Essential Links from the Film Blogosphere

a precious find

[pic from peter]

Woman on the Beach (Hong Sang-soo, 2006)

As for everyone who wishes to explore every aspect of a film blog, this is not a raw source of information that i can give you but i may at least provide you where and when the most critical discussion of films, film theory and criticism occur. For as we know, the film blogosphere have become a monster and gobbled up most of the film magazines in print today where critical studies of cinema used to promulgate. For about 9 years, the web has accommodated most of the critical discussions and has put up its own centers for excellent writing notably Senses of Cinema, CinemaScope, GreenCine Daily, Bright Lights, Criticine and Jump Cut. This is a revolution that brought critics, cinephiles (like this one), and even film theorist to give rise to a new brand of criticsm (which is still questionable?) in film.

What i have learned for past two weeks about the dynamics of film blogs comes from a very simple question: How do cinephiles move the film blogosphere?

1) BREAKING THE ICE (Girish's July 13 post)

What i find really exciting about the film blogosphere is when one post could generate such an amount of film people (critics, theorists, Marxist-socialist-thinkers, cinephiles, and of course, ordinary readers who are drawn by the girish's charm) to concentrate on one aspect: Film criticism.

Girish is highly inspiring, I am a big fan of his blog. I identify myself in him on many aspects. He is a management professor at Canisius College, and do film blogging as his means to express his love for cinema. In his July 13 blog, it has gained enough attention from known critics like Jonathan Rosenbaum, Adrian Martin, Jim Emerson and the ever eponymous HarryTuttle to evaluate the field they are engaged with. Ebert, it think, isn't updated in all these frantic over film criticism.

Girish's July 13th post generated up to 110 comments, and still growing, from its readers. I admire how it collected an active audience who is a bit more critical in all aspects of criticism: from the rubric of film criticism to the grammar mistakes committed by film magazine editors. Girish's blog, before i forget, is about the concern for establishing a viable link between film critics and film scholars with regards to their mode of writing on films. This is his response to a contemporary published essay by James Elkins entitled "What Happened to Art Criticism?" (2003) that "surveys the last 50 years of the field." "Elkins calls for a new and alternative kind of art criticism that is both (1) deeply aware of art history and thought about art; and (2) is unafraid to evaluate, pass judgment, and be polemical." Girish, like everyone who is deeply involved with the discourse of cinema, evalutes the current status of film criticism and scholarship. He observed:

"Elkins makes an important and troubling observation: the two fields of art criticism and art history hardly ever cite each other. Art historians writing in journals like Art Bulletin, October or Art History almost never refer to art critics who write in contemporary art magazines or newspapers. And similarly, art critics, while focusing on individual artworks and often rendering close, detailed descriptions of them, are either unwilling or unable to invoke the work of art history scholars both contemporary and past, even though it would undoubtedly help deepen their reflections if they did.

"I see some parallels of Elkins' critique in the fields of film criticism and film scholarship. Except for a small number of invaluable critic-scholars who work to bridge the gap, the two groups similarly shy away from citing each other. Why is this so? For critics, it would require the significant effort of familiarizing themselves with scholarly literature past and present, an effort made more difficult by the presence of a specialized scholarly vocabulary. For scholars, whose jobs already require them to do vast amounts of reading, this would mean widening their field of vision to include writing in film magazines, the Internet (including blogs), and newspapers. Added to this are the demands in both professions of watching scores of films on a steady basis."
This, in essence, broke the ice between two opposing schools of thought revolving around criticism. It has raised a lot of questions. Such is from Adrian Martin's response:
"Here is a very practical question that goes right to the heart of our discussion! I am currently teaching some Chinese exchange students whose first language is not English. In my 'Contemporary Theory and Criticism' course (from 1975 until now), they find virtually all the readings incomprehensible. So: what is the textbook that explains in the simplest possible linguistic terms (and style) the panoply of contemporary film theories? I am serious, my future as a teacher depends on it!" (permalink)
The 'arcane' language of film theory and its limitation for translation to encompass a wider audience especially those who are non-French (Bazin's writings) and non-English (the rest of it) in favor of the Chinese and Japanese whose language is immutably the most complex form of all, if one can exclude more archaic languages such as string theory and high-energy physics.

The post also opened to another question on the quality of writing in film. There is such a thing as a categorical dispute between 'impressionistic' writing and purely 'hermetically sealed' and arcane language of film criticism. This discussion is somewhat opened by the first comment by Jim Morison when he mentioned:
"What we need, in my opinion, are more scholars like David Bordwell who know cinema history and theory, and who are also interested in actually communicating their ideas! That is, they know how to write in respectable English, rather than an airless, encoded academese that, in its own hermetically sealed way, is as hostile to the language as anything perpetrated by George W. Bush or Sarah Palin." (permalink)
It mentions David Bordwell, my favorite film scholar whose volume of writing became my religion, and his method of approach central to my blog. Anyway, this concern about the divide on 'impressionistic' writing, or the writing of one's feeling on a film, which uses a highly lyrical exposition style where the strength of critic's remark is weighed generally on the synthesis of his arguments and its appeal to the mass audience, over academic writing, or the writing of one's analysis of filmic form, its significance, its context and history, and its elusive effect to audience, is again brought up in full force by another comment by Corey Creekmur:
"I'm sorry the very interesting discussion Girish has started has focused largely on the to me rather tedious emphasis (now decades old and apparently endless) on jargon and bad writing. I know why people care about those things, but as many have pointed out, complaints about "specialized vocabulary" in musicology, physics, or medical research never seem to bother anyone -- it's just the presumption that the humanities should be defined by "clarity" that continues to lead people to decry "bad writing," more often criticized than demonstrated. (I notice few examples have been provided here.) I assume the notion that cinema is a "democratic" art, available to all, also continues to raise suspicion about those who approach it professionally, though we expect many other scholars to study their topics with the tools of their trades." (permalink)
Corey somewhat wanted to make a shift from this notion of bad writing versus good writing. But the conversation still continued on the unification of this great divide (if 'great' isn't such a big word), Harry Tuttle makes a synthesis:

"Re-use and adaptation" is typical to academic work, I doubt film journalists are worried about this aspect. If scholars are distraught by impressionistic reviews just because they are unable to fit them in their theoretical models, it doesn't mean that this type of contribution should be discouraged in film culture for the rest of us.

The "regular diet" comment is also exclusive and insular. I bet regular cinephiles find academic writing too heavy for a regular dinner. It's always a question of perspective, especially in a larger conversation including all sorts of readers and writers.

P.S. How ironic to be lectured about the smell of literary writing by a linguist with a questionable spelling. If foreigners are welcome to this "large conversation" (which is to me as vital as to compose with journalists and academics), English writers in the comfort of their primary language should show the humble understanding to overlook literary perfection as a criterion for quality thinking." (permalink)
If one can digest all the, so far, 110 comments revolving around these main points, well, just pop out a comment below.

2) THE FEUD: IN SUMMARY (Harry's Response to Girish July 13th)

Girish's "Building a Large Conversation" brought an ample amount of response from the commentators. One of the response is Chris Cagle in his Category D blog where he raised a few questions:

"What of the field as a whole? My generalizations:

- Scholars of Hollywood (and of British cinema) tend to be more populist than area scholars studying prestige national cinemas. There are signs this is changing, with recent conferences and books on European popular cinema, but even still studies of popular French or German films, say, seem thin on the ground.

- The field embraces low culture as well as high culture, but rarely the middle.

- On one hand, cultural studies has left its mark in the field as a whole, pushing it in a populist direction. On the other hand, the move it is often at the price of a full aesthetic understanding of popular cinema.

- What I call the New Theoretical Turn in film studies has reacted not only against historicism but also against cultural studies. As such, it has embraced noticeably more canonical objects of study and with them a more canonical attitude. To take one example, when Tom Conley seeks to understand a cartographic discourse in Cartographic Cinema, his first examples of recourse are Casablanca and The 400 Blows. He certainly reads these differently than auteurists would but does not submit them to an objectifying analysis. Nor does he ever entertain the possibility that one might need to find a more typical film to establish a broad discourse." (link)
Harry Tuttle, on the other hand, made somewhat a categorical response to Girish's post. He collected some quotes from books and journals, and also some web links categorize into (1) Journalistic criticism, (2) Essayistic criticism and (3) Academic criticism. I find the one he quoted from La Critique de Cinéma, by René Prédal, 2004 quite elusive. It primarily distinguishes the two approach: the Journalistic Approach and the Academic Approach. It primarily puts two persona (film critic and a film scholar) in conflict in most aspects like:

language (cliches vs. jargon),
proof (burden of proof vs. Evidence in methodology),
length of article (short article vs long erudite essay),
type of discourse (Judgement vs. Understanding),
and other aspects. A direct to the point categories which in way produces somewhat a gap between the two.

2) BUILDING A MOVEMENT (Harry's call for Unification July 20th)

Seven days after Girish's post, Harry Tuttle wanted to unify all art film blogs existing in the web today. He echoed:
"I dream of a blogosphere we could navigate to meet film lovers from any imaginable country, and be able to read their thoughts on cinema, in their own language, or translated (one way or the other)." (link)
This is a call for a movement, for a unification, everyone should join this endeavor. Harry recently made an initial compilation of art film bloggers. Click here to access his post. I am surprised that there are only six from the Philippines. Asan na yung iba?

Thanks Harry for including my blog! Wee!

Filipino art film bloggers, tinatawagan ko kayo na sumali at makialam proyetong eto ni Harry Tuttle. Isa itong proyeto tungo sa pagkakaisa natin, kasama ang ibang blogger mula sa ibang bansa upang wakasan ang consepto ng 'locale' o pagkakaroon ng eksklusibong pagkukumpol-kumpol ng diskurso sa pelikula at sine ng bawat kani-kanyang linggwahe. Nagdudulot ito ng stratification ng ideya dahil sa pagkakaiba ng linggwahe at kultura. Wakasan ang 'locale' and maging parte ng Kulturang Global sa Internet sa pamamagitan ng pagsali dito. Maaring mag-send ng link ng iyonh blog sa kanya sa pamamagitan ng e-mail ( or pwede na ding imungkahi sa kanyang comment page.

"If you are a film lover, a film writer, a film critic, a film student, a film scholar, a filmmaker from non-English speaking nations or if you know someone, if you know places where to find them, if you can read these local languages, please join in on this quest to connect cinephiles around the world and gather around the same table." (link)
Be part of this event.



Something personal: I recently devoted myself to an exclusive non-meat diet which i have succesfully proposed two weeks ago to myself. most of close friends know this. i am undergoing some check-up for a medical condition i cannot understand. Bear with me as i update my personal progress in this rather impersonal space.