Recently, I learned that there is such a thing as an academic journal for Film Criticism.
I browsed through the articles, attempted to dig through the academic language and I made some notes on the way, which I like to present here. So, here is a distillation of interesting ideas about film criticism, as I found in this volume of this journal.
5 More Things I Learned.
While attempting to read articles on film criticism.
- Film criticism is like psychoanalysis (Martin)
Talking about a film and how you experienced it is a lot like lying on a couch in a therapists’ office. Instead of using your mouth to talk about how you feel and what you’ve experienced in life, you use text to talk about how a film treated you.
It is also a kind of taming of the film and a taming of the complex experience it created in you. Text is a simplification that captures and cages emotions and experiences in limited ways and very strict definitions. This is one reason why many people try to make audio-visual reviews with smart editing, to get closer to what they mean, while some writers are the opposite and stick to writing in a sort of snobbish way.
- We want “middle-ground” criticism (Metz)
Film criticism is rotten in two ways: one way is the inane online rambling, full of fanboyism and vitriol, and the other way is the academic criticism that is hidden behind paywalls and obscure language that nobody reads. We need the middle way. The middle way is criticism that is informed by deeper learning, but written in popular venues and easy and accessible in language.
- Popular film as daydreams of society (Rushton)
Film critics are sometimes so caught up in how films relate to other films and how films express the style of a director, that they forget that films often have a social and political context as well. The great blockbusters, the stupid and unreal film fantasies that draw the biggest crowds, they are actually the daydreams of society. Repressed anxieties and desires of society come to the fore in the big box office movies, and are one of the reasons why some films get so successful.
A trend like the Marvel comic book films, what does it say about the modern world and the anxieties and wishes of people? Cinema can be a sort of inverted world that shows something about the real world. As a critic, you also form part of this crowd and your own reaction to such a film can also be informative about this social and political aspect of popular films.
- Criticism is navigation (Staiger)
Criticism is navigation. It helps readers to navigate through the murky soup of film, using text as oars. And criticism sometimes creates a new work of art for us. If a critic can give useful observations, a review can open up a film to be experienced in a new way. And so the experience of the film changes. Good criticism gives us fresh eyes and ears to experience the film. It also gives us ideas about the film to explore and debate.
- Film remakes in the new millennium (Verevis)
The practice of remakes has been changing. Now we often speak of reboots, while that idea didn’t even exist in filmland a decade ago. When Nolan rebooted Batman, the word reboot was never used in connection with movies. The remake of today is different from the remake of a decade ago.
Most of all, the very fact that many remakes are now often reboots means that these films do not necessarily replace an older film, but sort of co-exist as a new variation that tries to tap into the artistic merit of the first film. For reviewers, this is actually a really interesting practice. We can now review the merit of reboots in how good or bad they are in discovering something worthwhile about a story that we already know. Films like these become variations on a theme, and actually, most films already are, even if they carry different names.