A Year of Productivity and Neglect: My first anniversary and why I didn’t get into film studies to save the world

A few days ago it very suddenly dawned on me that this week marks the first anniversary of this blog.

The suddenness of the revelation as opposed to some sort of drawn-out period of anticipation has a great deal to do with the fact that it’s been months since I last posted here, despite having once offered something new on a weekly basis.

So, what happened? Continue reading

Fan Theories and the Boundaries of Critical Practice: A response to Jon Negroni’s response to Josh Spiegel

Friends theory tweet

[This post was initially intended as a comment in response to Jon Negroni’s piece on fan theories and film discourse, which in turn was a response to Josh Spiegel’s article claiming that the former are destroying the latter. As usual, however, my long-windedness got the better of me, so I decided to post it on its own.]

Hey Jon.

First, I’d like to point out the irony of using a point-by-point analysis to refute the claim that fan theorists can’t engage in that type of deep-dive examination of a text. Touché.

Second, you might want to check out David Bordwell’s discussion of Room 237, in which he compares the conventional operations of the fan theories of The Shining presented in the documentary with the conventional operations of orthodox journalistic and academic criticism. I won’t rehearse his entire argument since he makes it far better than I ever could, but a few points are worth mentioning.

Bordwell’s basic claim is that fan theorists use many of the “same reasoning routines that we find in consensus critical writing,” namely, that all critical analysis involves “making inferences based on discrete cues we detect in the film” in order to formulate a coherent interpretation. Both orthodox and unorthodox readings pay attention to the text in similar ways, so that the “cues we pick out and what inferences we draw vary a lot, but the process of inference making tends to follow certain conventions.” Continue reading

On Six Months of Blogging

Six Months

A week ago last Saturday happened to be both my birthday – a milestone birthday at that, which everyone seems to think should have had more of an impact on me than it actually did – and my six month blogiversary. Normally I don’t tend to feel the need to mark the type of occasions that mark out the passage of time, especially when that amount of time is as short as six months. But the coincidence of the two dates felt like a gentle poke in the ribs to take stock of my experience as a new blogger, to try and figure out exactly what that experience has been, even if it has only been six months-worth of experience. Continue reading

Seeing a World on Fire: Point of View as Superpower in Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’

Daredevil banner[This post contains spoilers for Daredevil.]

Daredevil faces a unique problem: the show centers around an extraordinary individual who is distinguished primarily by the way he perceives the world. In addition to Matt’s physical abilities, the titular lawyer turned vigilante is rendered extraordinary by his incredible perceptual powers, that he is able to see the world despite having been blinded as a child, and to see it in extraordinary ways. Displays of a superhero’s special abilities are an essential part of the pleasure of watching them on screen, and superhero TV shows and movies often dedicate a great deal of time to showing us what their central characters are capable of. While abilities like superhuman strength or speed lend themselves to these kinds of outward displays, being able to see differently does not.

Continue reading

Cinematic Theatre: ‘Once’ and Film to Stage Adaptations

once musical filmThere is a tendency to think of the flow of adaptation as going only one way, to think of film as sucking up all the narratives it can get its hands on from novels, comic books, and stage productions in order to turn them into films. Recently, however, the exchange has increasingly gone the other way, with films serving as the basis for Broadway stage adaptations. Tony Perucci relies on the financial and cultural forces that are often cited to explain film’s tendency toward adaptation, that the familiarity of the adapted work can help sell tickets, since the “stage adaptation of a film can borrow the cultural capital of its source film, just as film and stage adaptations” of literary works make similar use of their sources.

If screen to stage adaptations rely on an appeal to the familiarity of the stories and styles of their sources, then some measure of fidelity becomes a major selling point in trying to encourage audiences to see the stage version by promising to recreate something of the experience of the film. Because of the different strengths and weaknesses of each medium, however, delivering on that promise can lead to as many stylistic and formal difficulties as when the flow of adaptation goes the other way. Continue reading

“Consider yourself warned!” Why Spoilers are a Necessary Evil

Empire Strikes Back Spoilers[This post contains absolutely no spoilers. ]

A little while ago I was quietly relaxing after overcoming the crippling self-doubt that accompanies pressing the publish button on the new post page when it suddenly occurred to me.

“Oh no,” I said to the room at large. “I forgot to spoiler tag that post.”

“Go now,” my sister replied, with just enough feigned solemnity to register the simultaneous seriousness and ridiculousness of the situation, “before it’s too late.”

Spoilers used to be of fairly limited concern. Watching a TV show was an essentially regulated experience tied to a specific time of the week, so that everyone could reasonably be assumed to possess the same amount of knowledge about a show’s plot. And without the possibility of discussing new films on the internet, the sources for movie spoilers were limited to overly revelatory journalistic criticism and indiscrete fellow moviegoers. Continue reading