Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Black Swan Conspiracy and other updates...

It's been some time since my last short film diary. I assure you Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw is still happening. Tonight I'm meeting the composer to check out the music which should move things along a bit. I was going to write a full update on here, then decided I would try to be clever and do something different. The something different took a lot longer than it should have done but I will post it soon.

You know that
MovieBar thing I keep going on about? It's still happening next week, Monday 7th February at the Cornerstone pub in Brighton. 8pm. Free entry. Just saying...

My wife has started a blog! Thinking about it she probably wants to remain anonymous, so ignore that first sentence and just check out this
awesome new blog! And then follow it and link to it and stuff so she keeps it up!

As she mentions, we have been on an Oscars mission recently. The plan is to see as many of the nominated films as possible so we can shout at the TV with some conviction when people we don't like win stuff. I've really enjoyed the films so far - The King's Speech was enjoyably perfect, 127 Hours was surprisingly fun, Black Swan was amazing and could be my favourite film ever (despite the fact that Andrea did indeed have to tell half the audience to shut up when the film started), Exit Through the Gift Shop was brilliant and funny...those last two actually have something in common.

Black Swan seems to have divided audiences and that's kind of exciting and I think makes it way more interesting than something everyone universally agrees is fantastic. Certainly makes for some interesting discussions anyway. I respect everyones' right to an opinion and I have no problem with people telling me they hated something I liked. I have a bit of a problem with someone trying to convince me I'm wrong for liking or disliking something - I'm happy to exchange opinions but I'm not going to change mine because someone else says so. But what I have a real problem with is people telling me I don't know my own mind; that I've been conned or brainwashed into thinking something is better or worse than it is.

There is a large faction of the internet (and some people in real life) that seem to see Darren Aronofsky's success with Black Swan as being exactly the same as Thierry Guetta's success in Exit Through the Gift Shop. These people seem to believe that Aronofsky has conned us all into thinking he is a genius and that the reality is far from the truth. I'm not even exaggerating - I've seen people actually put it in these terms. Yes, I'm sure the marketing department for the film do want us to believe it's the greatest film ever made, but so does the marketing department on any film. This isn't a conspiracy, this is the film industry. No one is making anyone like or dislike a film. Only apparently they are, and those rebellious individuals who have uncovered this conspiracy are more than happy to tell us all about it in one unified and now quite repetitive voice.

Who cares? Who really cares whether I like a film or not? Why is it so important?

To me, it's really not important. I'm not saying I don't care what people think because I really do. I just don't really believe in the concept of good art and bad art. Cue my overly pretentious rant about art -

Art exists to make you as an individual feel something. That's all. You don't have to like it, you don't have to dislike it, it's got nothing to do with the intentions of those who made it, it will either make you feel something or it won't. And if you don't feel anything, if it's dealing with subjects outside your experience, or does so in a way that means nothing to you, or maybe you're just not even in the right frame of mind to engage with it that day, that doesn't make the art bad. And if you hated it, if you didn't get anything from it at all and despised the experience, that's fine but that's your reaction. You as an individual. You don't have to convince everyone else to feel the same way, that their positive reaction was wrong, that there is some malicious design here; some kind of conspiracy to make us all like something rubbish.

As far as I'm concerned, even when there is a lack of artistic intention there is still value in the art itself. It may be an abstract value beyond that which the artist intended, if he/she intended anything at all, but if someone, anyone, is made to feel something or even understand something as a result of that work then it's done its job.

This is how I watch films. I don't expect anyone to agree. But it is for the above reason that you won't convince me I'm wrong about a film I liked, conspiracy or no conspiracy.


hels said...

It's funny you mention Black Swan and the polarisation; I am regularly guilty of arguing with people about why something is good or bad, but I'd never actually do so in order to change someone's mind, I just like a really lively argument. But in the case of Black Swan I'm in the hate camp not because of the film itself (though I did think given the subject matter of the film it fit squarely into the melodrama catagory which isn't my thing), but because of Aronofsky and Portman signing the Polanski petition.

I won't get into that though because I tend to sound quite nuts and it is a political issue that doesn't really go anywhere rhetorically, and I get crazy eyes when I get into it (Terry can attest to that; Polanski is something I should stay away from :p )

Honestly though if there is any semblance of integrity behind a film, I can't separate it from the work itself; if someone has no backbone or conviction in real life I don't see why I should care about the 'story' in the film or take anything from the controlling ideas in that film. Of course here I mean when the creative ideas and meaning of the film is held together by the person I can't get behind. If it had been only Portman who signed that wouldn't have been such a thing for me. Same goes for everyone of the petition, and I am thorough irritated to be such an obsessive moralist. It's like OCD with your principles.

This is the problem with being terminally politised; it irritates the fuck out of myself. Like, I loved the King's Speech and I'd love for Colin Firth to win, but fucking hell it doesn't half twist me up that all the Nazi loving, Jewish escape obstructing history has come to the fore. The most disappointing bit is that if the film's narrative had been truthful and still about the issues at hand it would have a 1000 times better film, something that could be embraced around the world and deeper on the issue of overcoming your personal flaws, weaknesses, fears.

Anyhoo, the only times I ever chew people out and blatantly tell them to their face that they are an idiot for some cinematic opinion is when I hate them, cos I'm spiteful :D Like an ex friend really hated Moon and despises Sam Rockwell, so I leapt on that as an example of them being an almighty dicksplash, another person ex friend told me they'd like to punch Casey Affleck in the face he's so whiney, so I told them they had shit in their eyes, and ears, and everywhere which explained all their past relationships... is that wrong? :P

Chris Regan said...

Wow, lots of points there. I think I'll just say that everyone has their own approach to things and leave it at that (yes, I am a coward and am not bringing up Polanski even though he directed some of my favourite films ever).

I'm not a subscriber to auteur theory and believe good or bad, a lot of people are responsible for how a film turns out. It's worth taking the writers into account for a start - Black Swan was an original script way before Aronofsky got involved, as was King's Speech. In fact, the script for King's Speech originally had a lot more of the Nazi stuff in but Seidler was made to take it all out. Which brings me onto another point - writers, directors, actors etc can sometimes make bad decisions but they can't usually ruin films. You may not like the decisions they make, but that's not the point. Producers, studios and accountants - they can ruin films, (I am speaking from limited but painful experience) and I think if you are going to get angry about films they're the ones to get angry with.

Also you should meet my dad, who once defined bad films as usually having Casey Affleck in them.

hels said...

Oooooh, your dad and I definitely wouldn't get on on that point. Mind you dads are also a personal tick; my own dad knows never to be in the same room with me ever again, in fact not even the same city would be better.

Re: the cooperative nature of films; I agree that great films are very much made of the greatness of all the people working hard on them, but I hold strong on the moral issue of who is praised for the film - in the case of my boycott of many of the people on the Polanski list, I do so in response to other people doing just that - taking a film and taking *mostly* about a few people, or sometimes just one person, in relation to it's brilliance. When I have talked about Black Swan in general conversation the first thing I say is that the script is a fascinating exploration of Swan Lake in an entirely human context, and I love Cassel, but I then have to contextualise that I don't support Aronofsky, precisely because so many others do not talk about entire crews when they talk about films, including this film. I guess the problem for me is how much certain films are based in emotional response, tragedy or triumph of the human spirit - in such cases if the person most praised by the general public as the genius behind the film shows signs that they lack integrity, conviction, principles, I find it insanely frustrating and sometimes hypocritical to say that the two can be separated. It's more high brow and intellectual, but to me it's identical to someone only drinking Coca Cola because those Polar Bear adverts made them smile, and they honestly think the practices behind the scenes are separate. When films are hailed for what they make people feel, and then those same people don't care about what someone has done, or who they support behind the scenes that seems impossibly strange to me. Yes it bugs me that sometimes my politics take stronger hold that my love of films, and I know it isn't fair to expect people to always be the most angelic people just because they make art, but I just can't compute the hypocricy - if James Wan or Leigh Whannell ended up going on a killing spree, I wouldn't say one word about it ruining the integrity cos it's not like they make high fucking art :p

Sorry, long ranting again. It's cos I'm stuck in the house again. I will say I'm fascinated with the King's Speech script stuff - Who made him take that stuff out?! I haven't read about that anywhere, where can I find out more?

One last thing about the Polanski thing (and don't worry I won't rant at you every time I see you, this is the last time ha). My obsession has come from the petition itself because it's such a spineless, peer pressure thing to do, and so twistedly public - I don't like Polanski's work but the extradition was a matter of law, and Polanski's decision to stay a fugitive was a personal attempt at evading justice; I can accept that in the crudest sense - the attempt to escape justice when guilty is recognised in law, that's the whole reason it has been in law that spouces can't give evidence against husband/wife. You are not expected to willingly implicate yourself, lying is what you are expected to do. But I can't fathom people signing the petition in a matter of law; that does reek of the suggestion that sometimes are is more important that what people do to each other in actual physical life. Ironically I bash people on the Polanski more than I bash Polanski himself....

End rants from now on :)

Chris Regan said...

I was starting an epic response to this then remembered I'm at work! I can see your point of view and admire that you stick by your principles. Personally I don't think I could get by without separating the art from the person. I don't think I'd be able to enjoy half the stuff I like now.

I'll leave the Polanski issue alone for now and pretend Robert Towne did all the work on one of my favourite films ever.

The King's Speech stuff is from a Creative Screenwriting podcast which you should be able to download here:


He skims over it a bit which suggests to me there is a lot more to the story, but maybe I'm reading too much into it!

Speaking of which, those podcasts are fantastic from a writing point of view. The Black Swan one is really interesting too.

hels said...

Re: Robert Towne - that makes me grin like an idiot cos I love reading Chinatown but not watching it :D Plus I will always hail Towne for his notorious reputation for procrastinating over writing to an excruciating degree. It helps me laugh in the face of my family who told me I'd never be a writer because all good writers are so passionate and amazing that they write all the time, everyday all day.

Re: separating... it drives me nuts, especially now, but this is what happens when you claim you have high principles but then realllly want to renege on sticking to it... hence why I still plan on ahem, watching certain peoples' films in the future, even if I refuse to have a conversation where I say anything refering positively to certain people who worked on a film in question :p

And now I shall stop with the ranting; I been trying really hard not to but the angry punk teenage gramscian anti-capitalist comes out sometimes and waves the banner. Oh and thanks for the link; I feel like an idiot for not finding that before! Will be wading through them tonight :D