Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ghost World - Terry Zwigoff (2001)

Ghost World! Yes, Terry Zwigoff's lovely, character-driven dark comedy. One of the most compelling coming-of-age films I have ever seen. I was recently asked to defend this film and so this is my response.

This could have been a simple teen comedy with Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson walking around and making fun of people, then some guy getting in the way of it. Well, some guy DOES get in the way, but it's not at all what you might expect in a teen movie. Steve Buscemi, in his best role to date, brings to the screen Seymour, an inward-looking middle-aged bachelor with a comb-over and a room full of old records and collectibles. This is not a character from a teen movie, because Buscemi brings real substance to Seymour. We care about Seymour and we care about Thora Birch's Enid, who can't seem to find something that makes her truly happy.

Their relationship is based on a shared interest in the things/music that other people have since thrown aside. It is also these things/music that make this film come alive. The music (Seymour's old-timey music in this case) is given the same significance to the film as the characters give it within the film. For instance, Enid listens to Skip James "Devil Got My Woman," a blind buy from Seymour's garage sale, and Zwigoff dwells on the moment with her. In turn, we also listen to the song, and personally, I found myself as entraced as Enid seems to be. The song then compels Enid to go back to Seymour to look for more music like it, and their odd relationship begins. The David Kitay score works in a very different way from the old-timey music in that it is more in the background (it is much more subtle), but it is no less effective in evoking the deeper underlying mood of the characters. I am thinking especially of the main theme that punctuates the end of the film when Enid walks to the bus stop.

Also, the things/the stuff that occupy the corners of the screen within this film. Enid's punk tapes strewn across the floor, all of the stuff at Seymour's garage sale and Enid's lawn sale, the stuff that they really can't part with when the push comes to the shove, Seymour's display room. It is fitting that this film comes from a comic book (by Daniel Clowes), comic books being a familiar collectible. But for these characters, the stuff is not just for display, it contains a piece of who the characters are, and in a world of awkwardness and social barriers (perpetuated as much by the judgment of the outsiders as the insiders according to Ghost World), sometimes the stuff and the interest in the stuff make for a more reliable friend.

The things/music also point to the sadness underlying these characters' lives. The film starts off with Enid's dark wit, but as the film moves on, we see more and more of the insecurity behind the comedy. Enid is extremely frightened of the next step that she must take past high school, and for the time being within the film, she revels in her throw-back, retro interests, which connect her to something bigger than herself. Seymour tries even less to disguise his unhappiness, and it is so compelling to watch him botch up his relationships, because it seems inevitable that he's going to end up alone, surrounded by his stuff, when the film is over.

Although the underlying tone is kind of depressing, Zwigoff successfully balances this tone with a biting, sarcastic comedy surrounding the characters that Enid both loves and makes fun of. These characters keep the film light at the right moments. One of my favorites is the nunchucks-carrying, beater-tan, gas-station dude, who refuses to submit to authority. In addition to the comedy, these characters help to develop Enid's character. She loves these people, hates them, judges them, and ultimately, uses them as inspiration for her art. Enid draws the characters as she runs across them, framing their personalities on paper in light of her imagination. It is clear that although Enid hides behind her eccentricities and her humor, she has a real knack for constructing something positive out of it in her art.

Zwigoff could have made a teen comedy and he could have made a suburban melodrama. Instead, he gave us a unique coming-of-age film that is as eccentric as the characters it contains therein. It also rings extremely true for me in giving complexity to its assessment of the fringes of American pop culture. For the characters in Ghost World, their interests function both as a vibrant outward vehicle for social networking, and also an inward, materialistic, and lonely venture.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Two Striking Blondes

(Top) Juliette from L'Atalante
(Bottom) Elsa from The Lady From Shanghai

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul - RW Fassbinder (1974)

My first Fassbinder film. Very good film. Someone recently mentioned to me that because the film is highly considered critically, they were expecting more, and so were underwhelmed by Ali. Perhaps the simplicity of the film, the subtlety of the film did not blow this person away. But I have to say that it IS the simplicity and subtlety that are so powerful about this film. The content is very simple, the story straightforward. There are no surprises, only characters doing what we expect them to do. Fassbinder pulls no punches and it is MORE powerful for that reason. The inevitability of this situation. But while the narrative follows its predetermined path, Fassbinder works tenaciously with his camera to frame the couple, while trying equally hard to hide his tricks. It is brilliant that Fassbinder is able to give us the images he does while not drawing too much attention to his camerawork: the shots through the doorways, the camera creeping up to focus on Emmi or Ali in a particular moment, the dolly shot in the bar which ends with the blonde bartender looming over Emmi, etc.

I have to say that I struggled with some of the social subject matter as the movie went on, getting caught up in the guilt that comes with any movie that addresses racism and so on, but now a few hours removed from the movie, I think the moments that are going to linger are those between Ali and Emmi when he first comes over and when "one thing leads to another" in such a lovely way, in a quiet way, that Fassbinder has already won over our hearts to prepare us for the heavier stuff to come. And really, when it comes down to it, yes the racism subject is there, but Fassbinder does not have a social message set in stone (ala Crash) with this film. This film is about two unlikely lovers whose kindness toward each other, or even, whose aspiration toward kindness, is the only thing that is worth living for in a cold, alienating world.

Ebert has an excellent essay on the film in his "Great Movies" series.

Note: I was very surprised to know post-viewing that Fassbinder plays Emmi's racist son-in-law in the film, the scum-bag Eugen.

Also, the film was shot in 15 days between two bigger budget films, Martha and Effi Brest. As Ebert says of Fassbinder, "He shot it on a shoestring." Funny how a shoestring can make for a great picture.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

The Pool Shark - W.C. Fields (1915)

I have a thing for W.C. Fields. How did this bloated, cruel, and drunken man become a star? 60 years after Fields' death, I find his brand of comedy particularly appealing for some reason. More appealing than other comedic giants from the same era, say, Chaplin or the Marx Brothers. Blasphemous, I know. Fields, his red nose and battered hats, his mumbling, sarcastic demeanor, his off-kilter way of dealing with the world. For some reason, Fields' persona seems more real, more easy to identify with than Chaplin or Groucho. I'm not exactly sure why.

But anyway, I want to write on more than Fields. I want to write about a particular moment in one of his films that has nothing to do with Fields. So I'm watching Criterion Collection's W.C. Fields: Six Short Films and I'm in the middle of W.C. Fields screen debut in The Pool Shark. The film is boring. Silent films do not suit Fields well because he is unable to play his persona (which relies so much on his slurring, elongated mumble). Anyway, my attention is on auto-pilot, trying to make it through the 10-minute short for the novelty of it when...

We get a close-up of the girl character. A fish bowl she was tending has been smashed and now the fish are in her hair and her hair is all wet! As she reaches up to her now mop-like hair to take the fish down one by one, she has the most indescribable expression on her face (see above).

But what makes this moment all the more incredible is the shot itself. It looks like it's straight out of a French New Wave film from the '60s. Every other bit of this film is ordinarily shot as far as early silent comedies go: the static long shot giving the characters plenty of room to waddle around and perform their slapstick routines. However, for less than ten seconds we are treated to a rare moment of beauty in the film. The girl is slightly off-center to the right, her long arm draped in white as her luminous hand searches her dark, tangled hair for the fish. Her face, wet and innocent, is lost in the shadow of her hair. She is so beautiful in this moment, so real. The composition is incredibly out of place in the movie, but disregarding that fact, it is the only moment of substance in the film.

Sometimes, all you need out of a movie is a moment like that.

That is the moment described by Andy Horbal in his blog as the "cinephiliac moment." Wonderful concept, though I prefer the term "filmic moment" better, because it lets us refer to film in the ideal sense. At its best, at its most pure, film has transcendent moments like these. "Filmic moment" also sounds better.

Anyway, the funny thing is, as soon as I finished with the film I had to have a still of the close-up for my desktop background on my computer. But once I had one still up, I realized that I wanted a different still, and then another. I was not satisfied with any particular still. One image plucked from a film does not encapsulate what we felt out of the moment, even if the moment lasted only seconds in film-time. This is of course where film is a completely different medium than photography. The filmic moment is a moment that has its effect in relation to the other moments within the film. In the case of the girl close-up, one reason why it is so poignant is that it is like a rose growing out of the dry grass of a long, empty field: I did not expect anything out of this short, and then there was the close-up. Reflecting more, the movement through time in the film made the moment what it was. Using my metaphorical setup, I scanned the field, I walked through it, and I found a rose. Taking the rose home with me, it was beautiful but it was just a rose, and it wilted and fell away. But what I remember is the experience of walking through that field and coming upon the rose.

Distant/Uzak - Nuri Bilge Ceylon (2002)

Well, I finally saw this film tonight! I would definitely recommend it to folks who can slow down to be absorbed by this film's quiet rhythm. There is a lot of silence in this film, a lot of still cameras watching the two main characters do a lot of nothing. There is NOT a lot of story, there is not a lot of character growth. But, the film is beautifully shot and true-to-life in its portrayal of a middle-aged photographer mired in his pride and his habits, who grows weary of a younger cousin who comes to stay with him in the city while finding work. Bleak stuff, but the audience is able to stay distant from the characters so that the effect is not "Wow, this is a depressing film." It's is just a quiet film - these characters are like people we know, people we probably have been like at times, but hope that we are currently not like.

There is a strong presence of natural sound in this film - the chimes on the balcony of the photographer's apartment, the jazzy mood music of the bar that the photographer frequents, the chatter of lovers playing in the park. This natural aura helps to draw the viewer into the flow of the film. Funny how we identify with the poetry of Ceylon, but we do not identify with the characters, and how this is all a good thing in the end. I guess usually one of the main gripes that we have about films we don't like is that we don't like the characters. But I guess that's not what Ceylon is going for anyway.

The visuals are striking, particularly the scenes in the snow. While looking for work down at the port, the cousin walks by a beached tanker lying on its side in the snow. We understand that it is probably an omen that the cousin is not going to find work! And an omen that the photographer and his cousin are going to come into conflict. It is an inevitable conflict for two people who are selfish and introverted. Some of the visuals seem a tad contrived, like the birds flying dramatically down into the city square in which the photographer is finding subjects to photograph.

At any rate, worth seeing. Ceylon is a filmmaker to watch.

Monday, December 4, 2006

On Blogs and Film Criticism (a personal take)

My goodness gracious. Talk about another world out there. Did you know that there are thousands, tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of film bloggers out there that can write better than you, that have 100 times the amount of film knowledge as you, that see as many films in a year as you will see in your lifetime? I am simply astounded by all of it, and by how connected all of these folks are to each other. They each have their own blog account and comment on each others’ blogs and meet at film festivals and know all the ins-and-outs of what the web has to offer in terms of informal film criticism. We are all so very, very behind. Even now, this business of casually communalizing over a love for film, of exchanging knowledge, opinion, and recommendation, is already being done all over the web. And I can hardly claim to be a part of it.

Do you have a film blog? What is the significance of film blogs to film criticism? It seems like it's a pretty important business, these film blogs. Magazines, books, newspapers: these are slowly becoming obsolete. The printed word is going out of style. Right? It's all online now, all the information you could ever ask for. Funny though, because for me personally, I have a hard time focusing on an online article. I guess I’m old-fashioned. Even though I've been brought up on a heavy, frequent dose of online perusing, I get my work done best when I’m holding something in my hands. Online, my mind is unfocused as I jump from screen to screen, scanning almost unconsciously, clicking every couple seconds and then trying to remember why I clicked. Surfing the web is a matter of tangents: it is easy to get lost, and difficult to get anywhere that I feel, in retrospect, was worth my while. So, I have a hard time sorting through all of this material online: these well-written, cutting edge film blogs that reveal a wealth of knowledge with a few clicks (and much time peering at the small font on the screen). I guess I’m missing the boat when it comes to film criticism.

What would it mean to be on top of the current state of film criticism? If I read religiously the most popular film blogs, could I claim to be up-to-date on film criticism? If instead, I decided to never go online again, and only read the printed word, would I inevitably be missing out on the best that current film criticism has to offer?

Either way, I cannot claim to be much of a reader. In terms of scholarly material, I’ve read one film book in the last three months, and a couple of online articles on film. I’ve frequented film sites, stomped the hell out of my familiar stomping grounds, and probably spent more time physically clicking the mouse than I’ve spent reading seriously. To wax poetic for a second, sometimes I feel like a shadow of a human being when I’ve spent the evening online. I am a shadow of the people that are doing real things: making conversation, reading books, being creative, eating, exercising, etc. I cannot claim to be much when all I’ve done is lazily passed my eyes over text I cannot remember.

Yet, I am a bright-eyed, 22-year-old lover of film. Pausing for a second, the question is: What does that mean in terms of my ability to be a part of film criticism? Well, I’m not sure. Because I am not well-read, I do not have much of a frame of reference by which I can acknowledge what has come before, be a part of what is happening now, and anticipate what will come in the future. Thus, without this frame of reference, it is almost impossible for me to create a space in which my writing, my opinion, can stand out. But I don’t want to be cynical about this. I am on the other hand, rather idealistic about the whole thing. When I watch a film, I try to make myself vulnerable to it, to flow with the stories and images, to be moved. Oftentimes, I will be moved to respond to the film, whether I do that in conversation, writing, or just by thinking.

It is my written response that becomes my contribution to film criticism, however small. I believe my response is not insignificant: my opinions and feelings draw upon my experience, my knowledge, my instinct, and if I am passionate enough, and meticulous enough in responding clearly, I should feel like I have made a contribution. In the process, even if my work is to some extent a-historical, even if it is not widely-read, it is significant, because it is an exercise in moving outward. Yes, writing (and blogging) may seem selfish at times, because the focus is so much on the thoughts’ of the writer, but it is unselfish in the sense that these thoughts, these words, are leaving the brain and being scribed into a realm in which people can see and share in the inner life of someone else. There is much room for disappointment when it comes to reaching out through writing, but the potential for a connection is too compelling to be tossed easily aside. There is not much that is more noble than the sharing of one’s self and then receiving of what someone else has to share (of course, the process could happen the other way too). Writing is one way to do this.

Until recently, I did not write anything for an online audience. However, there does seem to be something important about film criticism when it is done online for anybody to stumble across, even if it is done by someone with little more reference than their own experience. Maybe the reason I spend so much time online is the potential for a connection to others through ideas, sent spontaneously and instantly through the click of the mouse. It can be a giddy, exhilarating experience. It can also be a brainless, waste of time. In terms of not being able to focus on online material, when it gets to that point, I should probably get offline. For one thing, it’s hard to appreciate a movie and surf the web at the same time. For another, it is my experience that the connection noted above is most deeply achieved in person anyway through conversation (and not in writing). So I think ultimately I’m OK with not being the sort of person who knows everything about film and crafts magnificent, well-connected blogs. I love watching films, I’ll continue to write, and if I have a few friends to enjoy the journey with me, that’s good enough for me.

What is it about movies?

Film, movies, cinema, motion pictures. What is it about them that you like? What draws you to them? I think one of the best ways to assess the state of film is to figure out what we like about movies and then see if the current state is making the sort of movies that we like. I know this is a very personal and subjective way to assess the state of film, but personal is good sometimes.

For me, I like films that make me think. I like films that have ideas planted in them that challenge my worldview, or that make me think in a new way about myself. Well, what I like the most is a film that shows me a new way in which the world is beautiful. Now the beauty does not have to be a sappy thing - it does not have to be roses and rainbows. Beauty is sometimes contained within the ugliest of events, the ugliest of acts, the ugliest things that the world has to offer. I like it when film is like haiku: when it makes simple observations on the world around me. When one image could be done a million different ways but the filmmaker chooses this specific way to do it that rings perfectly true.

Do you like films that go for realism, or films that take you away from your cares and worries (IE fairytales)? I think I like both in good doses. Sometimes fairytales, stories that are fantastic and otherworldly, reflect the most on our lives.

I think it is hard for film to be haiku, and hard for filmmakers to be poets. I can't name very many filmmakers who I would describe as poets, working in the US or elsewhere. It is hard when films cost so much to make, when distribution is so expensive, to make a film that simply observes life. Some people would call such filmmaking dull, some would call it foolish. But the best films I have seen have been simple statements conveyed through images, which have stories that are true to the characters and true to the sorts of people the characters are. Compromise is not optional. That is why many of the best films have been made by maniacal, singularly-driven filmmakers. Alfred Hitchcock, for example. The man was the best technically at every aspect of filmmaking, and so he had control of almost every element of his projects. His films are pure statements: simple, effective haiku.

What do you guys like about movies? What draws you in? What do you see in the state of film that appeals to your movie sensibilities?

Film Canons

Film canons. What do we do with them? What do we think of the idea of them? Recently, Paul Schrader, notable screenwriter (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) and film scholar (author of Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer) was encouraged to write a film version of Harold Bloom's The Western Canon. Schrader got as far as writing an introductory chapter to the book, as well as a list of 60 films, but soon realized that his heart was not in the project, and decided to stop his work on it. What remains is an article in the September/October Film Comment, of which we have an online version, and his list.

The list and article have caused quite a stir in some circles, since Schrader is such a well-known scholar (especially), and there have been many responses that have come out. One of which is Zach Campbell's response, found on his blog here and here.
Campbell talks about how Schrader's list does not include what he sees as the necessary element of a film canon: a variety of film forms. Schrader's canon is a list of what may be called "Criteron-type Greatest Hits." Schrader does not touch short films, documentaries, or avant-garde film. He does not delve into the non-narrative world of film. At any rate, this is one of the many critical responses to Schrader's work on the canon, though again it must be mentioned that he DID NOT actually write a book, just published an article on the failed project in a magazine.

So what I'm wondering is this: Are film canons helpful? What is the purpose of a film canon? Is a film canon worthwhile in and of itself, or does it need to have a helpful function in order to be valuable? I would probably argue that the purpose of a film canon should line up with the purpose of film criticism, which I believe should fall somewhere along the lines of: helping the audience of the criticism in question understand something about film. It should be helpful. It should point to films that are essential for someone to understand what film is about, why it is beautiful, why it is important. If we were to box up 60 films (or whatever the number would be) and bury the films in the ground to be dug up in thousands of years by an alien race, these films would represent the best of what we as a filmmaking humanity have to offer.

Now, whether it is possible or not to have 60 films or any number of films encapsulate the creative spirit of humanity captured in film is not really the question. Of course no list can be definitive. However, the nature of a list like this is inevitably a source of much debate, heated debate that does not always involve people's better sensibilities. It is this outcome, the nitpicking and the negative reaction to a list (which comes across as definitive) which is why canons would not be a good idea. Maybe another reason that canons would not be a good idea is that if one person were to make a canon, that canon would be personal in nature (which is not the point of a canon). No one person can successfully determine the essential films. Could many people together voting determine this canon? Who are you asking to vote? Would you ask scholars? Directors? Actors? The general populace? There are always problems with coming up with canons.

Another problem is that along with the definition of canon comes the word "Fixed." The biblical canon, for example, is a fixed set of books that have remained the same for a long, long time, and are unlikely to be changed short of Kingdom-Come. If a canon is fixed, then can it be helpful when people are so different from each other in taste and background? How can one list really be helpful to everyone? If one were to live by the list, that person would probably be missing something, at least in my opinion. Schrader says:

Not only is there no agreement about what a canon should include, there’s no agreement about whether there should be canons at all. Or, if there is agreement, it is this: canons are bad—elitist, sexist, racist, outmoded, and politically incorrect.

For example, the people that have been given the greatest opportunity to make films have been males with a lot of money and education. Of course then, a canon of essential films will probably include films made by directors who were men with a lot of money and education. It is an issue of class, sex, among the other things Schrader noted.

But in spite of all this, Schrader was going to go on the write this book on a film canon, because canons are "needed," he says, they serve a function.

Do they? What do you think?

Suggestions For A Proper Film Education

So I'm not entirely sure what I want to go on in this post, but I think it would be cool if we could suggest some ideas for what a person would need if they were to get a proper film education. This is connected to the film literacy topic. The question is: What is needed for film literacy?

It seems like there are some prerequisites, which would be a love for film in general, before someone would be willing to follow any steps to become film literate.

Then, maybe somewhere in here(let's not be systematic now), one would need a good introductory film text. Cover your bases, read about genre and the auteur theory and the star system, etc. Maybe some neo-realism and a couple of references to narrative convention.

Chris Cagle, a lecturer in film and media arts at Temple University, assesses the worth different intro to film textbooks.

Maybe another suggestion would be to watch some films that are deemed to be classic or essential to appreciate "the best" of what film has to offer. This is probably a debatable question, though. Is there a film canon? This is the title of another thread altogether. Do people need to be tapped into a canon to be film literate? One could probably argue that to understand or think deeply about films, one only needs to know a model in which to do that, and the rest would follow.

In order to be film literate, would one need to have some experience in making movies? In order to be literate in English, in order to understand vocabulary, sentence structure, theses, etc, we write essay after essay in high school and college. An essential part of literacy is the ability to write, so would film literacy require some creative element as well?

So many people watch films, but do not understand them for many different reasons. One, they do not care to understand film. Two, they are not able to read images in the same way that people read words. Maybe it is the case that they understand images, but they could not express this understanding in any way, because people do not have the proper form for explanation. If pressed to explain the information that one gets out of a given image, a normal person would have a hard time doing it. The person might even ask why one would do such a thing. If we are going to be film literate, we need to understand the language of film, which is made up of images. We must understand film composition, editing, mise en scene; we must understand the technical elements of the image in the same way that we understand the technical elements of the word.

What else do we require for our film education? We probably need to find people to watch films with. If it has not become clear to you from English classes, the proper way to read a novel is to have a variety of perspectives. One needs support in one's education. That is sort of what the site wants to be, even if it isn't at this point. In reading the mission statement, we see that the best insights into film our on the rides on the way home, in those discussions we have in which people learn together what they personally and collectively think is important about a given film or film in general.

Anything I'm missing?

Film Literacy For Kids

I just read an article by English writer, Anthony Horowitz, provided by New Statesman, about the state of film as it relates to younger movie goers. He is writing from a British standpoint, and is talking about British film, but he also addresses Hollywood's infiltration of theaters globally. He talks about how silly it is that bad Hollywood movies make big box office, but I think what he says about film literacy is particularly worth noting.

In particular:
It is strange that while we worry about literacy and the need to read, an entire generation is growing up in complete ignorance of a rich and varied part of its own cultural heritage. How many teens could name one film by David Lean, Lindsay Anderson, Ken Loach, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock or Michael Powell - or even explain, with any degree of accuracy, what their involvement with that film actually was?

Schools do not give credence to film literacy in the same way that they do to novels, poetry, theater, etc. Kids are not taught how to read films, how to extract cultural meaning from them, how to appreciate them.

I remember watching a few films during my K-12 school experience. They were usually used as a supplement, but never as the focus. I remember always looking forward to them. A class in which we watched a film was a good class. And they weren't good classes because we could zone out: I remember usually being glued to the screen. I paid much more attention to a film than to a lecture. If films are an effective teaching tool, then wouldn't it make sense to teach our kids how to read films? We put so much emphasis on the written word, but we don't teach our kids how to read images. Why is this?

Reinventing Classic Genres

One exciting thing that I run across once in a while is a movie that takes a well-worn genre, say film noir, and tweaks it to breathe new life into the genre. I'm sure we can think of many different examples of this, and that's partly what this post is about. However, in some cases, the movie is able to take the genre to a whole new level, perhaps even entering a new space beyond the definition of the genre in question.

In their article "Dark City, Noir, and the Space Between: Or is it Our Nature to Live in the Dark?" Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann give an example of a movie entering a completely new genre space. Combining noir, sci-fi, and fantasy, Dark City is able to communicate a philosophy of ecocriticism (defined in the article). Read the article from the online journal Scope here.

I think the problem that I have so often with Hollywood film is that it does not seek to do anything new, to find a new way to tell its story. It is merely trying to give the expected genre experience for a given audience. Genres go through dry periods because filmmakers and producers are afraid to challenge narrative conventions. Is it the case that by challenging conventions, the movie is going to do worse at the box office? I suppose that's a pretty hefty question, and I'm not sure any one of us can do more than speculate about its answer. I think I remember that "Dark City" did not do particularly well at the box office.

I really like the idea of a movie creating its own world for the viewer to step into. Being able to predict the storyline in a typical genre movie keeps the viewer from getting involved. I would also argue that adhering to genre conventions hinders a filmmaker from creating a unique filmic space, a world established and whole within the film. Once a movie makes its own rules for storytelling, it has stepped beyond the realm of genre altogether. I do not mean to argue that genre films are not worthwhile as entertaining films. I mean that films like "Dark City" are able to tell their stories more effectively. Because these films defy expectation, they are given the opportunity to bring the viewer farther into the film.

I feel like film as an art form is particularly vulnerable to the demands of mainstream audiences. In general, film is the most expensive art, requiring a great amount of personnel and technology to make. Thus, the box office makes the film. I think this is why many people have been slow to espouse the idea of film as art. Going to a 20-theater suburban cineplex, one would be hard to find a film that makes any sort of artistic statement. Thus, it is the genre-bending films like "Dark City" that carry the torch for film as art. By telling their stories in a new way, they not only are more interesting for the viewer, but they benefit the state of film.

There is more to be said about how reinventing genres can be done, what films do this well, and how defying genre can lead to a better film and a better state of film. But maybe someone else can chime in at this point.


So, I'm not sure if I'm made for blogging, but I think it could be a good thing to get some writing out there. Mostly, I'm dedicated to working on my website that I started up with a couple of high school friends called Armchair Director, but there's always enough thoughts on the side for a blog as well. The first posts will be from threads in the forum at The Armchair Director, and then after that, I'll write posts exclusively for this blog. Anyway, this is another step toward being part of the larger online film community, which is obviously a thriving and necessary part of film criticism today. Anyway, I'll give it a whirl. Happy reading!