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The Art of Writing
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matt header
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
Posts: 623
Location: Milwaukee, WI

PostPosted: 03.01.2004 4:12 pm    Post subject: The Art of Writing Reply with quote

Hello all. I write for the UWM Leader (a newspaper here on campus) in the film and editorial department, and recently I wrote an article about film criticism: what it should be, how it is an art form, etc. I was kind of interested in seeing what you film fans thought of it, so if you'd like, you can read it here:

http://www.uwmleader.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2004/02/25/403d2808bd669

Hope you enjoy.
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Jim Harper
Director


Joined: 29 Feb 2004
Posts: 226
Location: Totnes, Devon, UK

PostPosted: 03.01.2004 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An interesting read. I hope that my work, even the negative reviews, manages to convey the fact that movies (along with music) are the most important things in my life (obviously after wife, children, etc etc).

I also had an epiphany (first time I've ever used that word) recently. I've written an estimated 300 reviews, and I still thing I have no idea what I'm doing. Has anyone else experienced this?
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beltmann
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
Posts: 2341
Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 03.01.2004 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An amazing article, Matt. You got it exactly right: the best criticism qualifies as good art, because it captures something intensely personal while simultaneously offering new perceptions.

Eric
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Jim Harper
Director


Joined: 29 Feb 2004
Posts: 226
Location: Totnes, Devon, UK

PostPosted: 03.01.2004 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I hadn't thought of it that way. I'll go back and reread your article Matt.
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beltmann
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
Posts: 2341
Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 03.01.2004 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jim Harper wrote:
I also had an epiphany (first time I've ever used that word) recently. I've written an estimated 300 reviews, and I still thing I have no idea what I'm doing. Has anyone else experienced this?


Sure. I wrote something like 400 newspaper reviews before I felt I was getting the hang of it. Truth is, I find it only gets harder and harder to write about movies--as my thoughts become more complex, sorting through them becomes more difficult. And as I keep raising my own personal standards, it becomes tougher to meet them.

Eric
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beltmann
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
Posts: 2341
Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 03.01.2004 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Matt, your article reminded me of something I wrote about Pauline Kael a few years back. I just re-read it for the first time in a long while, and many of my ideas coincide with yours, particularly regarding the virtue of exploring our personal, emotional relationship with cinema. Seems relevant to post a link:

http://www.flipsidemovies.com/paulinekael.html

Eric
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matt header
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
Posts: 623
Location: Milwaukee, WI

PostPosted: 03.02.2004 12:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Eric,

Sorry it took so long for me to reply. I remember reading your article when I first joined flipside movies (about two years ago), which is approximately when I was really getting into Kael. Your article is excellent, and summarizes everything that I love not only about her, but about movies (and film criticism) in general: especially the theory that art only has meaning when it elicits strong emotions. And yeah, whenever I write about film I have doubts about what, exactly, I'm doing, but writers like Kael go a long way in reminding me. (My personal favorite film writer? Francois Truffaut. A genius in every way! Man, I love that guy.)
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Michael Scrutchin
Studio President


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
Posts: 832
Location: Pearland, TX

PostPosted: 03.02.2004 1:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fantastic piece, Matt. I agree with most of your thoughts. In fact, one of the reasons I haven't been writing many reviews lately is because my stuff always fails to live up to my own standards of what criticism should be -- then again, so does most of what passes for film criticism these days.
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the night watchman
Studio Exec


Joined: 27 Jun 2003
Posts: 1373
Location: Dark, run-down shack by the graveyard.

PostPosted: 03.02.2004 5:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good article, Matt. I have to admit I've never quite understood the critics or scholars of any artform who didn't participate in an artform themselves, either the one they comment about or a neighboring one. It's like people who obsessively watch and talk about sports, and know the history and players' stats, and who are repositories of trivia, and yet never go out onto the field themselves. Why bother if you're not going to contribute? But I?ve never thought of criticism as a form of self-expression, or, at least, a legitimate one anyway, which all true art ought to be. I suppose the very best can strive for that. Thanks for broadening my horizons.
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"If you're talking about censorship, and what things should be shown and what things shouldn't be shown, I've said that as an artist you have no social responsibility whatsoever."

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beltmann
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
Posts: 2341
Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 03.02.2004 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
I have to admit I've never quite understood the critics or scholars of any artform who didn't participate in an artform themselves, either the one they comment about or a neighboring one. It's like people who obsessively watch and talk about sports, and know the history and players' stats, and who are repositories of trivia, and yet never go out onto the field themselves. Why bother if you're not going to contribute?


If that were true, then the only way to usefully criticize a work would be to create a second work.

Perhaps the most eloquent and insightful defense of why sports obsession matters I've ever encountered is Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, which investigates his own passion for soccer. Might be worth a read, NW.

Eric
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the night watchman
Studio Exec


Joined: 27 Jun 2003
Posts: 1373
Location: Dark, run-down shack by the graveyard.

PostPosted: 03.02.2004 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:
the night watchman wrote:
I have to admit I've never quite understood the critics or scholars of any artform who didn't participate in an artform themselves, either the one they comment about or a neighboring one. It's like people who obsessively watch and talk about sports, and know the history and players' stats, and who are repositories of trivia, and yet never go out onto the field themselves. Why bother if you're not going to contribute?


If that were true, then the only way to usefully criticize a work would be to create a second work.


Hey, I like the sound of that. Actually, who said something like that?: The best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie.

EDIT: Actually, I started asking myself that question after sitting through various classes taught by professors who knew a lot about literature, but admitted to being baffled when attempting fiction or poetry.
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"If you're talking about censorship, and what things should be shown and what things shouldn't be shown, I've said that as an artist you have no social responsibility whatsoever."

-David Cronenberg
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beltmann
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
Posts: 2341
Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 03.02.2004 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
ey, I like the sound of that. Actually, who said something like that?: The best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie.


Godard. He was right in the sense that that is a very useful method... but, as I often am by him, I'm exasperated by his either-or mentality. (He's often provocative without actually being very accurate.) I think there are a multitude of methods by which to offer criticism, revision, etc., and I've always felt that prose criticism was a form of literature--and like all lit, it comes in various shapes, of various quality. Done well, film criticism can be far more provocative, heartfelt, incisive, personal, or revealing than its subject at hand. In other words, theoretically it can be more artistic. Truly astonishing criticism is awfully rare, though, I'll concede that. I can think of only a handful of critics that qualify as brilliant writers, period. Kael would make my list. So would Thomson, Rosenbaum, Crisp, Agee, Farber (Manny not Stephen), and a few others.

Eric
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matt header
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
Posts: 623
Location: Milwaukee, WI

PostPosted: 03.04.2004 3:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

By the way, thank you all for your feedback, and for reading my article. I appreciate it!
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beltmann
Studio Exec


Joined: 26 Jun 2003
Posts: 2341
Location: West Bend, WI

PostPosted: 03.06.2004 5:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
(My personal favorite film writer? Francois Truffaut. A genius in every way! Man, I love that guy.)


Have you read The Early Film Criticism of Francois Truffaut, edited and commented on by Winston Wheeler Dixon? I read it about five years ago, but I've never forgotten it.

Eric
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matt header
Studio Exec


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PostPosted: 03.06.2004 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've read excerpts from it (tragically, I've never read a whole Truffaut book from beginning to end - only excerpts) but I've loved every one. I'm going to have to pick up one of his books sometime soon.
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