Thursday, September 6, 2012

MY TAKE ON Directors As Critics

David Cronenberg didn't like The Dark Knight Rises?
Do you know one of my many favorite things about Quentin Tarantino? I suspect that he is a very good critic of movies, but he may have learned from the mistake of others in his profession, that it can be damning to an artist's reputation to criticize the work of others. Tarantino carries on and on about new movies he loves but seems to keep quiet about the movies he dislikes. Spielberg's the same way.

I don't know if they hold the same belief that I hold. The belief is that the investment of the artistic process can inhibit the ability to be a good audience member. Recently, a great filmmaker criticized a movie that may not have impressed me, but he seems to dislike it for all the wrong reasons. David Cronenberg criticized superhero movies using The Dark Knight Rises as an example of why it is silly for adults to praise and enjoy something that was invented for kids. He went on to praise it's technical greatness but said it was working with a genre that didn't have any chance of being great art.

Cronenberg is just the right guy to hold an opinion like this. What makes his drama and horror movies amazing, is the rejection of everything that makes a superhero movie amazing. He is the extreme opposite. He doesn't even believe in story-boarding! That makes him about as anti-comic book as you can get. A History of Violence, a famous film of his, was based on a graphic novel. He only read the screenplay adaptation and never looked at the graphic novel. The results were excellent but you would never think of a comic book when watching it. His films are a psychological journey that he doesn't want decided for him in the visuals ahead of time. I respect his opinion but isn't he the last guy who should even be talking about comic book movies? It's like me talking about sports!

Needless feuds have existed like this and I can remember a handful from my own lifetime: Terry Gilliam bashes Spielberg and Lucas; Spike Lee bashes Tarantino, Eastwood, and Zemekis; William Goldman bashes everyone! These artists were not wrong to dislike the others work, but the notion that their contemporaries needed to be impugned for the betterment of culture or just a way of trying to look artistically superior did nothing good for them.

When you're a good artist, you are on a mission to represent your unique vision. That unique vision sets one apart from the different vision of another. It's hard to give advice that doesn't involve telling someone, "Here's how to be more like me." An ambitious artist, steeped in their work isn't likely to be holding a worldly view of what makes everyone good in their own way. 

Directors are better suited to criticize through their work as a motivator to create something better or different. In 1959 Howard Hawks made Rio Bravo as a response to other Westerns at the time, namely High Noon. Both are celebrated films to this day but are made with very different attitudes on what heroism is. 

Pointing this stuff out is what film critics are for. There is a minimal amount of personal artistic bias brought to the viewing of a movie when all you think about, is the variety of different philosophies that lead to great works of art.

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