Amph How do you tell if a movie is really deep or just pretentious?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Amphitheatre' started by Jabbadabbado, Oct 15, 2011.

  1. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    The fact that Election was, for me, such a deeply painful and unpleasant viewing experience is a big part of the reason I still haven't gotten around to giving either Sideways or About Schmidt a shot, despite all the critical praise they've gotten. Payne was on Fresh Air the other night and he sounded reasonably intelligent; he said Election is still the movie of his that most people tell him is their favorite - he said he thinks its because it's so cynical. Well, I didn't love it, that's all I know.
  2. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    That's also true for me. Haven't seen either one. "The Descendents" is getting loads of praise; but "Election" did, too.
  3. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    Anyone now seen "The Descendants"?
  4. Drac39 Force Ghost

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    Speaking of pretentious filmmakers I find George Clooney to be a very pretentious performer and so maybe The Descendants might be one to skip for me as people here seem to think Payne is a hit or miss.

    I find it harder to sit through a pretentiously acted film than a pretentiously directed film. If the actor is pretentious he is basically insulting the intelligence of the audience and that is unacceptable.
  5. Havac Some Guy Who Moderates Lit

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    What do you mean by pretentious acting?
  6. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    Remember that the director has a lot of control over the performances, and sometimes it's just not the actor's fault.
  7. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    I rented Midnight in Paris a few nights ago. It's an ok movie with a few charming moments, but one complaint that always stands out is that Woody Allen can't write dialogue that sounds anything remotely like how people actually talk. Apologists claim that this heightened artificiality is part of Allen's unique style. Maybe, but the reason it's there is because Allen can't write dialogue.

    In this case, though, I don't think we can blame Allen for being pretentious. It's not his fault that he can't write dialogue but that he gets a lot of praise for his dialogue.
  8. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

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    I don't understand the "fault". Most dialogue doesn't sound like people talk. I mean, Shakespeare didn't write how people talk, either. Not that Allen is Shakespeare. And when it comes to mainstream movies and TV, I find more and more that the way people talk sounds like TV than the other way around. People, growing up on television, have internalized the one-liner, the banter, and the staccato rhythm of the modern screenplay conversation without realizing how stupid/shallow it sounds in actual conversation. But I rarely see any movie or show with dialogue that sounds like anything I'm likely to hear anyone say. Given that, I'm perfectly okay granting that Allen at least has a distinctive style when it comes to unreal dialogue.
  9. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    Likewise. Just about all movie dialogue is stylized to some extent, either through the dialogue itself or the context it is placed in. This is because most films-at least, most ambitious films-are out to make a point; they're not trying to show Michael Corleone as just another Mafia chieftain, or Charles Xavier as just another professor who knows about genetics and race equality , or whatever. You could arguably get the point across with normal every day talk, but stylizing it and raising-or at least, attempting to raise-your story to the level of mythology-makes getting your point across easier. Also, considerably more fun.
  10. severian28 Force Ghost

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    ^^^yes thats true to an extent but in my experience mythology and fantasy story telling - which i love of course, here on a SW message board lol - becomes distracting and sometimes dangerously so in serious times ( which i submit we are in right now ) after too long. its seriously why i take a couple months off in here at a clip and then back in for a couple of months.
  11. The_Four_Dot_Elipsis Force Ghost

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    This is actually the most absurd thing I think I've ever seen written on this forum.
  12. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    I understand what he's saying; which is that Allen is now so divorced from ordinary experience that his movies are artificial. I think this is bit of a problem with successful directors--Kubrick, take a bow--these days, anyway. Allen dealt with press scrutiny previously by creating a public persona for himself, something Welles, Hitchcock and Spike Lee have also tried. It can come back to bite you, though, as some of them discovered.

    Wouldn't know about "Midnight in Paris"; haven't seen it, and don't intend to, because I have had Owen Wilson and his tics up to *here*.
  13. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    Dinging a movie for being artificial is kind of lame though, isn't it? I mean, I like gritty, neo-realism and all that as much as the next guy, but ninety-nine times out of a hundred a great movie is also going to be incredibly artificial. They can't all be The Bicycle Thieves. The Bicycle Thieves is great, but so is 8 1/2 and I've never seen a more artificial movie.
  14. Cushing's Admirer Force Ghost

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    It's all incredibly subjective. It depends on what the viewer puts value in and if they think the work is done credibly as to whether they consider it deep or pretentious.
  15. Nevermind Jedi Grand Master

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    That's absolutely true. Don't go to a Lubitsch film expecting neo-realism. And I like a lot of Lubsitsch movies.

    Of course, Allen is either/or. Besides comedies, he also makes those dreary neo-Bergman cinema-thingys.
  16. severian28 Force Ghost

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    Nevermind your smart enough to perceive, even though you may not care for Woodys films ( i hate most of them by the way lol), that realism in an Allen film lies mostly in the interaction of the characters and the deep emotional nuances of the human experience in the 20th and 21st centuries. And of course that will always teeter on the edge of pretentiousness. Allen is much more influenced by the French New Wave, in the sense of objective narratives that morph into subjective narratives that end up rendering extremely subjective and amibiguous resolutions, that if done well will generate hours of debate in the diner after the movie. Real realism or Italian Neo Realism was the driving influence of Scorsese. And even though one emerged from the other , we're in a film age where the styles have integrated into each other rather seamlessly. You need to be a deconstructionist nowadays ( or whatever because i dont even know if that word is real )with film and everything else. Look at The Departed. Seemingly ultra realistic in look, tone, and pathos - as one would expect from its director. In reality it is almost completely mythology ( almost because part of it is a rendering of the real and amazing story of Whitey Bulger )and like mythology its truth lies in its life lessons. I think in some ways Allen wishes he was Scorsese. Maybe he should take the lesson of keeping his own personal ego as much outta of the film as possible. Thats the best thing about Scorsese as a filmmaker - his humility. How many Allen films would've been so much better if he wasn't in them?
  17. The_Four_Dot_Elipsis Force Ghost

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    None that I've seen.

    But then, I haven't seen Curse of the Jade Scorpion or Scoop.

    But Manhattan or Bananas or Broadway Danny Rose without Allen in them would all be infinitely lesser films.
  18. Merlin_Ambrosius69 Force Ghost

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    Did you personally respond to the film, find something moving or thoughtful or inspiring about it? Then it was deep.

    Did you dislike it, find it boring or pointless? Then it was pretentious.
  19. The_Four_Dot_Elipsis Force Ghost

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    This is the subjectivity cop-out that people use when they like a dumb film and didn't understand a good one.

    I'm not sure that it is "all subjective." Surely critical analysis and discussion has reached a point where a debate about two films can be built on citing examples and explaining either why something works or doesn't without resorting to "I found it boring" or "I thought it was cool."

    I find it disappointing that with all this magnificent real estate for film discussion on the internet, it more often than not devolves into a mud slinging match or it is circumvented by people saying "It's all subjective anyway." It is possible to quantify why one film is actually better than the other.
  20. Rogue1-and-a-half Manager Emeritus who is writing his masterpiece

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    This guy just nailed it. Should I just close the thread now or what? This doesn't usually happen in the Amp. :p
  21. severian28 Force Ghost

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    Just to show you I dont completely hate him I would add Annie Hall, Sleeper, Hannah and Her Sisters, and Crimes and Midemeanors to your list of films, leaving a crap load that he should have stepped aside for another actor or even perhaps evolve a perspective beyond the neurotic New Yorker, which he never did. Personally I thoughtBroadway Danny Rose sucked and that Antz was his best performance. Thats just my opinion. Even as a fellow Brooklynite I'd take the LES native Scorceses' film's to Allen's every day of the week lol.



    EDIT - and this really is a totally subjective thing we're getting into here. Theres people who think Woody Allen films are beyond genius and I'm not one of them and they're people who think " They Live " by John Carpenter is honestly one of the greatest movies ever and that he is one of the all time best American filmmakers and I am one of them lololol...
  22. Merlin_Ambrosius69 Force Ghost

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    By my count you've stuffed four straw men into this post, knocked them all down with condescending rhetoric and then led a trail of straw to my doorstep. Since when did "cop-out" come to mean "directly answering a question with an earnest opinion"? Your use of scare quotes around phrases you've invented -- or got from someone else's post -- and implicitly (via the quote function) attributed to me would be amusing if it weren't so out of place and undeserved.

    For the record: I agree with you that there can be and are objective criteria for the analysis and critique of film. There are also countless elements that are purely subjective and unpredictable. Apart from that sidebar discussion, my response to the specific thread question, "How do you tell if a movie is really deep or just pretentious?", is quoted at the top of this post.
  23. drg4 Force Ghost

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    For me, the key difference is that there's some seriously raw, naked emotion on display. I need to know that the artist in question has struggled and suffered immensely over whatever is being broached.

    For example: In the ?silence of God? department, Ingmar Bergman appeals to me far more than his admirer Woody Allen, precisely because I get the sense that the former has driven himself into a kind of Hell over his ruminations, whereas the latter is essentially just masturbating in his own (sometimes hilarious) fashion. With Bergman, there's something truly at stake; with Allen, the pontificating is merely an exercise, a lark.
  24. The_Four_Dot_Elipsis Force Ghost

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    TBH, I just thought you were being pithy and that it wasn't an honest opinion. My apologies on that front. [face_blush] Furthermore I would have thought that by quoting your post wholesale it's pretty clear that the quotation marks that I'm using are in a more general "things people say" form rather than anything that you've said... since the whole post is in mine anyway. Beside the point at any rate.

    Your opinion is not necessarily the cop-out that I refer to; rather the idea that someone can label a film as "pretentious" if they found it taxing and boring is. Personally I find that good, wide-ranging, honest discussion and analysis about film is rare in real life and, somewhat strangely, on the internet as well. There's a good percentage here, obviously, but too often do people dodge actually talking about a film and pulling it apart by saying that they found it boring or pretentious. "Pretentious" specifically is one of these words that can be used quite harshly but is so rarely backed up with an examination of why that given work puts on airs way above the quality and depth of its content. Subjectivity does of course come into play but ideally, if discussion is and analysis is on the table, it should come from how much people value certain components of a film, or what they choose to pass off as acceptable when matched with their own standards.

    There's this bizarre shame, though, that permeates film discussion on the internet that frightens people away from admitting that they just plain didn't understand a film, whether in part or in whole, and yet they still excercise their right to criticise said film. That's what I take issue with. People don't have time to dismiss a film in a fully analytical light and of course there will be discussions where "I liked this" and "I hated that" are fine because the topic at hand is something else entirely and the films as a whole are being brought up as examples, but if people are going to pull out the big guns and call a given artwork "pretentious" I think the burden should be on them to explain specifically why that is.

    Allen has his fair share of films that would have been exceedingly painful to make. Husbands and Wives in particular is astonishingly frank.
  25. Merlin_Ambrosius69 Force Ghost

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    Well, it's hard to argue with any of that. You've left me hardly a single crumb to quibble over, except that "pith" and "an honest opinion" are not mutually exclusive. :p At all events I appreciate the clarification of your position.

    One factor which inhibits purely objective analysis of film -- on the internet and real life -- is that the terms we use to describe our responses -- "deep" and "pretentious" among them -- are themselves subjective. That's what I was chipping away at in my first post on the question, and which you seem to have grasped from the start. There certainly are objective standards by which one may discuss film, but relatively few people understand cinematography, or pay close attention to editing, or are capable of dissecting a score down to instrumentation, chord structure, etc. What most people are left with are their emotional reactions and personal preferences, which are easy (and fun!) to describe.

    The key to good film criticism, IMO, is to strike a balance between the subjective and objective. [Note that I do not to classify myself as "a good film critic". My responses tend to be as emotive and subjective as the vast majority of internet commentators, it's just that my grammar is better. ;)) Quantifying a subjective response to, say, photography through comparison to other films that use similar techniques is one way to be more objective on a sliding scale; citing film stock, lens sizes and specific lighting tricks would be more purely objective, but also, perhaps for most readers, a little boring.

    Somewhere in between objective and subjective, measurable and unquantifiable, reason and emotion lies the best approach to discussing and critiquing films. I'll let you know when I find someone who does that without alienating his readership and/or putting 'em to sleep.