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Showing posts with label If you have nothing to say you have no business making art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label If you have nothing to say you have no business making art. Show all posts

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Conquest Without Contribution

"Great ambition and conquest without contribution are without significance. What will your contribution be? How will history remember you?"

*The Emperor's Club* was on this weekend and I was reminded of this quote. Rarely do I see a film so explicitly state its premise . . and so early out of the gate. But it's a great line. In a pleasant enough movie. And this is essentially what I mean when I say "If you have nothing to say, you have no business making art." And why I lament the death of story.

Behemoths of film may be impressive, but if all you have to offer is that--grandiosity, scale, engineering--what have you really presented? Technology is a tool, not an artistic goal.

Existentialism may be engaging, even engrossing, but if all you have to offer is moments, glimpses, with little underlying or overarching universal, unifying expression, voice, or goal to them, what are you really offering?

What is the inspiration? What is the end design?

All conquest, no contribution. Or worse, no conquest and no contribution.

Which leads me to another film I saw this weekend. . . .

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Death of Story: Part 2

It shouldn't be any surprise that Story is dead. We live in a time of soundbites, not communication. Of informing, not sharing. People only care about page rank, not whether their content warrants it. Unbalanced paltry fragment-writers consider themselves Journalists. Or Writers. It's as clear as day that Story is dead.

Contrary to what the internet may present, Writing is not just an effusion of thoughts without any sense of structure or cohesion or completeness. Writing and Story have a theme that is supported by all its component parts: character or fact and events.


Imagine a 5-minute scene of a family merely filling a dishwasher and talking about just that and only that: filling a dishwasher. Now know that this scene actually appears in a movie. A drama. An "indie" drama. What story does this scene tell you? What overall story do you imagine it's in the aid of telling?

Picture a slow-motion hot dog bikini fight. In a film about robots or Mars or baseball. What story do you imagine that's meant to tell?


The story I get from both of these is that the filmmaker/writer lacks self-editing. A) Your life is not a film. B) Your boyhood or adult fantasies are tangential filler.

Monday, April 04, 2011

In the Era of Snooki, Perhaps I Expect Too Much

The Death of Story

Everything you know and love, going the way of the dodo . . .

In the era of Snooki, perhaps I expect too much. Nothing against Snooki. I wish anyone who happens to find success continued success--as long as it's not to the detriment of others. The insidiousness of celebutants might be debatable, but I find it hard to begrudge anyone's *moment* in the spotlight. Not even the Olive Garden brand of performers out there: Enticing packaging, Insipid product. (Yes, Olive Garden is the epitome of big scale American commercial mediocrity. I said it.)

Where substance is lacking, I quickly stop paying attention. So, yes, let them all have their day in the sun. They are just a symptom, not the problem.

My lament is not about Snooki nor the current breed of pantless figurehead songstresses who are selling nothing substantive, just their legs. No, my lament is that . . . Art is dead. Entertainment, on its death bed. Writing, moribund. And I find it all to be terribly depressing. The way a Vaudevillian in the 1920s and 30s must have found watching everything he/she knows and loves die a slow death.

Vaudeville theater, c. 1900

I've pondered it and I reject the idea that I expect too much. I expect exactly what any consumer or artist should: quality and richness.





"A depressed guy smoking a cigarette is not a film." –Family Guy
90 minutes cobbled around 1 stellar scene is also not a film

My friend Steven Boone has had a beef with film editing of the past decade: e.g. start a film in the midst of an event and then progress with standard storytelling AFTER that scene (prime example: *The Dark Knight* or the currently airing *Kennedys* miniseries which follows this schema to near incoherence). He describes modern cinema as feats of engineering, spectacles of technology. My beef is MUCH more basic than that though on the same continuum. My beef is with the loss of writing. The muddling of storytelling.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Art is a Love Supreme

Sequins just suit some people. Like living legends. Like Diana Ross.

I recently got to see Diana Ross in concert. She was decked out in sequins and beading. I’d never liked sequins. But when she stepped out, they made perfect sense. What else would befit a woman such as her? A glowing living legend. She started with "Where Did Our Love Go?" sounding just like she did nearly 50 years ago. Just like the records we’ve all heard on the radio so many times over the course of our lives. By the third song, I felt overwhelmed. And for the rest of the show I just wanted to weep. At the sheer magnitude of the impression this woman has made on so many lives. At feeling something I didn't know I would feel. A woman who doesn’t know me and doesn’t know anyone in the audience. Who's not acquainted with the people shouting out "I love you, Diana" as if she's been a lifelong friend. Ms. Ross has her own story. 50 years ago she wanted to sing. And now her story touches others around the world. Through space and time. Her music lives. Her spirit continues to reach.


Photo by Harry Wad
Nobel Concert | 2008
Sequins are impressionistic. They need to be seen from a distance under bright light. Ms. Ross is a woman who was meant to be in the light.

With the closer "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" I couldn’t hold it in anymore. The person next to me handed me a tissue without pause, as if there was nothing out of place about crying at a Diana Ross concert. As if she shared my sentiment.



And that is the power of art. To touch that continuum through history, that thread within and amongst humans, of all backgrounds and ages and stories, and relate. We all relate.

"Before my time"? No, I don't believe in that. I believe in Timeless.

Sometimes people say that film or art doesn't have to say anything. In "defense" of some film/art. "Sometimes films just are." "Not all films have a 'moral.'" As I see it, the point of art is to say something, something about the human condition. To incite something. Be it horror, which touches on a primal instinctive level: live or die? Be it perceptual or experimental, à la Un Chien Andalou. Be it a song that makes you want to dance, laugh, cry. Reducing art to or expecting nothing more of it than simple event presentations takes the art out of art. Removes the story from story. That is the definition of history: a presentation of "facts" as they are, with no interpretation.


Anise takes Mondrian
Art Institute of Chicago | 2010
Art is about Representation—about perception of some event or moment. Even documentaries have as a goal the presentation of some subject to open your eyes to something.

The best of art affects you. I often marvel during films at just how good they are. Sunset Blvd. incites this in me every time. Gods and Monsters as well. Chinese Roulette’s dance of blocking & camera movement continually blows my mind. And by the ends of both Tony Kushner's Angels and America and The Wire I thought, "If I had written this, I could just die."--My contribution to humanity would be complete. These moments are electrifying. Someone’s art going beyond, making me stir, making me shudder.

Few films have made me truly breakdown. Not just tears at an emotionally effective scene but an uncontrollable outpour. A full-on destruction (and rebirth) at a personal core level. Rabbit Proof Fence destroyed me in the last 10 minutes. 3 Women rendered me catatonic for nearly half a day. Les Misèrables (du XXeme siècle) left me in a daze upon walking out of the theater, transported to another world where "Cheek to Cheek" had become a lullaby.

These moments of feeling something greater and unifying in the universe are the peak of what art is.

This is the magic of film. The magic of music. The magic of poetry and painting. This is the beauty and the role of the artist.

It is not romanticism or impracticality or silliness; it is a necessity to the human spirit. It is like the food we eat. Expressing, sharing, communing, empathizing--that is the human experience.

So, my friends who create, you are doing something sublime, not trivial. --Do not ever be swayed to think otherwise.

Art is a Love Supreme. Incite. Evoke. Art=Voice.

Diana Ross | 2011

Your Voice.