May 17 2010

For the Love of the Art

"I guess I see myself as a kind of professional appreciator."

I love movies.  I love all types of art: literature, comics, music, photography, and painting.  I’m an appreciator of most creative endeavors, and my primary goal with this website, at least in the case of the films, is to share that love with other people.  You can think of this as the mission statement I never wrote when we started this website almost a year ago, but my real intention is to question the act and processes of criticism of the arts, and the way in which I’m contributing to it at the moment.

If you’ve been thoroughly reading my work for this website, which I’m sure most of you have not, you will have noticed a pattern.  I like or love way more movies than I dislike or hate them, at least amongst the films reviewed on the website.  There are multiple reasons for this, but the primary one is this: as someone who’s doing this work without any pay, I’m damn well going to watch the movies I want to watch.  I have a pretty good idea of what my taste in movies is, and what gaps in filmic history need to be fulfilled sooner rather than later.  For my own viewing I try and keep a balance of educational and just plain fun, but the point is that, in general, I intentionally choose films that I know I will enjoy.  The other is that I usually can find something to appreciate in most films that are out there, even if they are mediocre or bad.  If there’s truly very little to appreciate it, I still can learn and gain something from the experience.  Even if it’s just to laugh at it.

Watch this movie, please.

Let’s be clear here, I’m not condoning giving bad movies a pass.  As you’ve seen with reviews such as Dance of the Dead, I’m not afraid to rip into a movie when it deserves it.  Although even that film did have some good points to offer, and it’s budget nature should allow it some credit.  I could even see that film growing a cult following around it’s over-the-top and independent nature.  So you see, I have a bit of trouble committing even to the movies I really didn’t like, because someone else might like them.  I go to Kevin Smith for a paraphrased quote, “Make ‘em all, I say.”  Any given film that I don’t like might be loved by someone else, and if it means more work for some filmmaker, then great.  No, Twilight isn’t for me, and I disagree with some of the values it instills with young women, but the money from it helped pay for the purchase and distribution of The Hurt Locker, which I very much enjoyed.  This brings me to another intelligent point that I read on Twitter recently.  This one’s from one of my favorite comic artists, Skottie Young, “I don’t understand the desire tear down the things you don’t like when it’s so much more fruitful to spread the word on the things you do.”  I’m not speaking to any specific negative criticisms here, but I do feel like an unnecessary amount of time is spent ripping things apart, when we could just be spending that time sharing something we really love with the world.  Hell, you’re probably giving that bad piece of “art” more publicity than it deserves by publishing or talking about it.

Older films are fun, too.

That said, I do grate against the general culture when it comes to taste in entertainment.  I will admit to holding the view that people are not discerning enough when it comes to what they view.  Also, if I can save someone else wasted hours that I have already spent in vain, why not save them the trouble by explaining to them in as clear and constructive a way as possible why a certain piece of culture is not worth their time.  I prefer to direct audience attention to a better film, if possible, and to slowly adjust their tastes to something with a little more quality, but sometimes you have to throw up a hazard sign if truly dangerous things are ahead.  I think we’re trying to do a number of things with this site.  First and foremost is share the movies with love with our (small) audience.  Secondly, we’d like to help readers understand what it is that makes these films fantastic, so that they can better appreciate these pieces of art.  I hope this will also help them seek out and appreciate other great films, as well.  In the long run, though, hopefully this will help them have a critical eye of their own for movies and be able to have intelligent insights and discussion of their own.  It certainly wouldn’t hurt if we shifted a few people’s tastes away from some of the more schlocky contributions of Hollywood, either.

Once again, I’m not going to point fingers at any particular “schlocky contributions” in this case.  But, I will say this, why settle for a mediocre film on the New Release wall, when you can view a much better classic film and enjoy it even more.  Just because it’s new, doesn’t mean it’s fresh.  Yes filmmaking techniques have changed over time, and you may be used to the current modern mode of filmmaking, but even without some of the more recent tools, there still was likely a specific reason that every decision was made on a film.  If a film has slower pacing, it may have been intended to make your journey as rough as the character being depicted.  People often miss the stark beauty and tones of black and white in favor of viewing it as a “lack of color.”  There’s a whole world of fantastic films in languages other than English that are much better than some of the standard fare as well.  Maybe a lot of this stuff isn’t your thing, but maybe you just haven’t found the right genre, or the right director to show you its true potential.

All I’m trying to say is that I’m here to share with you some films that I think are great.  I’ve been considering beginning a column, briefer than our standard reviews, of just unabashed “recommends.”  If this is something that interests you, let me know in the comments below.  Otherwise, I’ll continue to work primarily with the films that I love all around this website.  If you end up deciding to watch anything I’ve recommended and end up enjoying it, I’ll consider my job well done.

2 Responses to “For the Love of the Art”

  • gouxmom Says:

    Nice article James. Very positive and refreshing. I’ll look forward to your recommendations.

  • Libby22 Says:

    Wow! You didn’t like Dance of the Dead? I’m not sure I have any interest in reading your other reviews then! 😉 lol

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