Talking About Movies

Every day I look upon this website, or anything I do, wondering if I am out of my depth. My essays here seem to average over 900 words, and I work to go into detail about what makes an artistic work…well, work. But just because a person uses a lot of words does not mean that they are saying anything of value. Say what you will about the website Twitter and it’s 140 character limitation (as of this writing), at least with said limitations people get right to the fucking point. At the same time, getting right to the fucking point means discarding nuance, analysis and detail, which are still valuable even in a world that, to paraphrase a character from Don Delilo’s, “Cosmopolis”, is accelerating to a posthuman level. I am here because of my love of the movies, a desire to make them, and the criticism/analysis of Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel, Richard Roeper, Pauline Kael and Jonathan Rosenbaum (not to mention Moviebob, the people of Birth, Movies, Death, AV Club and The Dissolve). Desire and inspiration, however, do not translate into a human right. So, whether I deserve to be here or not, let us talk about talking about the movies, and why I am here.

The first issue I have with discussion of the movies is the expectation around such discussion. Some just want to know how many stars/thumbs up/rotten tomatoes a movie gets, to use as a cudgel for consumption and discussion of the movie’s merits. Others want to know the movie’s political angle, always a touchy point but is especially now that Various Conservative Movements That Shall Not Be Named have somehow succeeded in turning mere recognition of an artistic work’s merits (or lack thereof) into a threat on your life. Hell, even Jonathan Rosenbaum started out as a critic who rejected political analysis in favor of an approach that emphasized trying to just look at the movies themselves as opposed to using sociopolitical analysis. Years later, he would deride Spike Lee’s, “Malcom X” as a selling out of the titular figure. So, expectations shift and the person who discusses a movie has to put into consideration the social context they are in. On one level that can just be simple manners, but on another level it is driven by a fear of social alienation. Not that I am always the most considerate person in the world.

An issue that gets me is how wrapped up we can be in our analysis to the point where we believe it to be more important than it actually is. It’s not that one should dismiss a viewpoint because of language or length, but it is precisely those things that are used to dismiss a review. Devin Faraci wrote a list of tips about writing about the movies and while I certainly agree with a lot of it (and feel a tinge of guilt about not having seen every movie on the big screen), what concerns me is how much people may understand me or not. When I use the words, “Action sequence” in one of my movie-related essays, do people understand what I mean, or would it be better to just describe what happens in detail even in an age where people are worried about having surprises spoiled for them? Does one’s description of cinematography go any further beyond words like, “pretty”, and or would using obscure shop language be better? One can argue that my review of the cinematic disaster, “Warcraft” is just as self-indulgent as the movie I criticize, for I go on tangents on how the best moviemaking is about treating the audience with respect and how nerd culture as we now know it sucks its own dick into oblivion…but at least I attempted to bridge that with a series of reasons about why the movie is terrible, referring a bit to what I could surmise of the moviemaking process but mainly referring to the overstuffed plot. I may WANT my analysis to be more than just the basics, whether it is berating, “Jurassic World” for being ashamed of itself or praising, “Mad Mad: Fury Road” despite reservations on how works of art like it are used as some sort of moral and intellectual litmus test…but is it what people want or need?

The sad truth is that I am not needed in this particular space. I may be unique, I may have ideas, I may have an angle, but just because I use a certain copyright standard does not mean that I will stay unique for long (or, well, even using such a copyright at all). People pay millions of dollars to people who know how to handle a ball really good, and then get outraged when said people are criticized for not living up to human decency.  On the same token, I may not be a billionaire from what I do because the world already gets plenty of what I offer. People have plenty of that from friends and websites like Yelp, Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes, where they can use a series of reviews and numbers derived thereof to gauge a decision on whether to consume a thing or not. The world is already full of nonsense and noise, why add to it? Well, because I want to add a unique noise, and because I want to get better at what I want to do. Childish? Definitely, but good things can come from being immature. After all, even a religious zealot like C.S. Lewis understood the value of outgrowing maturity, stating, “To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence.” And while there is a lot of need for surgeons, doctors, physicists, engineers and lawyers, we can’t all be one no matter how passionate we are. Mike Rowe of, “Dirty Jobs” fame stated that we should not follow our dreams, even if they happen to coincide with what people typically believe to be, “important” or, “good” work, because we may not be cut out for it no matter how hard we work. Hell, some of us shouldn’t even be in an important position where they can affect millions of lives because of some unresolved issues that could grow worse the moment they become powerful (*cough*).

Where does that leave me? Well, thankfully I’m kinda young (with no outstanding debts as of this writing), so that may leave me with a lot of wiggle room. I dropped out of college due to childhood abuse and also due to my financial aid being stolen from me as I was trying to get a broad education. After dropping out and moving out of my old home, I began to explore life just a little more. Then took some vocational schooling and got to where I am today…and finding out I have to maintain that lifestyle in a field which may or may not be reliable in the future. So, if I’m not good enough to be important, I can at least work to be important, while also hoping that my importance brings help to the people who witness me. After all, I am only here if society permits me to be. The world could change into a sort of progressive utopia tomorrow and I would still have to live up to certain standards to exist in that world, as with any civilization. I can be as passionate as all get out, I can delve deeper and look into certain things, but ultimately the value of my work lies in other people, not myself. That’s why I work to make my art more than just, “This is good”, or, “This is bad”, and while I may have plenty of time due to a current day job…the world is not going to wait forever. Nor should it.

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