Cinematic Heritage / True Works of Art

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At the point that we're seriously arguing Avengers as a true work of art, it seems we're just steps away from debating which color crayon tastes best (I am a magenta man, myself).
We're not. As has been noted a few times, this is an outcropping from the original topic. Insofar as we're debating anything like this, we're debating what room needs to be made for populist action-adventure fare ("isn't Raiders of the Lost Ark part of our heritage too?", etc), and then, on top of that, whether The Avengers qualifies within that expanded definition.

My position, broadly, is that I think very few of those kinds of films have significant artistic depth, but that they don't really need to.



Iím curious if youíve seen any films by Marie Menken. A podcast I listen to recently did an episode on her, so I watched a few of her films last night. Her films Go! Go! Go! and Lights seem like pretty clear influences on Koyaanisqatsi, the former with its time lapse street footage, the latter with its abstracting of car headlights into smears. I plan to see a few more, as Iíve been finding them quite enjoyable. (Also an interesting change of pace to delve back into avant garde type stuff, given my usual viewing habits.)
No, I wasn't familiar with her until I saw your review on LB this morning. I'll keep an eye out for her, sounds up my alley.

PS-- Tati's Playtime is another one that occurred to me after my earlier post. Again, I don't expect widespread agreement on any suggestions but these would be in my Hall of Fame anyway.
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Is there a reason weíre trying to frame this through a generational or anti-elitist lens? I know for a fact that Iím at least a decade younger than both Crumbsroom and Wooley, and Iíve been controlling for similar levels of budget and commercial success in my argument.

Do we really need to hand it to this one movie because of what it represents and not actually tackle the movie itself, or imply the detractors are coloured by resentment for its commercial aspects (despite citing numerous commercial movies in comparison)? Are we giving movies participation medals on this thread?



No, I wasn't familiar with her until I saw your review on LB this morning. I'll keep an eye out for her, sounds up my alley.

PS-- Tati's Playtime is another one that occurred to me after my earlier post. Again, I don't expect widespread agreement on any suggestions but these would be in my Hall of Fame anyway.
A bunch are available on UbuWeb, which is a great resource for experimental/avant-garde short films. I watched a bunch of Nick Zedd and Richard Kern shorts on there in the past.



The Force is Favreau
We're not. As has been noted a few times, this is an outcropping from the original topic. Insofar as we're debating anything like this, we're debating what room needs to be made for populist action-adventure fare ("isn't Raiders of the Lost Ark part of our heritage too?", etc), and then, on top of that, whether The Avengers qualifies within that expanded definition.

My position, broadly, is that I think very few of those kinds of films have significant artistic depth, but that they don't really need to.

The difference between Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Avengers, is that the former is a near-perfect action-adventure film where the latter is merely a competent one.



I think the greatest accomplishment of the MCU is "the MCU" and not any of the films in particular (save for Infinity War?). It was a marvelous money-making scheme, a franchise quilt made individual franchises. Historically important in terms of "buy in" from the public for a whole world of content. Competence is so low in story-telling these days that we were amazed that the studio pulled it off.



Is there a reason weíre trying to frame this through a generational or anti-elitist lens?
Because they're plausible explanations--from a potentially shared premise--for why people can react very differently to things, and the alternative is just Dueling Subjectivities. "It's boring and soulless." "It's thrilling and moving."

I know for a fact that Iím at least a decade younger than both Crumbsroom and Wooley, and Iíve been controlling for similar levels of budget and commercial success in my argument.
I think there's a tweak here, the fact that it's a series of movies, that confounds the idea that this isn't colored by financial stuff just because others had big budgets. As evidence of this, consider how often the series itself is invoked beyond the budget, with phrases like "cookie-cutter" or "assembly line."

Do we really need to hand it to this one movie because of what it represents and not actually tackle the movie itself, or imply the detractors are coloured by resentment for its commercial aspects (despite citing numerous commercial movies in comparison)? Are we giving movies participation medals on this thread?
I'm not giving it a participation medal, or asking anyone else to. There's a pretty important distinction between "things advanced to explain differences of opinion" and "things advanced as arguments." You're responding to the former as if it was the latter, I think.

I'm also not sure how to respond to the "because of what it represents" part. The film is not really separable from the broader thing it's a part of, and insisting that it needs to be to be judged properly sounds exactly like the kind of intergenerational difference in assumptions that I'm floating (and, preemptively, please note that "intergenerational differences" is not just an age thing).



The difference between Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Avengers, is that the former is a near-perfect action-adventure film where the latter is merely a competent one.
A perfectly reasonable position. Anyway, my initial aim was just to establish that our shared cinematic heritage needs room for things without significant artistic depth. I would never be haughty enough to assume I could argue someone into (or out of) their opinions about which specific films would benefit from that expanded definition, though.

I think the greatest accomplishment of the MCU is "the MCU" and not any of the films in particular (save for Infinity War?).
I probably agree with this about 80%, yeah.



Why is it more worthwhile to discuss the motivations behind why people are making their arguments, possible demographic factors influencing their arguments, the parameters of the discussion rather than discussing the actual films? Or imply that arguments around the films themselves are tainted because of the former? Thatís unfair to everybody whoís been discussing the actual movie in this thread.



Why is it more worthwhile to discuss the motivations behind why people are making their arguments, possible demographic factors influencing their arguments, the parameters of the discussion rather than discussing the actual films?
Well, first, they're not mutually exclusive. I've gone out of my way to say (more than once) that I enjoy reading both.

Second, I think I answered this already:
Because they're plausible explanations--from a potentially shared premise--for why people can react very differently to things, and the alternative is just Dueling Subjectivities. "It's boring and soulless." "It's thrilling and moving."
Or imply that arguments around the films themselves are tainted because of the former? Thatís unfair to everybody whoís been discussing the actual movie in this thread.
They're no more "tainted" than anyone else's. We're all subject to something like this. I'll never be able to fully appreciate Star Wars because I grew up knowing all about it, and if someone wanted to say I'd appreciate it more if not for that, that'd be a totally reasonable thing to point out.



The Force is Favreau
A perfectly reasonable position. Anyway, my initial aim was just to establish that our shared cinematic heritage needs room for things without significant artistic depth.

Sure. A lot of otherwise bad or "OK" films have offered innovations which have changed the game. Others are important because they represented the spirit of an age. Others are important because of laws which were passed in response to them. And so on. There are a lot of historically important not-so-good films.



So do the meat of the actual arguments people are making not matter? Are they really just ďdueling subjectivitiesĒ? In that sense, where does it get us pointing to reasons we should disqualify*othersí opinions for extraneous reasons, rather than the actual arguments theyíre making?

For the record, I am not viewing this as a duel. The goal should be to air out our differing viewpoints on the films themselves, not merely to bludgeon the other side into agreement.



I think it helps us appreciate and understand the multiplicity of tastes, which can contradict one another but still be internally consistent, and the many inseverable and uncontrollable ways in which our life influences our tastes. And any such questions have to be considered against the alternatives, too: where does it really "get us" to say "it did the thing really well" or "it didn't do the thing as well"?

I don't view it as a duel, either, or at least I didn't until the implication that there's some sort of conspicuous counter testimonial missing here, which isn't true and wouldn't be particularly significant even if it was.



Sure. A lot of otherwise bad or "OK" films have offered innovations which have changed the game.
Right. And I'm getting the impression that discussing Just the Film is seen as the neutral thing, rather than just another framing that elevates some considerations and deemphasizes others.

Others are important because they represented the spirit of an age.
Definitely, and I think those are the hardest ones to judge cross-generationally. There are definitely some "classics" that I just can't get, no matter how hard I try. I don't think of them as bad, and I don't think of their classical status as wrong, though (at least not usually). Sometimes I just conclude that I can't really get something, for some reason possibly outside of my control, and that's that.



The Force is Favreau
It's duel and a dance. We cooperate and compete. We seek to sell our truth (language is sermonic), but if we're really listening, we're willing to be changed by the other person.



I might be a little jaded about that after 22 years running this joint, it's true. I'm a weird mix of optimistic, overall, about the power of argument and discussion to persuade, while being pessimistic about it in any one example. Especially if that example is about art, and even moreso if it's about art and seems fairly well entrenched.

I'm really just defending against the implication that if you don't always wanna give your competing sermon, it's particularly significant. Anyone can do it, and anyone can dispute it, so it doesn't make sense to treat it as some kind of tangible volley that needs to be returned.



This notion that it is somehow a failed discussion because 'dueling subjectivities' won't lead to some kind of resolution is... odd.


First of all, as I've mentioned, people can absolutely have their outlook changed. Maybe not as soon as the discussion ends, but having points brought up that maybe one party has not considered will change the way they look at the film next time they potentially watch it. It happens all the time and to just wave hands in defeat if such a thing isn't worth the time is unfortunate.


Second, and more importantly, it's not even about convincing anyone of rightness or wrongness. It's about finding an understanding of what we get out of film. And how this can differ. And this can only happen through some amount of head bumping. People are stubborn about their tastes. But the hope is not so much that we can't find a chink in such armor to find commonalities or just simply empathy towards those different tastes.


A few pages back Wooley offered a bit of explanation for his feelings here. He likes how the way Avengers represent its characters in ways he feels never were given their proper due before. Okay, I get that. It makes me understand that maybe there are things left on the comic book page that are exciting for fans of these things. This of course doesnt mean anything to me, since I don't like comic books, but it makes me understand at least one element of what someone can get out of a film I don't think is any good.


This has value, even if it doesnt address the elements I have repeatedly put forth that I am interested in understanding. You know, the movie part. The part Minio has indicated was the point in making this thread. Now either no one has the time to think of examples, or they don't care, or they don't understand what the **** I'm talking about or, in this case, it is considered pointless because 'I won't be convinced'. And maybe not. But so what. Even if I don't suddenly get a Hulk boner I at least might have some better understanding about what a person who equates this with Star Wars is actually thinking. Which potentially has value. Hardly, hardly an odd request on a movie board.


Value doesn't begin or end with getting someone on your team. Art is here for discussion, to find some agreements and revel in differences, at least when they can be bothered to be articulated. For some reason, open debate and discourse and just simple discussion is constantly being met with either silence or indifference or 'whats the point'. And that's anyone's right as well. No one needs to worry if my understanding has been made better. But, in the big picture, this ultimately makes for an absolutely stagnant environment to actually have serious discussions about what art is and how it function and other things intrinsically related to movies and what they mean to us.



The trick is not minding
I'm not saying Avengers is not worthy of any merit. I'm explaining where it is lacking on the level of films which offer something, anything, one thing to give it some kind of distinguishing personality. It's an extremely low bar that I'm hoping a movie to make. Even an obvious pile of garbage like a Zack Snyder film at least is identifiable a Zack Snyder film. I'd be more comfortable with the idea of the Avengers being talked about as something worth being talked about if it could at least know how to do bad well. But it doesn't. So far all I've got is it pays proper respect to its source material. Which I think it should be clear, is hardly enough when we are talking about the cinematic value of a film


I also don't need a film to rise to the level of Bresson to be considered art. I've made that abundantly clear simply through my posting history here. I also, in this thread, have distinguished between art (which can be argued to be virtually anything of a creative nature) and Art (which becomes trickier to parse, but it usually involves the piece in question to have some kind of distinguishing characteristics or thematic idea or conceptual framework). My 'check list' is simply me giving someone, anyone an opportunity to distinguish what makes Avengers Art. Can it meet one of these standards? I'm still waiting and it really shouldn't be this hard.


Minio has also made it very clear the type of films he is looking for in this thread. Now I think its completely fine if someone wants to challenge the notion that only Minio branded films should matter. That would be one thing. I myself have already stated that as useless as I find Avengers as Art, it has value in how it represents culture (as any hugely popular film can do). But this conversation has moved past this point where we might argue how we just want this Heritage to be more representative of different types of movies, even if they aren't particularly interesting as art. What we have now are direct comparisons between the Art of Star Wars or Raiders (which, by the nature of their well established auteurship, very much qualify even while being narrative fluff) and the ****ing Avengers.


None of this is me saying no one should enjoy the Avengers. Or, if they can offer a different way for us to appreciate what Avengers is doing cinematically, not to offer it up here in order to defend this choice. As has been reiterated a thousand times in this thread , there are no genres being blacklisted from belonging here. I've already suggested the first two Donner Superman's as better alternatives. Or, even though I'm not a particularly big fan of Dark Knight, that would certainly be a considerably more understandable choice as it's clearly something.


In regards to themes, while those would qualify as something, for me they don't hold a tremendous amount of value unless they are somehow also being represented on screen. It's great for images to mean something, but unless I can also grasp these ideas instinctively through watching the film, and have what they have to say resonate emotionally with me, I generally find talk of themes to just be that. Talk. But that is just my personal preference to what matters and, obviously for some, it is completely fair that decoding a film for it's more intellectualized ideas has a value that sets the film apart from being little more than a diversion. You know, like The Avengers.
I get the feeling that if someone can point out why they might find it art, youíre not going to accept any answer and cite a reasoning and probably respond with the need for more reasoning than they already provided, which is akin to moving the goal posts.
Iíll try, just in case Iím wrong here.

Itís a perfectly great film, with its characterization of its heroes and their conflicting personalities putting aside their differences to combat evil. I admit itís a simple premise, but itís the acting and writing that elevates it. Yes, I do find the acting good in it in so far as as itís possible in these ensemble action pieces. The set pieces themselves, despite being CGi, are really amazing at times, and itís clear the director has managed his vision of humor, wit, and heart and yes, a brain, attached to it despite the producers (Feige) interference.

Iím not sure why themes is low on your bar, but I get some donít consider themes much, although I certainly canít get behind that idea. Themes matter, and itís more than just Ďtalkí. Especially when these themes are pretty well represented on screen, which I feel they are on The Avengers.



I think what's missing from that account are the increasingly pointed "Bueller?" proddings. If you go back I think you'll find the "what's it really going to amount to?" stuff is mostly in response to that, not in response to the mere idea of discussing subjective opinions, which would be a very silly and nonsensical thing for me to disparage for a bunch of reasons.

Everyone just throwing their take out there is cool, but a take is not a point that requires a counterpoint. And I don't think it's particularly significant or telling when they're not offered in the midst of people dumping on it preemptively.

That said, once we've talked about it this much, I guess I'll just have to write something up anyway, since at this point it feels sillier not to.



A bunch are available on UbuWeb, which is a great resource for experimental/avant-garde short films. I watched a bunch of Nick Zedd and Richard Kern shorts on there in the past.

Where has that website been all my life? Sheesh. That's gonna keep me busy for a while.