Monday 6 July 2015

Article: Paying Attention

Perhaps to quell the angry noise of Kanye West haters still bitching about his Glastonbury set nearly a week later. Joe Queenan wrote a piece for The Guardian film blog in which he skipped out to answer his phone during a one point of Jurassic World.  He found that he missed a pivotal plot point which makes the film’s half assed climax feel even more like a full on Deus Ex Machina. The piece has annoyed the twitter filminista with its snarky, trollish tone.

One paragraph states:

"This was amazing. I have been ducking out of movies to get more candy or answer phone calls or reply to texts or go to the loo for years, yet this was the first time I had ever missed something important. With good reason: Movies are filled with dead spots, padding, meaningless interludes, pointless detours, grace notes and extraneous subplots that you don’t have to see to follow the movie. There is nothing in any Adam Sandler or Fast and the Furious movie that will ruin the film-going experience for you if you miss it. You don’t need to see every frame of The Godfather or Gladiator or Avatar or even Sleepless in Seattle to see where things are headed."

Even despite the film examples used, this paragraph seems tailor made to annoy the BFI brats and Sight and Sound sons.  Of course I disagree with it. Your first year of film studies will have you detailing shot by shot analysis, while further study will delightfully inform you that every shot, nee second of a film is infused with reason and meaning. Possibly not a necessary thing for an causal viewer, but for someone whose writing about movies, I'd rather if they followed a similar trait.

Meanwhile, a quick google will also detail that Queenan is a self-professed “clown”. It’s actually a bit odd to see good film friends, seemingly had not sensed the tone that’s gleamed from the piece. At first read, while I didn’t like what the post was saying, I could easily pick up the tone.

However, the issue that comes with such a piece, joke or not, is the privilege of the film/media writer. Film criticism is already fraught with its own anxieties. It’s bad enough that the causal film viewer views, critics and writers as the devil. They are viewed as a humourless blob of portentous think pieces and mise-en-scene, who only exist to hate the films they love. With failed pieces of humour debating that film and culture writers don’t have to watch what they write about, it’s easy to see why people have got their back up. Annoyingly, I wonder why there isn’t more ire about such pieces, because they’re becoming the norm.

Last month Joni Edelman decided that Pixar aren’t thinking of the children with a piece about Inside Out body shaming kids before they even know what body shaming is. She had not seen the film. Doesn’t mean she can’t be condescending:

“I can't write with any real authority about Inside Out, because I haven't seen the movie, but I'm pretty much 100% positive that seeing the movie isn't required to make this judgment. Because here's the thing about movies: They are made of pictures. And visual memory is more reliable than auditory or tactile. That's right, folks, we remember what we see.”

Yes. We do remember what we see. But it would be nice if you watch the film that you’ve decided to attack the film company about.

Speaking of body shaming. Established critic Rex Reed; who gleefully insulted Melissa McCathy’s weight in his review for Identity Thief, decided he didn’t need to watch VHS2 in order to review it. Stating that the film was unwatchable from start to finish, yet walking out 20 minutes into the film.

Dennis Jett felt there’s no need to watch American Sniper in order to deem its morals as heinous. His think-piece stating that he’s watched the trailer and that’s all he needs to watch to fully understand the morals of the film. Let’s forget that most trailers are not made the filmmakers and that they are used to make the film as marketable as it can be. All you need is trailer footage.

Readers want to feel what they are reading is somewhat informed. Bloggers like myself, may write hackneyed critiques at the likes of Armond White, but no matter how I sometimes feel about his criticism, I always feel that I’ve been informed by his work. It’s amusing that that left leaning media like The Guardian is quoting how it wishes to keep journalism free and fearless, yet we receive film blog posts making light of not actually paying attention to what they’re watching. To have a blogger for the Huffpost boldly state her feminist leanings, yet decides that the film she wishes read the riot act to, isn’t worth watching because a “friend confirmed” her suspicions, undermines critical thinking at the most basic level. It’s important that the likes of Edelman speaks out about body image and feminist issues, but what’s the point if she’s unwilling to look into the main body of text she's annoyed at? The same goes for a journalist being quick to attack American Sniper’s Red State, right wing, flag waving, but isn’t watching the film needed to be watch yet to bolster their point? In researching for this post, I found myself on some American Republican sites that I’d rather not have on my history. Yet at least they watched the film that the argument is about.

These writers don’t need clicks from me to gain their paycheque, or more exposure. However, what’s bothersome is the idea that writers are not watching the film that they want to stop you from watching. Yet they still believe that they’re fully justified.  In this day and age, I see so many talented and hungry writers struggling to find a readership, let alone payment. Meanwhile, those who already hold the exposure believe that not actually watching the thing that they bemoaning is the right way to go.

I could be wrong. But I doubt I’m the only person bothered by the fact that we’re seeing more media and pop culture writers writing in a similar way to the anonymous commenters that often get mocked. We laugh at their whining and trolling at reviews of movies they’ve not yet seen. Yet now we’re seeing writers with proper viewership’s endorsing similar traits, but with larger word counts. That said, in this pay per click world, I’m not sure many care. With attention spans going the way of the dodo. It’s doubtful the readers finish the offending pieces. Minds already made up before finishing the first paragraph. When in Rome.