Author Topic: On Writing  (Read 9990 times)

Paul Phoenix

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #20 on: April 03, 2016, 04:59:26 AM »
On a separate note, I'm done with Teproc's list for the next day or two. For real this time. I didn't expect that I would have to think much with Hitchcock concerned, but phew. ;D Planet of the Apes is next, so there's bound to be plenty to talk about too.

I'm just gonna go relax for a while complaining about the cliche writing of OUAT and Grimm; at least I know what to expect there. Don't get me wrong, I love such insightful discussions about films, but watching films made by such great artists can leave you drained, not to mention being reminded of the intimidating notion that I'm going to have to slave myself on another long passage review for several hours yet again.

There's a comfort in knowing that what you're going to watch next is mediocre or just plain bad, and that you'll get the opportunity not to work that hard in stating what is obvious: that it's bad. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a teacher of mine. She would comment that after working hard for the day, she just wants to go home, settle down with some cheap entertainment, and not think so hard about a film. This was during the period when I still believed that "deep = good" and forced that notion on her, so.

The reason I decided to post this here instead of Random Movie Thoughts or the Top 100 Club is because I have a question for you guys, about writing. It might just be my laziness talking, but does anyone ever get that discomfort if you write several in-depth reviews in a row, and you just feel like writing something that's not so... "analytical"? I know some people love to write such analysis as a living, but for me, I need my junk food of vodka and chips between philosophical discussions every now and then. Feel free to share your take on this.
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Re: On Writing
« Reply #21 on: April 03, 2016, 11:03:13 AM »
It takes a special kind of skill to respond to a long and thought out post without actually responding to it. I applaud your work there, verbALs. But you demonstrate in doing so the problem with ignoring outside sources. You pretend that it is a conversation between you and Hermit, that you and he talk in a vacuum with no other voices to influence you. But you're responding to most of the points that I made, misinterpreting them and twisting them to your own ends. There's a thing I teach my students called The Believing Game and it forces you to believe what the author says when you paraphrase or summarize them, no matter if you agree or disagree with their ideas. After I state several times that I cherish the individual's reaction to a movie above all else, you proceed as if I do not. And perhaps maybe this isn't what you're doing. Perhaps I'm not believing you enough. But there's something disrespectful about pretending that a third party just isn't there in a conversation. From the looks of your post you wouldn't know that I had given an equally long and developed argument about the very same subject. If we take the conversation at a cocktail party as our model, you're blocking me out. That's not fair.

So I'll respond to you directly out of respect for your place in the conversation.

I think the writing itself isn't that different from painting. There's just something off about a piece of writing that didn't come from your heart.

My favourite thought argument about art comes from a tv piece I saw about an exhibition at the Tate in St Ives once. The artist stood by his painting and offered explanations to the viewer. I was delighted last night to have this discussion with my partner and daughter (the architect, so her viewpoint on art is very interesting). My understanding of art is that it communicates emotion. A painting is a unique communication tool. What the artist might tell you should have been included in the painting surely? He is admitting a failing in his own work that he has to come back later and explain it. He also patronises his viewer by assuming they can't work it it for themselves. They need to be told.

Could the artist tell you about more than just the meaning of it. Later in this post you praise process. I love process. Might the artist's process have some influence on your understanding of the painting. Imagine a portrait of a sad older lady. She makes you feel sad when you look at her, so the artist has communicated and you have listened. But then the artist tells you that she is his imagined portrait of her mother who died when the artist was only 10. The artist's ability and process of transforming her vision of her mother from a youthful adult to a grandmotherly one enriches your understanding of the work, and your feeling both intellectually and emotionally deepens. Why is that bad? I'm asking you. You can always feel free to ignore what an artist says, certainly, and make up your own mind. Wouldn't you like to know their thoughts, though?

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Essentially all that matters is your own understanding. Not of how you bring your kids up, or work well with colleagues or protect your friends in bad moments. But how you individually parse art. Stare at the painting for hours if it's any good. Draw meaning from it. Just you and your understanding. That open ended process. Not turning to someone else for an explanation. You. You are a unique snowflake. You really are. But you need to challenge yourself that way. Next time you see a film; sitting in the dark with no one to check your understanding and nobody whispering in your ear to tell you what just happened. Then you'll start to be equipped to understand what you are watching. You are using your tools, your ability to process, to listen and watch. You accept that lonely challenge and you must be better at it. You can go back int society when you leave the cinema. Like the song says "in this life your on your own". Well no you aren't. You have family and friends and work and play and you do it socially. A whole nother ballgame.

In this cinema though, you are on your own. Yes there are rhetorical ways of circumventing that argument. Congratulations. There's always another perspective. But then there's the truth. Your truth. If you have read a piece that has influenced your truth that's natural. Just like any film can change your life and your truth. So inculcate that influence from book or film or academic paper and tell it as part of your truth. Again that's the challenge. Verbatim readings or cut pasting whole articles? Like noff said you didn't mean the whole article you meant some piece explained your point in any argument. You surely didn't meant he whole thing. It's like dropping New York on an ant. Discussion is surgical not nuclear. And it isn't your truth and it reads as not your truth. The enthusiasm gets drained out of it. The emotion and the fire. The communication. Like I said art is communication of emotion. Your post can be a piece of art as long as the emotion...your emotion... Is there. Or you can get mr professor to come in and say what you really meant that you couldn't say yourself. And isn't he impressive.

I mean, if you're going to deny that we're socially influenced creatures I guess we can just stop right here. It's not a "rhetorical way of circumventing" any argument, it's a fact of life. You are a unique snowflake, but not because of some divine gift or anything. You're unique because all the little and big things that happened to you as you lived in a society (family, school, art, work, friends, pets, history) happened to you in a unique way. So yes, sit alone in a theater, but know that you're only in that theater in the first place because your past led you there. Form your own reaction (I again value this above all else, please stop pretending that I don't).

I think I modeled a way to bring in outside sources without destroying the conversation. I agree that a link bomb isn't helpful for the most part. You'll see in my response that I already assented to that. I don't much appreciate the across-the-board distaste for professorial interactions. I want to believe that you're just not communicating as effectively as you could be, but several times you dismiss intellectual understandings of films as lesser than your own emotional perspective. Can we perhaps agree that they're equal, a matter of taste rather than objective superiority for one or the other? I want to read about both your emotional journey and what it made you think about, they need not separate from each other. 

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These things are deep within people's mindset. Part of their paradigm. Who they are.  It's not surprising one can't get agreement about important subjects. The disagreement merely indicates the individuality at work.

Now others may start from a different paradigm. That art is communication of emotion. It's something else. An intellectual expression? We are creatures of pure thought perhaps? Are we? We can write that way but are we? Before Sean left this place he was at a point of saying he had no interest in reading how films made the writer feel. I personally responded very poorly to that PoV. It seemed superior. I can see now that as you move forward with writing that talking about good film/bad film seems reductive. "I liked this film, it had good explosions. 7/10". Respect says let whoever wants to write whatever do so. After 6, 7, ,8 years let's talk about progress. Can we progress as writers. Should we expect progress?  You should get better at it. Your knowledge expands and that learning process should feed back into what you write. I'm not talking about new guys I'm talking about people 7 years into this. I can see Sean's frustration now but respect for what people want to do must come first...and I've been terrible on that front myself; enjoying arguements too much. Mea culpa. Aunty Sandy sat me down and gave me a good talking to on the subject of respect.

I'd like to hear in this thread how people feel about progress in writing. About what fundamentally governs what they write about and how.

I know that I've become a better writer in my time here. You all have helped me grow the way that I think about movies (and art and life). I have written less here in the past year because I've been writing so much more in my job as a student and teacher. The writing here becomes necessarily less good. Certainly I think Hermit is cranking out better reviews than I am when I get around to posting them. I'd let you all look at my school writing to prove that I still got it, but I think you don't really care too much about that. That's fine.

I can remember an old argument I had here, probably the first of its kind for me, that really challenged the way that I thought about movies and wrote about them. I had just seen 300 in a theater and, being a teenager at the time, loved it. My thoughts about it were no deeper than hey, that looked cool. It did look cool and it still does. But Sean pointed out that its politics were pretty messed up. They are. Reactionary, xenophobic, homophobic. Not pretty stuff. I fought him on it so hard. None of that matters if it looks cool! If I got enjoyment out of it! If it got my blood pumping! But of course it does. If our art tells us to think of people outside our culture as literal monsters, perhaps we take that in, perhaps it melts and reforms our snowflakes a little bit. Perhaps I become more eager to get people who don't look like me out of my country. This shit matters, and my emotional response was part of that, but so was the article that Sean linked to which explained how Miller wrote 300 in response to turmoil in the middle east both from the Gulf War for the book and 9/11 for the movie. It becomes easy to see the connections there, but I didn't know until I went to an outside source. So yes, I can, have, and will continue to grow as a writer. You put the hours in, you keep an open mind, and you just might learn something


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@tiny. I kept saying it was my personal position and my fault to feel that way. I think I've explained it more fully because this is a better thread to do that. But I understand how my response could be interpreted by you. You used the phrase ego trip. Yes it is an ego trip as individuality must be. The ego trip included reading critics and academics for context. If you look at my reaction to the artist standing next to the painting my family didn't agree. It's a singular view. It's a personal challenge not resorting to contextual pieces outside the work of art. I'm an engineer graduate not a humanities graduate I didn't spend 3 years in the process of reading opinions on art. My respect for it is lower than others. But if I can look at the world and work it out I'd rather do that than have someone explain what I'm seeing. Working without a safety net commits one to the process somewhat.

I am currently engaged in the process of getting my Master's degree in English. I am spending time reading things and then reading secondary articles about them. There's no overstating how useful it is to help you understand your own thoughts. I don't just take their opinions as my own, I read them, engage with them, and then form my own understanding with the help of them. Sometimes I'm just entirely against anything a critic has said and I strengthen my own opinion by opposing his. If you're not going to listen to other people's ideas about art and writing and whatever else, what are you even doing here?

I didn't spend 3 years of my life doing engineering work, but I still respect it. I can see that working it out for yourself must have some draw. It would have to. But didn't you spend a lot of time learning about the ways that things work and the ways that they don't work? I don't know if I can buy that you came to all that knowledge from mere observance. There must have been some instruction. Sure, you might not need to keep learning things, but that's only because you've built up a strong enough toolbox for understanding the way things are made, right? Some of that toolbox must have been borrowed from outside sources. If you respect it in engineering, why not respect it in the humanities?
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verbALs

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #22 on: April 03, 2016, 11:46:40 AM »
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From the looks of your post you wouldn't know that I had given an equally long and developed argument about the very same subject.

No I honestly wouldn't know what you had written because I honestly didn't read it. Like I said I want to be respectful but I'm not obliged to read everything that is written. Nor are you or anyone else.

I read what Hermit was saying about painting and it launched me into remembering last night and that conversation I had with my family. If that is synchronous with what you were saying, that's cool.

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The artist's ability and process of transforming her vision of her mother from a youthful adult to a grandmotherly one enriches your understanding of the work, and your feeling both intellectually and emotionally deepens. Why is that bad? I'm asking you. You can always feel free to ignore what an artist says, certainly, and make up your own mind.

I'm sure I could come up with 100 equally plausible examples, yes. This example is about an artist standing next to his painting and explaining what you can't see in it. So the point is that art is a communication of feeling, that piece of art. Now your examination which is your individual assessment of the art, which informs your understanding and, hopefully, reveals depth, because you are a thinking feeling intelligent person; is to be interrupted because the artist needs you to know something else. So it stops your own process, stops you thinking and starts telling you things. Again a personal view point....because I am saying what I prefer, and everyone else, hopefully is coming to their own understanding of their process of understanding art, and that is what I would like to hear here. My answer to this piece of rhetoric is...leave me to find my own understanding because that is what I want. My preference. A clear process but nobody else's. Not the right answer because there isn't a right answer, but an answer that has formed since 2010 and all of the writing that I have done. I mean it has to add up to progress. One shouldn't go backward from lessons already learnt surely. What have people learnt?

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if you're going to deny that we're socially influenced creatures
I talked about us being socially influenced creatures. Not in a dark cinema or reading a book though. We aren't social there. We are on our own. Now are we waiting to be told what the film meant. Are we aching to leave the cinema and find out what our favourite critic thought or the director. Or are we there with our own tools trying to maximise our absorption of the film?

A cinema full of people engaging in a conversation with their friends about what the film meant. Thats about as annoying a scenario as is possible to imagine. For me anyway.




But lets return the conversation to its source. Links to outside pieces of art, like me linking to Station to Station? We weren't talking about that. It came from an entire piece being offered up to answer a question about a piece of art. Tiny offered a piece of writing to explain a film. I humbly apologised for not liking the approach. Tiny stood by the painting and didn't even offer her opinion. She offered someone else's. As a whole. And like I said to Martin, I know his writing. Ive been reading it for years, so when Martin explains something, I can compare it to years of his writing and form an understanding of how that film would go down with me. Not whoever Tiny linked to, even though the person might be the greatest mind on the subject. They aint writing on this forum, so I lack interest in what they say. But its a personal way of going. What's yours?

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If you're not going to listen to other people's ideas about art and writing and whatever else, what are you even doing here?
I'm listening. My caveat is I'm obviously not going to reply to everything. So I'm not obliged to answer.

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If you respect it in engineering, why not respect it in the humanities?
Because when it comes to the nut-cuttin' I'm watching a film on my own and I will maximise my appreciation of the film with the challenge that its just me there with the film so I better pay attention. Thats not a process that comes naturally and that takes a little understanding of how I process and parse art, which I gained as part of this learning process. Forget the dark cinema for a second. I personally don't have a large group around all eager to discuss films in depth. I started writing here because my missus was getting tired of my long conversations about film. She wasn't that interested and doesn't look at things in that way. I might be alone there. Maybe everyone else has lots of friends who they can go to to process a film. For me its a private personal process and I wouldn't have it any other way. My son loves films and we do get a little deeper into it, but Im not looking for him to tell me what a film meant 3 weeks later. I like hearing his extremely individual take on a movie. Whereas he just tuts at me..."cos I'm wrong". Awwww.


I'm absolutely sure nobody else has this bizarre, insane way of doing it. I hope nobody is desperately waiting for films to end so they can rush out and get told what the film meant. Im sure people have their own process. Do they open their phones mid film to read reviews that might explain a film? I don't know. I'm being facetious. Lets say everyone has their process and this would be a great place to hear stories like my one about the artist standing next to his painting and explaining it. That example says a lot about my idea of art. I would bloody love to hear other people's process. But I'm not going to promise I'm going to respond to them. Blimey!
« Last Edit: April 03, 2016, 12:23:15 PM by verbALs »
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Junior

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #23 on: April 03, 2016, 12:37:23 PM »
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The artist's ability and process of transforming her vision of her mother from a youthful adult to a grandmotherly one enriches your understanding of the work, and your feeling both intellectually and emotionally deepens. Why is that bad? I'm asking you. You can always feel free to ignore what an artist says, certainly, and make up your own mind.

I'm sure I could come up with 100 equally plausible examples, yes. This example is about an artist standing next to his painting and explaining what you can't see in it. So the point is that art is a communication of feeling, that piece of art. Now your examination which is your individual assessment of the art, which informs your understanding and, hopefully, reveals depth, because you are a thinking feeling intelligent person; is to be interrupted because the artist needs you to know something else. So it stops your own process, stops you thinking and starts telling you things. Again a personal view point....because I am saying what I prefer, and everyone else, hopefully is coming to their own understanding of their process of understanding art, and that is what I would like to hear here. My answer to this piece of rhetoric is...leave me to find my own understanding because that is what I want. My preference. A clear process but nobody else's. Not the right answer because there isn't a right answer.

Ideally you would form an opinion, hear an artist or critic's reasoning, then either reform your opinion or keep it as it was. Yes, an artist yammering on while you try to form that opinion might interrupt your own thought process, but in my vision it would be a later supplement. My process isn't stopped by hearing somebody else's ideas, it is enhanced by them.


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if you're going to deny that we're socially influenced creatures
I talked about us being socially influenced creatures. Not in a dark cinema or reading a book though. We aren't social there. We are on our own. Now are we waiting to be told what the film meant. Are we aching to leave the cinema and find out what our favourite critic thought or the director. Or are we there with our own tools trying to maximise our absorption of the film?

A cinema full of people engaging in a conversation with their friends about what the film meant. Thats about as annoying a scenario as is possible to imagine. For me anyway.

I must have screwed up somewhere. None of this matches what I said or tried to say. Fundamentally, we are made up of our past selves, yes? Each new experience changes us a little and a new self is made. Those experiences are almost all social, including experiencing a work of art. So though you may be communing with a particular movie by yourself, you are experiencing it through a lens of your past experiences. I brought up the idea that we are made out of our interactions with each other to posit that one more interaction wouldn't be a perversion of the ultimate experience but rather a continuation of your social development, by which I mean your personal development.



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But lets return the conversation to its source. Links to outside pieces of art, like me linking to Station to Station? We weren't talking about that. It came from an entire piece being offered up to answer a question about a piece of art. Tiny offered a piece of writing to explain a film. I humbly apologised for not liking the approach. Tiny stood by the painting and didn't even offer her opinion. She offered someone else's. As a whole. And like I said to Martin, I know his writing. Ive been reading it for years, so when Martin explains something, I can compare it to years of his writing and form an understanding of how that film would go down with me. Not whoever Tiny linked to, even though the person might be the greatest mind on the subject. They aint writing on this forum, so I lack interest in what they say. But its a personal way of going. What's yours?

I think you know mine by now. I've demonstrated several ways to bring outside sources into a conversation. One was a quote, one was a paraphrase, and one was a personal recollection. Did those kill the conversation? You didn't engage with them, so maybe you didn't value them. Did others? You have a tendency to be dogmatic about your beliefs, so I don't really expect this to mean much. It helps me figure out what I think, though, so there's some value here.

Although we got to know Martin through his time here, much of what he wrote happened before he joined the forum, I think. Those reviews are outside sources, you just happened to get to know the source at some point. Does it take you some time to get to know somebody before you'll actually listen to what they're saying? Is that it?

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If you're not going to listen to other people's ideas about art and writing and whatever else, what are you even doing here?
I'm listening. My caveat is I'm obviously not going to reply to everything. So I'm not obliged to answer.

No, you aren't. But you can see the value of engaging in a conversation rather than pretending that some portion of it doesn't exist, right? When I pull your quotes in it makes it much more difficult for me to misrepresent something you said. All I ask is that you repay the respect I give you as a fully functioning member of this community. Play the believing game with me and I'll play it with you.
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verbALs

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #24 on: April 03, 2016, 12:41:29 PM »
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Ideally you would form an opinion, hear an artist or critic's reasoning, then either reform your opinion or keep it as it was. Yes, an artist yammering on while you try to form that opinion might interrupt your own thought process, but in my vision it would be a later supplement. My process isn't stopped by hearing somebody else's ideas, it is enhanced by them.

Thats a workable process. I can see that. Are you happy with it? Have you got a good example of doing that. I know you've probably got 100s but one you could share here?

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Each new experience changes us a little and a new self is made.

Really? Every time a new experience happens you change with it? I think you resist new experiences just as much as anyone else. There must be a process of resistance, and I'm fairly sure Ive seen it in your responses to me over number of years, Junior. I certainly don't feel you changing every time I offer an opinion. ;D

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I brought up the idea that we are made out of our interactions with each other to posit that one more interaction wouldn't be a perversion of the ultimate experience but rather a continuation of your social development, by which I mean your personal development.

Sorry. I don't know what this has to do with the conversation about outside influences and being surgical in using them rather than nuclear and dropping a whole article into a discussion? I stated that socially we don't stand alone. I've got kids so how would I state otherwise?
« Last Edit: April 03, 2016, 12:50:12 PM by verbALs »
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Re: On Writing
« Reply #25 on: April 03, 2016, 09:12:10 PM »
I like to read about a film particularly when I suspect I am not catching on to its cultural context. I feel uncomfortable espousing an ignorant opinion that could be better honed by doing some research. I'm suspicious of regarding my own purity of thought in reaction to a film as anything other than an ego trap. Film is made by people who make decisions with intent, created within a certain sociopolitical environment, and seen by individuals who filter the film through their own experiences. That's a lot of working elements to boil down to one person's reaction.

In a situation in which forum members are asking that other forum members defend or explain a film, where one member is saying that the defending members are not doing a good enough job in their expression, it made sense to me to bring in an outside source, one that had been informative to me. It was a piece of writing that I had originally read because of my own curiosity on the subject that was being discussed (that is, WHY does Jeanne Dielman exist, and why does it work). I am hearing now, though, that I was incorrect to think that an essay published with the definitive edition of the film would be considered more valuable and garner more respect than my own gut take.

Fwiw Tiny, having subsequently gone back and read the essay, I find what you said contains far more of the sort of thing I care about. To one who disliked the experience the essay comes off as presumptive, preaching more to the choir than the critic. "We" this and "we" that... it's like "umm, speak for yourself, I don't agree with these interpretations".

Quote from: Criterion essay
Despite their apparent simplicity, Akerman’s assured framing and narrative, built out of blocks of real time intercut by radical ellipses, are not easily replicated. Rather, the film’s impact is indirectly evident in the emergence of a new phenomenological sensibility and approach to observation and the weight of time in the work of contemporary filmmakers as diverse as Abbas Kiarostami, Gus van Sant, Pedro Costa, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Todd Haynes, Jia Zhangke, and Tsai Ming-liang.

I feel this paragraph, for instance, is nonsense. "The film's impact is indirectly evident"? Indirectly evident... as in what? As in none of these directors actually watched JD, but somehow it influenced them anyways and is responsible for a starting a trend? More like, here's a handful of people who discovered a not too hard to discover technique independently of one another, and embraced it. Akerman made a whole movie using it, and surely others before her employed it in a more moderate fashion. She attributes far to much influence to this film, without any evidence... just something in the air as far as I can tell.

You're own explanation embraces the subjective nature of your reaction, as evidenced by you starting each point by saying "I". Now you have my attention. "We" is hardly as inclusive as it sounds.

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #26 on: April 03, 2016, 09:46:03 PM »
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Ideally you would form an opinion, hear an artist or critic's reasoning, then either reform your opinion or keep it as it was. Yes, an artist yammering on while you try to form that opinion might interrupt your own thought process, but in my vision it would be a later supplement. My process isn't stopped by hearing somebody else's ideas, it is enhanced by them.

Thats a workable process. I can see that. Are you happy with it? Have you got a good example of doing that. I know you've probably got 100s but one you could share here?

Well, that article on The Thing probably counts. I loved the thing enough to put it in my top 100 list as soon as I saw it. This article deepened my appreciation of how the film worked. The director commentaries on something like Pan's Labyrinth or The Red Shoes have helped me understand a movie more/better, as well. I like to think I'm an observant watcher but I know I've learned about things that the director has done that I've missed. Maybe my subconscious picked it up, and maybe it contributed to my general impression of the film, but hearing the director say it makes me cognizant of it where I might not have been.

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Each new experience changes us a little and a new self is made.

Really? Every time a new experience happens you change with it? I think you resist new experiences just as much as anyone else. There must be a process of resistance, and I'm fairly sure Ive seen it in your responses to me over number of years, Junior. I certainly don't feel you changing every time I offer an opinion. ;D

I didn't say what kind of change, did I?  8) I really do believe this to be true. It is the way I understand the world to work. I might assent to your opinion, I might assimilate it into my own thoughts, or I might rebel against it, form an anti-opinion and that'll be a change, too. Or it might not have that kind of direct effect at all, but being exposed to different viewpoints will necessarily change the way you see the world, so yes, I change each and every time I see your opinions or any others. Nothing earth-shattering, of course, but it adds up.

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I brought up the idea that we are made out of our interactions with each other to posit that one more interaction wouldn't be a perversion of the ultimate experience but rather a continuation of your social development, by which I mean your personal development.

Sorry. I don't know what this has to do with the conversation about outside influences and being surgical in using them rather than nuclear and dropping a whole article into a discussion? I stated that socially we don't stand alone. I've got kids so how would I state otherwise?

This is not in defense of the link bomb. None of what I wrote was in defense of the link bomb. You seemed to be arguing that you should pay no attention to anything outside of your own brain when it comes to forming an opinion or changing one. I offered a reason why I believed this to be a wrong way of seeing the situation (basically that you can't possibly be alone, even when you're alone) and thought that if I could show you the way I saw it you might understand why I don't see outside sources as a bad thing. Because they aren't more or less outside than any other thing that changes the way you think.

I understand if you won't respond to any of this. I hope others will weigh in. This is a cocktail party, after all, everybody's welcome.


I like to read about a film particularly when I suspect I am not catching on to its cultural context. I feel uncomfortable espousing an ignorant opinion that could be better honed by doing some research. I'm suspicious of regarding my own purity of thought in reaction to a film as anything other than an ego trap. Film is made by people who make decisions with intent, created within a certain sociopolitical environment, and seen by individuals who filter the film through their own experiences. That's a lot of working elements to boil down to one person's reaction.

In a situation in which forum members are asking that other forum members defend or explain a film, where one member is saying that the defending members are not doing a good enough job in their expression, it made sense to me to bring in an outside source, one that had been informative to me. It was a piece of writing that I had originally read because of my own curiosity on the subject that was being discussed (that is, WHY does Jeanne Dielman exist, and why does it work). I am hearing now, though, that I was incorrect to think that an essay published with the definitive edition of the film would be considered more valuable and garner more respect than my own gut take.

Fwiw Tiny, having subsequently gone back and read the essay, I find what you said contains far more of the sort of thing I care about. To one who disliked the experience the essay comes off as presumptive, preaching more to the choir than the critic. "We" this and "we" that... it's like "umm, speak for yourself, I don't agree with these interpretations".

Quote from: Criterion essay
Despite their apparent simplicity, Akerman’s assured framing and narrative, built out of blocks of real time intercut by radical ellipses, are not easily replicated. Rather, the film’s impact is indirectly evident in the emergence of a new phenomenological sensibility and approach to observation and the weight of time in the work of contemporary filmmakers as diverse as Abbas Kiarostami, Gus van Sant, Pedro Costa, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Todd Haynes, Jia Zhangke, and Tsai Ming-liang.

I feel this paragraph, for instance, is nonsense. "The film's impact is indirectly evident"? Indirectly evident... as in what? As in none of these directors actually watched JD, but somehow it influenced them anyways and is responsible for a starting a trend? More like, here's a handful of people who discovered a not too hard to discover technique independently of one another, and embraced it. Akerman made a whole movie using it, and surely others before her employed it in a more moderate fashion. She attributes far to much influence to this film, without any evidence... just something in the air as far as I can tell.

You're own explanation embraces the subjective nature of your reaction, as evidenced by you starting each point by saying "I". Now you have my attention. "We" is hardly as inclusive as it sounds.

This brings up an interesting point. I use "we" sometimes, but only in describing a thing that happens on screen. Take this recent example:

Quote
The shot I'll remember from this film is not the iconic final shot, though that is quite spectacular. No, for me it'll be the one a few before that, the long tracking shot of Antoine Doinel running away from his imprisonment towards an uncertain future scored only by the sounds of his shoes hitting the ground and bird song. As Antoine runs, we see him take a little pleasure in splashing through a puddle and we see the idyllic countryside scroll by. This moves me, but it is only the space through which Antoine moves. He ignores, for the most part, his surroundings and runs for the running of it. We know where he's come from and we can guess at where he's going, but in the mean time he runs. It seems this is the only thing he can do, so I rejoice in his doing it.

I start with I for a thing unique to my experience. I move into we when I describe what actually happens on screen, and then I move back into "me" for more of my reaction to the screen thing, and then back into "we" when I assume that the "we" has been paying attention to the film and can make predictions based on it, whatever they might be. And finally back to I for my own final reaction. How does this strike you. I guess there are those who might say that what each individual audience member sees would be different. I don't like to be a single watcher, though. I'm not the first to have seen this movie and I won't be the last. I am part of its audience, and everybody who is paying attention will probably agree on the parts I described with the we. Is that a problem for you, noff? I'm genuinely curious.

And I wouldn't let one bad Criterion essay spoil you on the whole genre of academic film writing. Like all other kinds of writing, there will be both good and bad examples.
« Last Edit: April 03, 2016, 11:10:24 PM by Junior »
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smirnoff

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #27 on: April 03, 2016, 11:02:41 PM »
I'm not calling for you to bow down to outside sources. In fact, I'm only really arguing that we should feel empowered to pull in outside sources to support our own ideas and thoughts about a particular subject. I admit to being frustrated at seeing you change your mind when it comes to your own opinion on a film just because you read other people's thoughts on it. It felt like you were trying to assimilate yourself into the critical consensus rather than building your own point of view. In that way, I definitely agree that these more recent reviews have been better for foregrounding your opinions in them. That's the jam. I'm just saying that if I know somebody else has said something that I want to say (an opinion I have developed independently from them, or in conjunction, but never just taking theirs without carefully considering it) and has said it better than my writing will say it, I'm going to use that because it saves time and effort.

I'm slow to keep up with the discussion, which has trended towards advocating a balanced approach (there are good ways to bring in an outside sources and less good ways), which I'm in agreement with. In hindsight it's a distinction I should have made at the outset, as I can see my statement in the subsequent discussion is represented more broadly than I intended. To clarify, I'm advocating against a particular manner of employing of outside sources. That of letting it stand in the place of your own words. Cite it, use it as support, integrate it into your response, but do not let it be your response. "Tell me what you think love means?" *hands them a copy of Romeo and Juliet*.  :-\  Does Shakespeare say it better? Undoubtedly. Does it save time and effort? Certainly. Does it end the conversation? Absolutely.

Perhaps I'm prone to taking such things in the wrong way, but to me such redirections often feel as though I'm being shirked off. "Here's your answer, go away". The intention may have been to provide me with the best answer they could think of, which I suppose gave me what I asked for, but honestly I think I'd prefer a "worse" answer that came straight from the source... partly because I can speak to it, and partly because that time and effort is sign of respect (which I really appreciate, and try to reciprocate).

This is just my perspective mind you. It probably sounds like I'm trying to write policy.  :-\

With that in mind...
Now, is just providing a link and moving on the best way to do this?

I'm okay with it if the person is willing to vouch for, stand by, justify, and defend every word written as if it were their own. But that's a rather unreasonable thing to expect. And if you make the mistake of assuming it is the case you will very often find that when you go to pin the person down on a particular point, they will slide out from under it. "oh, well I don't agree with that bit" or "hey, it's not my opinion" or "you'd have to ask them". That's what I mean about not being able to have a conversation with a piece of writing, and why I don't support the practice. And what if there's a follow-up question? Who am I speaking to now?

Forums, I find, are an inherently difficult place to make conversations work at the best of times. The uncertainty of eliciting a response to a question posed to nobody in particular fosters a tendency to just go ahead and answer the response you presume you would have gotten in the very same post. :)) I've done that loads of times. Questions posed to nobody in particular rarely come back your way, while questions directed at someone can often be regarded with suspicion, some trap to be avoided, and don't get answered at all (responded to sure, but not answered). Taking the conversation out of the ring and into the crowd, to me, is just another thing that trips up the discussion (or can).

If I use an outside source here (specifying here as opposed to in a school paper or something), it's probably because I agree with it for the most part. As such, if you've got questions, I've got answers. I can back it up, give me that much credit. I'm not going to weasel my way out of something, I'm going to keep it going because these are still just supplemental.

Fair enough. As a rule it would though it would be difficult to take that for granted.

Quote
Sure, taking bringing stuff from the outside can mess with the flow. But can it not also enhance it? Might we develop a deeper understanding of both of our positions through the use of outside sources? Is that such a hard thing to envision?

I hope what I wrote above goes some ways to addressing my feelings on this (and what follows), it being a matter of how it is done, not whether or not it is done at all. In other words, I agree.

smirnoff

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #28 on: April 03, 2016, 11:44:29 PM »
Now, is just providing a link and moving on the best way to do this?

I'm okay with it if the person is willing to vouch for, stand by, justify, and defend every word written as if it were their own. But that's a rather unreasonable thing to expect. And if you make the mistake of assuming it is the case you will very often find that when you go to pin the person down on a particular point, they will slide out from under it. "oh, well I don't agree with that bit" or "hey, it's not my opinion" or "you'd have to ask them". That's what I mean about not being able to have a conversation with a piece of writing, and why I don't support the practice. And what if there's a follow-up question? Who am I speaking to now?

Forums, I find, are an inherently difficult place to make conversations work at the best of times. The uncertainty of eliciting a response to a question posed to nobody in particular fosters a tendency to just go ahead and answer the response you presume you would have gotten in the very same post. :)) I've done that loads of times. Questions posed to nobody in particular rarely come back your way, while questions directed at someone can often be regarded with suspicion, some trap to be avoided, and don't get answered at all (responded to sure, but not answered). Taking the conversation out of the ring and into the crowd, to me, is just another thing that trips up the discussion (or can).

I agree with almost everything here but not to the point where I would discourage quoting other people. I am sure there are ways to do it that avoid the dangers and fallacies you point out, like quoting only specific passages for example. Sometimes, other writers put things in a way that is inherently superior to what you are able to come up with and refraining from using that material to support your argument ends up impoverishing it.

Very much agree.

In light of all that has been said and clarified regarding the subject, my own issue was with such a narrow example of it, and I'm not sure now that it even bore mentioning. I do not regret the discussion though. :)

Quote
But what happens when the process is an emotional reaction ? How do you explain « I love this movie » ? You can analyse it, its technique, themes, dialogue, etc. ; but in my experience that is not what your ultimate attachement to the film boils down to. I am able to recognize that I probably would not like The Godfather if I had not watched it when and how I did the first time. However, I would be much harder for me to articulate what works in La Dolce Vita for me, and both are in my Top 10.

Quite so. I think we can all relate to the feeling that no mere paragraph is going to adequately explain our particular love for something. But having all shared this experience, it also allows us to recognize when one of us has a go at trying to find those perfect words anyways. So perhaps, in that way, the inarticulate response may be better than it appears, because it is sincere in it's struggle to be something even more. Oh the heroic effort! :)) Heh, I don't know if that's much an answer to your question though.

I guess another way of looking at it is that "why do you love this movie" is simply a bad question for someone to ask someone else. Bad, but perhaps necessary, and capable of getting a more nuanced discussion going, wherein more pointed questions may come about and lead to a that difficult answer that could not have been produced in a vacuum. :))

Now tell me why you love La Dolce Vita! :))
« Last Edit: April 04, 2016, 08:10:33 PM by smirnoff »

verbALs

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #29 on: April 04, 2016, 12:06:12 AM »
@smirnoff. Perhaps in the same way that academic writing requires that sources are cited whenever required, then when the word "we" is used the author is required to cite who they mean by "we". If the writer doesn't do that then it's an admission that they want what they say to carry more weight than if they say "I".

"I think...."
"We think..."

The latter sounds like something out of The Parallax View. Instant paranoia. Or there's an old horror film calledVillage of the Damned. All the kids seem to be communicating silently..."we think you should leave the village, Smirnoff!" Spooky!

My view is that "we" carries a power that "I" doesn't but that is also a crutch that somewhat implies that you have little enthusiasm or belief in your opinion so you allow a little heft.

"I"
The "I" in "J'accuse". I stand alone in my belief and I'm proud to present it.  It's what I believe. It's an opinion. Like the conversation starting around the use of outside sources. I don't like it and I tried to explain my feeling not in terms of being right. You explained your own feelings on the same subject. It doesn't require us to group together. We can state our individual feeling. Instead of it taking on some factual basis I'm happy to present myself as a loon who has a particular point of view. The more individually I can speak the better. There's that challenge. No hiding place. No artifice. I'd point out I still got reactions as if I was stating facts. However much I said I was being daft. The certainty I feel comes out in what I write but I'm just as happy if people want to start from a position where they take everything I say is pure BS. If they want. I'd prefer that than some suspicion I'm sitting here secretly believing I've got the answer. My point is "I" has real strength. "We" lasts as long as it takes to ask "really who is we, name name's".
« Last Edit: April 04, 2016, 12:08:27 AM by verbALs »
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