reply to scorsese vs marvel

wanted to get some quick notes down about the scorsese vs marvel discourse currently going on. you can read it here. nothing super formal, just wanted to get my voice in before it’s washed away by whatever disney+ controversies we get.

 

-scorsese’s films are not from earth to alpha centauri when it comes to marvel movies. i have no idea where he got this notion from, especially because he knows the movies that are actually in that vein. a lot of scorsese’s comments here confuse me for similar reasons because he’s aligning himself as the opposite to marvel when this comes across as complaining of a system that brought him up and then left him to rot (except, that didn’t happen at all) when it’s mostly a similar system as before, just with different tastes. i acknowledge that the cultural landscape has absolutely changed, though scorsese still sits at a pretty standard midpoint by any recognizable definition. but i guess being that rich for that long can make you lose perspective a bit sometimes.

-something i see a lot of in a the comments of certain anti-MCU people is a certain preference against a “cinema-of-attractions” approach to the medium.  scorsese kinda sets himself up for the “not everything needs to be Citizen Kane” strawman here. it’s one thing to say that the movies lack depth, another to say that movies which lack depth are necessarily worse than those that do. how many masterful cult films are there that get brushed aside in favor of these terrible films? probably far more than the type of “adult” projects that scorsese seems to favor, and i would argue that the two are way more comparable as far as broad filmmaking goals go.

-scorsese speaks of the cultural importance of projection, and repeats this a couple of times to solidify his notion. this is a waning demand however; it’s his one like “ok boomer” moment where he veneers into the territory of seeing the movie house as the monolith when everyone who gets hardcore into art cinema knows their way around a VPN by the time they’re out of high school. this is important because many of these people never even go to theaters normally; for them, the cinema is their laptop screen. i don’t see the cinema as being whatever happens to play on a metroplex for $12 near you – the advent of streaming is what will assist cinema, even if it ruins “cinema.”

-not falling for his “i had to go to netflix” sob story lol, waaah only one media conglomerate would give me 9 figures for my oscar bait

-the financial situation is brutal for small theaters not just because of indirect forces like everyone only seeing disney trash but also directly because of extremely harsh, borderline illegal theater policies that disney themselves employ. i wish scorsese would have brought this up – someone with his sway and clout speaking against that practice could do some popular good.

-i think in parts of his article, his notion of success is directly linked to “is it playing on a theater screen for millions of people.” it conflates financial success with cinematic success, which as someone who has had a lot of the former, seems to come from a biased position. obviously he doesn’t entirely mean this should be taken all the way – as evidenced by him, you know, hating superhero movies – but i do see this line of reasoning a lot and think it’s kind of unhealthy.

-it’s good that someone with some iota of clout is saying these things even if the points are a bit rough around the edges. i generally agree with his thesis, just believe we need to have more carefully crafted criticism on the subject.

thoughts on animation

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been meaning to make a post like this for a while and i’m only now getting around to it. but here we are, the dreaded animation discussion. in this post i’ll attempt to lay out my philosophy for my approach to animation as a tool in film, its limitations, and what i believe is pushing the medium forward.

i’ll start this off with a perhaps-needed disclaimer, which is that i fully believe animation to be capable of the heights of live-action film. if anything, mixed media formats are going to have an even more important role in time as technology to utilize either one (and, thus, synthesize them) will see an uptick, and socialized filmmaking has always been a good thing. there are already concrete examples now, of which i’ll list ten, of films that i believe utilize animation to a progressive degree that i don’t believe can be done with live action.

this isn’t the same as saying something would be different if made in live action or that it couldn’t be done or what-have-you, although this is probably true as well, but rather that these films advance the medium of animation (and greatly heighten my rather meager opinion of it). this could be from their juxtaposition with live-action, their style lending to a more substantial thesis on behalf of the film at large, an important thematic role for the animation to begin with, or excel at making animation look aesthetically pleasing or immersive in some way.

these are…

Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees by david blair

wax anim

Persepolis by vincent paronnaud and marjane satrapi

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Waltz with Bashir by ari folman

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*Corpus Callosum by michael snow

Corpus-Callosum

After Last Season by mark region

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Avatar by james cameron

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It’s Such a Beautiful Day by don hertzfeldtimages-w1400

12 oz. Mouse by matt maiellaro

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Dog Star Man by stan brakhage (among others)

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and Tower by keith maitland.

tower

these are not necessarily the animated films that i believe are best (calling some of these animated is dubious at best anyways), but rather ones that actively give me encouragement that the medium isn’t entirely dead. these are films which meaningfully utilize the plasticity, variation, and contrasts that animation has the capacity for, and don’t settle for merely drawing cartoons that could end up being compelling or not depending on if the screenwriting is.

while i don’t want to get too exhaustive with this list, i do want to at least briefly illustrate what i mean when i speak of this sort of progressive-ness. there are many ways a film can be aesthetically progressive. eisenstein famously spoke about the plasticity of early disney, in a sort of childlike adoration for the new capability of cinema. this is something which has surely happened to many of us over time – seeing something brand new which just totally knocks us back – but i believe this initial hype must inevitably be answered with some form of payoff. childlike wonder is an interesting concept to build a film around, but variation in themes and tones is something i tend to value above an exclusive approach.

obviously, you say, not all animation is about this sense of childlike wonder. but i do have to question this to some extent. due to the way that our cultural zeitgeist has been set up, there are inherently different visceral reactions one gets depending on the media they consume. as a child, one who either prefers live action or animation, seeing the “other” medium will trigger a desire to return the more recognizable, comfortable, soothing one. these notions have the potential to become cornerstones of their developmental taste, which progresses into adolescence and some people just never seem to really move on past there. the way that our culture is set up, though, is that there will always be that innate sense of wonder based somewhat on comforting nostalgia that i think surrounds our reactions to seeing animation as opposed to live action.

this is psychology 101, surely, but i need to address the “childlike” aspects of animation. the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of animation is tailored towards young audiences. this shouldn’t stop us, however, for there is countless animation out there which isn’t (predominantly) going for that age group (and for the revisionists who sincerely believe something like The Incredibles is part of that group, well, stop reading now i guess). so what’s the problem?

i think these two somewhat self-evident truths coalesce into my general theory of animation, which is that it attempts to humanize adolescent tastes – be those by the people who created the film, or the viewer. i understand that this is culturally not true everywhere and that the rep of animation largely depends on your habitat, but from my western perspective it stands to reason that this call to animation is, at its core, a call to nostalgia, to going back. this medium which is capable of the infinities allotted by your HDTV screen, customizing each and every one of the 4096 lines that show up there, has its primary appeal relegated subconsciously towards a longing for simplicity. as a viewer, it’s something i have little to no interest in. the only animated film which moves me in this way is My Neighbor Totoro, which is an all-timer for me and sort of makes anything going for this broad type of appeal irrelevant for my personal viewing.

there are other sorts of appeals that one can have, though, but i have rather dismal views of those as well. lots of animation goes for cheap psychedelia or attempts to utilize the plasticity of the medium to create surrealism, a concept that surely blew the mind of sergei eisenstein 80 years ago, but has long become tired and only interesting in contrast with other cinematic elements, not as a lone goal.

the films that i’ve mentioned above are films that, while they may flirt with these notions, approach them from an ironic distance or contrast them to a reasonable extent such that the final product is one of subversion rather than strict adherence to a nostalgic beckoning.

one such example of subversion is Persepolis. in this work, the ironic distancing is achieved by the non-realistic style; the heightened, childlike proportions and view of the world that the protagonist encounters are meaningfully portrayed in a film about learning from these experiences and ultimately rejecting many of them. in a feminist move, it employs the stance of criticizing not necessarily your own past, but the world that you have matured from, that which you no longer feel like you belong to. this form of rebellion is successfully shown alongside a medium which we subconsciously relate to our adolescence.

satrapi’s usage of minimalism in the animation of Persepolis grants it a more universal appeal, de-colorizing the world and even the people so as to not have the viewer be overloaded on specifics and more interested in the ideas and feelings that her character has. while there was surely a massive amount of time that went into the production of Persepolis, the movie’s stripped down style and aesthetics acts as a counterbalance to this – it is a film where your self-insertion is encouraged because it is a film that wants you to accept, on some level, a rejection of your past. the narrative engine in coming-of-age films being maturity is facilitated through these contrasts in intelligent ways here.

the limitation to satrapi’s approach is that the film is devoid of the catalyst for most narrative payoff: faces, glances, gestures. her minimal approach doesn’t even attempt to reconcile this – sure, characters are created with generally acceptable human proportions, but the distancing effect is ever-present. while we may self-insert as marjane, we never feel as though this is our world, these are our friends, that this is truly happening in a concrete sense; it’s purely in the cinematic that the catharsis in Persepolis lives.

to some extent, all of the films i’ve listed here are like this. the only two you could really make a case against would be Avatar – which is really just the cinema of attractions for the modern era – and Waltz with Bashir – whose central themes of PTSD and trauma meaningfully climax in a switch to live action, a pivot which far too many animated films are afraid to utilize.

the rest of the films i’ve selected are ones which accept the irreality of the animated world and, in their own way of minimalism, maximilze the brechtian distancing effect that’s possible with pictures. you can self-insert as a stick figure, but you will never believe the stick figure is truly you or having your experiences – the goals of these films are entirely different to both most of the animated canon (constantly attempting to live up to the best of live action or utilizing century old plasticity) and the live action (which oftentimes is focused on verite in some fashion).

many of these films acknowledge the differences between the two media and utilize their respective aspects properly. in It’s Such a Beautiful Day, the live-action bits bring us from self-insertion to the potential of that stick figure really being us, the bridge from sympathy to empathy. in After Last Season, the animated segments serve as a contrast to the sterile, artificial environments – they provide childlike wonder and bafflement in a world that appears clinical and cold for most of the time. even when there are murders and ghosts afoot in this world, in some ways, it is more acceptable than the reality of live action.

for me, the existence of plasticity is only a small fraction of the appeal to animation. it’s something which can give it purpose at times, but reliance on it simply exposes us to tired surrealism. the existence of animation’s irreality can doom it to preying on nostalgia that i have no interest in digging up again. these two engines are those which seem to be the ones that continue to drive animated works forward; the canon is filled with them. this is my primary issue with animation – where there are boundless possibilities, there is boundless laziness. a desire to keep returning to the same roots and choices that past masters have done, with little to build upon them in the form of meaningful analysis or recontextualization.

so much of animation is painfully, painfully limited in what it attempts to do. there is no rhyme or reason to the creative choices made – and i don’t mean which color signifies what or analysis of this sort, but more decisions on entire media – why is something animated instead of just shot normally? budgetary constraints are usually not the issue. even as large of an advocate for 3D as i am, i am still in the stage of requiring some method to the madness when it comes to using that as a device.

i’ll conclude by saying that plasticity’s modern counterpart is almost surely the avant-garde (brakhage and snow have more meaningfully contributed to the notion of physically malleable cinema than any studio has in the last 50 years) and that there is hope for animation yet. i just wish there was more to the canon than what we currently have.

the erik reeds guide to becoming a patrician: part 3 (“branch out”)

the foreboding laugh react when you post your top 4. the unnerving silence of the comments. maybe a sympathetic “I love Drive!” in the comments, coupled only by a “bro you just posted cringe!” reaction image shortly after. you’ve made a fool of yourself online for your taste, something you’ve put hundreds of hours into. where do you go from here? how will you ever recover?

there are, fundamentally, two paths you can take. if you’re experiencing this phenomenon for the first time. you can continue to see stuff your coworkers know the names of, blissfully trekking on in your endless swaths of multi-million dollar products, maybe even take up funko pop collecting on the side. while i think this is a terrible decision, ultimately, you are you. you’ll face scorn from people no matter what your hobbies are.

this is, unfortunately, not a series on how to be a pleb for the rest of your life though. anyone can do that – maybe i’ll do it on how i’ve yet to expand my tastes in music for the 22 years i’ve been on this planet. this series assumes that you’ve taken the second path. you’re determined to do better than this. you want people online whose names you can’t pronounce to admire and fawn over your every letterboxd entry and the friends and family you’ve had all your life to awkwardly make small-talk with you when they try to merely mention the word “movies” in your presence. in short, you want to be a patrician.

i’ve already covered the basics of this in my other two “patrician” posts in terms of the social aspect (tl;dr make friends who understand your tastes as opposed to algorithms that try to predict them) and the physical ones (tl;dr SEED YOUR TORRENTS) to becoming a patrician, but i think that some people might miss the “why?” aspect of it. i’ve clearly been a bit light-hearted about this above because i need to contrast how one might perceive the art of becoming cultured. a descent into film-dom might be romanticized in media as seeing the classics and crying to Schindler’s List, but the reality is that the exciting part of it is finding yourself, finding some hidden gem that nobody’s heard of, that kind of a deal. and while many of the canon flicks will understandably astound you with how great they are, many of them will also underwhelm you. that’s the nature of the game.

so why would you ever choose this time-consuming, antisocial habit? all for the name of some dopamine hits online and some street cred when you shill some forgotten fassbinder movie?

partially yes, though i think there is more. the primary issue i see with being a “basic” viewer is that you’re much more susceptible to burnout. it makes sense, you know; there is practically an infinite amount of rainer kohlbergers, jon josts, and kiyoshi kurosawas out there – not to say that these filmmakers are anything but singular, just that there are filmmakers with directly similar appeal to these sorts. for as long as i’ve been watching 200-300 movies a year, i’ve always been able to find stuff that interests me and new corners to explore – mostly due to the new discoveries i’d made just a few months prior. i have no earthly idea what cinematic obsession i’ll have in a year – a director, a movement, a genre, etc.

for the blissful path, there are only so many edgar wrights, 70s coppolas, and steven spielbergs. sure, these directors have all made some great films – however, if your palette is only extended to such creators who operate on budgets like this, then you’re going to be physically limited by the market already. though we may joke about how marvel has taken over the industry (which financially is true: boycott disney and all that), in reality, if all you watch are superhero movies, your pool is pretty shallow at the end of the day. even today, you can manage what like, 6 movies to get excited about per year? 8? rookie numbers.

if movies are a part time curiosity to you, it’s not a big deal. people burn out of their part time interests all of the time to mutually beneficial ends; it’s happened to me, anyways. so many people these days, however, seem to lack a passion. they lack something they can really dig into and get obsessed over. they kinda meander through a number of “easy” fields – video games, netflix, budget fashion – but never get super deep into any of them.

that’s always a concern on my end. it pains me to see or hear about individuals that seemingly have no direction or obsession or something of this sort, as if these short term gratifications are all they have to live on. so although i mock the patrician crowd for that dopamine craving on letterboxd, i don’t see it as being very different from the hit that people who aren’t living fulfilling, passionate lives get when they watch Shaun of the Dead for the 7th time, thinking silently to themselves that it seems just a bit worse this go around than the 6th.

i know that it’s possible for me to burn out on movies someday – it’s possible for anyone. i don’t think it’s possible that the mentality i have about movies is going to let me do that though, so unless that changes, i’ll pretty much always have an active interest in them. there is just so much out there that i’d love to see, and that’s only 2019 erik reeds. 2020 erik reeds will have even more he wants to see, in spite of having seen more of the stuff that 2019 erik reeds wanted to see, and 2021 erik reeds will want to see even more than the 2020 one and so on and so forth. it takes 100 minutes to watch a movie, but only a few seconds to add it to my watchlist.

so the “broaden your horizons” accompanied with some other mocking comments, in addition to being a way for patricians to finally flex their e-peens, is something that could genuinely assist you in the long run. there are a lot of things to love in this life, but if you’re going to go with movies, why not go about them in a way that’s rewarding over time AND gratifying now? are you really missing out from those small talks at family reunions about the last disney HD remaster?

the erik reeds guide to becoming a patrician: part 2 (equipment)

we’re living in the 21st century, doin something mean to it (by that, i mean hotboxing outside of dennys at 2am). i mentioned in part 1 of this series that the modern world of cinema has many concrete advantages, the primary ones being that there are more restorations than ever, and that there are more ways to build connections than ever. well that’s awesome, it’s great, but how do we take advantage of this new tech?

the first thing i would recommend is, if you’re just really really new to this stuff, getting a program to play movie files. the primary thing you need here is something that has good subtitle capabilities. i’ve used VLC for years and i also use MPC as well when i have issues with that one. they have pretty good documentation online for whatever you may need with them, but if you’re just casually watching movies then there shouldn’t be any fancy tricks you have to pull off most of the time.

so where do we go to get the movie files, now that we can play them?

if you’re not on any private trackers already, i recommend asia torrents and cinemaz. they have open registration sometimes, usually during the summer, so be on the lookout then. it’s great to have a resource like this because it allows you to request films you may be looking for.

the regular torrent sites are a great resource. openload and novamov as you see fit. another excellent resource is hawkmenblues. i’ve linked to the site index with directors whose name starts with “j” but just change the url to go to the appropriate director you want. this is an excellent resource – don’t let the sketchy links put you off. most of the canon is available for free here. note that the films require a password to unzip, but the password is always available on the site so just type it in to unzip everything.

you also have rarelust, which is great for more obscure gems, ubu, which is great for older avant-garde stuff, festivalscope, which is cool for random new festival stuff, mubi, which gives you a great small selection for a low price (free for students), kanopy, which gives you a huge selection and can be used with a library card, tao films, which is a hub for slow cinema, and the various mainstream streaming platforms that all have noteworthy films on them.

again, making friends is going to be another great way that you can expand your resources. maybe someone has a karagarga account and can hit you up with some r bruce elder films. maybe you  have an asia torrents and can hook your buddy up with the extended cut of Love Exposure.

some additional tips/tricks:

-seed your torrents if you’re on a private tracker, like, obviously. seed your torrents that don’t have a lot of seeders already. self-explanatory, but a lot of people just delete.

-VPNs are good, but i haven’t done much research into em for a while. research them on your own time – a lot of ISPs don’t care if you’re torrenting phil solomon films or what-have-you, but if yours does, there are relatively easy ways around it. just don’t go for brand new stuff unless you’re using a VPN – you can sometimes find those more new mainstream stuff on sites like openload anyways though.

-remember to always google search for english subtitles if you can’t find them – if you have one of the video players i downloaded, you can easily patch them to the movie afterwards. it won’t always work, but it’s generally a good try.

-maintaining your ratio on any private tracker can be difficult, but it’s difficult for everyone the first time around. read the rules carefully as they’re all different. the most important thing is to let everything seed until you start uploading past your initial download – pretty much every site is going to be cool with you if you do that. don’t just delete it after a couple days of it not uploading at all – this is common. some of my torrents take weeks to get any traction.

-share your stuff. if you’re shilling some sick film from an unknown director, put it on youtube! mega! google drive! let people have a way to see it if it’s not otherwise readily available. if you were passed something, make sure that you have permission to pass it around too, and respect that person’s wishes. everything becomes available within a couple of years after you hear about it, and even if it doesn’t, there’s plenty else out there for you to watch.

-although many films that you scour the net for are out of print or otherwise unavailable, a good deal of them are up for purchase by their directors. if you’re financially equipped, i highly recommend using your movie allowances in this way; you’re directly supporting the artist in exchange for their film, all using the world wide web. most of them don’t charge inordinate prices for their films or anything, so it’s not a huge commitment. plus, in many cases, the director will be happy to interact with a potential fan!

-many of these sites have features, like movie of the day or lists with a lot of movies available on the site of a certain theme, etc. if you’re unsure of what to watch for the day, check out some of those – can’t hurt!

-the sites i provided are just what i’ve gotten the most use out of. explore for yourself for alternatives – and feel free to tell me about them too. all about helping each other in this world.

the erik reeds guide to becoming a patrician: part 1 (“how do you find out about these movies?”)

hello everyone. i’m planning this as a series of posts to attempt to educate people into how they can get deeper into film, with a heavy emphasis on the practical methods, the new tools at our disposal, and finding ways to enrich your general cinephilia.

as many know, i’ve spent far too much time on movie forums and in movie spaces online. most of this time i’ve regretted in some way, but i guess i have gleaned some good things from it over the years. people often ask me variants of the question in the title: just how do you even find out about most of the stuff you watch? the answer to this sort of question depends on who’s asking it, but since i presume the readerbase here is going to be tech-savvy budding movie-lovers, i’ll try to address it in a way that’s most beneficial.

my go-to recommendation for someone who i don’t particularly get an “artsy” vibe from is generally the imdb top 250 (is it still at 250 now?). over the years, of course, its usefulness has run its course on my end, but it remains a nice list for having immediate access to entry-level filmbro stuff. someone who sees 200 movies on there will likely not be very refined in their tastes, but they can begin to grow the seeds of what exactly they want to get out of their movie watching experience. and it’s also an initial time commitment too; if you can’t get through films like Batman Begins and Se7en, i struggle to think of where else you can go that would be rewarding at that point.

i’ll harp on this quite a bit in this post but i can’t stress the importance of finding your own identity when it comes to your viewing habits. we all have generally the same lists to look at – the letterboxd top 250, they shoot pictures top 1000, sight and sound’s top 250, etc. not everyone is going to end up seeing all of those movies though. me personally, i wanted to complete the TSPDT list by the time i was 25, that was around what i estimated when i was 16 or 17. this is now a feat that i could easily do with my consumption averages, but my desire to see the last 200 some odd movies on the list by now has dissipated more and more. i just can’t see myself ever wanting to endure more bunuel films if i don’t absolutely have to.

but the cool thing about movies is that you’re rarely forced to do these things. movie culture as a whole doesn’t really have a stigma against people who haven’t completed lists or anything; i doubt the people whose opinions i respect the most care at all about their progress on the sight and sound lists. so are these lists useless, if they are rarely ever completed?

certainly not! lists like these offer homogenized perspectives that are great as diving-off points. after you’ve sped through the various bergmans, ozus, and godards on lists like these, you’ll likely begin to get to a point of where you can broadly identify what types of movies you like and what types you don’t.

i’ve mentioned elsewhere that i’m fundamentally against the notion of needing to be “open-minded” when it comes to art, especially in an information era where we have access to tens of thousands of films at any given time. the idea that you need to continually reinforce your negative preferences in some sort of (usually futile) need to expand your horizons is something that can be done with more enjoyment if one simply continues to explore by watching movies they believe they’ll actually like. if you’re watching over 200 movies a year, odds are that you’re probably broadening your horizons plenty; how much you want to get out of that comfort zone is up to you, but as someone who almost exclusively stays in theirs, i wouldn’t say it needs to be demonized much.

at the end of the day, everyone takes risks with their viewing habits. i never really know if i’m going to like something when i begin watching it, but i would almost always prefer to like it. i’ve seen plenty of bad movies on accident to the point of where i wouldn’t want to watch them on purpose. but enough on this.

when you begin to develop your identity (this could be based around a myriad of topics and themes, such as: musicals, political films, silents, ensemble works, classic hollywood, new bollywood, experimental film, etc.), this is where your viewing habits are going to begin to diverge from something that people can really give you a flowchart or a generalized list for. you’re not some algorithm, you’re you! you have opinions! dreams! desires! you can’t possibly stomach another werner herzog movie, and you’re dying to see more things like The Wind! another canon list can only “help” so much (by help, i mean: allow you to discover or become interested in things you weren’t before).

this is where the social element to movie watching gets important, and, along with the obvious easy access to kazillions of movies, one of the primary benefits i think of when i examine how the internet era benefits film fans. i’ve joked before about how i don’t care about quality because i “grew up in the early 2010s as a rivette fan.” i have a dvd of Out 1 Spectre i bought off of a bootleg website that is the movie recorded off of a camcorder recording a TV playing the film which was recorded onto tape in the wrong aspect ratio with italian hardcode subs. nowadays, you can find this film readily available online, in pristine quality.

when i first saw A Brighter Summer Day four years ago, it was off of a dark, hazy laserdisc recording that had become widely available to potential viewers. just recently i watched the 50 gig blu ray rip of it from criterion and almost couldn’t believe my eyes at the difference.

point is, i haven’t really even been in the game that long comparatively. though Out 1 being on netflix is always going to top the list of things that “never would have happened in my days,” there are countless restoration miracles like this happening year by year. every time criterion restores a batch of films, i normally don’t care about most of them, but i usually care about one or two, and down the road i’ll probably care for a few more, and the list of films to watch just expands more and more at an exponential rate.

but even these incredible advances are somewhat meager in comparison to how much interacting with other people can aid you in venturing out in the film world more. because, the truth is, if i didn’t have people recommending me stuff or rating it 4.5 on letterboxd or what-have-you, all the criterions and arrow videos and kino lorbers in the world wouldn’t matter – i wouldn’t have any idea of where to start. the most important thing you can do for your film viewership after you’ve begun to see what you do and don’t like is: find people who agree with you! you’ll find plenty that don’t, but there are always going to be film fans that have those same hot takes and goals for their film viewership like you do.

growing up in rural texas, there wasn’t really anybody in my day to day that i could say was realistically watching films in the same wavelength as me. this isn’t a bad thing, but it’s something that many people are likely to encounter. they go into their film class and feel just a complete lack of connection with anyone. they go to a kalatozov screening and shudder at the boomers complaining about it exiting the theater. for a lot of people out there, there really is nobody that can help guide you on your journey.

that’s where the net comes in though. first thing’s first: make a letterboxd. find reviewers you like – oftentimes i go to films i like with not a lot of views and see people who liked them and check out what else they’re into. comment on stuff. review everything you see – even if it’s just 2 or 3 words, put something on there, because other people are going to be doing this too. we go on social media (especially for interests) to gain something, people like seeing your thoughts on movies if they trust your taste or value your insight. comment on other peoples’ lists and reviews, get a sense of everybody’s taste, as this might be how you find your own more.

i’ve often been disappointed when i try to find IRL film groups because the people who happen to live within a few miles from me are likely not some of the few hundred people in the world i feel really connected with on a cinematic level, but with the net at your disposal, there’s no such thing. i know people with extremely idiosyncratic tastes; 80s action films and structuralist shorts and jesus franco joints. there’s always going to be a way to find like-minded individuals on websites where everyone’s ratings and rants are publicly available.

it isn’t just letterboxd; scour the whole net for these people if you don’t feel like that site provides you with enough. i spent a year on r/movies largely as a test of this very theory, and, surprise surprise, i met some people that i genuinely clicked with pretty well. there are always going to be some people that you can connect with, and this increases as you find yourself. if you don’t know what you’re looking for in movies, other people can only help you so much.

that’s…pretty much all the advice i can give here. i don’t know everyone, i can’t reasonably vibe with everybody’s sensibilities. people educated in film may have tastes that are just antithetical to what i search for in film. this is just part of the process though, because there are so many people who have similar tastes as me that have helped me discover things i didn’t know about or wasn’t as educated on.

you may have complaint here with how i’ve set this up as “find people that are exactly like you,” but that’s not the case. nobody is exactly like you. the people that i follow on letterboxd and get recommendations from and read academic reviews from are from various backgrounds that we have overlap on but i still have huge differences with. one of my friends is huge on shorter, more transcendent abstract avant-garde films. one of my friends is big on no-budget SOV horrors or romances or other such genre flicks. other are big on political films. others are big on vulgar auteurism. some are just the “classical” TSPDT enthusiast types whose favorites from those circles align with my tastes. some of them are populists that i consider to look at films in a progressive or intelligent way. but that’s just me and my own circles; you yourself are going to find your friends, your admirers, the people that you’ll go on to stan.

but we all have to do the grunt work. at least try to go through some of the canon lists, unless you have other lists that you’re going to use instead (which is fine too!). engage with people and get recs based on your taste. some people can jump entirely into the deep end and binge lav diaz but most people aren’t wired for that. take it slow. watch the normie stuff, when you’re done with that, you can work your way into the more difficult material on the sights and sounds or they shoot the pictures or those sorts. don’t just watch mindlessly! you’re going to watch Jules et Jim or something and think “wow this is absolutely terrible, do i just have bad taste?” and the answer to that is: maybe, but maybe someone else will have bad taste too. and it’s up to you to find them.

a light defense of elitism

those who know me primarily through our shared love for cinema probably have a few immediate impressions of me. if you’re reading this blog, they probably err on the positive side; maybe you like my recommendations lists or believe i have a unique voice in “the discourse.” if you’re not reading this blog, well, suffice it to say that my takes may be more divisive.

this has less immediately to do with my taste (i don’t think my movie selections and favorites are particularly out there compared to my peers) and probably more to do with my attitude and disposition towards others. i’m aggressive, assertive, and elitist when it comes to film tastes. despite what you may believe about cineastes, this is actually pretty rare, online anyways. in 10+ years of spending too much time online in film circles, the most snobby place i’ve ever wandered into is the front page of r/movies, with no truly apt second place.

it may seem comical (or, if you’re one of those “not reading this” that i spoke of previously, dishonest) that a space dedicated to the saturation of corporatism to this degree is more stuck-up than archived mubi forums or private tracker boards, but again, taken from my experiences, this is just my experience of it. since i would hesitate to call myself educated in the other artforms, i really can’t say if this phenomenon exists elsewhere, but for me as a movie-appreciator, it’s definitely been an oddity that’s fascinated me for a while. the level of people believing their taste is factually superior than others when they’ve seen less than 500 movies and don’t know who jean renoir is, frankly, is mysterious to me. i had believed these types were the exception to hypercorporate types, not the norm.

first of all, what do i mean when i say snobby? or elitist? holier than thou? well, dear reader, i think you’ll find that i know these terms pretty well considering how comfortable i am with the fact that they all apply pretty well to me when it comes to film. dabbing on plebs has always been a hobby of mine, and though i may get some likes or some fun reaction images in response, it’s rare that i see any of my acquaintances engage in it in the way that i do. which is probably for the best, it would be unfortunate to see the entirety of web discourse devoted to a single strain of vitriol. but back to definitions:

a person with an exaggerated respect for high social position or wealth who seeks to associate with social superiors and dislikes people or activities regarded as lower-class.
  • a person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people.

this is how google defines “snob,” which is the jumping point i’ll go off of. now, i’m firmly for the belief that taste is fully subjective, and the concept that there is any such thing as an objectively good movie is something that people who generally haven’t thought very hard about the concept ascribe to. as such, when playing the subjective game, i believe this argument goes both ways: while your tastes are your own, the reaction that other people will have to those judgment calls are also their own. if someone believes their taste to be superior to someone else’s, in the world of subjectivity, that seems fair game to me.

you might say “policing other people’s taste is hugely snobby,” and i would generally agree there. but let’s also examine what “policing” means in this context. take, for example, a viewer who doesn’t really care about movies too much, maybe they go to the theater a few times a year and watch a classic every month. clearly someone of this ilk has little investment in cinema – which is, of course, completely fine and reasonable, not everyone needs to be impassioned to a significant degree. if this is the case, why would such an individual care if another – who clearly does exhibit that passionate exuberance – sees them as a weaker film fan through the lens of subjectivity?

i ask this somewhat rhetorically, because that “casual fan” is just me when it comes to any number of subjects. chess, game theory, music, DAWs, playing falco, etc. basically every sort of area that i have a degree of swaying casual interest in. am i seriously invested in my knowledge of DAWs, or my skill in tertiary melee characters that i bring out against newer players? obviously not; it would be foolish (and needlessly snobby) to assert otherwise.

something else to note here is that the concept of elitism (particularly as it’s designated by the patrician/pleb vernacular) is largely moving away from a classist and bourgeois concept and more towards a universal one, bereft of marxist direction. what makes me say this? the prevalence of the internet in the world, primarily. now i realize that not everyone has access to the internet, but if you’re actively engaging with online discourse, then i’m going to assume you also have access to the tools for additional education in whatever subject you feel like pursuing. this was not always the case. for most of human history, illiteracy, oppression, and numerous other social barriers to entry have barred the lower class from having their opinions count on artistic taste. while this certainly is something that still goes on, when it comes to online clout (in the circles i’m in, anyways), this line has blurred to the point of irrelevance.

now back to the whole “casual fan” deal. if your investment in cinema is truly limited to occasional encounters and recommendations, how would someone’s acknowledgment of that fact hinder you from engaging with it on a deeper level? i understand people can certainly be rude or toxic about this, but if you believe your letterboxd top 4 of Pulp Fiction, The Empire Strikes Back, Shaun of the Dead, and American Psycho are really at the forefront of cinema because you’ve yet to explore it, isn’t there a certain form of less honest snobbery at play here?

i use these examples knowing full well that, if my goal is to disprove allegations of elitism, i am not succeeding. but i can already acknowledge that i believe i have better taste in films than a good chunk of people who are less involved with them. and if you aren’t involved with them, why would you care about someone who is involved with them pointing that out? somehow, though, it’s rare that i encounter this online, but i see it happen in real life pretty frequently, with people regularly clarifying they “aren’t really a movie person” in my presence as a precursor to film discussions.

with these data points aligned, i’ll make the cautious conclusion that people in film spaces on the internet are typically there because they believe they do have something to say about film that is important in some degree. obviously this doesn’t include everybody – there are more lurkers who are just there looking for recs than active posters in any forum or group – but for those who are regulars, despite whatever their exposure to history and theory, this seems to apply.

forgive me if i start to sound like a boomer here, but i believe there can definitely be a degree of an inflated sense of importance when it comes to these sorts of filmbros that you see on r/movies-type places that is brought about by social media, the net, all the usual factors. as a result, it means that people who got into film three years ago and never explored outside of english language canons are given a higher status among their peers because they can identify what the 180 rule is and probably more spout-able cinematic trivia. and, as a result, you get a place like r/movies, where this exaggerated sense of purpose culminates in a swath of filmbros who genuinely buy into the sanctity of the academy awards.

this is intellectual dishonesty at worst, but when it comes to clout contests on film discussion forums, it isn’t actually a big deal in the real world. but i think this sense of accepting the broad concept of elitism where it’s justified isn’t at all exclusive to this narrow location. the primary other place to look at it is, in my mind, politics. elitism arguments abound in many circles and criticisms; from the NYT op-eds which turn a blind eye to the working class, to leftist academics who turn a blind eye to people who can’t look up the world “dialectical.” painting all of these strokes of elitism as if they’re under the same umbrella, however, is where i think it gets dangerous.

in the film world, i remain unconvinced that there are many films which aren’t “for” working class folk. many of my online companions are bounded by a sense of paycheck-to-paycheck living, and a great taste in film. similarly, when it comes to theory (and i use this word without necessarily referring to academic literature, but also the sense of morals, ethics, and their interactions with politics at large) i am unconvinced that there are large barriers to entry when it comes to appreciation by the less educated classes. like with many of my statements so far, i can’t promise this theory without exceptions; i wouldn’t hand an illiterate person Das Kapital or give them a thumb drive with From the Clouds to the Resistance, but people in those positions are certainly capable of getting into these fields, in large part because so much of great theory and film is leftist in nature to begin with and pertains to their very situations and beliefs.

which brings me to my final point: is elitism necessarily a bad thing when it comes to political opinions? and while we can easily identify “bad” elitism in the form of neoliberal excess, i think it’s simple still to find examples of necessary, almost magnanimous elitism, holier-than-thou types, and snobs of every variety. should you consider yourself a greater individual than your adversary when their very core beliefs strike you as evil? absolutely. when you hear openly horrendous takes coming from the mouths of celebrity politicians on a daily basis, it’s okay to find a brief moment of “weakness” and think to yourself “wow, i’m really glad i don’t support bombing civilians.” this sort of cognizant, rational snobbery may be left with the opposition identifying it, but this should be owned up to when necessary. god forbid that you see yourself as more righteous when your positions are ardently more righteous.

5 patrician directors to replace ur entry level picks

martin scorsese –> abel ferrara

look, we all know how it is. you get to college and you realize everyone loves Goodfellas and some other people seem to be talking about this musical thing or something? anyways, long story short, everyone’s a scorsese fan too, awesome, great news. well that’s all well and good until you discover how basic and filmbro your taste is months down the line when the 101 class reaches critical levels of Taxi Driver references and you feel like you have to end it all, cinematically speaking that is.

well well well, if we don’t have another new yorker to the scene! abel ferrara can swoop in no problem and differentiate you from your peers, in addition to giving you some better movies than his more economically successful counterpart. want some gritty crime? throw out that Goodfellas dvd you finally bought on sale bc you got tired of rewatching the recording of it on your tv and pop in Bad Lieutenant or King of New York. want some genre exercises? well toss Hugo in the trash and play some 4:44 Last Day on Earth or New Rose Hotel. need some religion in your fedora-tipping life? cancel all future bluray updates on The Last Temptation of Christ, cease your rants on how Silence didn’t get any oscars, and finally remove Kundun from your watchlist, and instead take on the introspective and beautiful Mary.

paul thomas anderson –> jessica hausner

look, paul, i love ya man. Inherent Vice especially made me want a second renaissance of pta especially after two of his most “serious” ventures yet. but then we had to get Phantom Thread which was alright but fell prey to what made TWBB boring and – hold up, can i interest you in our lord and savior jessica hausner?

won’t take long; you could feasibly watch all 3 of her major features within one night if you were really bout it. a director who crisscrosses throughout genres, time periods, themes, and (what she beats pta it) moods, hausner’s films are laugh out loud in the same way that Punch-drunk Love or Boogie Nights are but Lourdes has the simple grace and effectiveness that Phantom Thread wasn’t quite able to muster, while being substantially less bombastic. add to her new sci-fi film coming out and you could definitely buy hausner stock now to get an edge on the film connoisseur competition in the upcoming years.

ingmar bergman –>manoel de oliveira

perhaps you see yourself as more enlightened than the charlatans who still think guy ritchie is good. well, you’re right, congrats, but reposting Seventh Seal gifs to your tumblr every couple of months only gets you so far out here bucko. bergman is sadboi kino personified, but the problem is that like half of his films are more or less the same, so you’re going to be treading the waters of your cinematic growth trying to do some Every Frame a Painting type thing w/ Through a Glass Darkly and then look back on your ‘films watched’ list in 5 years wondering where you went wrong.

luckily, there is a great director you can use to show off that patrician flair, and you can still pick the religious sadboi films if you’re really about it. stepping up to the plate is manoel de oliveira, a man with about as daunting a filmography that is substantially more diverse, though much of it is focused more on romance than… idk, that one time that you were crying bc of satan or something at bible study? anywho watch Francisca. there. i said it.

edgar wright –> neveldine/taylor

look, we can pretend all we want to, and most of it isn’t pretending i’m actually just incredibly more patrician than whoever is reading this, but anyways, point is, i used to throw on the occasional wright comedy to have a jovial old time before i realized how much of an idiot this made me. there is not a single patrician take on this director that you could identify as overwhelmingly positive; it’s all filmbro myopia with a tinge of entrylevel film essays.

maybe you’re like me, and you dislike thinking at all when it comes to movies. however, letting go of filmmakers that you might have once found dear might seem like abandoning an old friend or moving away from your hometown. fortunately i’ve done both of these things and can promise they are more emotionally exorcising than putting away your cornetto boxcase to indulge in Crank: High Voltage with the squad. and, if you wanted to be petty, you could realistically say that Gamer includes every film ever made, because it includes every color in the spectrum on multiple occasions. film or neveldine/taylor, which came first?

steven spielberg –> tobe hooper

i call this one the “inverse Poltergeist.” i didn’t really grow up with spielberg at all; i remember being moved by War of the Worlds which i still maintain is his 2nd best film but past that i either don’t recall or disliked the other stuff i saw of his in my childhood, which is really too bad because that seems to  be where most of his films would excel in. nevertheless, there is another director with a similar childlike awe of the world that will earn bonus points in particular because your friends will probably actually know what The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is.

ya got plenty to choose from. plow around and you’ll probably dig up a gem like Eggshells or Lifeforce or The Mangler. at the very least, you probably won’t find anything as bad or as self serious as Saving Private Ryan and you definitely won’t find anything near Ready Player One as much as hooper tried to prove us wrong there a couple of times. next time your friend uses the term “genre film,” feel free to step in and yell at him about how spielberg would trade his soul if he could make something half as inspired as Toolbox Murders.