Thursday, October 15, 2009

Junk Food Art

I think one of the biggest problems in film criticism is recognizing the dichotomy between Low art vs. High art. To give you an extremely polarized example, I'll use Michael Bay's "Transformers" vs. Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal"

I think both film's represent a richness to the art of film, although Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" is without a doubt a much better film. This is not my admittance to the thought that Michael Bay makes good movies, all I'm saying is that he makes movies that people, for whatever reason, enjoy.

If I had to liken this dichotomy to something equally analogous I would say this is like a food diet. Michael Bay is the CEO of Junk Food Film. His movies are like a pepperoni Pizza filled with cream cheese, served with chocolate sauce and extra nacho cheese. These things are all tasty, but when combined, they make for an extremely unhealthy meal.

Ingmar Bergman is the CEO of Healthy Food Film. Unfortunately I can't think of a meal that is analogous to the Tranformers serving because I myself am more of a junk food enthusiast. But I can say this. When you consume "The Seventh Seal" you'll be feeling the health effects for a week after you consume it. It will turn your brain into an intellectual and philosophical powerhouse.

Two sides to the equation, we need to balance this out. There are a lot of people who are health food freaks and won't touch a single dorito. On the other end there are people who detest the site of broccoli. This makes for an unbalanced diet. Who can balance this equation? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Mr. Steven Spielberg.

Not only does Spielberg make pure junk food films-"Indiana Jones" but he also makes pure healthy films-"Schindler's List" The best thing that he does though, is he combines the two wonderfully.

Take for example, "Jurassic Park" In it, we have our heroes who are constantly being chased by dinosaurs driven by an unquenchable blood lust. Sounds like a low art premise, almost to the point of a B-Movie. Except Spielberg works harder than that. The film is a philosophical powerhouse. The character of John Hammond is a man who thinks he can play God. Through the course of the film he constantly tries to stay in control of every situation, and also prove his effectiveness. "Spared no expense" he assures his fellow guests.

The film teaches that no matter what, Life will find a way, because Life is powerful, much more powerful than any one man.

Now, did you think you could learn that from a low art adventure movie?

I think Hollywood needs to return to this cinematic worldview. One where you can entertain the senses with wild imagery, but also inspire the intellect of humanity. I would implore Michael Bay to start thinking about films in terms of ideas about life instead of ideas about what most 15 year old boys like-which is explosions and cleavage.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Favorite Movie

I think it's safe to say that everyone has at least a few favorite movies. What I wonder is, how often do we change our minds and replace our all time favorite with a new one. I think that is a rare occurence. For me, The Empire Strikes Back will always be my all time favorite, but my runner up top five probably changes every few years. For now lets say the top five is-

1. Blade Runner
2. E.T.
3. The Royal Tenenbaums
4. Donnie Darko
5. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

In a few years, the list will probably be all different. But I think my point here is, we gotta keep up our search for our new favorites. Film has such a broad canon that it takes a long time to survey the entire 100 plus year history, but thats the fun. In my academic studies of film I've come across some new favorites such as "The General" (Buster Keaton) "Modern Times" (Charlie Chaplin) "Citizen Kane" (Orson Welles) "Sunset Boulevard" (Billy Wilder) and a few others. But I had to sift through a lot more movies to get to those. I had to stand "Sullivan's Travels" (Preston Sturges) and "Meet John Doe" (Frank Capra) I really did not like those films. But the good part is I know where to stay away and where I can pursue the films I do enjoy. I will watch more Wilder, Welles, Keaton and Chaplin, and I'm going to enjoy it. That's the fun of my new academic film studies, I get to find new favorites every day.