« The particular sadness of Zappos | Main | PB&J, every damn day »

May 12, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about the relationship of blockbusters to cinephilia as a whole and I thought I'd share some of my conclusions.

Firstly, there's a danger that this sort of exclusive cinephilia is not actually about the films. Everyone goes to see blockbusters and everyone seems to enjoy blockbusters so by refusing to countenance watching a Michael Bay film you are defining yourself in exclusive terms through your purchasing decisions: "Oh I'm not some Bay-loving prole... I spend *my* money on Ozu box sets and Fassbender restrospectives".

Of course, there's nothing wrong with that but if you *are* doing this then is it really about the film or is it about your desire to set yourself apart from the herd?

Secondly, I think there's an important distinction to be made between admiring a film and enjoying it.

I enjoy some blockbusters and hate others but this is also true of art house cinema. I can admire L'Avventura and I completely understand why it is significant, how it changed things and what it does that is different. But it bores me to tears.

The ability to decouple "I like this" from "I think this is a well made film" is, in my view, central to being able to think seriously about film. The techniques that make many art house films worth watching are also present in genre films and blockbusters (in fact, I'd argue that the blockbuster is a genre in and of itself with its own values and tropes) and sometimes bigger films do show remarkable innovation in their use of these techniques.

I didn't like Transformers but I admired its technical prowess and its raw cinematic power. Similarly I didn't like L'Avventura but I admired its deconstruction of traditional cinematic narratives and its pitch-perfect capture of an ambivalent attitudes towards the fact that one's life is meaningless but one simply coasts through it from moment to moment, taking up 'causes' and 'purposes' and then dropping them when something better comes along.

I like film. I love film. And while I do not like all films, I like the medium enough that I am interested in what different people do with the medium.

So there you go... there's my pitch for why you shouldn't turn your nose up at Blockbusters :-)

Blockbusters are films and if one wants to understand film as a medium then I think it is kind of important to be able to appreciate all forms of film. After all, many of the techniques used in blockbuster film making (mis-en-scene, editing, lighting etc) are also used in experimental and art house films. Good editing is good editing whether it's footage of an elderly Japanese guy who feels mistreated by his children while being unable to vocalise this sense of betrayal or Vin Diesel punching the Rock in the face.

You may not like the aesthetics or the values of the blockbuster but I think, if you are serious about film, then you still need to be able to admire a well made blockbuster.

My problem with the alternative to this viewpoint

Oops... disregard everything after the smiley, I meant to delete that.

Exactly! That's my whole driving force with this post; I want to appreciate it all. The problems just come when I sit down and actually watch the neglected half of "it all." Blockbusters may indeed wield great technical prowess and its raw cinematic power, but damned if I can get over the stumbling block of why the exist. Not just in an intellectual sense -- "to make money," etc. -- but, y'know, the deeper "why" of their existence.

I can't stop thinking about the concept of keeping your identity small. I can see how letting something becoming part of your identity means you can't be objective about it, but if it's really who you are, then aren't you been untrue to yourself by denying that? In the grander scheme of things, doesn't everything just becomes about consumption (or experience), without regard to value or content?

Yeah, this is the question that makes my brain fold in on itself. I hold a tentative position, though, of doubting the usefulness/truthfulness of concepts like "who you really are". I've come to suspect that nobody "really" is anything.

If you move away from the idea of identity a little and begin to think about efficiency and the content of your soul, I should think that Nietzsche would roll over in his grave hearing of someone valiantly trying to absorb all of the un-artistic fluff.

The problem is that watching/eating something that falls below your taste/content threshold is going to deaden your soul, your passion, and especially, your INSTINCT.

Unless, of course, you are merely on a strange fast, and then it might have the opposite effect.

(Just happened upon your blog, Colin. Good work.)

Don't know what is wrong what is rite but i know that every one has there own point of view and same goes to this one

The comments to this entry are closed.

All enterprises