Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Movie Quote-- Name That Film

Here's a quote from a fairly recent film.  See if you can remember the name of the movie (hint: they are the first words spoken in the film):

"You kill your film several times, mostly by talking about it. A film is a dream. You kill it writing it down, you kill it with a camera; the film might come to life for a moment or two when your actors breathe life back into it - but then it dies again, buried in film cans.

"Mysteriously, sometimes, in the editing room, a miracle happens when you place one image next to another so that when, finally, an audience sits in the dark, if you’re lucky -- very lucky - and sometimes I’ve been lucky - the dream flickers back to life again..."

Can you guess?  (I'll reveal the answer tomorrow unless one of you does first!)

Most of all, do you agree with it? 

First, to all of you who engage in a creative process (most of you do) as writers, filmmakers, graphic artists, stage performers, designers: Do you feel some of your inspiration drains away when you tell about your work before it's finished?

Second, do we somehow "kill" a film when we discuss it in such detail before it is even released?  I'm not talking about a simple anticipatory essay. I mean a virtual dissection of almost every aspect of the movie, including the cast, crew, behind-the-scenes, even the screenplay, and its award chances, before any of us has even seen it? 

I have found in the blogosphere, that these days a lot more writing is devoted to most movies before they are released. After the opening weekend, if a film is still worth writing about (aside from the inevitable cult-worship and box-office performance), it is often less about the film itself, and more about it's standing in the year-end awards sweepstakes.  (And then the critical claws really come out.)

It is hard to be a movie-lover today, especially if we are writers about film.  We have so little material to work with.  Many of the films arrive with a splash, and fade to home video within six months.  Most of these have no substance about which serious film-lovers and critics can discuss, ruminate, debate, compare, and arrive at some consensus as to its status, classic or otherwise. 

Distribution patterns don't allow us to form an attachment to many films; and without that relationship to a film, its resonance and deeper meaning, its relation to culture and its place in film history, are rarely teased out.

Of course, so few films are worthy of this kind of discussion..But we write about them as though they were, because we must write..and we love film....

But we movie lovers deserve better than what we're getting.

Tomorrow I will re-visit my earlier theme of the relevance of film criticism.  I will develop this topic in greater detail with help from some lucid writing by professional film critics I respect.

I want to explore what happened to this summer movie season, and why so few of us are satisfied with what we are seeing.  Instead, we're doing reviews of old classics, resurrecting old Oscar contests, looking for some nugget of something worthwhile in the trailers, anything but the kind of analysis of current releases that a true-blue critic lives for.

I will also further explore whether film criticism is still relevant today; and if it is, how so many critics have dropped the ball.  I'll offer my take on how good film criticism not only evaluates movie aesthetics, but performs a greater good. 

Meanwhile--Any guesses on that quote?


  1. Well, the quote is from Nine, certainly, a promising opening that the film didn't completely deliver on.

    Lord knows, though, that I see myself in the "resurrecting old Oscar contests" column, although I never considered myself a critic in the first place. I just...I don't know, I find myself unable to discuss much of this year's cinema. Most of it has been ok, not great, not worth writing about. What I have loved...I feel I can't put into words why. There's just a certain *feeling* that went with Hanna, Midnight in Paris, Super 8, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, an intangible *something* that connected me to the film on a spiritual, almost religious level. And how in the world does one describe such a feeling?

    Actually, it's the same problem I'm finding with the year of 1964. So many of the movies are "meh", that when a real masterpiece sticks out, it defies description. How does one properly convey the very real, very deep emotions brought up by a light drama like Dear Heart or a family film like The World of Henry Orient? There's something indescribably beautiful about the films I connect to, and I'm sure if I dug deep I could get to why, but I just don't want to spoil the magic yet.

    Anyway. Long-winded. In the end, I agree: We really do deserve better than what we're getting.

  2. Walter, I would say you have a passion and a writing talent that would define you as a great critic, should you ever want to pursue it further!

    The great satisfaction is in being able to describe your feelings especially when it seems impossible to do so, and communicate your unique experience of the film to others.

    And by the way, I LOVE your Oscar retrospectives. Even in a time of cinematic ferment, these kinds of pieces help us re-visit the past and perhaps even allow us to put today's filmmaking trends in perspective.

    But then, in between, there's too little to say about today's popular releases.

    You really summed up my opinions beautifully. Thanks

  3. HEY, Nine was good - flirted with greatness - but still good. Sigh, I really hope Rob Marshall makes something else soon (and Pirates of the Caribbean does not count).

    This year has been...hmmm, well it's been. Loved WINNIE THE POOH but other than not some goodness, but nothing that's made time stand still. I haven't seen MIDNIGHT IN PARIS or TREE OF LIFE but I feel as if I'm losing zest for current cinema, which is troubling.

  4. Andrew,
    It is that zest for current cinema that I am seeking...you nailed it. The film industry, in its finely honed methods to guess what will appeal to the biggest audience, has somehow become complacent...and audiences are beginning to notice. Thanks for weighing in.