Jump to content
byronr

Metamorphosis.

Recommended Posts

Greetings.I am Byron,a 19 year old gradually slipping into cinema.Your writing,intelligence,and analysis is not only awesome and admirable,but inspirational.I only began to take films seriously about a year ago,understanding that it was much more than the blockbusters I had been mainly exposed to(not throwing them under the bus,just saying they did not build my curiosity enough to want to dive deeper into the seventh art they were coming from).Now,as a infant slowly falling down the rabbit hole,I find that I am having trouble understanding it fully.I find that I can sometimes appreciate the mise en sene,cinematography,editing,sound,acting,plot,and themes of a film,but after watching 'La Notte",I found myself lost,inarticulate,and grabbing for straws-looking for a way to 'get it'-which sometimes puts me off from watching 'art' films,as I feel like I am wasting my time watching,having to read online on the film after watching it,an act of labor sometimes. Inarticulation and understanding are my two major issues;
1. Inarticulation-I find it difficult to bring aspects of a film together.I find that I mostly appreciate one aspect while ignoring others.I do not want to be a film critic,I just want to be able to fully express my thoughts and feelings about film and bring all aspects of film into those thoughts and feelings.
2.Understanding-I never read reviews of films before watching them.I always want to go in fresh and then attempt to construct my own understanding of the film.When I watched 'La Notte' and other 'art' films,I was a bit clueless,feeling like I missed something.This then affects my 'film-esteem',making me feel automatically inept when analyzing a film,and blowing my mind when I read the intelligent,articulate,detailed and well-constructed analyses of others.
Should I read other readings of the films after watching for better understanding(which sometimes makes me feel like a copy,not having my own),or read before to at least have a base to step when watching the film?
What are the baby steps to be taken to be able to express and observe a film,forming understandings and analyses in the process?
 
In short,I would love your assistance and advice in deepening and widening my growing love for cinema,specifically my articulation and understanding of films.It would be greatly appreciated,and thank you for taking the time to read this.
 
 
 
 
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello, Byron.

Welcome to the Arts & Faith forums. Just a quick administrative note -- I moved your post to the more general "Film" forum (as opposed to Featured Film or Filmmakers) where it appears you cross-posted. Please don't feel bad about that. It can take awhile to get the hang of where to post different kinds of posts. 

You ask,
 

Quote

 

What are the baby steps to be taken to be able to express and observe a film,forming understandings and analyses in the process?
 
In short,I would love your assistance and advice in deepening and widening my growing love for cinema,specifically my articulation and understanding of films.It would be greatly appreciated,and thank you for taking the time to read this.

 

I am sure different members of this community will have different opinions. Like book criticism (or music/art criticism) film criticism varies widely in quality, so it depends on what you read. I think just reading the standard "movie review" might not help you too much, but while looking at different reviews you may find people who express themselves well or whose ideas spark something in your own analysis. 

My suggestion might be to read a book of film appreciation as opposed to film criticism. There are many good ones. (I use Louis Giannetti's UNDERSTANDING MOVIES in my class.) These won't (or shouldn't) give you a take on a specific movie, but they may help you to build a vocabulary that helps you to express your ideas more clearly and understand others when they talk about films. 

Like you, I prefer to read as little as possible before a film experience. Afterwards, I might read a few reviews if I want to see whether others had similar responses or if I note that my response seems to vary widely from the general consensus. (For example, I did not care much for Parasite, which a lot of other critics liked, so I read a bit more here or on Letterbox'd from people who did to try to get a sense of what I might have missed. 

I don't think there is a right answer, but I would say that the more you work on articulation, the more your understanding will improve and vice-versa. As you work on articulating your ideas, the process of others asking you to clarify what you think and why you think it will help you to be more precise and think about it in a more focused way, which should help your understanding. And, of course, the better or more confident you are in your understanding, the more articulate you may gradually become.  :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome, Byron!  And props to you for wanting to make the steps away from movie consumer to critical thinker about cinema (you're more than a decade younger than I was, in taking that step).

To add to Ken's comments:

- After all this time, inarticulation hasn't completely gone away.  There are still films that feel quite opaque to me, where I feel a relief that I'm not writing a review of it.  Repeat viewings absolutely help; for me, the first viewing is largely about grasping plot, while subsequent viewings allow appreciation of exposition, allusions, music, cinematography, mise en scene, etc.

- Like you and Ken, I don't read about a film ahead of time, but happily do so afterward.  There are reviewers that I'll read afterwards (here, I especially appreciate Ken, Joel, and Evan's writing; in the larger world, I'll read critics from Variety and RogerEbert.com), and I'll also google search director interviews.

- A step that helped me immensely to view more thoughtfully was doing chronological views of the works of particular directors I love, and reading a relevant chapter of a good book on that director after each film.  My 'gateway drug' to this experience was The Warrior's Camera on Kurosawa, but I've also enjoyed this with Seitz's book on Wes Anderson, Schickel on Scorsese, a couple of books on Ozu, Truffaut on Hitchcock, etc. 

- I also enjoy reading thoughtful books on arts criticism, period, such as Emily Nussbaum's I Like to Watch, Brett Martin's Difficult Men, the recent oral history of The Wire, and Julian Barnes' analyses of 19th and 20th Century paintings.  Even though these aren't directly related to cinema, they have certainly enhanced my ways of looking and reflecting on what I've seen.


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

http://secularcinephile.blogspot.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Ken and Andrew for the great responses!I will look into it.

Last thing:i suppose it takes a mighty long time to find one's footing and "distinct" voice?I've always been interested in writing;stapling structure(prose)and content(analysis)in the presence of who i am(views,beliefs,traits) is what frustrates me most of the time because ...don't laugh hahaha..I've always envisioned myself that way and just opening my own world in the art of film. On a bad day,i just feel like such beauty is unattainable and that it is beyond my range/brain capacity/intellectual capabilities. I do think as i fall more and more into film I'll be a mixer of writing styles as i find that more fun and more to me;i find the "sophisticated-flowery-dense" and "straight-drained-simple" styles too unfulfilling as wholly seperate styles and maybe sometimes one might not really dissect the film because they're too busy attaching and serving themselves to it;all rookie mistakes of course ahahaha.Finding "film-identity(one's own takes,feelings,thoughts)" seems the hardest obstacle.

Edited by byronr

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, byronr said:

Last thing:i suppose it takes a mighty long time to find one's footing and "distinct" voice?

I'll bet you get as many answers to this as there would be respondents.  If your goal is to write film criticism/reviews, I think the best thing is simply to start doing it.  I would write, write, and write some more, whether on discussion boards like this and/or starting your own blog.  


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

http://secularcinephile.blogspot.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/17/2020 at 11:06 PM, byronr said:
What are the baby steps to be taken to be able to express and observe a film, forming understandings and analyses in the process?
 

Welcome to A&F, Byron! Ken and Andrew both have a lot of wisdom in their answers, so I don't have much to add. One thing I found helpful when I was expanding my own conception and understanding of cinema in my early 20s was to find a sort of "canon" list of films--such as the AFI Top 100, or Sight and Sound Top 250, or even our own Arts and Faith Top 100--and methodically work my way through it. There were so many films I didn't "get" initially.  I remember watching the Dardenne brothers' The Child after seeing it on a shelf in a movie rental store, and finding it admirable, but not especially great or emotionally moving. Now, years later, I think it's a masterpiece. So I think being patient with yourself and recognizing that understanding takes time is key. It's akin to learning a language; you just have to practice and listen and immerse yourself, and over time you find yourself with a more natural understanding of the medium.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are there any particular people that inspired you or that you imitated

On 1/19/2020 at 3:08 PM, Andrew said:

I'll bet you get as many answers to this as there would be respondents.  If your goal is to write film criticism/reviews, I think the best thing is simply to start doing it.  I would write, write, and write some more, whether on discussion boards like this and/or starting your own blog.  

until you eventually found your own footing?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, byronr said:

Are there any particular people that inspired you or that you imitated

until you eventually found your own footing?

Plenty of inspirations along the way, and still:

- As an adolescent:  the punchy, catchy, opinionated, informative writing style of Stephen Hunter and Harlan Ellison.

- As a younger adult and into my 40s:  the elegant, open-to-all-genres approach of Roger Ebert, exemplified in his reviews and his autobiography.  In addition, I noted that after his first brush with cancer, his reviews increasingly accentuated the positive and became way less mean-spirited, an example I strive to imitate.

- Writing my first academic analyses in my late 30s-early 40s:  the intellectual rigor and clarity of Stephen Prince's Kurosawa writings

- As an evangelical, then post-evangelical wanting to break out of the fundamentalist 'pop culture' is evil' mindset:  the worldviews and film analyses at Hollywood Jesus, and Jeffrey Overstreet's film criticism

- Mentors to me (whether they've been conscious of it or intentional about it or not), from the mid-2000s to the present day:  Doug Cummings, Ken Morefield, Darren Hughes

- Critics who participate here, whose clarity, critical discernment, and open bringing of their worldviews to their writing is admirable:  Joel Mayward, Evan Cogswell  


To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

http://secularcinephile.blogspot.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, Andrew said:

- As a younger adult and into my 40s:  the elegant, open-to-all-genres approach of Roger Ebert, exemplified in his reviews and his autobiography.  In addition, I noted that after his first brush with cancer, his reviews increasingly accentuated the positive and became way less mean-spirited, an example I strive to imitate.

It's almost a cliche to say "Ebert," but truth is in reading him (rather than just watching on TV) I realized it was okay to use the movie, particularly if it was unexceptional, as a hook to write about something else. So I would say he was definitely an influence in my developing an approach that is (I hope) informed by formal analysis but leans more heavily on cultural criticism or Reader-response. 

It's worth pointing out, though, that that approach isn't for everyone. (My wife once archly asked me about a review I was writing, "Is this one where you actually talk about the movie?") So it's important to me, if I allow myself to be influenced or suggest other things for aspiring writers to read, that it is understood that no one approach or style is "right." 

34 minutes ago, Andrew said:

- Mentors to me (whether they've been conscious of it or intentional about it or not), from the mid-2000s to the present day:  Doug Cummings, Ken Morefield, Darren Hughes

You are very kind. 


Doug has a humility and openness (inclusive/welcoming)  that I admire greatly and have tried to emulate, but which is hard to adopt. (For him, it's an expression of his personality.)  I'm interested to see how, if at all, graduate school influences that. ( I was super-pleased when he did his presentation on phenomenology and the Dardennes that he was able to take a complex philosophical idea and make it and its application comprehensible to newer/younger students. Plus he is incredibly well read and well viewed, but I never feel like he is showboating or lording it over me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...