Film Friday Weekly Roundup

Pretty Clever Film Gal is still recovering from her film festival hangover. Thanks to everyone who hung in with modern movie talk. Now we can get back to our regularly schedule classic and silent movie bonanza. But first, here are a few things I learned at TIFF: 1. Even movie popcorn get old after awhile, 2. Frieda Pinto is beautiful (seriously, the camera does not do her justice), and 3. I don’t really know how to write about contemporary movies. So I’ll be sticking to the grand old classics from now on. Autumn has fallen, there’s a nip in the air, and it’s time to curl up on the couch for some serious winter movie watching. Happy reading and happy viewing!

  • Once when purchasing a Ray Bradbury novel, the clerk said, “The best thing about Bradbury…he’s still alive!”  I think of this often when I finish a particular authors entire body of work. So fans of James M. Cain rejoice – an unearthed and unpublished manuscript is coming your way!
  • According to SeattlePi, the first inflight movie screen in 1921… check this out for the illustration of that historic moment
  • The always excellent Silent Volume reviews “Kid Auto Races at Venice”
  • The CMBA Guilty Pleasures Blogathon has produced some excellent pieces, including Brenda Starr, Reporter from Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
  • Noir & Chick Flicks takes an in-depth look at the world’s first serial heroine, Kathlyn Williams
  • I know I link to Classic Movies haiku a lot, but I really just want to KC to come tuck me into bed and whisper one in my ear as I drift off to sleep. Maybe this It Happened One Night haiku, for example.
  • Check out this lovely piece from Greg Ferrara at Movie Morlocks on the visual aesthetics of the films  he loves the most, “That Certain Look of… Isolation”
  • And for your Friday viewing pleasure, from 1910 “As It is In Life,” directed by D.W. Griffith, starring Mary Pickford:
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About prettycleverfilmgal

Social media consultant, blogger for hire, and lover of classic movies and silent films. I often watch, consider, and write about movies when I should really be doing other things.

Posted on September 23, 2011, in Miscellany and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I’m puzzled by #3 “I don’t really know how to write about contemporary movies.” Do you think that writing about modern movies requires a different approach or some special knowledge you have yet to acquire? From what I read of your TIFF coverage, you did quite well, and probably a lot better than I could.

    My problem with comtemporary movies is that I’m constantly comparing them in my mind with the movies I write about. In some ways this may be unfair, because the films and filmmakers of the past that I’m inspired to write about were exceptional then and have lasting significance now. And they were a fraction of the total output of their time. But there have to be standards, and those standards are set by what came before.

    My goal in writing about film is to give people an understanding of how and why movies developed as an art form, as popular entertainment, and their cultural significance. I’m willing to let others take it from there with respect to contemporary film — but I want movie audiences to understand the “foundation” that contemporary films and filmmakers are building upon, even if I’m not inspired by the contemporary product.

  2. Thank you for the kind comment, but I did feel very rudderless when writing about these “contemporary” movies. I often watch the latest releases, and think about them (sometimes deeply), discuss them with friends, but rarely do I sit down and write about them. In doing so for these TIFF films, I bumped into some unexpected obstacles.

    When I write about silent films, I do so from a vantage of having a fairly deep knowledge base on the medium of silent films. I’ve seen many silents, I understand where a particular film fits into the development of the medium and the industry, and I know what came next. I find this much more difficult in terms of recent releases, as I don’t keep my finger on the pulse, so to speak.

    Another surprising problem was “spoiling.” Some of the films I write about are over 100 years old, and I don’t give one second’s thought to spoilers. I mean, if you don’t know Rosebud is sled by now… But in writing about Intruders, for example, I found it difficult if not impossible to say what I wanted to say without “giving away” the ending. This is probably the result how how I approach watching a film in the first place.

    I found there’s also a bit of a “cheat” when writing about classic films. My assumption, which is generally true, is that my audience has some familiarity with the film in question. As a result, there’s a lot of shorthand and things taken as a given.This is not always true of contemporary films, especially festival films. I felt stymied in writing about “Trotteur” for this reason. I wish, very much, I could write about this movie for an audience that had actually seen it.

    I agree with you in terms of my goals for writing about films. It’s a goal I find very easy to achieve when talking about a movie from 1923, or even 1955, but which proved surprisingly difficult for films made in 2011. So ultimately, TIFF was worthwhile. Not only did I see some very good films (and I did, indeed), I learned something very specific about my own critical skills.

  3. I think you’re selling yourself short. Your “film knowledge base” is most likely greater than 99.9% of those who see or who are planning to see any of those films. It is also quite possible that your understanding is equal to or greater than that of the filmmaker. He or she is doing very little that would leave you at a loss to describe a film intelligently to an audience of readers — classic film fans or otherwise.

    The socio-political (I’m bringing in the big hyphenated terms now, so look out!) agenda of the filmmaker might stump you, but that’s the purpose of an artist who wants to express such an agenda in film. If you figure out what he’s trying to say, then he has to move on, and that requires more work on his part (I think it’s called the “Godard Principle” in physics, but it’s applicable to the arts as well). But even that is assuming you are interested in a particular artist’s agenda, and if you aren’t you probably won’t be motivated to write about it in the first place, or more than one quick review anyway.

    You’re an excellent writer and if you see a film you really want to write about, you’ll find a way to do it so that people who either have seen the film, or want to see it, will want to read the opinions of someone trying to understand it just as they are. If there’s one thing I feel I’ve learned (and there isn’t much, believe me) about writing and expressing one’s opinions on any subject, is that if you find yourself trying to write for or appeal to a particular audience, you’ll find yourself writing for them and not for you, and you’ll stop writing about what you know. And what you know is what you wanted to write about in the first place.

    I try to write about basic elements of motion pictures (acting, directing, cinematography, editing, sound, “movie stardom”), so that people who have only a little knowledge of the subject, but are curious, will want to read more, and those who are knowledgeable, but were unaware of certain aspects, will find something they didn’t know before. That’s not a very specific audience, it’s actually quite broad. Which gives me a lot of room in which to work, and a lot more ground that I can cover without being repetitive.

    I’ve had to deal with “spoiler” issues to a much lesser degree. Like you, I usually write about films that are known — but not necessarily well-known. Even with well-known films, I don’t always get into revealing the details of the plot or the ending, except in general terms. I have done so lately, when dealing with a particular acting performance in an entire film, like the Ida Lupino and Kay Francis essays, but for example the Dorothy Mackaill articles showed only the first halves of a couple of films that I focused on, and I never revealed the endings.

    I would probably approach writing about a current film the same way if I was trying to avoid “spoiling” the film for a first time viewer. But you have to decide what makes the better article from the writer’s point of view, a review in which you withhold the ending (assuming it is a straightforward, narrative film with a linear structure and an “ending” in the first place), or an essay on the film, filmmakers, actors, etc. OK, I’ve rambled on long enough. Thanks for sharing such provocative thoughts!

  4. Thank you again for your kind comments, and for taking the time to post such thoughtful comments. It is much appreciated.

    I do agree with your major points. What I found so surprising, is that I (apparently) think about “contemporary” films very differently from the outset. I did not know this about myself or my thought processes until I sat down to write and found that I had not considered the points that I generally consider when watching a “classic” film. This struck me as odd.

    You are right, of course. A film is a film is a film, and they all exist in the same continuum. There’s absolutely no reason for me to approach Intruders from 2011 differently than I do The General from 1926. Yet I did… which is why I list my own intellectual phenomena as one of the things I learned from TIFF.

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