Thursday, June 12, 2014

FILM CRITISM: THOUGHTS ON THE ART AND CRAFT ITSELF, AND SELF-DEFINITION IN LIGHT OF CHRIS STUCKMANN'S VIDEO!

(NOTE: Much of this blogpost was first published/written previously in the Facebook group, "Cinema Discussions".)

Chris Stuckmann's name has popped up surprisingly often lately in a few of the Facebook film groups I'm apart of and promote my blog in. I've known about him and numerous other video film critics for awhile, as well as numerous other critics through this little segment of the blogosphere we populate, the film buffs I mean. I usually don't mention them, for mostly selfish reasons as I'd rather you all be under the impression that nobody else other than my voice and opinion is remotely valid, good, more correct or comparable compared to my own superior one, but for the purposes of this article, we're gonna fanciful presume that that's not necessarily the case, and discuss film criticism itself, in light of one of Stuckmann's latest video about, film criticism actually. And come to think of it, we never really discussed film criticism in general on this blog either, and this is actually a decent way to get into that, and I've noticed with me, there's certainly-, I do think there is a gap with some of you, between my perspective on film and film criticism, and my intended audience, some of you, but also with other similar critics in my similar position, or better even. And I never really discuss this much here, what is my perspective and my point of view. If somebody asks, I'll mention why I do things a certain way or think a certain way, but mostly I just throw myself on here, whatever myself is that day, and longtime readers will know it varies wildly, and just, let it exist for your consumption, and I expect you all to consume it, without really explaining or putting into context sometimes, in terms of myself, and how and why I look at things the way I do, and possibly because-, in fact in certain cases, I know, this has gotten lost in translation with certain people, and this might be a good time and place to really go into that a little bit more thoroughly than perhaps I should at times. So, this is gonna be, one of those times essentially, and we're gonna do that a bit, in light of Stuckmann's piece, which other critics also contributed too btw.

The only other thing I'll mention is that I do subscribe to Stuckmann, as well as numerous other reviewers, I don't usually watch or read them though, I usually subscribe to others, mostly 'cause they're competition and I want to see what they're doing and keep up, or doing something completely, etc. etc.; I have seen a few of Chris Stuckmann's pieces; I liked his reactions to the Oscar nomination videos in the past; I had the exact same reaction he did when "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" got nominated for instance, which was funny as hell, and I like his look at action movies, that said, generally I don't watch his videos often, and while I don't dislike him and I admit he's certainly a critic who's opinion I at least, find curious to hear about and is fairly knowledgeable about film, and certain films and genres more than others, he's not a critic that I particularly follow or look up regularly, while a lot of what I have seen of his, I think is good, including this video especially, he not somebody who I would say is a favorite critic or anything of that nature. If somebody mentions him in passing, I might look him up that week, but other than that, he's not a name, that would jump into my head, if I recommending a critic to somebody. Certainly nothing against him by any means, but he's not somebody I consider special either; so that's my view on him. Alright, let's take a look at his Youtube video that we'll discuss. Some of you may have already seen it.



Okay, well first of all, I pretty much agree with most everything Mr. Stuckmann he most says about criticism. Most of it in fact, is pretty much the same way I look at film, and how I approach criticism, the only point I would make is that for every rule that he mentioned, there are exceptions. Everyone has exceptions, not all reviews are gonna be the same, and something I don't think he connected a bit was that, a lot of that has to do with your voice. He makes good points about the voice of a critic, but a lot of times when I break with those, or go about them is a more unusual, a lot of the reason is because I'm using a different voice to filter my thoughts on a movie through. People think a bit about actors who do this like pull out a character or a voice for a blind audition, but writers have to do it, especially a screenwriter like me, too, you have to constantly be thinking, "How this character thinks and does things differently than this character", so as writers, you create those characters, and take a grab from influences to do so, and you keep a few of those characters in your back pocket in your back pocket. For instance, when I want to be, the moody, float above the crowd aloof film critic in my review, and often I am, it's because the movie made me. (I also sorta disagree with Stuckmann that that perception is necessarily a bad thing.) Like my review of "Upstream Color" where I trashed the film and then mentioned that I was looking at the computer screen next to me, 'cause the movie made me do that. That's showing you my reaction to the film, by what it made me do, 'cause a truly great film, I don't care how high your critic blinders are, it will penetrate them. That doesn't mean you come in with them, sometimes you do though, and you should be honest about that too. That goes back to his point about Siskel saying, "I felt," and stuff like that. If I'm angry enough to pull out my ranting, raving character at a movie, and that's the best way I feel literally and emotionally my reaction to a film, to make my point across, than I will. Now again, I repeat these are the exceptions, these are the 1 out of 100s or whatever exceptions to that, but it's all about trying best to write and express your opinions, and that is the ultimate struggle of a critic. This is how I like to compartmentalize it and that works for me; it doesn't work for everybody. Most of the time, he's right, synopsis, opinions, positive, negatives, if a film has them, a little bit film theory and analysis if you think it's worth your time, and again, you start with those basics and then expand from there to include most everything you want to say or write about a film.

The positives and negatives for instance, I don't completely agree with. That's good in certain cases, that also could be dissecting a film too much and sometimes the overall impact is more important than the sum of its parts, and I think it's more relevant too. A lot of movies can have lots of things good or bad with them, and still, overall be the opposite of that, and I think if we're giving a movie it's day in court, the first thing we should consider is the whole movie, then perhaps look at the parts.

Now other than that, it's obvious that Mr. Stuckmann did this video, in a large part because of his frustration with written critics who write their reviews and video critics who post their reviews. Well, first I will say that Stuckmann and some of his guests are definitely, some of the better video reviewers out there, for many of the reasons discussed. He's right, for me, it's not that I look down on video critics, but they are two different things. Roger Ebert's written reviews were very different than how he and Siskel/Roeper discussed on camera. For one thing there's a back-and-forth (Which I personally decided I'm not even gonna try video unless there's two people and someone with me, 'cause I think these solo ones, even at their best, don't play well to me. You need a tennis match, not the announce calling 15/Love, and the rest of the scores, to me anyway) but there's also a shorthand. They're discussing, arguing about the film, not so much getting into the analytical. Video should be where the 500 words of passion it takes me to write down should be expressed in a few facial expressions and 2 or 3 intelligent quips and blurbs, and frankly they're so different in my view that I wouldn't even compare them actually.

I mentioned that he's right about style and he's especially right about grades. The only reasons I use 5 STARS is because, it's simple, and most people understand it and I don't have to think too deeply about it. Frankly, if I can afford to use the thumbs, I'd use that, 'cause that's better. It's the most eloquent way of saying yes or no, ever invented and it sucks that we can't use them. I hate it when they're too complicated like even "What the Flick", using a 0-10 scale, with decimal points, so 110, different scores they can give a movies, or the overly complex systems some bloggers and critics have; that's way too extensive and dumb. I would add, keep it as simple as possible, especially since they really can be a pain in the ass sometimes.

I disagree with him about critics feeling above everyone. Frankly, I wouldn't write if I didn't believe at some level that I had a certain point of view and a certain amount of knowledge that put my perspectives above most peoples. That doesn't mean we're not having fun or aren't fans, quite the contrary, to me, that perspective is perfectly fine and in fact better than most, "WHEN YOU CAN BACK IT UP," with actual knowledge and intelligent analysis. It's when people act like that, without the passion or even and understanding or knowledge of what they're talking about (Rex Reed) is when I get upset. I also think the extreme opposite is just as bad, if not worst the "fan" or "fanboy" perspective that I can't stand most of the time, 'cause it's a completely bias opinion; you're already confessing fandom, and you're basically gonna like or go see certain things more than others. I don't get that opinion what-so-ever in fact. Even when there are good critics who come from that perspective and concede that perspective, to me, that means you're giving preference as your top analytical tool as oppose to critical analysis, and if you're not gonna look at film critically, then why are you a critic? You're just a guy talking about the films you love/hate at that point. Also, the fact that somebody would go out of their way, especially when they aren't getting paid to write or do a video review, should already tell you they're fans and it shouldn't be something that's reiterated as the perspective. How you view a movie has to be more than that.

That's the other thing that frustrates me, this "everyman" perspective that most of the critics here seem to take, "Talking with friends about film", and this might annoy and piss some people off about me, but I'm not that everyman. I was the smartest kid in the class, whether I actually was or not, and most of my life when people asked me what I thought, it was because I was the one that saw it a different way than everybody else, and looked at it differently. I didn't talk about films with anybody, they talked by themselves about films (or anything really)  and then they turned to me and said, "Settle this for us?" or "What do you mean that didn't work or we're wrong about this?" and I'd be the one correcting, and pointing things out and most of the time by the end they'd realize, "Oh, so that's how to do it, or that's what that was and that why...-" That was me! The guy who suddenly spoke up and everyone rethought everything they thought they knew. So this more, relaxed friendly, average man perspective, I don't get that at all. If I didn't know, then in all likelyhood nobody knew. (That wasn't true most of the time, there was often somebody I knew was smart that me, who would know, but I was always asked about it first, and that was the perception.) That said, Stuckmann's right about being influenced by other reviewers, and I can do that too at time, but- there's a difference between evolving as a film viewer and appreciating something you might not have understood at first, but to completely change opinion based on a critic's though, that's- yeah, I hate that. I hated playing that role, and when I come out with a thought-provoking passionate view on a film, I want people to bounce back at me when they disagree. You have no idea how pissy it is for me, being able to sway many people that greatly, 'cause it means, I was thinking, and hardly anyone else thought at all; that's frustrating! That's the "everyman" to me, the people who come up occasionally to me, and wonder what I think, but then either disregard when I actually show I can think, or because fascinated with how I actually can think and suddenly they're looking at me like I'm some sort- I don't know what, but I'm trying to get others to keep up and challenge me, make me think, make me feel something I haven't already felt or thought!- I get more of that from the films than everybody else most of the time. If I can be this intellectual and this passionate about a film to get these thoughts and opinions across and bash a movie someone might love or whatever, convince me with the same passion and thoughts that I put into it, only do it better, challenge me! The smarter we are, the more we want to be challenge 'cause most of the time, we aren't, and that sucks, and it makes us feel that we are more correct about the films, and about everyone else and the "everyman", the "fan", whatever you want to call it. That's what that perspective is to me, this really undesirable anti-intellectual perspective, that doesn't appreciate when people who strive to be better than others and themselves and actually tries to help them out, and instead, ironically I'm often the one called "pretentious" for this, and I think that's insane, they're the pretentious ones? Aren't they, I pour my heart and guts into everything, and they disregard, make fun of it, says something like "Well, that's your opinion?" I come in with full guns blazing, and then I get treated like my water pistol's empty? That's my experience, with the "everyman", and I'm like, "Dude I just shot you!" You gonna act like it didn't do anything? At least shoot me in the head and prove that I missed you completely like in "Pulp Fiction", instead of just going about like I don't understand, when I do everything I can to understand more than anybody. That's pretentious, to be so gleefully disregarding of a view like that.

Scott Mantz is right about the "checking the reviews after we watch movies" more, that's actually a very good description of what film criticism has become; I think even moreso for critics strangely as well as the public. I don't know if that's a good thing, I love reading the newspaper and the local alternative rags for the critic reviews, (That's part of why I post them all at once, to emulate a Friday paper with a bunch of reviews in fact) so I think that's a little tricky because I think critics should be the first way we hear about a movie, because we're the ones who, take the bullet. We spend our lives informing everybody, this is good, this is bad, etc., so you guys don't have to waste your money on films you might not even like. That's my goal, if I can make one person, watch something they wouldn't or keep as many people away from something they would've dived into blindly, save them from ruining two precious hours of their life, that's part of it. Why we do this, so that should be more prominent, and I wish it were.

I don't agree about Alicia Malone' point about not seeing movie you don't think you'll like it, especially as a critic, and on the same token, the reviewer vs. critic debate, they are two different things but again, reviewers I file into the same boat and fanboy critic and everyman critic. You should try to watch everything. Admit your biases when you have to of course, but don't let that be a factor in regards to what you view and review 'cause then you're just a fan who watches what he/she likes. I don't want to write about films that suck either (Or films that are average and boring which is worse than the ones that simply suck, 'cause at least that kind of hatred is emotional) but I think you need to continually expand yourself and advocate that, if you can. Being a specialist is one thing, I actually admire a lot of classic film blogs and critics myself, and even you've determine be limiting that's one thing, but you should still promote watching as much as you can, 'cause you can miss so much by doing that, you have no idea, literally, if you don't see it, you'll never know if you would've liked it or not. So you gotta try to watch everything, what you want and what you don't. To me, that's a critical difference, a reviewer will watch what he/she wants/likes and a critic will watch what he doesn't want to or doesn't like. Not because he wants to bash something either; he does it mostly 'cause he hopes he's wrong if anything.

So, those were some of my thoughts after Stuckmann's video, and as you can see, there's-eh.- there's a lot I had to say 'cause I think I needed to elaborate my position and clear up a few things, for you, my audience, as well as my own sense of self, really, 'cause obviously, I wouldn't even mention this, if I didn't think it was worth mentioning and exploring and I certainly believe it is, not just because, it is a good guide on film criticism how one and others should go about it, (And btw, people should look up that "Siskel & Ebert on Film Criticism" video he mentions a few times, I've seen it multiple times as well, that's a great guide as well) , it's also a very good video, but I do have, very distinct differences of viewpoint as most these other fellow critics of mine, and I always did, and I want to promote that actually, 'cause that's what I am. I'm not a fanboys, I'm not an everyman, I don't want to simply talk about film with you guys like I'm your friends, or whatever that means. This is how I am, and it's not gonna be the preferred perspective of going about film criticism for everybody, which is a shame 'cause I want everyone to read and be influenced and interested by what I write, but I can't make everyone read it yet. (I'm certainly working on it, as well as other plans for world domination, but obviously it's not there yet) And also because I don't think my view is as prominent right now as Stuckmann or Schmoes, and I want it to be, and I want to express why my perspective and others like mine is also valid, if not moreso than others. This very analytical and intellectual perspective that I have, that has a lot of sides to it as well, and isn't the cliche aloof, film-hating critic that some people perceive us to be, and really explain this point of view, in a way that other can understand and appreciate if not necessary agree with this perspective, and why people like me and others actually prefer it to other kinds, and I'll be blunt, I think it's better than most of the other perspectives I see out there.

So maybe that's what I have to give, and I've given it; maybe my viewpoint will change later, but I don't think it will for awhile.
Post a Comment