Thursday, May 24, 2007

Formula for Talking About Film

We are going to have to establish some rules of protocol or something here. I'm not calling you out; it's just that my seething contempt cannot continue to accumulate without aim or proper means of dispersal. I'm like a guy without a sphincter here.

Wow. Only took me three lines to use the word "sphincter." What am I, a college kid?

To wit: I don't ever, ever, ever want this site to turn into this--taken verbatim from's reader reviews. Feast your senses...

A Film that Defines a Generation, 10 August 2004

"Zach Braff's "Garden State" manages to accomplish something that very few films have been able to do throughout the history of cinema. It is a film that speaks to an entire generation. 1947's "The Best Years of Our Lives" spoke to our grandparents. "The Graduate" spoke to our parents. "Fight Club" spoke to our older brothers working dead-end jobs in the 90's. But it is with the arrival of "Garden State" that our generation is spoken to, those of us born in the early-mid 80's who are in our late teens and early twenties trying to make it by in a environment that seems all at once to strange and yet so familiar.

Homecoming is the theme of Garden State. Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff)) has been away from his hometown of New Jersey for the past nine years and returns to attend the funeral for his mother. While having been gone, Andrew has been on lithium and other forms of anti-depressant medication all prescribed to him by his psychiatrist father Gideon (Ian Holm). Upon his homecoming Andrew has decided to take a vacation from his medication and take some time to re-connect with himself. From there the plot grows as he connects with old friends and makes new ones and discovers the joys of life and love mostly thanks to the arrival of free-spirited Sam (Natalie Portman).

Braff has written and directed scenes that qualify to go down in the movie history books along such moments as Pulp Fiction's dance sequence, and The Deer Hunter's Russian roulette scenes. Two of said scenes that come to mind are when Sam takes Andrew up to her room for the first time and does something "totally original that has never been done before in this location and will never be copied again throughout the rest of human existence," in order to ease the pain of an awkward situation. Another scene occurs late in the film when the three principals stand at the edge of a seemingly endless abyss and scream at the tops of their lungs into the gorge. It is this moment that defines, with one pure act, the epitome of what it feels to be in your late teens, early 20's looking out at life. Standing at the edge of life and screaming.

While all the acting is noteworthy, including a hilarious cameo by Method Man (yes, that's right Method Man), it is Natalie Portman who steals the show. Sam is in essence the adult version of her character from Beautiful Girls. She's 26, but an old soul. It his in her that the movie comes out the realm of quirky off-kilter comedy and gains heart, soul, and intimacy all to rare to achieve in films these days. Bravo Ms. Portman. In addition, Peter Sarsgaard is becoming one of my new favorite actors, after having seen him in this film, Shattared Glass, and Boys Don't Cry within a matter of approximately three weeks.

I will go on record an call Garden State a masterpiece. It does exactly what films are supposed to do, take from all areas of art and incorporate them into one. It is a passionate mixture of visual flare, tremendous dialogue, hip music, and heart-warming pathos. I encourage anyone who is young to see this film. See it with the people you care about, this is your film, this is OUR film, and it couldn't be better."

Yes. I am "standing at the edge of life and screaming." In pain. Doubled-over, in fact. Wincing at your horribly heartfelt digital testimony to the cyber-ether about this absolutely inconsequential iota of scat. But, to be fair, the kid uses almost exactly the same formula for his writing as every newspaper in the world.

So, in the interest of sanity, how about let's start with:

Certain Rules
1) no speaking on behalf of generations, ethnic groups, sexual or musical sub-cultures, the media, and/or God.
2) no F-'in plot summaries for Cry'shake.
3) no canons? I'm truly torn because, as you know, I love lists and Power Rankings of all ilk. For example, best words that end in "ilk?" 1. milk; 2. bilk; 3. buttermilk; did not make the list: silk. So, other than operating from the basic assumption that whatever movie people like is shite, how to most effectively compare and contrast the variables in our formulas? Should we just agree that the "Canon of Film" is worthless only to replace it with our own non-canon? My head hurts.
4) how about no use of adjectives or adverbs? I know it sounds ___, but hear me out... Look at this sentence again: "It is a passionate mixture of visual flair, tremendous dialogue, hip music and heart-warming pathos." Take out all those __ adj's and you get this: "It is a mixture of flair, dialogue, music and pathos." Sound and fury signifying nothing. We are not salesmen. Our business is not hocking our wares. So what the fack do we need words that end in -y or -ate or -ous for if we're talking seriously about WHAT FILMS DO and not what color you want for the leather interior?
5) Hyperbole/Understatement. Are these dishes best served hot (in the Macluhan sense) or cold (meaning ironically)? Well, I think every creature in the history of existence would agree that that weak-ass distancing irony that is designed to make you look cool and aloof from your subject or audience is lame. But so is unironically declaring this or that "the greatest masterpiece that ever was." I can't live without offhandedly dismissing the sum total of Western philosophy now and then so let's just agree to be outrageously sincere.

All of these rules can be summarized in the formula T= fx1/u. Meaning, privileged access to (T)Truthful-ly-ness will be granted only insofar as one's writing reveals something of the (f)function or operation (calculus?) of one's subject (x) and its own terms of operation on (u) you, the viewer/critic.

Feel free to revise, amend or scorn.

Next up: why white people don't know shit about wong kar-wai.