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2009.05.13

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Tom Russell

I refrained from commenting on the whole film student thing because I didn't go to college, let alone film school (heck, I barely got through high school). But I just want to echo what you and Urko said: things seem to be improving (the twist-filled stylish mid-nineties crime thriller is at long last on the wane) but some of us young filmmakers can benefit from a bit more cine-literacy.

Just to keep the conversation lively, though, let me throw something controversial out there: maybe the problem with mid-nineties film students and/or young filmmakers wasn't a lack of knowledge about film but too much. While their historical ignorance (for example, the "Mean Streets" as First Important Film thing) is staggering and not being disputed, what if the knowledge they did have was too focused on tracking shots, nine-minute show-off takes, whip-fast editing, and some social context/gender studies rhetoric smattered in for good measure? They know all about "art" and nothing about life, and as a result their own art-- mid-nineties crime thrillers-- or, in the case of students who didn't make that jump, their appreciation of it-- for example, that historical ignorance-- has nothing to do with and nothing to say about actual life.

And, as Filmbrain intimated, maybe a segment of today's emerging filmmakers know too much about life and not enough about art; that is, they have things to say but lack the art knowledge necessary to say them effectively. Or, for that matter, maybe certain younger filmmakers lack the life experience (both length & depth) necessary to make up for a lack of knowledge about art?

Not making judgements, not declaring answers: just throwing out some questions in the spirit of debate.

MovieMan0283

Well, I'm kind of bummed that the last round is already over although admittedly I don't think I would have gotten it given several more days of musings (maybe I would have if I didn't just return Dog Day Afternoon to the library the other day without watching it...damn!)

As for film students and film history...

I don't think "too much" film history can ever really be a bad thing, at least in terms of making judgements. In terms of making films, I suppose it's neither here nor there, or rather, it depends on the director. Some feel that Bogdanovich was so immersed in film history that his work was often reduced to quotations of previous styles and epochs; yet Godard is unimaginable without a prodigious knowledge and love of cinema. Meanwhile, Fellini claimed never to watch movies (or so I've heard) which one could argue strengthened his extremely personal vision, while one suspects that a lot of latter-day auteurs could do with a greater and deeper appreciation of movie history that goes beyond the slam-bang effects of the TV commercial, music video, and action film. But some of this speculation may be unwarranted, as I don't think the problem is ignorance per se, but prejudice - the prejudice of the marketplace and the assumption of "what people want." In other words, contemporary films are not over-edited because editors and directors are unacquainted with the joys of tracking shots and long takes but because the assumption is that the audience demands it and that contemporary standards are enforced when ever unimaginative or unadventurous filmmakers are at the helm.

Personally, I lean towards the "too much" rather than "too little." Tom, this seems to be what you're saying as well, in your focus on the knowledge of film technique (though again, a very limited understanding of technique which leans towards the "too little" rather than the "too much") over history, but of course to a certain extent the two are bound together - the more great films one sees, the more one understands how many things can be done with the medium and how limited - despite the supposed variety of means contemporary cinematic expression often is.

Furthermore, without suggesting that artistic experience can make up for life experience, a greater exploration of diverse classics and even interesting failures (as well as at least a cursorary acquaintance with the "standard operation" films of a given time and place) broadens one's thinking in terms of the subject matter the cinema can tackle, and the ways in which it can do so - part of the problem with this 90s thinking so derided here is its rather narrow thematic and generic focus. I love violent thrillers as much as the next guy, but there's so much more out there.

I don't know about the other part of Filmbrain's attributed formulation. What aspect of life are we speaking about, in saying that today's emerging filmmakers know "too much" about it? Their own, rather narrow lives. I'm as intrigued by mumblecore as the next guy, but it's hardly rich with exposure to the outside world.

An interesting discussion, worth having. Hope it continues.

MovieMan0283

That should read "their own, rather narrow lives?" with a question mark. I'm not making an assertion here, so much as speculating.

Noel Vera

I was thinking of the '76 Star is Born, not '54. Ah Well. Dog Day is a wonderful credit sequence (not an expert on Elton John).

Tom Russell

You know what, that should read: "...as Filmbrain intimated, maybe a segment of today's emerging filmmakers don't know enough about art. Maybe they know too much about life..." etc. My love of rhyming phrases got the best of me there and misattributed a sentiment to Mr. Grant, and so I wanted to clarify.

That's some food for thought, MovieMan0283, and I might just take a bite after I have time to digest it.

MovieMan0283

Speaking as someone who's put up one blog post in the past 2 weeks and has delayed - yet again - his piece on mumblecore which has been simmering on the back burner for, oh, 2 months...

How dare you take you time!

dubarry

I'm thinking it's the Benson theater. I remember the filming - o you should have seen me in those days, Ch-Ch-
Cherry bomb - but, I digress. They shot some scenes on Ave M, and that bank was over near where that place Schnak used to be. I think, if memory serves, the real bank was on Ave M. Husband No. 1 was an extra. Oh he was doll too. You would just want to rip off his Nik Nik shirt.

Considering how they filmed the movie, I think you can count out all boroughs but Brooklyn.

Steve

Have to ask: regarding your Twitter about Tarantino needing to grow up, what exactly do you want from the guy? He makes a very specific kind of film based in very specific genre types that allow him to feed off of other cultures and eras that most of the contemporary audience probably has a slim awareness of at best...and he does it well. I'm not saying everything he does is without flaws, in fact I don't believe there is a "perfect" Tarantino film (though Jackie Brown's more "mature" and thoughtful -?- characters make it the closest one, IMHO). My personal favorite has shifted slightly with each film. I find the Kill Bill combo to be pretty damn good, both from an entertainment standpoint and from an artistic one.

Is it just that he does genre work? And if so, does that mean guys like Corman and Meyer needed to "grow up" too? I don't want to seem argumentative, but I would like to know what you're getting at.

Hell, if I were to show my annoyance with a filmmaker it would be Eli Roth, who is overrated and a terrible actor (a better argument than QT for directors being prevented from standing in front of a camera).

I know you're busy so I don't expect an answer soon, but I'd love to know what prompted the comment and your thoughts on the matter.

Thanks,
Steve

Filmbrain

Steve --

Thanks for the comment.

If Tarantino was simply doing genre films (a la Corman or Meyer) I'd have no problem with it. What bothers me is that he's unable to temper his excitement -- it's as if with each successive film he's trying to do too much. Instead of it being simple homage, or "inspired by", there's always this sense of Quentin making sure you know how much he knows.

Kill Bill does look great, and was a lot of fun the first time around. Yet repeated viewings led me to see how there just wasn't any there there. It's a hodge podge of influences and nicked ideas -- there's nothing very original about it at all.

Take Grindhouse -- I thought the Rodriguez piece was a spot-on grindhouse film, right down to all the details. Quentin's wasn't. Yes, the car chase was skillfully executed, but everything leading up to it was insufferable. It's impossible to get immersed in the film or characters when everybody is just an extension of Quentin.

Russ Meyer has openly stated that his films addressed his own obsesions/fetishes, yet you didn't feel his ego creeping in to every scene.

I agree with you that Jackie Brown is a more mature film -- probably because he was using somebody else's material. (I quite like that film.)

Watching the trailer for his new film -- I would have sworn it was a parody of a QT film. Then again, trailers can be misleading, and maybe it will be a masterpiece. (Doubtful.)

Sorry for the rambling tone of the post -- I'm very distracted as of late.

Steve

No sweat, I appreciate the quick reply. And what you say makes perfect sense...

I think that in Grindhouse, QT tried to do a very specific, and unfortunately VERY BAD form of 70's film, but he did it so well and in his own way that he really went beyond the genre and just made something that could only be viewed as a QT film. The dialogue, endless dialogue, was so dead-on his style that it really takes you out of the "this is like those old films" formula.

As for Basterds...well, had I not known this was a QT film, I would not have guessed it. It doesn't strike me at all like his style. However, it also strikes me as a trailer that doesn't look like a good film. I want to enjoy it but I have pretty serious doubts. His style of dialogue won't mesh with the period, so he'll have to make some pretty drastic changes.

Thanks.

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