Sunday, November 23, 2008


I'm going to start with some wisdom from one of my biggest influences, Harlan Ellison. This is from the introduction to his tome of film criticism from the 80s, Harlan Ellison's Watching (which - holy crap - just came back into print this year! go get it!)

The inescapable, core problem with writing critical comment about films is that the commentator is really given no option.

If the review is positive, if the film is something special that one wishes to inveigle the reader into actually going to see, literally conning the potential filmgoer into spending money through the seduction of words, one is limited. The word-pictures can only do so much. The restrictions are many and truly fearsome. The critic dare not give away the great scenes, dare not reveal the punch of the surprise ending or expose the killer; the critic may not hint at, or paraphrase, the memorable lines that everyone talks about interminably, at risk of robbing the moviegoer of the frisson of joyful discovery...

...And what one is left with is the negative, or killer, review. One can be infinitely entertaining when savaging the unworthy, the cupidic, the inept, the dishonest. Like Spaceballs.

Most of Ellison's "reviews" were originally printed in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, a bimonthly publication. As he had no chance to get his review to the reader before they headed to the box office, he abandoned the format and constructed instead essays on film

I used to write quite a few film reviews for until I quit after becoming frustrated with exactly this issue. Why write about something if you can't TALK about it? I was repeating myself, becoming all too predictable, and if there's one thing I hate it's predictability.

So I'm letting you know at the outset: I'm not going to separate out the (SPOILERS) in a little box you have to highlight. If I'm writing about something, I've seen it, which means I'm assuming you have too. Everything is on the table.

Now, on "film" specifically:

I saw exactly three films in the theater in 2008: There Will Be Blood, Iron Man, and WALL-E. I'm aware that isn't many. However, I watched all of Deadwood, all of The Wire, all of John Adams, all of Generation Kill, all of True Blood, and the new Doctor Who Series One and Two; I kept up with Lost, Battlestar Galactica, The Office, 30 Rock, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Naruto Shippuuden; and I REwatched most of Buffy

What this tells you about me is that I'm largely disenchanted with the feature film. Even at three hours, it is the Short Form and I consider it markedly inferior. There's very little a non-documentary, non-animated movie can do for me emotionally anymore. The stories have no room for surprises, only special effects. And don't get me wrong, I'm no snob, I LIKE special effects, especially since they're usually (see above) animation - but what I LOVE, what I CRAVE is the cliffhanger. The Needing To Know.

It won't be strictly cinema, either. If there's a record I'm suddenly really into, even if it's not contemporary, you'll know. I play keyboards in a rock band which gigs around Manhattan, and that's semi-adventurous. I should really give Rick Wright a proper eulogy (as well as David Foster Wallace.) The Phish reunion happens in about four months and I'm lucky enough that I will be there. I'm almost done rereading Cerebus ("the longest sustained narrative in human history") and I have a lot of thoughts about that. In a few weeks I'll hit level 80 in WoW (way behind everyone else in my guild, of course) and head into Naxx, which should be fun. I'll also port over a few old pop culture posts from Everything2 that I deem worthy.

Politics will probably not be a focus, just as neither will conspiracy theory, but both of these are useful lenses to view mainstream work through. 

So - a blend of the scholarly and the silly, the instructive and the effusive. Say it with me: BLARG.


QXZ said...


Slowplum said...


ilana said...

Right on... it was about time... Blarrrrrrrg.