February 15th, 2013

hc svnt dracones

some sound, some fury

i tend not to write many entries anymore for many reasons, but one because i generally feel i ought to preface them with what i think vonnegut's later novels ought to have been prefaced with: i'm saying the same thing again with different characters and settings. often with many of the same phrases. so, consider it ever said.

i've got this block. i can't get past thinking that there must be a way to change the unchanging. can't get past the frustration into acceptance and finding a way to move on with that acceptance in tow. de gustibus non est disputandum. there's no accounting for taste. so why do we pretend to account?

i was going to write a little thing about how disappointing beasts of the southern wild is -- disappointing given the hype-induced expectations. using that phrase. and naturally, one of the user comments to a.o.scott's gushing love note to the film in the times uses the exact phrase:

"this must be one of the worst films i have ever seen---the uninttelligible mumbling and the awful jumpy hand held photography are truly annoying. glad i waited for the dvd which i viewed today. a number of years back i saw a film shot in the bayous of louisiana about a fisherman and his retarded brother and interviewed the film makers---[that such a] great piece of work, sadly, went nowhere [while] this piece of detritus (as in the film) gets oscar nominations, proves one thing. no accounting for critics or their tastes."

and there isn't (well, there are some things you can count on, like david denby being wrong about a movie). though many critics have dispensed florid accolades (ebert, whom i normally agree with, gives it 4/4 stars and calls it "one of the year's best films"), some few who aren't beholden to the major outlets (though slate's writer took a more reasoned approach) take entirely the opposite opinion, calling it "one of the worst films to come out of 2012."

one of the latter, whose author i think handles poorly the topic of race in both his language and thought, opens with a statement more pertinent to my problem of general application: the failure of critical consensus. he begins: "every year, a handful of smaller films come out that rely on critical acclaim to find an audience. as a critic, you walk a fine line between trying to help those smaller, worthy films find an audience, and making sure the films you champion are worthy, to keep from burning your audience and becoming the boy who cried wolf, making film critics even more irrelevant than we already are. beasts of the southern wild is a critic-bait film that’s already won a camera d’or at cannes, best narrative film at the la film festival, and been nominated for best film at the independent spirit awards. here’s why the critics whiffed on this one.

as an MGMT video, beasts of the southern wild is pretty good. it’s got soaring music, pretty cinematography, fantastical imagery that borrows heavily from where the wild things are, an impossibly cute little girl, and deep south swamp locations exotic to urbanized yankees like me (“look, crawdaddies! isn’t that a funny word, brent? ‘crawdaddies?’”). but if you can see past the craft, this tale of deep south swamp hobos and feral children that eat cat food has all the depth of one of those levi's slam poetry commercials. i thought we weren’t supposed to fall for the magic negro and the noble savage anymore? yet here it is, a whole movie full of them, plus folksy cajuns who can’t open their mouths without homespun crypticisms aw-shucksing their way out."

but just because i found the movie to be far more flawed than virtuous (every movie has some of each & the criticism is a balancing of their weights), so what? there's no accounting for what's just my taste.

but as i said, i can't accept the unchanging: there's NO accounting for taste. but i keep checking the accounts, hoping there could be, and presuming, along the way, some modicum of devotion to facts outside of matters of opinion.

so i get a burr under my saddle when one of the 'luminaries' proceeds, as mr. scott did, to both fabricate consensus (there's really nothing we can all agree on) and at the same time completely mischaracterize the film he's lauding:

"but let’s all agree: this movie is a blast of sheer, improbable joy, a boisterous, thrilling action movie with a protagonist who can hold her own alongside katniss everdeen, princess merida and the other brave young heroines of 2012."

thrilling action movie? thrilling action movie? a blast of sheer, improbable joy? none of the above.

ah, well. so it goes.