POTPOURRI

NEWS

ACADEMY BIZARROS 2012

     Viewers interested in documentary film and/or Academy Awards need to see David Itzkoff’s article in the New York Times of 10/3/12, “Flaws Seen in New Rules for Oscars.”  Itzkoff is writing about the documentary category, and the title speaks for itself.  He quotes objections to new procedures by Morgan Spurlock and Michael Moore.  I admire both filmmakers, but their objections strike me as objectionable as the procedures they are protesting.

     Anthony Breznican reports in the Entertainment Weekly recd. 10/5 that Seth MacFarlane has been chosen to be the host for what used to be a presentation of Academy Awards and is now television’s most vulgar variety show (vulgar in the oldest, broadest sense).  Breznican quotes producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan on their expectations, and their remarks reveal no more respect for the show or the awards than Breznican apparently has despite the pretense by all three that they are worried about MacFarlane’s lack of taste.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

From  The Great Moviemakers by George Stevens, Jr.  (cf.  POST on September 7 this year):  In his student days at the UCLA film school Paul Schrader “favored the fims of Robert Bresson, Yasujiro Ozu and Carl Dreyer.”  In 1972 the University of California Press published Schrader’s Transcendental Style in Film:  Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer, most recently available as a Da Capo reprint in 1988.  The Stevens book quotes Schrader:  “In many ways Taxi Driver is the struggling of a Bresson film through a Peckinpah kind of environment.”

SOMETHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT

“…the wide screen , finally, has gone a long way toward destroying the last pretenses of a meaningfully organized image.”  Rudolf Arnheim in Film as Art (University of California Press, 1958).

I would appreciate receiving comments  on this last quote.

NEXT POST, FRIDAY OCTOBER 19

See you at the movies,
Rick

One thought on “POTPOURRI

  1. My first response to the Arnheim quote is to think of that most American of movies, the Western. Scale is vital in conveying the size of America, and it is precisely that size that gives Westerns (and the Western landscape) its sublime quality. Thus, scale is crucial in a Western: the sweeping landscapes, the smallness of the characters in relation to their surroundings. The wide screen enhances that sense of scale because it conveys the enormity, both literal and metaphoric, of what characters experience in the Western landscape.

    Arnheim’s idea of “order” in a shot is also fascinating to think about in terms of Westerns. The semiotics of a Western are about social order–whether it’s succeeding or failing–in contrast to the chaos of the Western space and its unruly inhabitants. And the tension between the search for order and the perhaps uncontrollable Western space is revealed in a language that viewers have come to recognize and understand–the way a wide screen shot frames the characters in their surroundings.

    I think in a way it’s a bit of a cheat for me to focus on such a specific genre in response to Arnheim’s statement, and I want to think more about it to see if I find his critique more applicable to other types of films, but I do think considering Westerns calls his claim into question. How much do the opening and closing shots of John Wayne framed in the small domestic space of the doorway in The Searchers affect the viewer if they are not balanced by the extreme long shots of Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter spending 5 years moving across the vast American West?

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