Writing about culture–is it just adding to the noise?

When you go to a concert, read a book, attend a poetry reading, take a trip to the theater or visit a museum, I like to think that you’re starting a conversation with an artist. They’ve created this outpouring of creativity to try to reach your heart, your mind, yes, even your soul. If they succeed, you’ve been moved and you want to share that experience with others.

That water cooler moment when you share your thoughts about it, transforms that passive experience of you taking something in, into a transformative experience where you can relive the joy or share that knowledge learned. It makes you feel good to share those feelings or to warn someone to skip a show that you know they’d find offensive or bland.

I’ve often compared writing about film as a process similar to discussing wine. You gain an understanding of films and wines by sampling many types and learning about the craft. You can discuss nuances and enjoy flavors and discerns smells that might be missed by others. But still, you bring your own palate, your own experience to the table. My top pick of an Orin Swift Cellars Mercury Head wine or the Polish masterpiece, the film Cold War may strike you as overwhelming or pretentious. And what does my opinion matter to you?

A.O.Scott, one of the top film critics at the New York Times wrote a marvelous piece about criticism, A Critic Reviews His Own Role. He argues that writing about culture is akin to news reporting though “inherently subjective”. “No reader will agree with a critic all the time, and no critic requires obedience or assent from readers. What we do hope for is trust*. We try to earn it through the quality of our writing and clarity of our thought, and by telling the truth. The truth, in this case, about what we thought about what we saw, read or heard.” (*my emphasis)

What critics hope to share is what moved us. We want you to be inspired and to seek out the gems that might not get the attention we feel they deserve. That’s why, though I enjoy “Best of” Lists, what I love is lists like The Most Under-Appreciated Films of 2018 from Indiewire. When critics I respect, like Mick LaSalle of the SF Chronicle write rapturous reviews of films I’ve heard might be disasters ( “Vox Lux” review) or I read on Twitter that Kate Erbland and Tomris Laffly mention a film I should see on Netflix (Happy as Lazzaro), I make time to sit in front of a tv or seek out a film screening. Even though I don’t always agree with David Ehlrich, I crack up reading his reviews on Letterboxd. Manohla Dargis wrote an insightful piece on Barry Jenkins’ new film If Beale Street Could Talk and it makes me want to see the film again.

Whether you’re trying to save yourself money by not purchasing a ticket to an event that you’re not sure about…or looking for something exciting and fresh…find a critic writing reviews you can trust. Whether it’s in a paper, on a website, a blog or an Instagram post, you can start a conversation. It will lead you to an experience that’ll be worth your time and money. And who knows, it might enrich your soul.

Concussion—-Lesbian sex, it’s so HOT right now!!

Concussion headlined many Queer film festivals this year.  With it’s high-production values, pretty star and fantasy plot of a lesbian who decides to become a high-priced call girl after a knock on the head; it’s easy to see why it is a popular film.  The sets are all beautifully-furnished suburban homes or artfully-decorated city apartments that our star spends all her time and money upgrading.  It’s a sex-film for upper-middle class lesbians who may be finding marriage, kids and a house in the suburbs more bland and less-fulfilling then they anticipated.

If it’s seems a tad unrealistic to think that there might be a market for Abby’s (Robin Weigert) services, or that leading a double-life would be so easy to keep from the kids and the wife…well, at least it’s an interesting film.  And don’t we all need a little wish fulfillment now a days? The fact that Abby’s escapades involve parading around in expensive lingerie, mentoring a young college student with feminist literature as well as sexual gratification and rough sex with another suburban housewife is about as reasonable as the assumption that getting hit by a baseball would lead to this new lifestyle.

Having won a Teddy Jury award at the Berlin Film Festival for writer/director Stacie Passon and a Best First Feature award at Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco, I wish this director and this film continued success.  The many soft-core porn sex scenes are pretty and not exploitative, and if they feel unrealistic; at least they were directed by a woman from a screenplay written by the same woman.  Thus dodging the controversy surrounding the OTHER lesbian film currently playing in LA and New York….

Concussion

Blue is the Warmest Color is generating controversy and discussion of female sexuality and male gaze.   A three-hour film about a young girl’s coming-of-age journey, “La vie d’Adèle” was directed by Abdellatif Kechiche and stars the two young actresses, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos.  In an unusual and remarkable move, the Cannes jury awarded the Palm d’Or to not just the director, but also, for the first time ever, the actors as well!  Having not seen the film myself, I can easily predict that the length of the film will be more of an issue for me personally, than the six and a half minute-long sex scene.  Rarely do I find that the bloated Hollywood films need their 2-hour running time and though I tend to be more forgiving of non-traditional films from independent filmmakers, three hours speaks to a director who is too precious with his or her work.

I do enjoy reading all the press that this film is inspiring.  Any film that can incite writers to discuss female sexuality and representation is a winner in my book!   Here’s a quote from Matthew Hammett Knott that I rather liked:

“It all comes back to Robert Bresson’s inspiring maxim – “make visible that which, without you, might never be seen”.  In this respect, Manohla Dargis’s criticism that Kechiche “seems so unaware or maybe just uninterested in the tough questions about the representation of the female body that feminists have engaged for decades” seems less pertinent to “Blue is the Warmest Color” than with regard to the wider picture. All perspectives are limited, including Dargis’, including Kechiche’s, including mine. It doesn’t mean we have to reject any in particular. That is our prerogative. What is essential is to recognize the limitations of each, and most importantly, recognize those that are missing entirely from our cultural landscape, and seek them out. ”

Blue is the Warmest Color

http://whttp://www.indiewire.com/article/heroines-of-cinema-blue-is-the-warmest-color-and-the-real-problem-with-male-filmmakers-and-female-sexuality

So seek out queer cinema if you can!  Support all films that support women-driven narratives because they are few and far between!

http://www.indiewire.com/article/what-do-we-expect-from-lesbian-films

Rating: 3 soy lattes in an arty cafe while scheduling play dates, a Pilates session and waiting for your paid date to arrive…