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DO CINEPHILES AND ACADEMICS UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? about 2 years ago

Maybe I was just lucky, but during my college days I used to pretty much ignore “academic style” and write to entertain myself while keeping to the general idea of the assignments and I almost always got good grades. I also tended to get to know my professors or adjuncts pretty well, which could be either a cause of the good grades or an effect of my method I suppose. Whichever the case, it made writing a lot more enjoyable and it seemed to have a beneficial effect as well. I’m sure there are sticklers out there that wouldn’t take to it, and I dropped out before I had to do a dissertation or anything, but I can’t help but believe that one can demonstrate knowledge in ways that are every bit as convincing as standard form essays and still be at least somewhat engaging to read. Personally, I could never have written anything otherwise as that sort of generic academic style is like death to me.

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DO CINEPHILES AND ACADEMICS UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? about 2 years ago

Well, while “flowery” isn’t a word I would exactly use to describe academic writing, unless those flowers were from ragweeds, one could also argue that excessive devotion to convention actually works against either art or any deeper understanding as the concern with following form can actively work against expression as it seeks to simply repeat what has come before rather than expand on that base. Even trying for simple clarity can be a better example of a grasp of a subject, assuming one actually has a grasp of it and can communicate that, better than a more convoluted piece of work which apes for the sake of aping.

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DO CINEPHILES AND ACADEMICS UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? about 2 years ago

Well Jazz, while I didn’t graduate, I did take some graduate level courses and I’ve read dissertations that were “entertaining” in that they were accessible and interesting and not overly jargoned, so it seems it can be done at least some of the time, but it would surely vary depending on who one was writing for and whether one was actually sacrificing proof of depth of knowledge for “entertainment’s” sake.

(Also keep in mind that I’m speaking primarily of the Humanities and subjects outside of that web would likely be a different thing entirely.)

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DO CINEPHILES AND ACADEMICS UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? about 2 years ago

I should back up for a sec and stipulate that I too agree that I have found at least some value in a wide variety of academic based writings as they pertain to the arts, so I’m not dismissing those various branches of study offhand as that would be going much too far. I was mostly just speaking of the mode of communication and how the amount of worthwhile writing to that which strikes me as derivative or uninteresting is a serious problem. Having some focus on the various branches of theory which have arisen around the arts and reception is useful, but without having more focus on the primary object, art and aesthetics, it strikes me as being hopelessly incomplete and wrongheaded as so much of the rest comes from there and/or is mutable depending on that first interaction between viewer and work. The shift in focus Polaris describes, in that sense, is something of a mistake in my eyes in terms of the breadth of the change and what it seems to imply from my outside perspective. I would add that I think there is some question as to whether the humanities can be justified as an area of study under the current direction that universities have undertaken. I certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone pursue that path without significant amounts of resources at hand. The current educational system is hopelessly dysfunctional and needs to be drastically changed in my opinion as the purpose of the institution has been largely lost or shackled to market forces which is deeply problematic.

Oh, and Odi, I was just teasing you on the flowery, I had a good idea of what you meant.

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Roger Ebert's One-Star Review of The Raid: Redemption about 2 years ago

For what it’s worth Polaris, I disagree with you about Versus, not that the film is without its problems, but it is something of a signature of Kitamura’s to be interested in sorts of Frazerian mythic cycles where the idea of eternal recurrence or repetition plays a significant role. Obviously I don’t mean you should like it, but I find it interesting.

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Cronenberg Does Delillo about 2 years ago

I’m also going to have to object to the idea that Twilight is a bad movie by any standard, and I particularly question that assertion coming from someone who stood up for the Harry Potter series. Heh.

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Roger Ebert's One-Star Review of The Raid: Redemption about 2 years ago

sigh…I really didn’t want to, but curiosity got the better of me and I read the review, and I have to agree with those who are questioning it. I side with Monsieur Zom in questioning the appropriateness of the country comment and would add the remark about a character being shown as being Muslim only having a purpose as a “fake out” is also borderline offensive. Ebert preferring his violence to be candy coated with some cartoon justification to make things all right is certainly his right, but there is a tone of moral indignation to his review which gives the feeling that he thinks those that have liked the film are lacking in some regard. Again, I don’t have any problem with him not liking the film or giving it a bad review, but his justifications seem poorly thought out at best.

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Cronenberg Does Delillo about 2 years ago

In deference to Joks, and even more due to knowing any argument I might make would fall on deaf ears in this instance, I won’t argue for Twilight other than to suggest that the things that seem to have put people off about the movies are exactly what makes them so interesting, which speaks to convention and expectation more than anything else, and that, I suspect taints the Robert Pattinson talk as well, as if anyone involved with Twilight couldn’t possibly be any good, ’cause, you know, teen girls like ’em.

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Roger Ebert's One-Star Review of The Raid: Redemption about 2 years ago

My guess is that I probably wouldn’t much like the movie either, his taste in that regard isn’t my issue with the piece. I tend to find Ebert at his very worst when he gets on his moral high horse, or Shetland pony really, and tries to construct arguments. His primary skill seems to me to be as an enthusiast, not a complex thinker, so I challenge his review on those grounds.

There is also an underlying issue about how movie violence is received here that could use more in depth fleshing out than someone like Ebert in his oh so certain way is able to provide, and that is touched on in the Slant quote, but, again, not looked at directly. The suggestion seems to be that there is an appropriate tone to adopt to make action movie violence “work”, and treating it “seriously” isn’t it. (Seriously in this instance meaning unleavened by humor or otherwise lightened.) I think action movie violence is an interesting and complex subject, so treating it as Ebert does grated on me as his unquestioned assumptions seem to be as much at stake here as anything else. In the week that The Hunger Games came out with the “news” media dutifully reporting that the author is intending a moral tale questioning violence while also reporting that the violence in the much hyped films isn’t offensive, all in line with the marketing ploy, on which the New York Times had a nice article, suggests there is some fertile ground here for examination, but which is left unsowed due to the reticence people have to self reflection.

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Roger Ebert's One-Star Review of The Raid: Redemption about 2 years ago

Oh, and Polaris, regarding Kitamura, I can easily accept someone not really liking his films, Versus, for example, has something of a slap dash feel to it which I could see bugging someone interested in film craft. I find him to be worth watching though as the six or so films of his I’ve seen are all at least interesting in terms of what they suggest about his overall sensibility as a “pop” filmmaker, and in aggregate his body of work suggests a continuity to those concerns which I am curious about. Aragami would be the film which seems the best look at his concerns as it is his most stripped down take on some of the subjects he seems to pursue, whereas Midnight Meat Train is the possibly the most successful of his films in terms of craft while also managing to fit in with the other films of his I’ve seen thematically. He isn’t, by any calcuation, a great filmmaker, but I can’t help but feel he’s got something worth attending to and might surprise with a film or two which manage to be really successful within the sorts of constraints posed by the genres he works in. A John Carpenter sized talent perhaps…

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Are the French Cesar Awards less commercially oriented than the Oscars? about 2 years ago

Yeah, I have to agree with Matt on this as one also has to take into account that the French film industry simply can’t be as commercially oriented as Hollywood due to scale and Hollywood’s position in the world film market, so French films, competing amongst themselves will have a different sort of look to them than Hollywood films doing the same. There is a tradition of appreciation of more, for lack of a better term, intellectual endeavors than there is in the US, but that only goes so far and it doesn’t wholly mitigate the appeal of the popular moviemaking to audiences there. The climate is better perhaps, is one could measure such things as a percentage of the populace who might care, but the difference in culture can’t be explained purely along those lines as US cultural power is unique.

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DO CINEPHILES AND ACADEMICS UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? about 2 years ago

There is a problem here, as has been sort of suggested, in talking about “academic” writing as if it were one thing when it is obviously not. Each branch or iteration of academic writing poses different sets of potential uses, value, or problems based on the methods employed and the underlying assumptions inherent to that branch or article.

Bordwell is pragmatic and usually examines film from a formal basis, which can be invaluable when one is trying to support a claim or to understand why film X works one way, or at all, and film Y doesn’t. His work, and that like it, can provide a real backbone to a more thorough appreciation or analysis of a film in that it seeks to understand film as a construction, which is important to understanding it as a language. That method tends to short the “poetic” side of film, so taking it on its own would be to miss out, but Bordwell writes clearly and without reliance on jargon for jargon’s sake, which makes him very approachable. Seeing his method as being the one best way to look at movies though would be a mistake.

Some approach films, as Polaris pointed out, from other disciplines which seek to look at representation or meaning within the films and what that suggests about the culture. This way of looking at movies is also valuable in that it helps to remove some of the blinders we wear as being a part of a culture with certain attitudes which tend to be unexamined. Often in these cases there is a adversarial relationship towards the film or one where aesthetic appreciation is set aside in order to focus on the beliefs suggests by the film. A good writer can suggest some of these things while still being readable by the general public, and often this is how it should be approached for the presumed purpose of the discipline to have its greatest impact, but, unfortunately, the need to quote and footnote and otherwise prove credentials in this area tends to push much of the writing towards being only of interest to a select audience which already accepts the premises involved. The failure to address aesthetics also leaves many papers rather weak as the presumptions in play don’t necessarily hold as well as argued they do.

There are other branches of academic thinking that take that sort of approach further and use films more as a sort of jumping off point to analyse the culture. In these cases, films are used as representative examples of some larger point, and often the arguments being supported by the films involve a great deal of specialized terminology as it is seen as necessary to use this sort of “jargon” to get around conceits built into our normal day to day thinking or use of language. There are also instances where the use of language is seemingly meant to be flexible to avoid getting too tied to a single meaning and to better duplicate how we understand cultural objects, which is to say our appreciation is manifold so to should be the approach.

On their own all of these approaches, and others, tend to be insufficient for understanding or appreciating a work in its fullest, but by absorbing work from these disciplines we may become more open to a wider appreciation when those ideas become the background to our viewing and allow us to escape the sort of absolute unexamined subjective taste based approach which is no improvement on things as it simply posits oneself as the judge at the center of a universe where attitude is all and meaning unimportant.

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DO CINEPHILES AND ACADEMICS UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? about 2 years ago

Heh. Here’s a somewhat related and amusing article on How to Write Like a Scientist
which addresses some of the complaints being made, from the side of real science!

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Wide Release Films For March 30, 2012 about 2 years ago

I was so ready to say I don’t like him, but, damn, I did always like that En Vogue video, so I guess you’re right.

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Wide Release Films For March 30, 2012 about 2 years ago

Tarsem would be one to suggest for the decadent thread for that reason, as he is so much more concerned with the surface of his films over other considerations.

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DO CINEPHILES AND ACADEMICS UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? about 2 years ago

Odi, you aren’t suggesting by any chance that I have a tendency towards comma splicing and run on sentences are you? ‘Cause that would hurt. It’d be true, but still… ;)

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Wide Release Films For March 30, 2012 about 2 years ago

Heh, I would say I was thinking the same thing, but my failure to account for Dove bars and Max Beckmann would make that patently untrue.

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DO CINEPHILES AND ACADEMICS UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? about 2 years ago

Oh, such a stickler you are Odi.

More seriously though, that sort of thing does sort of reinforce my point about how where a person writes or for whom helps to configure what is written. Since this is a forum, I’m writing, as I assume is the case for most of us most of the time, in a offhand manner, which leads to more conversational style posts rather than more polished replies. For most people this will likely mean they will write a number of shorter posts which better match the flow of conversation, like in the StL! thread, for some of though it means more of a stream of consciousness style of writing which can lead to longer posts which can come across as breathless. (This might suggest something about our normal interactions with people, but I’d prefer not to dwell on that.) In any case, the structure tends to lend itself to some sorts of interactions more readily than others when our various styles of “conversing” come together. Ideally this means there is some push towards a communal understanding, but it can just as easily lead towards argument.

Short posts run the risk of not being thorough enough in definition and therefore are often torn apart for that lack, alternatively they can tend towards simple assertions of values or belief which also can lead to counter assertions. Longer posts, on the other hand, can tend to stop or stall conversation as they break with flow and may contain a number of different concepts, connected or not, which make the post more difficult to easily respond to, or of interest to even try as a block of text is not as reader friendly as shorter posts would be. There are other issues involved in the conversations here of course, and many different styles of writing, all of this shows something of the problem with not having a standardized method of writing or gives some indication why having standards is important to different disciplines.

Having a more defined style makes approaching any ideas being expressed easier as once one learns the style one no longer has to deal afresh with individual quirks of expression, which is even more important given that writing isn’t comfortable or natural for everyone and that language issues will inevitably come into play unless definitions and style have some regulation.

For critics, reviewers and academics these issues help to shape how they write and likely how they approach a subject. This in turn will effect how their ideas are received and serve to limit their audiences. We could look more closely at how that might play out, but since this block of text is undoubtedly long enough I think that will have to wait for now.

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Do you have a prescriptive view of films? about 2 years ago

I think the answer to the question would vary depending on whether one is referring to a conscious prescriptive choice or one that comes from convention and experience. In the first case, I, as I would expect most people here to say, think not as I hope I’m open to all sorts of film experiences, but in the second case, I would have to say, yes, I, like it appears is true of others, do have some prescriptive beliefs as to what constitutes a “good” movie as such a thing is necessarily shaped by a whole host of beliefs or feelings about what movies do or how they please.

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DO CINEPHILES AND ACADEMICS UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? about 2 years ago

I can understand that desire Odi, but, personally, I’ve found that reading different ways of looking at a film can help me to better “enjoy” them as it can expand the potential avenues of engagement with any given movie, and that tends to be my desired goal, finding something of interest in everything I watch. Which, of course, doesn’t mean I’m thinking about hoping to judge every movie as “good”, but to simply find something which can draw me in to the film in some way, either by giving me something to think about or providing more opportunities to “feel” them.

Anyway, to go back to academic writing for a moment, if we look at this not atypical academic article,
“From This Moment on: The Dialectics of Modernism":http://www.bgsu.edu/downloads/cas/file76883.pdf
(It’s the first essay presented in the text by Darin D Kerr which starts six pages down the PDF.)
we can see some of the difficulties involved with academic writing as well as why they might be necessary to the goal sought. I don’t want to examine the arguments the paper proposes per se, just the manner in which they are presented.)

In this essay Kerr is attempting to refine a set of arguments presented by other writers while also arguing against some of the interpretations those writers made. He’s seeking a sort of synthesis of thought which he feels run counter to some accepted wisdom within the discipline.

Kerr starts by quoting what has to be one of the most quoted texts in recent times when it comes to art, that is Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. The near constant referencing of this work suggests, rightly, that it is an essential read for anyone hoping to understand recent thinking about the arts. Kerr, however, isn’t just quoting the work, he is using it for another quote Benjamin uses within it, so he is quoting a quote and therefore creating a sort of nested set of references. He does this again in the piece as well as referencing the work of some other writers who were also referencing “common” ideas within the discipline. This creates a series of nested references from which only the arguments needed for Kerr’s point are brought up, and then only glancingly as there is something of an assumption of familiarity with, at least, the basic ideas each is presenting.

Kerr doesn’t use much deeply specialized vocabulary and he offers some definitional clarity on a few points, but many of the words used aren’t in regular usage outside of rather specialized circles, so the lay reader might have some difficulty in knowing exactly what is meant be some usage. This isn’t the main problem for an “outsider” to the discipline though, that comes from needing to be conversant with the different texts quoted as so much of the argument presented comes from assumptions based on those works. This means that in order to really look into what Kerr is saying, whether to agree or to disagree, one would have to examine those underlying assumptions coming from the quoted works. (This can also lead to the need for further excavation if the quoted works are relying on other sets of works for their arguments, creating a sort of elephants all the way down situation.)

One of the reasons Benjamin is so widely quoted is that his work acts as something like a primary text, it isn’t exactly, but its centrality to the discipline allows it to function that way. This centrality allows it to act as something of a base to further inquiry or argument as successive scholars seek to add to its application or suggest limitations to its scope. This is pretty much a key component of scholarship, that is not constantly reinventing or starting over from scratch every time one tries to engage with works or the field as a whole. Instead scholarship often consists of building on what is already known or believed. This, obviously, means that those who aren’t in tune with those underlying sets of assumptions are going to have some difficulty with taking up these additions or clarifications or arguments as they lack the base of knowledge being brought into play.

This doesn’t, of course, invalidate the works, but neither is it an ideal thing as, over time, it pushes the scholarship further and further from practical usage and more into the realm of esoterica. It can also serve to solidify “knowledge” within the discipline which might be less than rock solid as the constant outside reinforcement can create a bulkwark around what might be an empty castle, but one which is effectively impregnable without attack by a concerted force creates cracks within the foundation.

Add to this the problem with copyright and academic publishing, where accessing relevant works can be tricky and sorting relevant information from that which is not viewed as such, or the most current thinking from outdated models can be close to impossible, and where the necessity of paraphrasing and partial quoting can lead to further layers of disagreement, and you have a mix which is extremely unfriendly to general readers, and because of that, not of much use outside of the specialized circles where such thinking originated. None of that is to say that the scholarship isn’t or wouldn’t be of value if one does or could access it in ways which could be readily understood, just that for all practical effect it is of minimal use to most.

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DO CINEPHILES AND ACADEMICS UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? about 2 years ago

My figuring is that strong negative responses are often interesting in and of themselves as they can suggest that the “problem” may not be with the movie entirely, but with the expectation one has about it. For me, the worst films are those which don’t provoke much of any response, generally anyway as the issue of moral offense isn’t always easy to resolve and feeling offended in that way can pretty much shut down more nuanced critique.

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Do you have a prescriptive view of films? about 2 years ago

Sure, I wasn’t responding to the idea of overused as such, just that the very nature of preferences suggests some sets of implicitly held beliefs which shape our response, even, or perhaps especially, if those beliefs aren’t fully conscious ones. This isn’t to suggest such possible preferences are good or bad in themselves, just that one can’t get around them as easily as is sometimes implied. We are of our cultures and have expectations based on previous experience after all. (As you have argued Matt, so I don’t think we are disagreeing other than perhaps on the definitional base, which I’m sure the OP enjoys, not.)

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DO CINEPHILES AND ACADEMICS UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? about 2 years ago

Oh, sure, I think we all do that to some degree or another. It’s probably unavoidable. As a devout agnostic though my thing is to doubt, so I tend to doubly question thoughts or feelings which come too readily if I recognize them. I can’t say there’s a gain in that nor a loss, it’s just my way like you have yours or anyone else has their own I guess.

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DO CINEPHILES AND ACADEMICS UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? about 2 years ago

Heh. I guess that could make me a wishy-washy Charlie Brown type and you more of a Lucy, which would explain those grass stains I got from you pulling the football away on me earlier.

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Do you have a prescriptive view of films? about 2 years ago

Yes, I agree, I’m just trying to tie the question back to why there is felt to be a need to look at movies from differing vantage points as was being sort of discussed in the academia thread in regards to the “politics” of film, as well as suggesting a basis for those differing sorts of responses on CCC labelled movies.

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Do you have a prescriptive view of films? about 2 years ago

You might be defining conventions in a rather limited way there then Polaris as narrative conventions and constructive conventions can be at odds, among other things, so a movie might fit a sort of standard or expected model of Hollywood construction but still fail to satisfy due to possibly unexamined narrative expectations based on sets of conventions grokked from watching other films. Those who are dissatisfied with an ambiguous or “unhappy” ending, for example, might be responding to what they believe a good narrative should do rather than whether the ending is justified by the story, for example, whereas others might prefer a movie that eschewed standard convention for less typical convention as the less used model rewards their particular brand of discernment. (Yes, I’m saying that there can be varieties of convention to which different groups will respond to as suits their understanding. This is why some cinephiles can loathe the happy ending a less involved viewer may relish even as they are both largely predictable or conventional within their own narrative structures.)

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Do you have a prescriptive view of films? about 2 years ago

My take on your previous post was that we were differing on the application of convention to prescription as you seemed to say they were opposed in a way whereas that I had suggested they were linked.

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Do you have a prescriptive view of films? about 2 years ago

Ah, gotcha, everything’s good then, (and James Cameron is on the bottom of the fucking ocean, now that’s breaking convention! Hard to have the hate on for a guy who does that, Avatar not withstanding. End of derail.)

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DO CINEPHILES AND ACADEMICS UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER? about 2 years ago

Aw, now that’s just piling on…next thing I know you’ll be pulling out all my qualifiers and I won’t recognize my own posts…fiends…I hope you realize that I’m just trying to live up to my motto, Type Fast, Kill Threads, and Leave a Ponderous Corpus…

I agree with you on your first paragraph regardless of how deeply hurt I am over that parenthetical end.

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