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Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Great Brown South
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From: babyiwasshot Date: December 3rd, 2007 10:11 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

hop aboard the z-train

and the plot and pacing of Fargo. The latter is particularly close to No Country For Old Men in spirit


Their first film, Blood Simple, set the standard for all subsequent developments in their "noir" films. No Country for Old Men is recapitulated Fargo; Fargo is recapitualted Blood Simple. Hence, No Country for Old Men is REALLY recapitulated Blood Simple, as well.
From: babyiwasshot Date: December 3rd, 2007 10:34 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: hop aboard the z-train

OH, and Fargo and No Country, like many of the best Coen films, owe greater debts to (a) the tongue-in-cheek HORROR/COMEDY movies of Sam Raimi and (b) the noir fiction of Chandler and Hammett. In fact, Joel began his career in hollywood as an editor for Raimi; further, their film Miller's Crossing was modeled after Dashiell Hammett's The GLass Key. Shit, The Big Lebowski, in fact, is modeled after Chandler (as is Polanski's Chinatown), and the two auteurs confirm as much in interviews conducted subsequent to that film's release.

PS: Not tryin' to be a dick; I get passionate--not "shitty," though it often reads as such--about my opinion when it comes to film. Plus you professors have us students under your thumbs when it comes to literature; in class, you guys are always exposing our naievete regarding fiction. So, when the discourse switches to film, we students are accorded an opportunity to "get even."
From: babyiwasshot Date: December 3rd, 2007 10:46 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: hop aboard the z-train

Plus I cringe at the (very recent, given the time of the release of Kill Bill 2) tendency of academic critics to conflate the western and the noir genre--let's refer to this phenomena as Kill Bill 2 syndrome. IF the coens are referencing westerns, then they're referencing films like Jodorowsky's El Topo--which itself conflates HORROR with the western--moreso than Jim Thompson.

In all honesty, I don't believe that academics can critique films as well as your average movie geek can; hence the antagonism. Such "high" art forms as literature are the professor's province; films, comics, and all "low"/pop cultural items fall within the domain of us geeks.

I mean: academics are busy analyzing Billy Wilder as though he's some sort of revolutionary auteur, yet they're igonring GODARD. WTF???!!?? No film geek would make such a mistake.
From: babyiwasshot Date: December 3rd, 2007 10:58 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

more on academic film crit.: last one, i promise

I haven't taken ENGL 300 because the films they watch are really just filmed plays. "Old guard," academic critics so revere movies made BEFORE 1960 because thse films are INCREDIBLY literary; one can analyze Shane in the same way that he/she does the book, because the movie is damn near a play.

Try to get Dr. White to analyze Godard's Tout Va Bien or Kar-Wai's Chungking Express and she may (big "may," here; I don't know her) be utterly LOST! Why? It's THOROUGHLY cinematic, which means that it's as much a VISUAL experience as it is literary, but many academic critics dismiss all that is "visual" as superficial "spectacle." The reason that Tarantino and Woody Allen are so revered by academic critics, in fact, may be due to the fact that their movies are shaped like modernist NOVELS.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: December 4th, 2007 01:43 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: more on academic film crit.: last one, i promise

I hear you on Blood Simple from a plot standpoint. But I still think Fargo is closer in spirit to No Country For Old Men because of the way the latter two films handle landscape. Also, although the terms "noir" and "Western" are overused, certainly, I do think they are appropriate here.

As for your other point, it might interest you to know that Professor White is way into Godard and would surely love to discuss his work. It's important to remember, as far as your critique goes, that English 300 is A) billed as "Film and Literature" and B) a class that Gen-Ed students take. When I taught 300, I showed Dziga Vertov's Man With a Movie Camera, one of Godard's chief inspirations, and Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up, a film that indulges in some of Godard's everything-goes aesthetic of experimentation and found that many students in the class lacked the training and perhaps also the capability to engage with film as form in the way that those pictures require.
jstgerma From: jstgerma Date: December 4th, 2007 02:42 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: more on academic film crit.: last one, i promise

When I took 300, we watched Tank Girl, Terminator 2, and Josie and the Pussycats, among others, and I'm still pretty sure our poor teacher found that many students lacked the capability to understand the films as anything but entertainment.

The only thing better than Gen Ed English classes are summer Gen Ed English classes.
From: babyiwasshot Date: December 4th, 2007 02:47 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: more on academic film crit.: last one, i promise

Hah. See; I suspected I'd eat my words here. It's bad, I suppose, to reason that the content of a course reflects the confort zone/proclivities of the instructor....Then again, part of me thinks it SHOULD: the student's not a customer so much as he/she is a subject; he/she pays to be CHALLENGED, not accommodated.

I was also unaware that 300 was a gen. ed., which would certainly explain the dumbing down that goes into planning it, yet this is an issue with regard to which I'm EXTREMELY unforgiving: if the students are lazy and refuse to even ATTEMPT to "get" film as form, or are simply not intelligent enough to get film as form, then I say (a) "fuck 'em" and (b) "fail 'em" because they are clearly--using my own experience to inform this opinion--making the students who are either intelligent or assiduous enough to "get it" suffer on account of their ignorance. Further, they're making the reputation of the faculty suffer, as well (as my earlier misconception so clearly evinces)--plus it has GOT to be an aggravating experience for an instructor, attempting to transcend the apathy of the students and the failures of the public education system in teaching them.

I own Blow-Up, although it's currently being borrowed by Prof. Gallego; I lent it to him on account of similarities I saw between it and Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 (the bands featured in both, the overarching paranoia and questioning of reality, the counter/pop-cultural aspects, etc.; both capture the sixties really well, though they're set in different regions).

Vertov's influence is more prevalent in later Godard, such as Tout Va Bien (which some have read as a cinematic critique of Althusser) and the highly obscure flicks like Vent d'est, but perhaps also in the earlier films, as well.

As for the coens; my chiding was referencing the plotting specifically. ou're right; the setting becomes a character in many of their films (making them, perhaps, "gothic" in a way): lebowski=LA; fargo=upper midwest; no country=texas; arizona=arizona; etc.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: December 4th, 2007 05:51 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: hop aboard the z-train

I can't really agree with you on this one, because this time the Coen brothers have adapted a novel that is itself a kind of homage to hard-boiled writers like Jim Thompson. They may have El Topo in mind, but the story is thinking of Thompson and Cain, with a dash of McMurtry thrown in for spice.

From: babyiwasshot Date: December 4th, 2007 07:23 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: hop aboard the z-train

Certainly the existentialism of the film comes from McCarthy, if anybody; in spite of the fact that Ethan has a philosophy degree from Princeton, I just don't buy that they write with themes CONSCIOUSLY in mind, nor do I think that directors like Tarantino do, either. They write stream-of-consciousness.

Shit, if you watch interviews Tarantino has done on Charlie Rose he SAYS he just "goes with the flow" in writing, thereby making all hermenutics EXCEPT psychoanlysis and cultural studies inaccurate, although they may be interesting.

All interpretations of postmodern films are impositions if they're not cultural and/or psychoanalytical, period. Postmodern auteurs write to entertain themselves (watch every interview of Tarantino and the Coens, and you'll find this to be the case, and Charlie Rose episodes are a great source for those interviews), thereby making their mind (subconscious) and the culture that informs their work the only realistic frames of reference they invoke while writing.

All-in-all, what I'm trying to assert is that the Coen AREN'T like Bergman and Woody Allen; expressing an existential view of the world ISN'T there top priority; making a kickass movie that they find entertaining is, as is the case with Tarantino and most postmodern filmmakers. Above all, they just LOVE movies (whereas Allen, for instance, prefers books), and therefore they're hyper-allusive: all of their films are--first and foremost--ABOUT film/genre, as are tarantino's. Both cannabilize and screw around with old cinematic forms, tropes, conventions, etc. in ways that make them new and interesting.

Further, if they implement ANYTHING from the novels they adapt, it's only certain FRAGMENTS that they find appealing, and perhaps the skeletal plot structures; if given a choice between literature and film, the coens would choose film. They merely USE literature as means of inspiration in creating FILM; film (movies) is the end toward which they strive--not literature, and not text, and perhaps not even conveying a theme so much as merely entertaining THEMSELVES. They make movies that they want to see.
From: babyiwasshot Date: December 4th, 2007 07:32 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: hop aboard the z-train

PS: Hammett and Chandler are hardboiled writers, too. They're thinking of thompson, cain, chandler, hammett and ANY OTHER writer of that ilk when they're making ANY of their noir films; it's a genre that appeals to them, but they nevertheless allow elements of other genres that they love (e.g. absurd comedy à la Duck Soup, and yes, westerns as well) to seep in. It's a big amalgamation of genre, just as Tarantino's flicks are. Ultimately, then, all of their films are practically ABOUT generic form, moreso than any "bigger" themes that transcend commentary on form/art/medium itself.
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