Author Topic: On Writing  (Read 32713 times)

DarkeningHumour

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #30 on: April 04, 2016, 01:06:48 AM »
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.

A bit daunting considering how much ground you're covering on your own. I am having trouble just keeping up with the reading.

This is probably the wordiest thread I have ever seen in the forum (relatively to its inception).
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DarkeningHumour

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #31 on: April 04, 2016, 01:10:25 AM »
Bad, but perhaps necessary

Lovely thought.
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verbALs

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #32 on: April 04, 2016, 01:38:25 AM »
The general point that quoting extracts from other pieces and then explaining their relevance in that ongoing forum discussion is getting lost in tangents. Dropping an entire article and then expecting others to read it is an obfuscation. If you can quote the relevant word sentence or paragraph but still make the effort to rephrase to fit the point at hand in your own words; seems eminently sensible. This is a bunch of movie fans talking. Not one professor to another lobbing references back and forth. There's a fog of links out there.

For instance, tiny may know exactly how that article relates to her point but I don't. Then noff picks out a passage that might be completely non sequitur to tinys specific point and drives a coach and horses through it (skilful horsemanship nevertheless). The point is this works both ways. I personally would like to know why a film about a woman washing up is worth watching. Just like I'm still waiting for a clue why I'd want to watch a film about a donkey even though I've got a copy of it sitting there for years now. The conversation that gets me interested is going to move towards clarity and not away from it. They'll perhaps include some enthusiasm for the movie. Enthusiasm is an unfakeable commodity. "I Am Sold Myself". If I get a sense a person admires a film I might think oh that person tends to admire films that are worthy. I tried that argument over Inland Empire which I've seen so I know how hopeless it is. Writing about it in admirable only confirms that opinion that it's the cinematic equivalent of thumbscrews. You don't have to try persuading me a film should be watched. I can discern by the passion of the language whether I might like it. And the reverse is true. Talk in measured reserved terms and I might get the definite impression the film might be really dull. Yes sometimes there's cultural significance or heavy thematic layers. Those arent hard to describe either though are they? Or maybe they are and that's where the challenge of writing comes from.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2016, 01:40:56 AM by verbALs »
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

DarkeningHumour

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #33 on: April 04, 2016, 01:52:23 AM »
One running theme in this thread has me worried: the pernicious idea that previous or ex-post reading can be detrimental to one's ability to construct an understanding of a movie or to be able to react to it honestly. I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion.

I generally avoid to read reviews before watching a movie so as to not spoil the experience - and that is not the sort of thing I am talking about here. Reading someone else's take on the film after having experienced it can only further one's understanding of it, be the writer a professional critic or an amateur.

To cite an old philosophy teacher of mine, there is no idea more wrong in philosophy than believing you should not read philosophy books before forming an opinion on a question for fear they will pollute your thinking and make it less pure in its individuality. Now, the analogy is not perfect, and unlike philosophy, you can think about a movie in a vacuum because the exercise is usually one of analysis of an object whereas philosophy is abstract reflection on ideas that do not present themselves in their entirety by a similar process to that of watching a movie ; but the principle still stands.

That distinction means that it is not necessary to read about a movie to form an opinion about it. That is because we are able to apply whatever tools are at our disposal to poke it and dissect it, even in a vacuum. With no information about the history and tropes of the genre, about adapted material, about the filmography of the director, there are always things we are able to think about, depending on how we are equipped - although arguably, an actual utter lack of knowledge about anything would make us tool-less. Another reason we can write about the movie in the vacuum is that we have an emotional subjective reaction to most movies. Even if we understand nothing at all about a movie, it can still frighten us, make us laugh or cry, or excite the hell out of our living nerves. Maybe we will not be able to say how or why ; but the description of the reaction remains available.

Since we are not industry professionals, we have no obligation, and I am guessing no time (not to mention, probably, the inclination) to read about every movie we watch. That is fine, no one is here to become an established critic. However, reading other people's takes can only enhance our view on a movie.

Personally, I usually read reviews after watching a movie in three instances: if I am having trouble formulating my opinion of it and am looking for someone to supply me with their eloquence, if I didn't understand the movie and need some light to be shed upon it, or if, aware of what my own opinion is, I am merely looking for a critic to compare notes with, whether to understand his disagreement or have that tap-on-the-shoulder feeling that comes with reading things we ourselves think. I am mostly going to repeat things said by Junior as I talk about how we can completely reject an article we disagree with or adapt a criticism to our own take on the movie to further and sophisticate the latter. 

I will try providing a few examples, all coming from RogerEbert.com articles, which is my go-to place for movie criticism. I just watched The Conversation and Blind. Both baffled me a bit and I am going to look for some enlightenment on their meanings and some plot points that are not entirely clear to me. My objective is understanding the movies more clearly before I produce a review, even though I have a good idea of what my reaction to them is. I would rather not write from a place of ignorance. I am confident that I will not immediately believe i the interpretations of the writers because I have a history of disagreeing with reviews. I thought Ebert was too harsh in criticising Dirty Harry for being fascistic and in his review of AI it was evident that we viewed artificial intelligence in fundamentally different ways. I went to the website before writing about The Treasure of the Sierra Madre because I could not put my finger on what made the movie good. I wrote an opinion, an excessively poor one, and Ebert was, naturally, infinitely more eloquent than me. We didn't focus on the same subjects though. We rarely do. That is another wealth you acquire with reading other people. Two other contributors than me here wrote about Meek's Cutoff for Jeff's month. None of us came at it from the same direction and Sandy focused on thoughts about the colonist experience that spoke to her sources as an American and lover of Westerns. My thoughts were more ethereal. I was glad she reminded me of more down to earth considerations about the film.

The corollary of reading a review should be critically judging said review and determine how it fits into our own opinion.

That is the process that should preserve one from being subject to the blowings of whatever winds one comes across. I am not sure what I would recommend to someone who would have trouble not finding himself agreeing with any article found on a given movie. I would not, however, advise avoiding the practice of reading on the subject. It seems to me you can only hone your critical thinking faculties by reading as many divergent opinions about as many different matters as possible. Maybe that is the solution: always finding two views that directly contradict each other and work on comparing them.
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Paul Phoenix

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #34 on: April 04, 2016, 02:42:40 AM »
In my experience, reading another man's review has brought me nothing but trouble. Each to his own. What DH said probably makes sense in a logical context, but personally, I just rarely had the pleasure of it benefiting me. You could say it's my own fault that happens, my own insecure vulnerabilities open to peer pressure and other influences alike, but if then, so be it. I think the best thing to do is to just use the method that works best for you, and unfortunately, reading other people's reviews don't work for me. At least not before I formulate my own thoughts in writing.

Religion seems like an absurd practice for many, even myself. Yet it works for some people. I intend to continue that placebo effect. If what I write is out of ignorance on a subject, it wouldn't harm either, particularly not to those who know better. There are no stupid questions, and an ignorant review would merely serve to further explore the relationship between man and film, and how a film affects a person without prior knowledge on the subject.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2016, 02:50:11 AM by Hermit »
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verbALs

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #35 on: April 04, 2016, 03:11:41 AM »
There are no stupid questions. Wise words that usually you come to through experience. A stupid question can spark the most incisive answers. You should never presume that a question is too silly because there are so many assumptions one can make. So many in fact that you can stop yourself asking a question or saying anything. So that when it comes to writing a review "in a vacuum"
you may find truths of your own.

The corollary of this is that hoping to be original in what you write is a pipe dream. Original thought is a hubristic stance in life. However  individual thought is another matter. Let's not assume anybody is touched by genius. Let's assume one stumbles onto an unusual (not original) idea when one writes. The more individual the process the more likely that this could be the result. The more influence comes from external sources the less likely individuality will result as a logical progression of that thought. Now please the rhetoric of "we are all influenced constantly" really doesn't need repeating to people does it? I would point out that the experience of film watching and film writing varies widely over forum members. There's some basics of film education that are hurdles to be cleared. I personally feel like my independent thought on the subject, informed by three or four years intensive film watching is the basis for a more individual approach. Like a degree only sets you up to go out into the world and start to practice some craft. There has to be progress past that point of education when you start applying it. So again I appeal to those who have been writing for a long time here to talk about where that process has lead them. People however are on different points in the trajectory on the learning curve. People need to know where they are before they can hope to move forward.

I understand people who were here from day one not involving themselves in "good film/bad film" conversations. Ive reached that point myself now. I was here from 2006 I didn't join the conversation till 2010. I had nothing to add all that time. Didn't know enough to even enter the game.



I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

DarkeningHumour

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #36 on: April 04, 2016, 04:38:35 AM »
I understand people who were here from day one not involving themselves in "good film/bad film" conversations. Ive reached that point myself now. I was here from 2006 I didn't join the conversation till 2010. I had nothing to add all that time. Didn't know enough to even enter the game.

This would imply that any recent movie watcher would not be up to par with the rest of the contributors of the forum and unable to participate in the level of conversation that goes on here. I cannot accept that. The ideas of the profane have to be of equal value to the musings of the veterans.
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verbALs

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #37 on: April 04, 2016, 04:54:17 AM »
How's your marathon (of directors was it?) going?
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

DarkeningHumour

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #38 on: April 04, 2016, 05:01:10 AM »
Not sure, haven't updated it in ages.
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verbALs

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Re: On Writing
« Reply #39 on: April 04, 2016, 05:07:38 AM »
Why were you doing it?
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

 

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