@Uli — yeah, I must be the only person on earth who doesn’t like it. Seriously. Of course, I must be contrary (though I wasn’t intending to be). :)
you’re a freak, Odi, a silly freak
Ha ha ha! And I’m lovin’ it, Uli!
Wouldn’t that then also be true of secondary opinions like these?
Probably. I can think of few things in life that matter less than exchanging opinions about opinions about films.
And this, my friends, is why you should have a healthy distrust of learning “film theory” from an Internet forum.
@matt“Because it doesn’t communicate anything . . . not that one has to be interested in communicating anything, but if that’s the case I don’t see much point in buzzing around an internet forum.”
but my point is that nothing CAN be communicated other than preference, because taste in art is 100% subjective
This is why universities typically require classes on critical thinking and logic, by the way. So that we don’t waste our time discussing about why communication is a waste of time when it’s not.
DiB, I cannot understand anything you are saying.
no one has suggested that communication is a waste of time
this is why elementary schools typically require classes on… reading…….
Curtis, by communicating preference, people are interacting, relating, learning about others. With knowledge we can better communicate in the future, the better the communication, the better the understanding, the better the understanding, the better the relationship, the better the relationship, the better chance for societal success.
Society is becoming less civil because our communication is lacking. The circle of life.
And yes, just talking about some stupid film in a civil way can make society better.
But settling on the half-truth of subjectivity without acknowledgment to how communication is designed to bridge subjectivity with shared meaning is in negligence to the concept of critical thinking. Certainly many, if not most, users on this board come here to talk about cinema in terms of what they do or do not prefer, but many also prefer to talk about cinema in terms of other methods of understanding it.
An example (because every point should have an example and every example should have a point). In the recent thread started by ThisLife on Cinema Paradiso, he sets the conversation forward by disagreeing with the theme of choosing art over love, describing how that movie gives that theme. From there, several people discussed that theme itself, while other people decided to discuss their preference for the movie or not. I responded to the thread by disagreeing with the original reading itself, pointing out how the theme of choosing art over love is one of its character’s specific influence, not the overall “meaning” of the text. The response I got was, “I still hate it (the movie)”, which had nothing to do with either a) the OP, nor b) my post. I never said I liked it. I just said that that reading of it is incomplete. And even though I “liked it”, I myself get pretty revulsed (subjectively) to sentimentalism too. I also gave the movie 5 stars for how well I viewed it as being made, but if I were to talk about it in terms of 100% subjective “preference”, I did not use the “become a fan of this movie option” because I am not a fan of it.
You see? The movie CAN be discussed in terms other than 100% subjective experience of preference. There are ways it communicates by presenting characters, dramatic elements, visual references, and so on that underline the reception of the movie itself in a viewer, even if that reception differs per viewer. When that reception differs, a discussion is made. Saying then that it is a waste of time to discuss it because it’s all subjective, is wasting time communicating that communication is a waste of time, since the point of discussing the movie is bridge the differences in subjective opinion as to what and how the movie communicates. We may not agree in the end, but the means of that debate are agreed upon by the mere act of getting involved in it.
Arguing “it’s all subjective” gets us nowhere when the reason we communicate is to confront subjectivity.
There is nothing wrong with saying “it’s all subjective,” but still take the time to defend your position in a civil manner. Just because it is a subjective opinion doesn’t mean we cannot attempt to look at and respect the subjective opinion of another and somewhat work toward an objective view.
@polaris water inc
i think you’ve assumed a lot about my views. all i stated was that merit is totally subjective and thus assertions about whether a film is good/bad shouldn’t and really can’t be backed up. i stand by that
obviously themes, ideas, meaning and so much more can and should be discussed by those interested. but debating whether a film is good or bad? a complete waste of time. it’s good to those who derived pleasure from watching it and bad to those who didn’t
One’s own subjective opinions are often influenced (whether consciously or subconsciously) by the opinions of other people, because gaining a new perspective on something can often open up a new sense of understanding and appreciation for that something.
I’ll take the credit for saying about Cinema Paradiso: “I still hate it.” But that being said, I think that one can mention one’s emotional reaction to a film and still have a civil discussion about it.
And I think it’s still within the realm of acceptability to mention one’s raw gut reaction to a film, and not derail the analytical discussion. I mean, I hope it’s ok, or perhaps I should hold my tongue in the future?…
In response to those comments about whether or not it’s okay to simply say a film didn’t engage you (I’m paraphrasing), it’s okay if a film didn’t really interest and wasn’t your cup of tea. What I have a problem with is when people say a film didn’t interest them or whatever and then use that as a reason for why the film itself was bad, and they say it’s the film’s fault. Rather, it should be nobody’s fault but rather the fault of circumstance. Perhaps it simply wasn’t your cup of tea, and that’s that. For all it’s worth, I’ve never been able to get into Ran, but I would hesitate to criticize the film other than to say I’ve tried watching it more than once, but it wasn’t my thing. Perhaps I’ll get back to it in the future.
@ThisLife — I think I pretty much said that Cinema Paradiso wasn’t my cup of tea, and I stated why — the overwhelming, to me, stereotypical Italian sentimentality made it difficult for me to watch. I am sure it has merits outside of that, and I’ve read everything that people have said about it on that particular thread, but it doesn’t change my mind about how ineffective the film was for me.
God knows I dislike lots of films that other people like, e.g. The Bad Lieutenant being one of the ones I’ve hardly ever heard anyone dislike as much as I do, but I honestly have no problem with other people liking the film. That’s their business. I don’t wear yellow shoes but you know what, yellow shoes suit some people just fine, and that’s cool.
And perhaps my comments were not directly in line with the initial question regarding the point of the film, but hey, this is a discussion board, not a class. If it’s a class, let me know, and I’ll politely keep my irrelevant views to myself.
BTW, I’m not pissed off. Just questioning whether comments about liking something or not liking it for particular reasons had any place in that particular discussion. Perhaps that (stating why one liked a film or not and why) is not what is desired in that discussion…
“nothing CAN be communicated other than preference, because taste in art is 100% subjective”
It’s not 100% subjective because you’re not encountering art in a vacuum, you’re coming to it from a cultural context that has its own values, goals, and standards. Your right, of course, that there’s no objective standard (nor should there be) for validating taste, but there is a certain level of intersubjective agreement among cinephiles about what makes a good film or a bad film, and this would be what one would be appealing to arguing the “good/bad” question—obviously this is far from 100% objective, but it’s far from 100% subjective too.
@matt“Your right, of course, that there’s no objective standard (nor should there be) for validating taste, but there is a certain level of intersubjective agreement among cinephiles about what makes a good film or a bad film, and this would be what one would be appealing to arguing the “good/bad” question—obviously this is far from 100% objective, but it’s far from 100% subjective too.”
but agreement is never across the board. i mean, take SEVEN SAMURAI (this is maybe not the best example). ever met a cinephile who didn’t like it? probably not. but that doesn’t make it definitively good. if someone watches it and finds it boring, their view is totes valid
sure, discovering a general consensus is useful because it can help people decide what to watch. “most people who like the same crap as me like ____, i’ll check it out.” but i think useful discussion about what’s good/bad stops there, for the most part
a few days ago i saw a discussion on year about the passion of joan of arc go something like this (abbreviated):
A: “i don’t like it. the acting’s not realistic”
B: “but you like bresson movies. the acting’s not realistic in his movies”
A: “yeah, but it’s unrealistic in a different way. blah blah blah”
and the whole argument unravels. because really, unless there’s an actual error, there’s no objective reason for disliking something. and there’s nothing wrong with that!
“but agreement is never across the board.”
Nope, doesn’t have to be, though.
And conversely, there’s no objective reason for liking something either?…
Come on people. We are not, nor ever will be, “objective.” It’s an ideal which is false and unachievable. You cannot apply scientific style reasoning to everything.
“We are not, nor ever will be, “objective.””
You can’t objectively prove that we won’t some day be able to! :)
@Uli You mentioned a day ago on this thread that a person should not only appreciate directors but the other people that collaborate on the making of a film. I’m right behind you on that one. I love to read and watch and meet people that are involved with making films and not only the director (such as at film festivals or other film events or workshops for example). I think it can possibly lead to a deeper appreciation for the teamwork of a film crew.
@Matt — ha ha ha! I just tripped on your tongue. :)
The very fact that this objectivity/subjectivity debate still rages is more proof of my premise that film criticism has not done an adequate job in articulating a meaningful standard of value—something that would somehow be inclusive of the diverse elements of filmmaking and film reception that keep running through this thread.
It works in every other art. Why not in film? Because film scholars suck and people who watch film don’t want to be told that their favorites suck.
You might not enjoy Chinese Opera, but if you study its origins, structures and atonal progressions, you should be able to “objectively” discern between quality and poor examples. It’s NOT all just taste: is anyone arguing that Tolkien is better than Shakespeare? That “Love Me Do” is better than “In My Life?”
This is what happens in the Internet age of higher education. Learning lacks depth and instead is replaced by the instant Wikipedia gratification of aphoristic ideas. “Everything’s all equal because equality is an admirable virtue,” or “No one can refute my personal choice because Freedom of Choice is an admirable virtue.”
These are shallow reductions of ideas used to confound further discussion. The more important and thorny issue (as mentioned by another poster) for filmmakers no less than viewers and critics should be to account for HOW the film achieves its effects on its viewers. Instead of either breathless, bloated tributes or terse thumbs up/thumbs down verdicts, film criticism should be lean and incisive with meaningfully constructed arguments and keen use of verbs instead of adjectives. There is nothing in this sense which would prioritize the insights of a fan over a cinephile, a director over a cinematographer. The value of one’s opinion would be self-evident in the concreteness with which one unfolded the workings of the film and one’s reaction to it.
Film theory has a parallel responsibility to articulate the (provisionary) means by which we are to determine QUALITY. Not to plug my own website, but one simple way to look at film is as an amalgam of four operational modes: discursive (writing), performative (acting), visionary (camera and sound), meditative (director). Most films/artists simply employ these modes. But those who innovate or excel (such as Bergman or Rohmer in discursive mode, Cassavetes or Fred and Ginger in performative, Paradjonov or Wong in visual, Ozu or Tarkovsky in meditative) in any or several modes can thus qualitatively said to be “better” or more worthy of study.
I expect that there will be a great storm of disagreement from both the subjectivists and the objectivists. My point, however, is not that I am right; but that wrong and right exist, even in art.
Very interesting Dave and PolarisDib. I agree on the fact that some people use the idea that everything is equal in terms of quality in film; “its all subjective” as a way that is reductive to further useful discussion that would move into as wide an array of topics relating to the human condition and socio/politcal discussion which film provides as an art form. As a result of this you can say that it is this deeper conversation which is truly relevant to us and furthers us. I feel it’s about perspective; we can make an objective judgment on a film if we narrow down the angle we’re looking at it from e.g. morality. I believe you can objectively say that “The Dark Knight” is nihilistic, grim and pessimistic in it’s outlook of the world whilst “The Tree of Life” is the opposite with it’s purpose of self-affirmation amongst the rest of God’s creation. Wether or not that makes either film better or worse is what’s subjective.
Whoa, I don’t think I like Dave’s assessment of what film should be. In fact, if it existed the way he described, I think I’d stay about as far away from cinema as humanly possible (as would most filmmakers, I believe).
His four operational modes remind me of studios’ four quadrant film.
“Film theory has a parallel responsibility to articulate the (provisionary) means by which we are to determine QUALITY. Not to plug my own website, but one simple way to look at film is as an amalgam of four operational modes: discursive (writing), performative (acting), visionary (camera and sound), meditative (director). Most films/artists simply employ these modes. But those who innovate or excel (such as Bergman or Rohmer in discursive mode, Cassavetes or Fred and Ginger in performative, Paradjonov or Wong in visual, Ozu or Tarkovsky in meditative) in any or several modes can thus qualitatively said to be “better” or more worthy of study.”
soooooo, the informed way to determine high quality is to focus on works that “excel” above others? may I inquire as to your method for arriving at the obvious?
Dude, stop trolling. When did I give an assessment of “what film should be”?
Your contributions about your personal experience with film school are solid but you must know they are the exception rather than the rule. First, you mentioned how inexpensive it is compared to the average film school which runs 20-35k per year; great for you! But you don’t want to mention where you went, so fat lot of good it’s going to do anyone else. Second, you said you paid your own way; again, you’re a champ. But how many 20-yr olds can afford to do that? If you can find another poster who paid his or her own way through film school without amassing huge credit debt, I’ll start to be swayed by your arguments. Finally, your technical approach to film school is clearly valid and convincing but you have not ONCE, not even TRIED to address the FACT that film as a discipline includes the study of film and film theory. All you’ve done is either try to minimize the validity of this approach or build a bunch of straw man arguments to ridicule those who think differently from you. Lame. Do you think discrediting me automatically discredits my arguments? You are only adding fuel to my argument that a film education is a poor excuse for a classical liberal education, learning things like rhetoric, ethics and critical thinking.
The other thing you could do is post your graduating film and let that speak for itself. Why not let your filmmaking do your talking for you instead of trolling.
@Rich Uncle Skeleton
I only suggested this as an example of one approach but since you ask…
1. Let’s take for example the discursive mode. I think most people would agree that dialogue and narrative structure are important and essential elements of film expression, as well as useful and valuable ways to discuss its operation.
2. Again, this is not all-encompassing. It is just one template by which we will evaluate a film or a filmmaker’s intention, effectiveness and meaning. But it does have the advantage of representing one of the key stages or contributions to the filmmaking process—that of the screenwriter.
3. We can examine films either inductively or deductively. We can propose a theory of narrative that embodies certain criteria of value, such as coherence, complexity and originality, and then examine various examples against these ideals. Or, we can examine two works which intuitively seem to be of contrasting high and low discursive value, say Casablanca (high) versus Spider-Man (low), and then carefully analyze the different narrative strategies and execution. The point is not whether you think Kurosawa’s narratives more concretely express philosophical ideas or whether I think Bergman’s do, the point is that these two artists appear to “excel” at using narrative in particularly satisfying and innovative ways. If we can agree on this, or even if we disagree, we can at least agree that to do so would significantly impact a film’s overall QUALITY, no?
4. All of these suggestions are merely provisional and don’t rely on ABSOLUTE consensus about what constitutes value; however, the key is to focus on actual details or processes from the film instead of reverse-engineering justifications for our reactions. In other words, our judgments about a specific artist’s use or execution of a particular mode could vary but our fundamental understanding that a film can be EXCELLENT for excelling in either narrative or visuals or acting or editing should be agreed upon in order for there to be a constructive dialogue. Of course, someone might want to add or subtract some categories but they should be things inherent to the process of filmmaking and not mere theoretical imports from cultural studies or personal aesthetics.
5. Is this any different from studying painting by going over the Old Masters and then studying each in the context of their time or contrasting them against similar artists? Is it because you think there is no consensus about the Masters of film as there is in painting or dance or sculpture or acting or drama or jazz? Sure, there is no absolute consensus but anyone who ignores Rembrandt, Martha Graham, Rodin, Stella Adler, Strindberg or Miles Davis is an idiot.