came From and Have All Our Stuff
Star Trek The Movie = Star Trek The Movie Adaptation of the Old Television Series
Sadly the typically sensationalist and tasteless film bloggers find the the title endlessly fascinating.
Harry Knowles – Aintitcool.com
So what do you think “Into Darkness” means, beyond the obvious darkening tones it seems to indicate. Does this mean they’ll beam down to a fantasy planey with Tom Cruise and Tim Curry? What does it mean?
It means you have very low standards and pander to your followers.
Oliver Lyttelton – IndieWire.com
What this means, other than it’s always funny to type the word colon, is unsure, and the ‘Into Darkness’ part of the title doesn’t seem to be giving anything away about potential plot details, other than the standard sequel-takes-on-darker-tone thing — there’s certainly no confirmation of Cumberbatch’s villainy, or of where the follow might take us, to be found.
Its funny to type colon. You know it might also be funny if you tried typing some cultrual criticism that actually aspired to be enlightening.
Adam Chitwood – Collider.com
At the end of the day, though, it’s just a title and it has little to do with the actual quality of the film. However, this reveal does hint at some rather dire circumstances that may surround the central plot of the follow-up.
What a copout. A bad title is a bad title. If the title is condescending and awful what does that say of the film? Why should we give the film the benefit of the doubt if you don’t take the time to even name it right? Good titles accompany good films 99.9 precent of the time. As for the other 1 precent…..well I don’t think Mr. Lens Flair and the guys who wrote transformers are going to buck the trend.
Yet, I digress. Its a brand new wonderful day for films news, right? We have the title of the new Star Trek movie. We finally know what it is. Its a wonderful occasion; time for celebration. Do you wanna hear what else we know?
We know we have a director who has a style only slightly more exciting than Ron Howard’s (which isn’t saying much).
We know we probably wont be able to see the film over all the lens flair.
We know the writers of the movie have the emotional maturity of children and write sophomoric scripts (Cowboys and Aliens , People Like Us, Transformers 1 & 2).
We know there will be more fan pandering cameos (nice one Nimoy) and idiotic plot twists (What was Mr. Eric Bana doing for those 25 years; don’t mention a scene that was deleted from movie, like that matters anyway.)
We know we will see another lame retread of a previous trek villian instead of an original creation.
We know people will need aspirin because of all the headaches they will get from the 3d.
We know they won’t be able to afford the aspirin because they spent all the money on 3d.
I also know I’ll be attacked by trek fan-boys who think i’m defaming their religion. Pray for me.
Why are movies so bad? Thats a tough question. Cinema is an art form that does not lead itself to easy dissertation, at least if your looking for more concrete answers as supposed to abstract summations. More qualified cinematic minds have attempted to answer that question as best they could, but alas, a definitive conclusion to the problem has yet to be reached.
In the mean time, as our search for answers progresses, we simply can’t continue to feast upon the rancid meat that is being offered at the cinema. Where do we look for our salvation? Surely the usual autumn Oscar bait movies will provide relief from the current devastation. Or will it? Not to sound skeptical, but I quote Armond White when I say that;
“a horrible new fallacy has arisen in that late-year releases are more serious or award worthy, devaluing the movie going experience of the previous nine months (as awful as those nine months were). Without critical recall and discernment, awards no longer reflect how movies shape the popular mood or influence popular attitudes. There’s something bogus about the recent Oscar selection of year-end, heavily hyped best picture contenders when those films have never penetrated the public’s consciousness — or had sufficient time to prove worthy of popular celebration. Award season trumps itself if it becomes the folly of gossip columnists, publicists and advertisers and not the occasion for passion, reflection and judgment.”
So with the present situation so dire, and no end of year help in sight, it seems we must look to the past and find salvation from the present. In other words (two to be exact): Revival screenings. As time goes by I’ve become increasingly dependent upon revival screenings to fulfill my cinematic needs.
For those not in the know, a revival screening is when an older film (or cult classic) is pulled off the shelf and given a chance to shine in the spotlight once more. A small window of time (anywhere from a day to a week) is usually reserved for the film to be shown in theaters across the country. The revival screening are usually shown in a cleaned up and restored print (with digital sound and 4k projection) that leaves the old film looking better than ever. Of course for those who live in more urban/metropolitan areas, revival screenings are not big news. Big cities are chocked full of repertory theaters that always show great old movies and cult favorites. Until recently, those of us more suburb bound have been denied access to such precious and essential films by means of cruel proximity. Thankfully, due in part to wonderful sponsors like Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies, the field has opened up greatly and there are more opportunities for people all across America, from the deepest bourgh to the most backwoods farm town, to finally start taking part in revival cinema.
Check out some of the major events happening in revivial cinema this fall below, but before you do, I want to let you know something. Studios will keep producing their usual drek and people will keep seeing it unless we start taking advantage of the opportunities to see better films on the big screen. Please see and support revival cinema. It has become one of our brightest lights in a very dark cinematic world.
In IMAX for a one-week limited engagement from 9/7 – 9/13″
Digitally restored and for one day only on Thursday, October 4.