FRAME OF REFERENCE
WHAT’S INSIDE? love in buffalo ‘66
by ELIZABETH GOODSTEIN
by CLARE RICHARDSON
filmmakers’ voices compiled by JOSHUA GLEASON
opinion piece: film reviews
by AMBER GROSS
by JONATHAN GINSBERG
turn the page
smatterings from the editor by ALEXANDRA BYER
UPCOMING EVENTS March 31 - April 3 : JHU Film Festival www.hopkinsfilmfest.com
May 3rd : Screening of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” hosted by JHU Film Society
FRONT AND BACK COVER PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSHUA GLEASON
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: ALEXANDRA BYER johns hopkins university 90 gilman hall baltimore, md 21218 email@example.com
May 9 & 10th : JHU Student Showcase screenings of all student work from the term
2011 CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
CLARE RICHARDSON is a junior at Johns Hopkins majoring in Film & Media Studies and the Writing Seminars. She likes v neck t-shirts, Stendhal Syndrome, gelato, playing the movie game, Thomas Pynchon, scarfs with zebras on them, and In-n-Out.
ELIZABETH GOODSTEIN is a sophomore Film and Media Studies major with a potential minor in Jewish Studies. Elizabeth grew up in Manhattan, New York. Her film enthusiast father began sharing his passion for going to the movies before she could walk. One day she
JONATHAN GINSBERG is a Junior International Studies Major here at Hopkins. The focus of his major is East Asia, where he hope to be working when he graduates. He has always loved movies, with Pulp Fiction and Goodfellas being just a couple of his favorites. Although he am open to all genres, heâ€™s a sucker for a good mafia movie or suspensethriller. Besides movies, cooking is a passion of his, which has lead me to the creation of the Cooking & Eating Club at JHU.
hopes to do, well, what just a few other
JOSHUA GLEASON is a senior Film and Me-
film majors with a liberal arts education
dia Studies major at Johns Hopkins originally
hope to do-become a film producer. On
from Northern New Jersey. He is Co-Director
campus, Elizabeth is the Food Columnist
of the Johns Hopkins Film Festival and Film
on the Johns Hopkins News-Letter, a
Society. Films and filmmaking are an impor-
member of the Blue Key Society, and an
tant part of his life. Joshua's films have been
Admissions Representative. She is also
seen on DVD players and computer screens
the Publicity Chair of the 2011 Milton
throughout the country. His short film Spot-
S. Eisenhower Symposium and hopes to
light won Best Cinematography at the Ameri-
AMBER GROSS is attending the JHU Writing
make film, media, and the entertain-
can College Dance Festival, and he will be
Seminars MFA program and teaching IFP. She
ment industry a large focus of this years
continuing his pursuits in filmmaking upon
graduated from Yale, and has lived life as an
actress in New York and a yoga teacher in Los Angeles. She is from North Dakota. Her last name will be Burke, as of June 5th.
BIG THANK YOU THIS IS A HUGE THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS MADE FILM POSSIBLE AT JOHNS HOPKINS.
Dear Readers, This 2011 edition is particularly special to me because it is my last. On May 26th, I will don black and take that fateful walk across the stage, pray that my name is not butchered, receive a scroll of parchment from a superior in a robe, and it will be over. My university career will be finished. I dream that upon passing that master in gold and black and moving my tassel to the left (or is it the right?), I will be flooded with clarity – a divine understanding of what has passed and what is to come. As I reflect upon my four years at Johns Hopkins and layout my ultimate edition of Frame of Reference, I cannot help but view the end as a fresh start. Everything reads black and white. Hopkins has taught me what I love, who I love, and how I aim to manifest that in the future. The grey area that consumed me in past years has dissipated. This Frame of Reference attempts to mimic such newfound lucidness. The edition focuses less on frill, and more on its heart – the content. Love and legacy,
THANK YOU MEREDITH WARD FOR PUTTING IN HUNDREDS OF EXTRA HOURS TO ORGANIZE FILM SOCIETY AND TEACHING US HOW TO CREATE A FUNCTIONING, THRIVING GROUP. THANK YOU LUCY BUCKNELL, LINDA DELIBERO, JOHN MANN, & MATT PORTERFIELD FOR GIVING EVERY FILM STUDENT AN INTIMATE, INVALUABLE EDUCATION THAT COULD LITERALLY BE FOUND NO WHERE ELSE. AND THANK YOU FOR BELIEVING IN THIS PROGRAM JUST AS MUCH AS THE STUDENTS - WITHOUT YOUR PASSION WE WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN ABLE TO COME THIS FAR AND DEVELOP AS FILMMAKERS. THANK YOU VIVECA PATTISON FOR YOUR PATIENCE, UNWAVERING FRIENDLINESS, AND HELPFULNESS WITH EVERYTHING - EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TO. THANK YOU JOSH GLEASON FOR KEEPING ME GROUNDED AND FOR AN AMAZING YEAR FOR FILM SOCIETY. I COULD NEVER HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT YOU. LASTLY, THANK YOU FILM SOCIETY. THIS YEAR WAS PIVOTAL FOR US AND, WITHOUT YOUR PARTICIPATION, ENERGY, AND COMMITMENT EVERY WEEK, IT WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN NEARLY AS SUCCESSFUL.
the state of independent cinema
written by CLARE RICHARDSON photography by JOSHUA GLEASON
HOW MANY YEARS HAVE YOU BEEN COMING TO SUNDANCE? With
veterans with decades under
can these mediocre films be the best of the
their belts and newbies alike riding the buses
independent productions being produced today?
up and down Park Avenue or sitting right next
to each other at the Eccles Theatre, it’s quite
contrary to everyone else’s perception of
the common question one festival-goer to the
the festival: in the aftermath of Sundance it
other. Sundance 2011 is my seventh festival,
seems the film industry is absolutely buzzing
which I feel has cemented my position as a young
about what an upswing independent cinema
veteran (especially considering how young I
currently is in after the festival. Sundance
actually am). I’ve been to enough festivals to
2011 had the most sales of any recent
was full of debuts and new faces, making it
of uncertainty. I have seen my share of bad
see transitions, from the peak of swag-insanity
festival, with some distributors picking up as
uncharted territory unlike recent festivals.
films at Sundance but this year was especially
with Paris Hilton’s infamous appearance to
many as five films a piece. While some are
And while these acquisitions seem to only be
horrendous (I Melt with You, I’m looking at
the swing back to “Focus on Film.” I’ve seen
quick to judge that this is the advent of new
a sign of upswing, this festival is quite similar
you!). Of course this is usually canceled out
movies—hundreds of them—during my days at
independent film, Sundance 2011 seems to
to the conditions of the 2007 festival, where
by the festival standouts, but this year the
the Festival, and one thing that never seems
act more as a fork in the road than anything
many films were picked up for large sums
stinkers were unsuccessfully placated with
to change is how impressed I am by the films
else: the point where independent film will
only to fail at the box office months later.
such “meh” films as Cedar Rapids, Little Birds,
I see. It’s quite unusual to walk into a movie
either continue and upswing that will foster
That’s why I feel the frenzy over Sundance
and Vampire. Of course I wasn’t able to see all
cold without knowing a single plot point, but
a wider distribution of smaller films, or will
is a little premature: at this point we’re
of the hot films of the festival: I missed Being
that’s just another day at Sundance and it is
take a turn for the worst and remain trapped
in limbo, awaiting these films’ release to
Elmo, Another Earth, and Like Crazy among
these “know nothing” films that have always
in the microcosm of alternative distribution.
see if they are all they’re cracked up to be.
many others, but I saw many festival favorites
surprised, astounded me, and reaffirmed my
In the past my sentiments on the festival
like Pariah, Happy Happy, Cedar Rapids, and
faith in independent cinema. But this year
made this festival so full of acquisitions: the
have always been pretty spot on with the media’s
My Idiot Brother. Two of my three favorites,
was the first where I haven’t been as effected
abundance of Oscar nominations for Sundance
impressions, yet this year I seem to be off the
Win Win and Submarine came into the festival
by the films I saw at Sundance: I find myself
2010’s breakout films surely helped the cause,
mark compared to the coverage. As I reflect
with distribution, which completely voids the
struggling to answer “what was your favorite
and how affordable films were compared
back on Sundance 2011, I can’t help but feel
argument of how many fantastic films were
film?” and never being satisfied with the films
to the former years of Little Miss Sunshine
like there’s a bit of disappointment lingering. I
picked up. Maybe I’m more focused on the
I name. In all honesty I was worried:
priced movies likely did as well. This festival
was expecting the thrill and power of festivals
films themselves than the hoopla surrounding
past, yet I was left with a lukewarm feeling
their acquisitions, but to me this festival
Apparently my serious doubts were
It’s hard to say exactly what exactly
“I was expecting the thrill and power of festivals past, yet I was left with a lukewarm feeling of uncertainty.”
Searchlight is an incredibly successful studio
hope, a hope that other worthy independent
from their attachment and how they handle
And while the films at this festival are
with means and access incorporable to a
productions may have the opportunity to play
these otherwise micro-movies. While my
definitely the weakest and least exhilarating
micro distributor, and in the hands of a large
against studio funded productions because
question of if the films of Sundance 2011 are
of all the past festivals, I also see an optimistic
distributor this film will undoubtedly receive
of their acquisition by certain independent
the best of independent cinema will remain
gleam in all this. Even though the films may
more publicity and play in more theatres. And
studios. That’s why the actual success of
unanswered, if these films do go out in the
not be as strong as other Sundance alums,
while people don’t go to the movies based on
Sundance 2011 will only come to fruition
real world backed by their veteran distributors
most were very playable movies. Most of the
distributor, there is definitely a sort of “stamp
once these films are released to the public.
and make a splash, become successful, then
purchases were of small films were acquired
of approval” that might make a much broader
Of course having a big name like
their success will only portend good things
by the big distributors in the independent
audience be aware, interested, and want
Searchlight or the Weinstein’s behind and a
market, such as Martha Marcy May Marlene
to see this film. In this sense Martha Marcy
film by no means guarantees box office success,
who was picked up by Fox Searchlight.
May Marlene’s purchase shines a glimmer of
but it will be interesting to see what results
was lackluster in comparison to the past.
PHOTOGRAPHY IS TRUTH. THE CINEMA IS TRUTH TWENTYFOUR TIMES PER SECOND. - jean-luc godard
ART IS A SENSE OF MAGIC. - stan brakhage People sometimes say that the way things happen in the movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen to you in life that’s unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it’s like watching television -- you don’t feel anything. - andy warhol I guess I think that films have to be made totally by fascists -- there’s no room for democracy in making film. - d.a. pennebaker
- billy wilder
FILMMAKING AS TOLD BY FILMMAKERS
A director makes only one movie in his life. Then he breaks it into pieces and makes it again. - jean renoir
EVERY SINGLE ART FORM IS INVOLVED IN FILM, IN A WAY. - sydney pollack The proper route to an understanding of the world is an examination of our errors about it. - errol morris
A DIRECTOR MUST BE A POLICEMAN, A MIDWIFE, A PSYCHOANALYST, A SYCOPHANT, AND A BASTARD.
quotes compiled by joshua gleason
I love independent filmmaking. I don't agree with a lot of it, but that's the point. - gena rowlands CINEMA SHOULD MAKE YOU FORGET YOU ARE SITTING IN A THEATER. - roman polanski
I rather think the cinema will die. Look at the energy being exerted to revive it -- yesterday it was color, today three dimensions. I don’t give it forty years more. Witness the decline of conversation. Only the Irish have remained incomparable conversationalists, maybe because technical progress has passed them by. - orson welles
C R E AT I N G LOVE STORIES, CREATING VALUE IN by elizabeth goodstein If we do not have knowledge of love stories, can we long, can we desire?
One cannot love without being cognizant of love stories. The love story that develops in Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo ’66 (1998) between Billy (Vincent Gallo), a troubled man recently released from prison, and Layla (Christina Ricci), his abductee, exemplifies the notion that “if there were no love story to tell, there would be no love at all.” As a romantic relationship conjures between the two characters, both ascend the metaphorical ladder of love cited in Plato’s Symposium. In ascending the ‘ladder,’ Billy and Layla create their own love story, which helps them “to understand love and loving” and to “value [their] personal relationships… [and] the consequential shape they give our lives.”
stories. In one of the first scenes of ’66, Billy abducts Layla so that she can pose as his fiancé in front of his parents. The two characters visit Billy’s childhood home. There is no love between Billy’s parents, as their odd behavior indicates mental absence. Billy’s mother obsesses over the Buffalo Bills football team and is more immersed in the games than dinner table discussion. Billy’s father is incapable of relating to his son. He downright ignores Billy. One of the few moments in which the two characters engage involves screaming. Billy’s father becomes paranoid over the direction in which Billy’s table knife sits. The father proceeds to harangue his son. The anger and tension is palpable.
Billy is sullen, closed-off, and argumentative. His body language is initially the most striking of his cinematic attributes. Hands shoved into his pants’ pockets, Billy ventures in search of a bathroom in the first sequence. He maintains this rather hunched over, removed persona for the majority of the film. He seems not to know love. He is neither affectionate nor passionate. The viewer learns that Billy grew up in a chaotic household. Billy’s parents are void of empathy and sentiment. They are at once psychologically abusive and emotionally vapid. The poignancy of their abuse is evident in a flashback. Billy’s father kills the family dog after it urinates in the house. This takes place in front of Billy-a rather disturbing experience for a young child.
This unstable environment is no helpmate as a means to understanding love. It is perhaps this lack of love growing up that inhibits Billy’s ability to ‘feel’ throughout the majority of the film. One might think of this disappointing family environment, however, as heartbreak. Whereas Billy, a young child, potentially craves love and attention, his parents are incapable of sharing that with him. This disappointment could potentially lead to his lack of ability to love. For, “recurrent heartbreak can give shape to one’s life in a way that recurrent indigestion cannot.” This cycle of “heartbreak” and “recurrent” parental misfortune “give[s] shape” to Billy’s life in that bitterness is all he knows. Thus, if he only knows contempt, he has no way of knowing love.
This seemingly depressing household is without love
Layla, however, appears to know love. She is the romantic aggressor. The viewer does not see the familial lifestyle from which she comes. Yet it seems that Layla knows how to create a story. Whereas a person incapable of constructing a love story would probably disallow him or herself from developing a relationship with another person, Layla notices value in Billy. She seeks this value throughout the film. There are multiple times where Billy exits the car he has taken Layla prisoner in-it would be easy to escape. She, however, stays put and waits for his return. In a later scene in a Motel that the two characters stay in for an evening, Layla, nude, takes a bath with Billy. She is uninvited. In this instance, she again proves herself the romantic pursuer-in search of value, in search of love. Without having some knowledge of love stories, Layla would not be aware that creating a romantic allegory “is an achievement that is valuable.” Thus connecting with a potential love and developing a “valuable” relationship is “an achievement,” but also a way to self-actualization. For, “the value of love is located in the possession of ‘wisdom and virtue’ achieved by the process of mutual discovery.” In this “process of mutual discovery,” one might find value in another person, which in turn leads to the creation of a love story. In ’66 it is only through this “mutual” recognition of each other’s value that Billy and Layla have a sense of “what it is about love that makes its possession a good,
something worth wanting.” Without being in the process of creating their own amorous relationship; without feeling and without affection, Billy and Layla would not know to explore “its possession.” Furthermore, the characters can only appreciate “the value of the opportunity” and “the value of a love relationship” from fully comprehending the power and meaning behind “the process.” It is in recognizing the promise of the “process” that in turn leads Billy and Layla up ‘the ladder’ of love.
person will also aid “us in our journey.” It is not simply a shared experience leading to attachment and adulation. Rather, the “journey” is also one of self-discovery.
Yet this kiss is another rise upward on the ‘ladder.’ To show this brief act of passion and affection proves that Billy is recognizing potential in Layla. He is attempting to create some sort of romantic story with her.
This culmination of self-discovery and climbing ‘the ladder’ is evident in the evolution of Billy and Layla’s Next the two share a deep, long hug. Billy attempts to relationship. At first Billy is brooding and ill tempered, leave the room to kill his arch nemesis and himself. Layla and Layla is cheerful. Layla is romantically assertive, recognizes the gravity of the forthcoming events, and and Billy stays closed to the prospect of an amorous relationship. As time goes on, however, the two suspend aspects of their original states to “ascend” rung by rung. This is apparent in the bathtub scene mentioned earlier.
The ladder is “a means of ascent.” Hence “each rung is a next step in reaching further understanding in that person.” As Billy and Layla “further [understand]” one another, they climb ‘the ladder’ rung, by rung. In the beginning of the film, Billy would have completely In doing so, they “proceed upwards in pursuit” protested Layla joining him in the bathtub. Although he of fully comprehending the significance of love. does express much hesitance, the fact that the two sit in the bathtub simultaneously is a step in the right direction. It is this process of reaching the top of ‘the ladder’ that Arms clasped around his knees, he sits uncomfortably formulates a true relationship. Yet, “the question that and appears to be terrified. Layla even remarks that he needs to be asked is what reason one has for seeking such “looks like a little boy” while sitting there in that position a partner.” It is not only because one is conscious of love with clothes on. When she appears naked next to him in stories and in want of value, but also because “investment a subsequent shot, her body language reads antithetical in the human is necessary, doing the act of loving will help to his. Her body is extended towards him, while he us in our journey.” So, “[investing]” lovingly in another remains closed unto himself. This image indicates that she is asking him to suspend his apprehension toward her. She is welcoming him into some sort of relationship so that they may grow together. It is only through recognizing this potential of “value” in Layla that Billy begins to grow.
“One cannot love without being cognizant of love stories.”
attempts to persuade Billy not to leave. He refuses. He also declines to kiss her. Yet as he is about to leave, Layla asks him for a hug. He is tentative at first. After her initial embrace, however, Billy loses himself in the gesture and grasps Layla tightly and emotionally. This other act of closeness proves that the two are creating a romantic story of some sort.
Towards the end of the film, Billy realizes that Layla’s love for him is more significant than the murder-suicide he intended to commit. He stops short of going through with the gruesome event and instead returns to Layla’s side. The two are pictured together on a bed, embracing at the end of the film. Where once separated on opposite sides of the bed, they are now rendered together, as one whole. Where once two distinct parts, they now In the next scene, the two form one image. It is here that the two truly reach the characters lie on a bed together. top of the ‘ladder.’ They have fully appreciated the At first Billy lies as far as humanly process of “mutual understanding.” They, therefore, possible from Layla. He is in know what it is to feel. They have created a love story. the fetal position, signifying that he has in many ways Growing up with no knowledge of love, Billy is at first not emotionally developed. cantankerous and closed-off. With some tender help from Layla, however, lies with her Layla, Billy begins to comprehend the importance of body in an open, accepting affection. The two characters climb the ‘ladder of love’ and manner. She wears a towel “achieve” a deep understanding of one another. Billy and around her waist and a rather Layla create a love story and prove that “stories are necessary open blouse. Her costuming to helping us to understand love and loving.” It is only in echoes this accessible attitude. becoming knowledgeable about the “process” of creating Eventually the two share a a story with another individual that Billy is able to love. brief kiss. Billy subsequently Gilbert, Paul. Human Relationships: A Philosophical Introduction. New York: returns to the very edge of Blackwell Publishers, 1991. Plato, The Symposium the bed in a fetal position.
J E R E M Y BRETT AS SHERLOCK H O L M E S
B A G
Y B E R O S S
You usually reserve for syllables. I do not listen to your guest, who is dull; I watch you. Your eyes that close to listen and open and squint and widen to listen.
The violin, the promising clops of horseshoes on the cobblestone. Your Sherlock looks out his window, Cocks his head, bemused at London, Like the god who wound the music box of London.
* Your guest is gone and you pull your knees up to your chin. You order your Watson to leave you alone, for this is quite a three-pipe problem.
* I was thirteen. I was alone Watching your adventures in the basement. Your every movement. * Loud Now, soft Wat-son, you begin, Fully understanding the power of a sudden change in volume from louder to softer to enrapture. I am enraptured: The aquiline length of your nose, how your nostrils flair, the circles like moats under your eyes, eyes the green color of moats, hair slicked back like some kind of vampire, the pallor of your skin like some kind of vampire. (I know you played Dracula in LA. What were you doing in L.A.?) Data! Data! I need Data! You shout, you flounce your walking stick up against your shoulder, And walk faster, walk to someplace with data. * O your widow’s peak! O your mascara! I forget I ever loved Lawrence of Arabia. * You think fast, speak, move, laugh fast— Dance your tiptoe dance To look at footprints through the glass, All black angles of knees and elbows. You throw yourself down on the grass. * You are pressing your ear to the wall of the bank vault, Holding very still. You put a hand up, put a finger to your lips, shush the banker. Watson closes the lantern and sits with his pistol. You listen to the marble. * Now you’re magnanimous, in your own rooms; You have a guest and she’s a lady. You toss up your coattails, sit down. Tell me pre-cise-ly, you say, Lavishing her with the kind of attention
* Your first Watson knew how to take your abruptness. He shrugged. He twinkled. He laughed you off. He laughed you off with admiration. You put up with him: he was a good Watson. (As good as you were, when you played Watson to Charlton Heston’s Holmes? What were you doing, playing Watson to Charlton Heston’s Holmes?) * You suffer a substitution of Watsons, Quietly bear it. But your second Watson is unfortunate. Too drab and earnest, Always on the verge of forgetting his pistol. This Watson hangs back with arms limp at his sides, Stares with eyes too deepset for the camera to find, Until you shake him into action. How could anyone not be eager to accompany you? You barely put up with him. The moneybag of your intolerance is cinched and tied: Now your Sherlock is dissatisfied with all humankind. Now it’s just your show; You might as well be alone at the prow, Shooting alone at aborigines. * I want no Watson in this episode. No victim, no suspect, no clues; Just you. No room but the room on Baker Street. I want to see you alone, Opening and closing the drawers, Eating and dabbing at your lips, Getting up in the middle of eating, Suddenly sighing. I want to see you standing and looking out the window, bemused, As if London is a serenade dedicated to you. * I want to see you alone. I will insist. Reluctantly, Mrs. Hudson will show me up to 221B, Introduce me, And you will say, Bring her a hot cup of coffee. You will tell me where I’ve come from, Having gleaned the details of my journey From the mud on my dress. From ink, my occupation.
I will prostrate myself before your powers of deduction And enunciation, And confess my great distress. Tell me pre-cise-ly, you’ll say with great interest. Tell me pre-cise-ly, Miss--You will pronounce my name And my name will have its apotheosis. I will tell you precisely what has me suspicious. (I hope something has me suspicious.) I have counted steps in case you ask, Counted windows. I may have been followed. (I hope I’ve been followed.) I will watch you listen to me; Your eyes that close to listen and open and squint and widen to listen. * I want to be the victim, the suspect, your witness, Watson; To have all clues somewhere on my person. I want you to solve me and keep me, With patience that outlasts your patience for Watson. To request my company at Violinland, Where usually you don’t want company. * It is because you sneer at common sentiment, That I want to stir you to loveletters. It is because you always take command, That I want you to take command of me. * You will press your ear to my chest, Put your finger to my lips, List for me your pamphlets, On tobacco, on fingerprints. We will not go to Violinland. Your syringes will stay in the drawers. You will forget your experiments. We will not go to Violinland. You will more than put up with me. II You the actor, born Huggins, heir to chocolate, Called yourself Brett, Called yourself sunny. You weren’t always. You blamed Holmes, Holmes the killjoy. * You had no luck in LA. What were you doing in LA? Your film credits Refused to multiply.
Nobody let you play a cowboy, Or James Bond. Yet, when the offer came, You were disinclined to play Holmes. You played coy. Sherlock Holmes was full. A furnished room furnished By all the actors who had played Holmes and left. Rathbone’s deerstalker hat was on the rack, The closet was full of his tweed Inverness capes, His socks were in all the drawers. * You read the canon before you took the part. Then read the canon all the time, Brought it everywhere, like a watch or compass. A becomer, you spent more hours in Holmes’s head Than Doyle. You invented gestures, a laugh for him, a history: Robbed him of a mother, starched him a nanny. Before long you wanted to inhabit every case in the canon. * Offstage, you were stricken. Your wife died your heart hurt your heart enlarged. You were manic then lethargic. (Like someone else, perhaps.) You gave interviews after your collapse. I shut my eyes to everything jarring: to your earring and the short-sleeved tunic You wore unbuttoned over your barrel chest. The hair that fell in your face. The hair, it turns out, you resented slicking back. You said were miscast. You fancied yourself a romantic-heroic actor. (Vain. Like someone else, perhaps.) But how long can that last? You did sing to Audrey Hepburn. But we all can’t keep singing to Audrey Hepburn. III. Jeremy, Your Sherlock was the first to bestir me. The first of my litany Of difficult men, of well-armored bachelors who preferred to be alone. Who of course left me alone. And I remember your Sherlock, the lavish roll to the r’s, his finger to his lips, his ear to the wall of the bank vault, waiting for criminals to criminally enter, whenever I find another untender man I wish to make tender.
CRITICAL CAVEAT Before making the trek to the theatre to see a film, I am inevitably compelled to peruse critical reviews of the movie in question. Jumping blindly into a movie based off the title alone is a wild concept to me, but reading reviews before movies in their entirety can spoil the film in too many ways. The question is, how do you ascertain the merit of a movie from a review without thoroughly ruining the viewing experience in the process? The first step is to figure out how much stock to put into critics, and who is worth listening to. After reading a good film review, the infiltration of ideas occurs immediately. Focus on the cinematography, scoff at the banal dialogue, abhor the longing eyes of the miscast lead. No doubt, an authoritative perspective enriches the scope of the film. And the greater the critic, the greater the authority. Critics gain this respect by exerting a domineering sense of connoisseurship. Reviews loaded with references, technical language and undeniable confidence influence my opinion most. To read a well written review before watching a film does not add to my movie watching experience, but rather degenerates it into a constant comparison between the opinions of the review and the content of the movie. This vacillation creates a mental vacuum in which any opinion I might cultivate is heavily watered down. I do find it quite valuable, however, to read a review after seeing a film, as I have already come to my own conclusions. A review can highlight things I may have taken for granted, and adds perspective to my experience. The Critic becomes more of a companion in this case, the sort of friend you often get frustrated with given his snob appeal, but whose opinion cannot be disregarded given its constantly provocative and insightful nature. The Critic serves as a tastemaker, a collection of whom create the “they.” “They” can bicker, but they can also align into a cosmic force under which circumstances a movie can reach the status of a “Classic.” The boldest of the “They” will deviate from the pack. This contrarian figure is always a great read, given the pure fact that he has the audacity to challenge the canon, to oppose the dictated aesthetic. One such man, Armond White, Film Critic for the New York Press, takes on this role among the “they” with a semblance of respect due to his original voice and literary prowess. His prose, mimicking poetry in his muse-like grasp of language, and cutting assessment of a character, scene, or movie forces you to reconsider your own opinions. Perhaps this snippet from his Review of the Social Network will better highlight his style: “Like one of those fake-smart, middlebrow TV shows, the speciousness of The Social Network is disguised by topicality”. Such contrarian reviews rarely result in a change of heart for me, but it does point at something larger, that the question of taste is just that. Roger Ebert, my favorite critic, is often slighted by the “They,” for judging movies on a purely emotional level, emphasizing
pure entertainment as a basis for quality. However, he creates literary parallels and psychological diagnoses that are truly enjoyable to read. As such, each critique can be viewed as its own work of art. Metacritic.com, a website that collects as many critical reviews as possible, compiling them all to create a “score” gives you the clearest indicator of how the “They” feel about a certain movie. This score is fascinating. It reduces highfalutin opinion into a numerical value. This Metascore certainly appears to be a deciding factor; the end all, be all of critical references, but like anything taste-related, the contrarian is always alive and often yelling loudest. The most important point to maintain is that you, as the viewer, construct your own tastes. The definitive nature of taste is only exists within, besides the love-hate spectrum.
ECNEREFER FO EMARF
Published on Mar 31, 2011