An Observation On validation
All my life, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be a filmmaker…
Since a child, I’ve rewatched my favorite movies to the point where the film’s dialogue becomes a part of my day-to-day vocabulary. Mannerisms; the way Vincent Vega; John Travolta’s Elvis-loving-heroin-addicted-hit man from “Pulp Fiction” touches the side of his nose while in thought, I find myself doing that. That cool swaggering strut Denzel Washington has when he cuts across a room; my walk isn’t AS cool but THAT’S how you walk! These are the things that live with me. I’ve never watched a movie and thought, “this BETTER win an OSCAR!”
I’m not aware of an award show for paintings, that tells us which portraits are the best! I’m not saying they don’t exist, I’m saying that the idea that some committee gets to determine the merits of a piece of art is absurd.
An oversimplified analogy that I personally use is, if someone doesn’t like seafood it doesn’t matter who prepares it, they don’t like fish…
The Film Critic/ The Fan
Tyler Perry produces some of the worst reviewed films by Hollywood’s “standards” but time and again his Box-Office returns have been such that he has become the first African American to own a “MAJOR” studio.
Who is to say what films are good other than us, to ourselves;“I liked that one.” I believe the idea of “taste makers” has been a concept that has been contested for a while now.
A couple years back, film studios tried to get around major film critics who would discourage viewing their films by-way-of negative reviews, by releasing film trailers with Myspace and Facebook reviews from “actual audience members” who would speak to the overall experience of the picture as opposed to the technical prowess of the filmmaking. While that particular style of trailers/advertising isn’t as prevalent today, neither are critical film reviews.
Prior to his death, it had been years since I’ve read a Roger Ebert review or did so with any enthusiasm.
Peter Travers, the Rolling Stone Magazine Film Critic, is an example of why I do not respect the profession as much as I once did. Growing up, I loved Martin Scorsese, and I still consider him my favorite filmmaker. I bring up Martin Scorsese and my love for him because Peter Travers appears to share the same appreciation for the Director. To be honest I recently watched an interview with the two of them and aside from not allowing Martin Scorsese to finish a response to the questions being asked, Mr. Travers was so giddy and complimentary to the filmmaker that it was hard to think that this man could be impartial to analyzing his films.
In short, I think film critics merely tell us which movies THEY LIKE. That’s it! I don’t think it’s any deeper than that. That is the reason I believe we’ve seen the decline of critical reviews as a means of determining whether we will give a film “a chance” or not. If you want to look up what the Village Voice thinks about the new “Family Movie” excuse me, “Fast-n-Furious” you can just go to RottenTomatoes https://www.rottentomatoes.com and there you go.
Oscars So White
I’m writing this piece the day after Will Smith smacked fire out of Chris Rock AND won BEST ACTOR. Good for you Will! We won’t touch on the slap, that moment will live on in infamy, you’ll see it sooner or later. What I do want to touch on is that in my eyes and I believe the eyes of many, Will Smith winning an Oscar has to be a great personal victory for him, but it doesn’t make him any better or more worth watching; He is WILL SMITH! By my personal estimation he has to be either the all-time box office draw or well on his way to be, worldwide.
Yet this man, the lead of such Blockbusters like “Men In Black” “Bad Boys” and “I AM LEGEND” as well as critically acclaimed/ Oscar nominated film; “ALI” and “Pursuit Of Happiness” saw it fit to boycott the Academy Awards two-years back, 2020, for what he perceived as a “snub” based on racial bias.
Initially, I saw this as a Hollywood celebrity throwing a tantrum for not being told how great he was. But upon further review of the claims, from an institutional POV the man isn’t too far off the mark, narcissism aside.
Here are excerpts and stats from an “Insider.Com” piece written by Jacob Sarkisian – https://www.insider.com/oscars-diversity-problem-race-gender-numbers-academy-awards-2021-
#OscarsSoWhite was birthed in 2015 after nominations for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences failed to include any people of color in the top four acting categories.
“89% of nominations in the past decade went to white people”
“Another way to look at how bad the Academy is at diversity: Over the past decade, it gave 74 total nominations to people of color. In 2011 alone, it gave 72 nominations to white creatives.” Stats from “Insider.Com” and Jacob Sarkisian
The racial disparities as far as recognition and representation go, is a topic we will touch on in future posts but I want to focus on the concept of validation.
The Diamond Known As Oscar
I’m no expert but from what I’ve been led to believe, the perceived value of a diamond lies mainly it’s it’s “demand” and perceived exclusivity. In essence it’s like a pump-and-dump Ponzi-scheme. The diamond is a rock I picked up off the ground, worthless, but since me and my friends say it’s worth $100 dollars and we’re the only ones with access to these rocks, they’re supposedly “rare.” We’re willing to part with them for $50 because WE got them for a good deal, or we like you, whatever! You buy them in bulk at the price we asked thinking you will get a double on your return only to find out the diamonds are only rocks and hold no value, except maybe sentimental.
The Consumer/ Perceived Value
I can sit up here and play holier than thou, but the truth is there are opposing views to filmmaking, like I personally pointed out, I can’t make you like fish. Growing up, people would always tell me “Gone With The Wind” is arguably the greatest film ever made. I turned it off about two minutes into Hattie McDaniel’s Mammy-character doing her OSCAR-WINNING “house-negro”-thing. Which is how we’re introduced to her character, in a film that romanticizes the slave-master-relationship and condemns the forces that brought down their great Antebellum dream.
Again to touch back on the power of viewership, and “perceived value” in a similar way that Tyler Perry’s films have an audience that keeps coming back, David O. Selznick’s “Gone With The Wind” had and has an audience that keeps that film on the pedestal it’s been on for the better part of 80-years. A big part of that validation I believe coming from the “little gold man” Oscar and HIS “perceived value.”
Longwinded, huh? Don’t worry, we’re running out of breath Executives.
Buyer’s Market 2022
The thing about it Executives, as much as I just griped about the so-called “POWERS-THAT-BE” This has to be the greatest time to be a creative.
I say this all the time, “The stage is digital, and this is the stage!”
I want to talk film and New York life. I can’t get a job at The New Yorker or The Times so I made my own disfigured doppelgänger of a periodical online. My viewership is modest at best, but something Gary Vee my Yoda; I’ve never met him, but he say’s in his book, “Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion!” He says “ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN ZERO“
Having the backing of a major studio has to be a great feeling but being able to be in command of your career by-way-of direct-connection with your audience, in essence an amateur even though I think independent is the more appropriate adjective.
In the age where cameras are getting smaller, audiences are getting “smarter” and technology is more accessible than ever the idea of having to submit to the status quo, film critics or the whim of “the academy” is fast becoming a thing of the past.
All my life, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be a filmmaker…
AND BY MY OWN STANDARDS, I AM!