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.
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Cinecast Episode 194 – An Island of Loneliness

After several weeks of ‘shooting the shit’ and not bothering with the current film releases, we attempt to make up for lost time, and even (mother mercy!) get ahead of the game. This episode is loaded down with SPOILER-style reviews of two films in limited release (there is your fair warning) and one that many are looking forward to this Christmas. But fear not dear listeners, Black Swan is getting wider by the week and Finnish oddity Rare Exports, a delightfully deadpan anti-Christmas kids flick is probably coming to a theatre near you any moment now, hopefully VOD or other distribution channels will follow. The last is the Coen Brothers latest, a re-envisioning of the Charles Portis novel that is similar enough to the 1960s John Wayne movie in story and plot that spoilers are more or less moot. The boys pour on the love of classic westerns as well as experimental looks in the genre from Cat Ballou to Deadwood. And being that years end is just around the corner, it is time for lists once again. All three of us present our TOP FIVE female performances as an appetizer for our ten picks of the year. Some great DVD choices this week lead into a rousing “discussion” (and by discussion, we mean an epic They Live styled “PUT THE GLASSES ON” smackdown with Gamble doing his best Roddy Piper and Andrew assuming the stoic Keith David position) of how ‘interesting’ Michel Gondry’s Green Hornet is for what it is. It is worth staying to the end for that one, even if Kurt throws up his hands in exasperation of the whole argument. Oh, and just to mix things up a little we talk some Terrence Malick and the recently web-release Tree of Life Trailer.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!



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ALTERNATIVE (no music track):

Full show notes are under the seats…
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Cinecast Episode 194 – (Alt. No Music Version)

Cinecast Episode 194 (alternate version with no music). This post is simply for streaming purposes and easier access for iTunes subscribers. For full show notes and listener comments, please visit the official post for this episode.




Review: Black Swan


“I kill myself for you people every night!” so the unspoken cry of the stage actor, or in this case the professional Ballerina, goes. Darren Aronofsky continues his examination of the psyches of performers, started with The Wrester but comes at it from the opposite direction to his previous picture age- and experience-wise. Black Swan charts the anxieties and temptations of a young ballerina, Nina (Natalie Portman,) as she gets her shot at the big-time in a production of “Swan Lake.” Nina has just been picked by legendary Ballet director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel, oddly restrained) to replace his aging muse (Winona Ryder) and take the central dual role of the Swan Queen in his ‘visceral’ production of the most famous (or overdone) ballet. Nina is young enough that she is still living at home with her mother, amongst her pink stuffies and white laced bedspreads. She is a perfectionist, but not yet an artist, naïve and a career surrogate for her mother who only made it so far in the dance world in her day before having children. It is nice to see Barbara Hershey in this film, but I wish she had a little more to do. That applies to pretty much the entire cast with the exception of Portman. Aronofsky keeps the camera on her face when things are happening to her, but also favours that ‘behind the head’ technique used frequently in The Wrestler. There is something about the technique that undercuts the film. It worked for the sad optimism of Randy The Ram, but for the acute performance anxiety and burbling internal pressures of Nina, the more aggressive techniques he used in pi and Requiem for a Dream may have better served things. As it stands, there is something about Black Swan that feels muted. For the high melodrama of the story and the cliché feel of many of the scenes, not the least of which that ‘there is always someone younger and hungrier to replace the lead,’ ‘it’s lonely at the top,’ etc. a little more bombast may have helped things along. This certainly is not a character study as the characters are all in total subservience to the metamorphosis (physical, psychological) angle of the story.
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