June 8, 2009

Film as art.

Do you care? Do you want a list?

44 comments:

Treacle said...

Beverly Hills Chihuahua got me through a very rough patch recently. Films are therapy too.

Largo said...

Ponette

Fred4Pres said...

This nonsense about art, Kael and critics is...well...nonsense. A good movie is one you see and enjoy. A great movie is one you see, enjoy and can watch again and again. And most of the movies on that list are great, but it is not because some dweeb film critic said so.

And don't underestimate Speilberg (who is just following in the tradition of Capra) some of his movies are definitely great. Carefully watch Jaws. The editing of that movie is just amazing.

Salamandyr said...

Spielberg is the greatest second unit director in the history of film. He can set up an action set piece like no one's business. However his ability to plot is often hamstrung by a knee jerk tendency for maudlin schmaltz.

wordsprite said...

The canon of art, as a meta-discussion over and above the art itself, is a fascinating discussion. Should we consider if fluid? Should it remain static? We do need to have cultural touchstones. Especially so that the next generations can continue to understand my Taxi Driver references.
That said, of the Pixar films, I think Wall-e will prove to be more timeless and enduring than Finding Nemo. I'm just saying.

Fred4Pres said...

Wall-e was unwatchable. A Pixar flop.

I agree that a movie has to hold up over time to be considered really great.

Sofa King said...

Dude, what? Wall-E was better - and more though-provoking! - than any other movie that year except maybe TDK.

traditionalguy said...

Movies draw us in to a world that seems to be a real experience, until we are open to the experience of all the thoughts we suppress: anger, lust to steal, hatred and murder. Those are NOT allowed. Except of course in a movie character we can indentify with a little. The more Realistic the "story" the more repulsive, and still theraputic, the experience seems to us. Kill Bill # 2 comes to mind. As does Fargo and A History of Violence.

Lem said...

Critic-turned-screenwriter and director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Affliction) has argued that, as a society, we have become so afraid of being branded elitists that we are loath to judge films according to artistic excellence.

I’ve gotten into many arguments with people who dismiss my categorization of film and movies as elitist.
There is a difference btw a film and a movie. People who dismiss it are only attempting to fool themselves.

Lem said...

BTW – If you enjoyed The straight Story (1999) and you like dogs (I know I’m overreaching) look for Wendy and Lucy (2008).

John said...

It is harder and takes more talent to write a really good screw ball comedy like Animal House or Bringing Up Baby than it does to make an overwrought polemic known as an "art film". The primary purpose of movies is to entertain. If a movie can't do that, it is not art.

jdeeripper said...

One of the films on the list, Black Orpheus, was vital to creating a black male fetish in a little White girl from Hawaii.

That film and Harry Harry Belafonte.

So it has historic value for other reasons.

MadisonMan said...

To answer your questions: No, and No.

Joe said...

I simply don't believe these critics; this has little to do with movies they actually enjoy, but in scoring points with their elitist friends at what movies they "should" enjoy.

Truly great art must be able to mesmerize at a visceral level; you must enjoy it in some inexplicable, even innocently childish way. Unfortunately, like other "art" critics, these film critics are just playing intellectual games.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

There is a difference btw a film and a movie.

If the flick is known for its director, it's a film.

If it is known for it's star(s), it's a movie, right?

John said...

I went through my "watch serious movies" phase in my early 20s. I watched them all. I think have seen nearly every one of the films on this list. Interestingly, I didn't ever watch any of them again except for Throne of Blood and 39 Steps. That said, none of them would be my favorites.

One other thing, am I the only one who thinks that Olivier's Shakespere has not aged well? I tried to watch Henry V a few months ago and found it laugh out loud hockey. It was unwatchable. The production values were terrible. And worse still, Olivier seemed so stilted he took every ounce of life out of every line. If you don't believe me, go to Youtube and watch the Olivier do the "band of brothers" speech and then watch the Branaugh version. There is no comparison. Branaugh makes you want to jump up and go to war right now. Olivier makes you wonder who put this dorky old movie on.

Joan said...

I like movies a lot, and can do the whole movies-as-art thing when the mood strikes.

It hasn't struck in a very long time.

I looked over the lists at the bottom of the linked article and was happy to see that The 39 Steps will be re-issued. I've only ever seen it on television, from a badly degraded print, and I'd love to see a restored version.

John: Olivier and Branagh are apples and oranges, but I agree -- Branagh's Agincourt speech is peerless.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I'm always up for a list, but not from the sort of people who judge movies by how thesis-worthy they are.

Zeb Quinn said...

Finding Nemo is beautifully rendered.

Lem said...

To answer your questions: No, and No.

If that's your final answer then I take it dont care about this either.

Paddy O. said...

Yeah, I didn't find Wall-E good either. Just was blah. And I'm a fan of Pixar.

The Toy Story movies are still, I think, the likely contenders for most long-lasting.

One thing that I've noticed in these lists is that the "best films" often tend to be located in the mid-20th century, as thought the 1950s were the peak of the art of film-making.

I suspect, rather, that these films, rather than being the best on some objective scale, are instead the movies that happened to most influence the particular movie critics during a key time of their emotional and cultural development.

These are the movies that made a young boy fall in love with the art of movies, and helped him find deeper insights into this world than the kitsch he was otherwise surrounded by.

Now that these people are older they don't resonate with later offerings, because they were farther along in their development, so didn't find them all that extraordinary.

That's not to say the movies in that brief list are bad. Indeed, I can't help but think of Giotto right now. He's not, by any stretch of the imagination, the best artist who ever lived. But he is important, absolutely vital, in understanding the development of art itself.

The movies here are not "the best!" according to a universal standard, but are in fact influential in the art of movies, and if someone is interested in making movies these are movies to see. If someone wants to be entertained, or enlightened about the human condition, or otherwise exposed to art as a shaping force in human understanding, then there are certainly better choices. I'd argue significantly more recent choices outweigh the older offerings.

I certainly do think that movies can be art, combining in a radical way the various other artistic mediums, linking together the visual, with the written, with the musical, with movement.

Storytelling, that most basic human artistic entertainment, comes alive, touching us deeply, able to transform or able to just lift us out of our present world for a bit.

But, what is art for older movie snobs is not necessarily the most transformative for others at their own developmental stage. Nor are the older movies from this so-called Golden Age of movies the pinnacle of cinema artistry.

But, likely, they make for an easy way to fill out a Netflix queue for those who would like to see the development of movies over the decades and the changing themes and values these represent.

Lem said...

Its like that kid in Shop Girl (2005) was saying. He couldn’t believe how the musical amplifier was thought of as a mere appliance like a refrigerator or a hair drier. It meant a lot more to him.

We have reduced movies to ice cream flavors to be mass produced at the assembly plant.

We are so far along this trend that to recognize the inherent Communism of this I don’t think would raise an eyebrow.

TitusIsHeadingToWisconsinthisweek said...

I haven't seen any of those films and I am very artistic.

Lem said...

The idea that diversity as the holy grail that should trump everything else is the biggest contributor to this farce that we shouldn’t judge a piece of work on the merits.

Nuts.

El Presidente said...

Due to a misspent youth I have seen a bunch of these.

The Kurosawa films hold up as great. After that there is a pretty big gap.


Using the criteria "beauty. . . potential to become timeless, and how it elicits viewer engagement." there a bunch of films that I would put above those listed.

The list looks like a list of movies that were considered edgy during a 60 year old's formative years.

Cocteau??? The Cocteau Twins were more entertaining.

Lem said...

‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ – another load of crap.

Henry said...

(You may dislike E.T. as a movie, but I'll bet you can't help but cry when the alien says goodbye to the children.)

Yes I can.

* * *

Pixar makes the only films I can bear to watch more than once.

Cars is the best movie of all time.

William said...

If you saw La Strada, The 400 Blows, and many Bergman films at a certain age, they became part of your life experience....Most Hollywood movies express a fantasy for the kind of glossy life that we will never attain and always yearn for. It's fun to see our delusions fulfilled in a happy ending by impossibly attractive people in the most flattering lighting....But every so often it's good to see our stumbles and confusion acted out to an unsatisfactory conclusion by relatively unattractive people. Art films, the good ones anyway, are a kind of vaccination for the pathogens consumed in a pretty Hollywood fantasy.

John said...

"Art films, the good ones anyway, are a kind of vaccination for the pathogens consumed in a pretty Hollywood fantasy."

So you are saying art films are for actors who are too ugly to make it in Hollywood? I thought that was politics.

Henry said...

But every so often it's good to see our stumbles and confusion acted out to an unsatisfactory conclusion by relatively unattractive people...

Thanks to art film, I can understand now the metaphysical ennui that caused my American girlfriend to betray me to the detectives for shooting the motorcycle policeman.

John said...

William,

In all seriousness, why can't we have both good looking actors, well made movies and serious content? I think the art crow grossly underestimates the serious content of the best Hollywood movies. A movie like The Searchers makes just as much of a serious point as any Berman movie. And it does so in a much more entertaining way.

Henry said...

I will add to my hyperbolic statement above, that I do find art films acted out to unsatisfactory conclusions to be better than the alternative.

ricpic said...

I hadn't thought of La Strada, but William's comment brought it back. An especially affecting film to the young. That incurable sadness that only youth can respond to with such intensity.
Also Bergman's Wild Strawberries. Maybe not a masterpiece but the very last scene when the old man "sees" his parents on the river bank? Wow.

John said...

La Strada is a great movie. Many of the Kirisawa movies (Thrown of Blood, Seven Samuri, Ran) are great movies. Only a fool would say that some "art movies" (whatever that means) aren't great. But it takes an equal fool not to understand that a lot of them are over blown crap.

rhhardin said...

You have to sit through a lot of art to see a flash of tit, if the early 60s is any guide.

rhhardin said...

Jean Shepherd lamented having missed Cinderella and the Golden Bra in its long run on 42nd St. One day it was gone. Late 60s?

Anyway I take it there was a plot in those days.

ricpic said...

Definition of a 42nd Street "art" porno? Shot through gauze.

John said...

"You have to sit through a lot of art to see a flash of tit, if the early 60s is any guide."

See e.g. every Catherine Deneuve movie made in the 60s. But oh what a lovely tit it was.

Beth said...

There is a difference btw a film and a movie.

Lem, if you're going to paraphrase, please cite: Lisa Loopner, 1979.

Beth said...

Perhaps I am too vague.

Lisa Loopner (Gildna Radner); re: The Way We Were . "It's not a movie, it's a film!"

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

A movie like The Searchers makes just as much of a serious point as any Berman movie. And it does so in a much more entertaining way.


Three more distintions I guess:

If it is entertaining, it is a movie.

If it isn't, then it is a film

If it is a popular success, it is a movie.

If it isn't, it is a film.

If it has a well known conservative anywhere near it, its a movie. And probably a bad one.

If it has pure libral bloodlines, its a film

NKVD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lem said...

Sorry Beth I was away till now; didnt mean to seem like I was giving you the brush-off.

Yes.

Beth said...

Hi Lem,

I meant that to be a happy little joke - my timing's off!

I love that Gilda Radner character, and her devotion to Marvin Hamlisch.