A Film’s “Intent” and “Valid” Film Criticism

I‘m not a film critic. Yes, I write some reviews and have a weekly show in which I sit around and bullshit with my friends about newly released film. In that sense sure, I guess I am a critic. But in that sense isn’t everyone a critic of any form of art or experience they have that they talk about? What I mean is that I’m not paid for what I do. It’s not a career (obviously). I didn’t go to film school and I don’t have a degree in journalism or broadcasting. I’m just a dude with an opinion in which the 21st century allows me to share that opinion with the masses.

So I think it’s time to address something that’s been bugging me for quite some time; an accusation that has been tossed around on our Cinecast (and others) far too often (of which I admit I am equally guilty). This notion that you’re “reviewing the movie not for what it is but what you wanted it to be.” I think that statement can careen down a real slippery slope and in most cases (not all) is totally invalid. Can’t you throw that accusation at anyone for just about any criticism of any movie? Our recent discussion of Rango has spurred these thoughts.

If someone were to say they didn’t like Speed Racer because the dialogue is terrible, I don’t think it’s fair to say, “well that’s just not what the movie was aiming for.” Well maybe not, but that doesn’t mean it’s an invalid criticism. The dialogue is pretty terrible in that movie. It’s hackneyed, elementary and corny. Sure it may be reminiscent of the original animated television show and sure that may be what the producers intended but that doesn’t mean someone has to like it or that it couldn’t have been done better. I personally happen to like Speed Racer quite a bit but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who walks out of the screening and says, “man I just don’t think I could’ve taken one more second of Susan Sarandon’s one dimensional character and her campy acting!” That’s an absolutely fair comment to make.

So yes, that person wanted that movie to be something different. In essence, any review out there that is negative of something is essentially saying just that isn’t it? If the film had done something just a little bit different it might be more positive looking in that particular “critic’s” viewpoint.

Now of course there is a line that must be drawn. One can’t claim they didn’t like Morning Glory because it wasn’t scary or bloody enough. That would be stupid. But regarding Rango, I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t feel any sort of excitement or have the sensation of being “riveted to my chair” during the film. That’s a 100% valid criticism in my opinion. There is nothing wrong with that statement. You can disagree all day long and maybe not understand why I would make such a statement, but it’s a valid argument and it then becomes my job to articulately explain exactly why I didn’t have any sort of visceral reaction to a particular scene or movie going experience.

You may not agree, but my feelings are my feelings and you can’t change the experience I had no matter how hard you argue or plead. So then of course the fall back is to say, “well you just wanted something the film wasn’t trying to deliver.” To which I would say first of all, you’re right! I did want something different than what the film was giving me. And second of all, I actually do think Rango was intending to deliver excitement and in that endeavor it failed… for me.

So in terms of tone, style, pacing or acting/dialogue (and many other characteristics of a film), in my opinion the phrase, “you just wanted something the film wasn’t trying to deliver” may be true, but it’s not a valid criticism of another’s critique. Again, I agree that there is a line at which it becomes ridiculous to take certain shots at a particular film; like in my Morning Glory example above.

However, I can think of an example in which that argument probably is valid. In a recent review of Black Swan someone suggested that it would have been better had Natalie Portman *SPOILER* show content

OK, maybe that would be true for some viewers. However, the entire point of that film is as a reconstruction (on multiple levels) of the famous ballet, “Swan Lake.” So for it to not turn out as it did would be a giant misstep in the film’s plotting and would undermine its entire message and intent. It would be like saying that “Romeo and Juliet” is a better story if all the characters live in the end. So in that case, using the “not what you wanted it to be” accusation would be valid. If you don’t like “Swan Lake,” then fair enough; but don’t critique a film that is trying to reconstruct “Swan Lake” for being too much like “Swan Lake.” That simply makes no sense. Likewise, you may want a happy ending with your Shakespearean drama piece, but he didn’t write it that way so just deal with any film adaptation that is faithful to it.

Now having said all that, there’s probably a grey area in here as well. Is it fair to say you didn’t like The Assassination of Jesse James… because there wasn’t enough gun-slinging action in it? While I wouldn’t agree with that sentiment, I think it’s a fair criticism if someone were to say that. After all, Jesse James is a famous outlaw, gang leader known for robbing banks and trains while killing a lot of men in cold blood. On top of that the film is of the western genre and folks are used to a certain experience when they go to see a western; particularly Americans. So yeah, while I love (LOVE!) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and clearly the intent of the film is to be an art house love letter to the western genre as a stylized cinematographic piece, there may be an argument that it isn’t quite what one would expect given the genre and the notoriety of who we’re led to believe is the main character of the film. So yeah, to say you didn’t like it for lack of what you had expected (especially with propaganda floating around out there like this) and more of what you don’t want out of your films is pretty fair I think. That said, after having seen the film, one should be able to parse these elements and make objective judgments about what they’ve just seen; not based on what they didn’t get. So who is right in this instance?

I’m sure there are probably other examples in which the phrase, “you just didn’t like it because you wanted the film to be something that it isn’t trying to be” is valid and in some cases it can become a rather slippery slope. But the way it has been thrown around rather loosely as of late (both here in the third row and other web sites) is a complete cop-out when trying to get someone to see your side of things. It needs to stop. Particularly when the film in question is giving you exactly what it is intending but just not delivering on those elements.

 

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Matt Brown
Admin

See this week’s Mamo for some parallel thoughts and ideas…

http://www.rowthree.com/2011/03/08/mamo-194-to-the-far-shore/

Mike Rot
Member

I go by the filmosophy approach, that a critique should aim for the mix of thinkings, grasp what the film is thinking about, and what you are thinking about and see where those two intersect, if at all. So part of a review should acknowledge what the movie is aiming for, it is part of being a good listener in any kind of dialogue. For example, I believe Inglourious Bastards was aiming to be a pleasurable genre romp, and that it wasn’t striving for any higher aspirations, and I can point to the film for examples of that, and just so happens, in that case, that was all I wanted… but if I wanted great art from it, or had signals from the film that it was thinking of itself that way, and failed, than it is right for me to critique based on that observation.

I think the great Avatar debate had these problems because some criticized it for aspirations I don’t think the film ever had… it was foremost aiming to be spectacle not high art. You can say you WANTED it to be high art but that is not a critique of the film just a declaration of preference.

Mike Rot
Member

in debating you can make a ‘straw man’ argument, and you can also wrongly critique a film based on a straw man argument, of what you WANT it to be for the sake of your point. If you hate anime, for example, it would be wrong to critique an anime film for being too much like that style of animation. Better to say you prefer different type of film.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

I agree with you, Andrew, insofar as you have framed the debate as “you didn’t like it” and “here’s why.” I think you’re perfectly within your rights as a critic and a human being to say “I didn’t like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford because I wanted there to be more action and I found the art film that I got to be boring.” But I don’t think you’re within your rights to say the film isn’t good because of that. There are all manner of films I don’t care for because they’re not my thing – most romantic comedies, the entire oeuvre of Apatow and similar, sports movies of nearly all varieties – but that’s a different thing from saying they’re not well-made. I actually just saw Raging Bull for the first time last week, and I really liked the style of it, and the editing was superb, and I can give props to both De Niro and Pesci for their performances, but I didn’t really enjoy watching most of it, and I probably won’t watch it again.

“I like it” and “it’s well-made and achieves its intention” are two completely different standards of judgement. A lot of arguments I see about film largely come down to people conflating them.

I’m seeing Rango tomorrow and will come back to this then, but I’m fairly sure having read through the non-spoilery parts of that thread, that I’m going to like it – style and cinematic self-reflexivity weigh a lot heavier with me than emotional connection/engagement. They don’t with you, and that’s cool, but that’s not a critical argument. That’s a preference.

Mike Rot
Member

There is a hallowed space for film criticism I think, you enter into understanding your preferences are not as valued at empirical argument. When you say a film is bad not merely as a declaration but for the sake or argument, you are entering into the realm of empirical evidence, something that can be verified between more than one person. You oil yourself up and get in there and fight, but fight fair.

Otherwise shout from the peanut gallery “Alice In Wonderland is shit” and walk away.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I loved Matty Price’s take on different approaches how people ‘watch/experience’/etc. film.

As to the above, it is food for thought, however, apropos of you using Anton Ego as the lead-in image, there is something to be said for taste. You’ll hardly ‘get’ THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS if you’ve never seen a Hammer Horror film. You don’t have the syntax to appreciate the key aim of the film, to criticise it for things you don’t personally have the breadth of understanding is not wrong, just unfortunate. (the word is, I believe: Ignorance). There is certainly a place for a valid use of “YOU DON’T GET IT.” but it shouldn’t be the first volley out of the cannon.

Not every film is made for a WIDE audience (Pixar Films, Titanic, The Matrix, The Kings Speech, Master&Commander, Open Range). Nor should it be. I like what Mike states as ‘declaration of preference’ – I know a lot of people who I read regularly on cinema, and I can make valid judgements of their judgements based on that relationship (Which is why Rotten Tomatoes is better as a portal to find writers to click on and follow rather than as a quotation of % or Score.)

Back to Rango, it is evoking a number of things, that is a significant part of the film beyond the slapstick. It’s not a ‘immersive adventure’ as by half of Price’s nomenclature. It is a pastiche with an interesting story. You are meant to ‘watch it’ not be riveted in your seat, or the ‘surrogate hero’ Which is really curious considering the character is a chameleon who doesn’t know who he is (That’s a damn bit of cleverness, whatever you say!)

OK, in terms of Assassination of Jesse James, it’s not a cinematography showcase (but it has exemplary cinematography) it is a look at hero worship in the form of the western. The point of view of the film is Robert FORD after (AFTER) the legend of Jesse James. The point to make James an established man of the community is an interesting one, and it was never meant to be a gunslinger movie. EVER.

One could (and should) probably make the argument that you should’t watch trailers (particularly of the kind that want to get buts in seats via star-power and snake-oil as opposed to articulate what the movie is actually about) but you can’t change the world on that one. Movies have almost always been commerce before art.

In the end, you can like or not like something, but it is actually up to the reader/listener to decide whether or not you have an enlightening point or are simply ignorant. It’s a difficult thing to do sometimes, both about a film, or about a film writer, or about a commenter on the review, (continue nesting loops at your leisure).

Justin Jagoe
Guest

I’m not a critic either, but the “appreciate the movie for what it is” approach seems like a disingenuous argument, because you aren’t really addressing what makes any given movie appealing (or unappealing).

To be honest, though, there isn’t exactly an S.O.P. Manual that shows how to approach every single movie when reviewing it. Personally, when I discuss a movie, I try my best to gauge the value and the quality of a movie using two different modes of thought (I’ll try to keep these short):

#1. I think of the movie in terms of choices being made by the filmmakers and the performers. Film is a collaborative effort, and most (not all) of what you see on-screen was achieved as a result of the (usually) meticulous filmmaking process (scripting, rehearsals, photography, editing, etc). The more you think about the choices the filmmakers put into a movie and the more deeply you place the results (intended or otherwise) into context, the better you can talk about to a movie in terms of how it worked and the more you can actually write about a film while respecting the filmmaking process and the history of film.

For example, I try not to “re-write” a movie in my critique, like your friend kind of wanted to do with Black Swan’s ending, simply because I am not a filmmaker. Judging a movie in terms of how it works/doesn’t work – I feel – more effectively holds the filmmakers to task for the movies they made.

2. I *never* try to remove myself from my experience with the movie. The idea that anybody could ever objectively discuss a movie in terms of quality is just a bunch of hooey. We bring as much to the movie-going experience as the filmmakers do – we bring our biases, our knowledge of film, and our expectations and they can never go away. If I react a certain way to a scene or a character, I have to try to explain why I reacted in that way, and how what I brought to the table might have influenced my reaction.

Of course, I am sure I have broken these guidelines a million times, and that there are a million exceptions to these as well 😛

Mike Rot
Member

To go with the Rango motif:

It is all talk around the bar until you reach the point where you need to go out into streets and standoff. Criticism is a set of tools of reasoning meant for that kind of hallowed space, when the opinions are meant to stick. Shooting the shit indoors is another kind of activity altogether.

Mostly we shoot the shit around here, because we are laid back like that, but real critics are always on the streets, guns cocked.

Mike Rot
Member

Justin, agreed:

What does the movie think?
What do I think?
Where do they intersect.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

It’s interesting to me that what I consider “real critics” (that is, not reviewers, but critics) actually spend very little time talking about bad films, or when they do, they’re not talking about them as bad films, but as part of a larger historical/critical context. I much prefer to approach film like that – it’s less fun to me to debate what makes one film good and another bad and more fun to talk about whatever is interesting or thought-provoking or entertaining in any film. Most films have SOMETHING that intrigues me, which is why I find it difficult to give low ratings most of the time, if you notice. If they don’t, I’d rather not talk about them at all.

Mike Rot
Member

I hate reviewing films I dislike, I think pretty much all my reviews on here are positive, the only exception being when I force myself to watch things as part of a marathon, and the occasional Miller’s Crossing passes my way.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

Justin, I agree with both your guidelines. That approach acknowledges both objective and subjective responses, and handles both appropriately – when done well. But yeah, it’s tough to balance them. 🙂

I will jump in on the Black Swan ending thing – that was Bob who said that, I think, and I actually totally get where he was coming from. If Black Swan were not tied storywise to Swan Lake, his ending would’ve been pretty compelling. I’d like to see that story made. But Andrew is also correct that because Black Swan IS a retelling of Swan Lake, it couldn’t end any other way and be true to its guiding principles. I don’t see a problem fantasizing about other ways stories could go – that’s a creative pursuit that might find its fruition somewhere (Rio Bravo is said to be Hawks’ response to not liking certain aspects of Zinnemann’s High Noon), but yeah. It’s not a reason for dissing a specific film because it doesn’t go that way. (Note: I think there are films that should’ve gone a different way than they did and are worse because they didn’t, but that has to tie back into the film itself and its intentions.)

Mike Rot
Member

Black Swan is a retelling, that doesn’t mean it has to follow note for note what came before… think of it as a reboot. You use the term guiding principles, that is more what I am thinking, principles, not rules. Black Swan is prone to debate because it doesn’t quite fit anything before, whatever it is thinking about, it is not cohesive, deliberately or unintentional. It blends camp and horror and creates something unsettling.

It is easier to play the empirical card when it is so consciously abiding to genre language, but one or two parts feel grammatically wrong in context. always in context.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

One problem is a lot of times our “objectivity” is actually subjective. By that I mean that yes, we can have objective criteria for why something is good or bad that works. But our ranking of different objective elements in a film may be subjective, which colors our overall judgment of the film. I am fully prepared to say that objectively, the dialogue (and often delivery, acting, and story) in Speed Racer is very subpar. I simply don’t care, because its visuals and sense of motion and wonder far overshadow everything else for me. It’s a top ten of the year film for me. Someone else might look and say “yeah, the visuals are awesome, but I’m more of a script/acting person, so I can’t overlook that atrociousness” and rank the film extremely low. We actually agree on the objective criteria, we just weigh those criteria vastly differently in regards to the overall film.

Mike Rot
Member

Our subjective feelings are not up for debate (even if you are bald). They are untouchable. I love Speed Racer too, I don’t feel the need to defend my love of it, I can gush about it, but that is different. The love is not intrinsic to the quality of the mechanics of the film, it is not because of the writing, or acting… if ever there was a film that feels immaculately conceived, it is Speed Racer, it just is. I am not willing to walk into the street to defend it because my love of it is not based on anything intellectual.

Justin Jagoe
Guest

Jandy, of course, I totally agree with what you say about the creative potential in fantasizing about the other ways a story can go, because it can very well lead to “Rio Bravo”-like reactions to movies. Wasn’t it Godard who said “the best way to critique a movie is to make one yourself [sic.]”?

But it is strictly in film writing where I see this as posing something of a pratfall. There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with re-imagining a movie, but when the focus of your criticism is what you wished a work to be, I just worry that can be a distraction, as you risk no longer discussing the movie that actually exists on celluloid.

Buuuuut….on the other hand, I CAN see where laying out an “alternate scenario” in your writing might be a useful juxtaposition against a scene you didn’t particularly like, if only to explain more elegantly just why the scene didn’t work for you.

My head hurts…

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

I’ve never seen a film that prized and evoked sheer exhilaration the way Speed Racer does, nor have I seen anything that I thought succeeded as well at being a live-action cartoon. For those things, I am willing to defend it intellectually. I think they set out to do those things, and they succeeded. Beyond that, I agree, Mike – the extent of my love for it is subjective.

Justin Jagoe
Guest

I have not seen “Speed Racer,” but when talking about its “objectively sub-par dialog,” is it possible that the dialog itself was merely a stylized use of language meant to add a layer of aesthetic value to the world the Wachowski brothers created?

Does the dialog help complement the overall mood of the film? If so, can the dialogue really be thought of as “bad?”

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

I think you could argue that it’s intentionally simplistic in staying true to the original children’s anime and so as not to distract from the visual, stylistic content, sure. But most people who don’t like Speed Racer will see that argument as a cop-out, so I tend not to use it. In other words, it’s an argument I can believe personally, but I’m not sure it’s one that’s actually very useful in debate. And I don’t think it’s stylized to the degree or with a level of intentionality that it would add a layer of aesthetic value to the world. I just don’t think the Wachowskis cared about it very much in the whole scheme of the film. But I might rewatch it with your thought in my head now, and see what I think!

Mike Rot
Member

I see Avatar and Speed Racer the same way, they are both spectacle and any criticisms of the fine details is for those not caught up in the spectacle to notice. I am sure the writing of Avatar and Speed Racer are equally bad from a screenwriters guild POV. What difference does that make to me when I get so much enjoyment out of the whole?

Jonathan Hardesty
Guest

As a wannabe screenwriter, I can vouch for the fact that it gets hard to just simply enjoy the spectacle of a film sometimes. If the dialog is bad or something is amiss structurally, it’s enough to take me out of an otherwise stylistically interesting and engaging film. Something I’m still trying to work with when it comes to formulating my opinions and thoughts on films I go see.

Mike Rot
Member

But do you forgive classic-Hollyood era films their hackneyed dialogue? I find myself able to adjust expectations to situation. If I am watching Bogart I am not wincing at the lack of subtlety, if I am watching 10 foot high blue people in the dimensions of three, I am not audibly tsking the lack of Sorkin wit.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

Mike, trying to understand why I love Speed Racer and didn’t love Avatar is one my biggest critical headaches. I’ve given up trying to make logical sense of it, because I can’t really – the only thing I can point to is a perceived (unjustified) thematic seriousness in Avatar that I don’t like and didn’t see in Speed Racer, but others don’t necessarily perceive that, so I can’t really justify it. I guess it falls into your subjective realm that can’t be defended or attacked with reason.

And re: classic Hollywood films, yeah. I can overlook so much bad dialogue and even bad acting because there’s something about the style that I just adore. I’m much happier watching a “bad” 1930s film than a “bad” 2000s film. Can’t explain that either.

Jonathan Hardesty
Guest

Rot, I’m more able to adjust expectations to the situation now than I was a few years back. Being able to forgive classic-Hollywood era dialogue is kind of why I have to re-visit my expectations on modern Hollywood films where spectacle is really all there is. For example, I have this blu-ray of Speed Racer I still need to watch. I know from the children’s anime that the dialogue will be simplistic and the film will be a style over substance situation. It gets harder to make that distinction with some films over others, though. Oddly enough, not watching trailers has helped immensely on this front as I can come in with no preconceived notion and I can take it as it is instead of what I’ve been promised.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

hehe. THE CORE put my wife into labour. It was the last film we saw together before we were parents. After that our free time to go out to see goofy-enjoyable bad movies together was “unobtainium.”

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I have a real soft spot for weird Shakespeare adaptations that do not follow the text very well, like THE KING AND THE CLOWN or THE BANQUET.

Matt Gamble
Guest

Likewise, Gamble telling me that I’m “wrong” or Kurt calling me “bald” for not feeling any sort of ‘wow’ factor in the “trench scene” in Rango is equally bullshit. Because sorry, that was an action scene plain and simple. And for me, it didn’t deliver. That is not “wrong” or “obtuse.”

Actually, you can totally have a subjective opinion that is wrong. And in criticism you have to be open to the possibility that your feelings are, can and will be wrong.

Matt Gamble
Guest

One’s feelings, unless they have a legitimate clinical problem, cannot be “wrong.”

Says the guy who shit on Greg’s opinions about Dogtooth. Or anyone who wrote for The Movie Blog. If their feelings can’t be wrong then why get so worked up about it?

Matt Gamble
Guest

interpret something incorrectly

This is the definition of being wrong. Likewise, missing details can cause someone to form an improper opinion, the person behind you may be kicking you seat the entire film and it causes you to miss key plot point thus causing you to not understand the story and thus conclude the film isn’t good, or you could be Kurt and pan a film without ever watching it.

All of those are examples of how someone’s opinion can potentially be wrong.

Otherwise you will need to start arguing that Kurt’s belief that Kung Fu Panda is a bad movie without ever seeing it is a valid critique. Because, you know, that’s just his opinion, man.

rot
Guest

Matt Gamble “you can totally have a subjective opinion that is wrong” Sure, like I said, if you are making that walk into the street but when talking about ‘feeling’, which is what Andrew is saying, it is absurd for someone to say your feeling is wrong, or to put in another way, to say “you don’t really feel that”. Andrew really feels the action scene in Rango doesn’t thrill. That is what I was saying is untouchable.

the ‘what’ you feel is untouchable, the ‘why’ is up for grabs.

Kurt
Guest

My crapping on Kung Fu Panda is a judgement, not a criticism. There are plenty of other animated and other films in the sea, thus my lack of interest in seeking KFP out. Then of course it becomes a conversational in joke and the whole thing is just overblown. Funny though, like Ronin.

I think Rot is onto something, our podcast is more of a conversational format that formal, well argued criticism would be. We are simply shooting the shit, perhaps intelligently, perhaps not. I like the format, but it is hardly “AUTHORITATIVE” film criticism! Wowsers, Gamble – thanks for the hubris!

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

Rot (or Andrew), would you allow, though, that “what” you feel is sometimes not as related to the film as much as it immediately seems to be? Matt brought up the example of someone kicking your seat throughout a film distracting you from understanding it, but I can point to plenty of cases where some environmental discomfort or other affected how I “felt” about a film. Not suggesting that’s the case in anything discussed so far in this thread, just wondering if you experience that. The first time I saw The Matrix was in a really crowded, really loud cinema somewhere in Scotland where apparently the concept of being quiet to watch a movie didn’t exist. I didn’t like the film AT ALL. I came home, watched it again a year later on DVD and LOVED IT. The experience of seeing it with that audience in that theatre was so bad that it utterly affected what I felt about the film. I’ve never had an experience that extreme, but there are lots of times where seeing things in different environments, or with more knowledge about the film, or at a different time in my life, or whatever, has vastly changed not only how I think intellectually about a film, but how I react to it viscerally as well. I guess I agree that yes, people are going to have their subjective opinions and you can’t really argue against that, but I don’t think it’s out of turn to suggest that someone take another look at something.

Jay C.
Guest

On “reviewing the movie not for what it is but you wanted it to be”:

This statement’s validity rests solely upon the demands of the person being accused of it. You can’t discredit this accusation before knowing the most important detail: What did they want it to be? I think it’s a critical piece of information and without it, you could never truly invalidate this sort of accusation.

On subjectivity and whether or not someone’s opinion can be wrong:

I think the Dogtooth point Matt brought up is a good example. This came up on the Film Junk podcast. Criticisms were hurled at the film for the inconsistent use of word replacement that seemed to be completely pointless. This criticism was formulated out of a misunderstanding that the words DID in fact have a purpose and weren’t inconsistent at all. NOT a valid criticism, therefor the opinion formed based on that information is NOT valid. You can still say you didn’t like that aspect of the film AFTER learning of the true meaning behind it, but you CAN’T criticize that aspect of the film for the same reasons you did previously.

Same with the dance number. A scene that’s criticized for being pointless and stupid by those who miss the fact that she’s mimicking Flashdance. Again, doesn’t mean the scene can’t be criticized for what it IS. It just can’t be criticized for what it ISN’T.

Having said all of that, I am also perfectly fine with someone simply saying they just don’t care and don’t want to be bothered with a film like Dogtooth. That’s not a reflection of the quality of the film though.

rot
Guest

Jandy, sure… I am not saying what someone feels about a film is right related to the film, just that it is right as in it is pure reaction (whatever the circumstances surrounding that reaction). This mostly applies to strong feelings of like or dislike… it makes no sense to question that, but if the person wishes to engage in a film debate/discussion you can undermine the motive for the feeling contrasting their interpretation and expectations with what is empirical within the film.

I just think in the enthusiasm of making things social we are all too ready to disenfranchise the value of immediacy in film experience and make everything an equation of right and wrong. We are individuals, and we should take precedence ultimately over the devotion of the film object like it is an oracle more than a jumping off point.

Kurt
Guest

I offer you this from an article on that will be posted in Sunday’s Bookmarks —

“Back in 1900, the trustees of the Boston Symphony Orchestra commissioned a beautiful new auditorium. Around the edge of the gold proscenium they mounted a series of nine flat plaques, three on the left, three on the right and three overhead. The plan was to inscribe these plaques with the names of the world’s nine greatest composers. We can imagine the names that were being thrown around. Bach, Handel and Haydn, Mozart, Brahms. But when it came time to actually sit down and determine which composers would be honored, the trustees couldn’t make up their minds. And so, for the past 111 years, visitors to Boston Symphony Hall sit before a gold proscenium with eight empty plaques. Only one, at the very top, contains a name, the only one the trustees could all agree on: Beethoven.

“Everyone has their own taste,” right? “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

This commonplace was noted by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who strongly criticized it. Kant’s argument went like this: If you declare that something gives you pleasure, nobody can argue with you.

Subjective pleasure is absolutely in the eye of the beholder (assuming that the eye is the organ involved). But if you announce that something is beautiful, you have made a public value judgment. You’ve identified that thing as source of pleasure that can be enjoyed by anyone.

In making such a declaration, you exercise the faculty known as taste.

It makes no sense to say that “everyone has their own taste.” This is tantamount to claiming there’s no common pleasure at all, only personal pleasure.But experience tells us this isn’t true. People agree that objects are pleasant or unpleasant all the time!”

Kurt
Guest

Here is the full article if you do not wish to wait until the SUNDAY post.

http://www.ludix.com/moriarty/apology.html

rot
Guest

Kurt, exactly. Kant was quoting me.

Ms Curious
Guest

Every semester I find myself lecturing on the difference between ‘an aritst’s intent’ and ‘an individual’s interpretation’ (it always comes up). I try, though I am usually unsuccessful, to gear students towards the notion that we are not really in the position of commenting on the ‘intent’ of an artist. How would we or could we really know what intent an artist in any genre has? Even where an artist states their intent…well even then…can we really be sure this statement is true, or their ability to communicate their intent is interpretated the same way by all?

From my perspective all we can do is evaluate ‘the work’ on a subjective level and offer our opinions. Even when we attempt to be objective we still bring to such, an ‘imagined’ objectivity…for a certain level of subjectivity must always persist.

Our ‘feelings’ about a particular film, novel, poem, play, comment etc are always of interest. However they must, no matter how deeply we ‘feel’ about our position be put down to nothing more than ‘feelings’. Feelings cannot be considered incorrect. We can’t be criticised for any ‘feelings’ we have, we’re entitled to have whatever ‘feelings’ we have about a particular work etc.

However, if we wish to put forward an opinion, as opposed to a ‘feeling’, then we need to have at the very least something to support the opinion, and it needs to be a bit more substantial than ‘I felt’. Even then, opinions supported by evidence can still in the main be nothing more than a subjective viewpoint. Let’s face it, the same piece of evidence can become the foundation for a completely alternavie viewpoint which in turn is equally subjective.

From my point of view true ‘objectivity’ is nothing more than an ideal. Like all ideals, it is ultimately unattainable.

The best we can all do is try to consider other viewpoints, weigh up evidence to support varying positions and gradually, perhaps bring our own position a little closer to the objectivity we all imagine we offered in the first instance.

Goon
Guest

i use the one liner this post is based around pretty frequently and stand by it, even if sometimes i end up disliking a film in spite of what the film being exactly what it intends to be. I fall back to the idea that its relative the world the film creates. So in the case of Speed Racer, I think the dialogue is actually great, carefully chosen, intentionally cheesy and punny, following the logic of the world the film creates. In “Speed Racer”‘s world, “More like nonjas” is biting wit, performed with complete confidence, and is treated as such by everyone, and for me, I go with that world’s rules, and I laugh my ass off at the one liner. In a different film that line could make my eyes roll. So for me ‘bad dialogue’ is relative.

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