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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Actual Research Brings Asterisk To GWTW Numbers

I have pointed out repeatedly that the assumptions we make about old numbers can be very iffy. Box Office Mojo, in particular, is operating with a very narrow set of numbers from before its opening a few years ago, none of which it compiled on its own.
Some guy from Australia did some research – what a concept! – and found some issues with Mojo’s much repeated Adjusted Gross chart. He use the NY Times search and found news stories from each time Gone With The Wind was in release and found that the estimates of ticket sales were iffy. You can read that here
Me being me, I am researching his research. And he’s a little off base in some areas. But not all.
Still, if you want to understand why adjusted gross games and ticket sales guessing is a fool’s errand, read the thread. And I’ll offer more when I have gotten closer to real numbers.
You might also want to read this Time Magazine piece from 1940. While Mojo is estimating tickets sold at 23

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63 Responses to “Actual Research Brings Asterisk To GWTW Numbers”

  1. Foamy Squirrel says:

    To be fair to BOM they do asterisk pretty much every entry above Avatar, if not explicitly with their ^ denoting recorded multiple releases then implicitly with their sidebar “most of the pre-1980 movies listed on this chart had multiple undocumentented releases over the years”.
    I think Titanic, Star Wars: Ep 1, Forrest Gump, and Jurassic Park are the only ones which can be considered fairly legit under those standards.

  2. guy says:

    This whole game is silly. Whichever film makes the most money is the film that has the record for making the most money. And it’s Avatar.
    Otherwise a zoopraxiscope that people paid a penny to see in 1867 is probably the adjusted for inflation champ. In which case, “Congratulations Eadweard Muybridge, you’re the new king of the world!”

  3. razorr says:

    It’s good to see people doing research on past films although with people just publishing data on a message board without proper research or context, there is a lot of confusion created.
    For instance, the confusion over rentals v gross (especially the use of the word gross in older reports when referring to rentals); US/Canada v worldwide. It will be interesting to see what you finally publish.
    This research on older films should become easier once Variety give access to their digitized archives, which they said should be this year. Anyone know exactly when this is happening?

  4. razorr says:

    Oh, and also wanted to add that it is good that people are challenging Box Office Mojo’s statistics which, for older films, are pretty incomplete.

  5. gradystiles says:

    …and now Patrick Goldstein jumps in the asterisk fray:
    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-bigpicture30-2010jan30,0,7457451.story

  6. Come what may, if/when Avatar reaches around $2.239 billion, it will have doubled the worldwide take of every other movie ever made except Titanic. You can babble about 3D, inflation or what-have-you to your heart’s content, but that’s just a staggering statistic.

  7. Me says:

    I have to say, I’ve been sort of watching this whole debate on here for the last month (or year going by adjustment for inflation) and find the whole thing silly. Box office comparison doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so no comparison will ever really be completely accurate, and the arguments (especially when they get spiteful) come across as monks arguing about angels on pinheads.
    Avatar has made the most money, dollar for dollar, as any movie in history. That’s the only thing that matters to studios, and while I’m not trying to put words in his mouth, it seems that is the fact that is of most importance to Dave. That works for me and I completely see the validity of that argument.
    But I also understand the movie enthusiasts who don’t really care about the business side and are curious to know which movie was seen by the most people. Or the people who are trying to find a way to figure out the numbers for older movies to try and compare the money they’ve made (through the dubious adjusted for inflation technique). And kept in good fun, I like the back and forth of people trying to find a way to make a comparison, even if there probably won’t ever be an acceptable conclusion. The conversation is the interesting part.
    It’s when people get into the vitriol over Cameron’s movie (“You hate Avatar” vs. “You’re blind to Avatar’s faults”) which is nonsense that these posts become really tiring. So, my humble plea: can we keep these discussions all in good fun?

  8. Foamy Squirrel says:

    “So, my humble plea: can we keep these discussions all in good fun?”
    Fun? FUN?!?!?
    Burn the heretic!

  9. Me says:

    Sorry, my bad. I forgot where I was.

  10. David Poland says:

    Truth is, Me, I don’t have any stake in Avatar’s number being the biggest or whatever. My projection was #2 all-time and it has beaten my high number by $500m million already.
    But I do have a stake in the truth, whatever that is.
    What drives me to continue this conversation is that people take so much for granted – like Gone With The Wind’s adjusted number – because they read it or see it and then because of how they personally feel, will argue to the death that they have the factual high ground. And in so many cases, we are building on unstable ground.
    The thing about adjusted for ticket-price and/or inflation numbers is that they are completely guessed at by most of the people offering them to places like the NYT as facts. And worse, NYT and WSJ are running them like facts.
    Yes… it means almost nothing. And the headlines will read, “all-time gross, even if stories like the NYT’s a few days ago will make endless note of pricing and tickets sold… falsely.
    I think revisionist history is very dangerous and can sprout from something as stupid as box office tracking. If NYT is running numbers based on a site like Mojo – which I love for what it does do right, but has no real history before 1980 and very thin histories before the mid-90s – what other alleged experts are they relying on for insight? I mean, they still have a bad habit of going to university professors for insight into the workings of the industry, though except for Bordwell and very few others, that’s like asking a virgin about the inner workings of a whorehouse.
    It scares me. And not for Avatar. As scary as times are for journalism, the basic rules remain… facts are facts and opinions are opinions.
    Only 12 years ago, here was the NYT standard on this issue:
    “‘Titanic” has already taken in more at the box office than any other movie. But this method does not account for the effect of inflation. For example, the average price of a movie ticket in the United States in 1948 was 36 cents. Today, it is $4.59, nearly 13 times as much. Among movies for which complete historical data are available, here are the films with the largest domestic box-office grosses, adjusted for inflation. The list excludes some high-grossing older films, like ”Gone With the Wind” and ”The Ten Commandments” because historical data were not available. Variety estimates, using a different method, that ”Gone With the Wind” has earned more at the box office than any other movie, taking in more than $1 billion since it was first released in 1939.”
    So even Variety, the keeper of the books, was unable or unwilling to tally these things on pre-1989 movies. And NYT tipped its hat to that. But nowadays, seeing it on Mojo is enough for NYT… without digging an inch deeper.
    And that’s my issue… not who wins. As I have written, I think all of this parsing is nonsense. Gross, net, and profit are the only things that matter. Leave the rest to historical perspective. My issue is that we all still make the effort to seek the truth, whatever its answers. And it’s really hard. Try finding the numbers on the GOTW re-release in 1961. If it’s such a clear fact, why is it so hard to find?
    Answer: It’s not so clear at all.
    And that is fine. It is what it is. But let’s maintain that perspective before we start counting the Jews of Europe or pretending that our war in Iraq didn’t kill as many Iraqis as it has. Or for that matter, pretending that Alex Gibney, who is brilliant and very serious, doesn’t have a anti-right bias, as some show did last night when talking about his new doc.
    Honest people deal with the facts. If you want to argue that the deaths in Iraq, ours and theirs, were necessary for a greater good, we may disagree, but at least it’s an honest argument.
    And getting back to our silliness, I don’t think anyone is making the argument that GWTW’s run was not phenomenal. But comparing movies in an era with no TV or VHS/DVD and the current methods of distribution is just silly on some level… fun, perhaps, but silly.
    We now have had an opening of 5.5x Titanic’s opening… and had extra-dollar screens… and still grossed $800 million less than Titanic worldwide. Until this year, no movie came within $700 million of Titanic’s take… 40% distance. And this year, with a broader number of theaters that charge a 25% – 35% premium, but not all of them by any means, a movie not only broke that $700 million barrier, but caught Titanic, and passed it… by what looks to be a minimum of 300 or 400 million dollars.
    And the response of some is to try to tarnish that achievement. And any argument, true or false, considered or not, will do.
    Some people just hate a winner… unless it happens to be their winner.
    And let’s not forget that The Right is pushing hard against Avatar for allegedly being lefty and that most of the people we seem to see raging against Avatar – including The Mojos – are active conservatives.
    Of course, the flip side is when it is “their” winner, it must be hailed 100%… no room for any disagreement… or off you must go in shackles!
    Black. White. Pathetic.

  11. pinocchio81 says:

    David Poland wrote: “And let’s not forget that The Right is pushing hard against Avatar for allegedly being lefty and that most of the people we seem to see raging against Avatar – including The Mojos – are active conservatives.”
    lol Last time I was visiting the boxofficemojo forums, we had appr. 90% Avatards and Cameron-loonies there…

  12. torpid bunny says:

    No, they don’t hate avatar because of their own agenda. It just hasn’t sold nearly as many action figures as Star Wars. And while box office figures may be shaky historically, we know SW sold a HOJILLION dollars in toys and lifestyle accoutrements. And Avatar has not. Ergo, Avatar ain’t no big thing.

  13. voltarna says:

    Stop arguing with idiots and get cracking on those gwtw numbers. Maybe bring the baby to the MGM-vault. I bet they have some purty 1961 attendance and gross numbers hiding under the dust somewhere.

  14. JediJones says:

    Part of the problem probably stems from Mojo using “average ticket price” to fuel this “ticket price inflation” concept of theirs. If a particular movie had tickets priced way below or above the average for other movies that year, then Mojo is going to skew their results. Let’s say GWTW tickets cost $1.00 each but the average ticket price was 50 cents, and now the average ticket price is $5.00. If it grossed $100, Mojo would assume it sold 200 tickets by the average and therefore today’s equivalent ticket sales would gross $1,000. But because of the higher price GWTW really sold for in this example, it really only sold 100 tickets. Therefore today’s adjusted ticket sales should be $500. That’s a potential BIG difference right there. Mojo’s adjustments would certainly also skew the gross of children’s movies downwards, which sell tickets for cheaper on average, and skew 3D movies upwards which have higher prices as apparently we now see GWTW might have.

  15. CleanSteve says:

    Several comments:
    1) To me, anything that gets extra people out of the house to spend higher-than-normal prices on a movie (sometime multiple times) during tough financial months…well, that’s a fucking cultural phenomena. I don’t care how many toys it does or does not sell, or how many people claim to have talked to 3 guys in a Sunoco bathroom who didn’t like it. And if grandma and grandpa are out of the house to see this, maybe they’ll be compelled to go out a time or two more than normal. In turn, they help spend more money on other movies. Is that really so bad?
    2) Has anyone considered that part of the success is because the movie IS pro-religion?? Not everyone is a hardcore conservative who reject anything that doesn’t have the Jesus Brand Seal of Approval. I have a friend (note: infintesimal sample size notwithstanding) who is Christian, goes to church but isn’t the “pat robertson” type, for lack of a better term. He pointed out that what he liked was that the movie celebrates that the Na Vi have a religion, celebrate spirituality, have their own creationism story, believe in and sort of prove the existence of the soul, and that the main conflict is technology v. religion. It’s there, folks. Maybe the movie connects with many on that level. Those who say the film is simplistic mistake the story arc (which is basic) for the ideas that are shown and implied: religious freedome, spirituality, and how technology can co-exist with those things.
    Considering Cameron is atheist, that’s gutsy for him.
    3)BTW, is anyone reading or has anyone read THE FURURIST? I’m reading it now, and while it’s a bit slavish it does not shy away from the fact that Cameron is a massive prick. His comments to the British crew at the end of the ALIENS shoot made me laugh out loud. I love the guy for being a prick. Not everyone has to be nice. Plus, he comes from a family of intensely brilliant people, and they know it. He’s one of them. That guy in the airport didn’t owe Cameron his $20, and Cameron doesn’t owe him an autograph. Nobody owes anybody an autograph. Autograph hounds are lowlifes.
    4) If every internet forum poster who claims to have NOT seen the movie didn’t really see it, it would have stalled a long time ago. It’s easy to play games when you’re talking to people you’ll never meet, and they can’t see your Na Vi plushies.
    5) Perhaps the greatest thing about this all, the thing that makes me happier and more amused than any movie related even in years is that A MOVIE SO MANY CLAIM TO HATE IS GOING TO PASS ANOTHER MOVIE SO MANY CLAIM TO HATE, AND WILL BE THE #1 GROSSER OF ALL-TIME. AND THE SAME GUY MADE IT.
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! How many years have petty douchebags whined that TITANIC was the all-time grosser? How many AICN babies gave the title over to KING KONG a few years ago, before it was greeted with a ton of yawns?? You KNOW that pisses them off, and that make the hyperbole coming from the detractors as silly as the hyperbole on the other side.
    I truly will enjoy the bitching and moaning for the next 10-12 years until Cameron, the greatest populist filmmaker since Spielberg, delivers another movie that makes millions of people happy. GOD FORBID people are happy and enjoy themselves for 3 hours. Every time an AVATAR fan smiles it takes a week off Devin Faraci’s life. There was a great Onion headline last week, something along the lines of MAN INFORMED THAT HE IS WRONG ABOUT THING HE ENJOYS.
    That about sums up a meaty portion of the negative crowd.

  16. jeffmcm says:

    And millions of people enjoy McDonald’s hamburgers even as they bring them one clogged artery closer to death.

  17. a_loco says:

    Well, Avatar did give that one guy a heart attack, Jeff, but on the whole, I think Steve is correct. I actually criticized the movie becauseby empirically verifying the religion of the Navi, Cameron ruined the strength of the allegory, but I’m pretty sure the common man doesn’t give a shit.
    http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/feature/man-died-after-watching-avatar/story-e6frfnv0-1225821333043
    And for people to dismiss Cameron because he’s an asshole? Come on, you don’t know the guy. Judge his movies, not him.

  18. leahnz says:

    is the story of big jim’s meltdown at the infamous tea lady on the ‘aliens’ set in ‘the futurist’? that one’s priceless.
    as per UK union regs at the time a tea break was mandated every 2hrs or something during production, so this old lady would wheel a little tea cart onto the set, stopping the shoot dead in its tracks as the huge doors to the old cannery had to be opened so she could roll in her trolley and offer the crew tea and bickies. after a couple weeks of those baby-feeding-time type interruptions, cam apparently blew his wad and threw a tanty of truly epic proportions
    (having said that, i know one of cameron’ss PAs on the avatar shoot and when live action had wrapped, big jim thanked him sincerely for all his hard work and putting up with his demanding nature, and gave him a terrific gift. cameron is self-aware; he knows he’s a temperamental artist and an epic hard-ass, but he also has a kind, generous side to balance it out. yin and yang)
    re: aliens, legend has it that the british crew, many loyal to scott, made cameron’s directorial life a living hell on the ‘aliens’ set until the dailies started coming in and they realised big jim knew exactly what he was doing, then suddenly it was all go
    a_loco, “the common man”? condescending and sexist in one fell swoop

  19. a_loco says:

    leahnz, it was sexist by terminology, I’ll give you that, and I apologize.
    But condescending? I don’t value the opinions of most people on films. Seriously, do you expect me or anyone else on this comment board to? I’ve watched too many movies, taken too many film classes, had too many conversations about film to give a shit about the opinion of the average Avatar viewer.
    If years of being a geek, being a film student, and talking about movies doesn’t allow me to dismiss the opinions of people who go to a movie theatre 4 times a year, then we might as well pay attention to every 20-something male douchebag who thinks American History X is the best movie ever made.
    I’m not trying to say these people don’t have a right to their own opinions on movies just because they place importance on different things, but it does mean I can point out where they and I differ.
    So if that means I’m being condescending, then yeah, I’m being condescending, but no, I’m not apologizing.

  20. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    “If years of being a geek, being a film student, and talking about movies doesn’t allow me to dismiss the opinions of people who go to a movie theatre 4 times a year”
    I’d actually prefer the opinions of a reasonably intelligent discerning person who goes to film 4 times a year than a geeky film student any day of the week. Minor offense intended.

  21. leahnz says:

    fuck, a_loco, that’s hilarious! so…what are you trying to say exactly? lol. i don’t even know how to respond to such a thing
    (and ftr, i wasn’t fishing for an apology or anything else, just… making an observation. but it was worth it for that gem above — possibly the most hilariously unvarnished piece of pretentious twaddle i’ve read in ages. but kudos for having the guts to say ‘out loud’ what many, many people who think they know all about movies likely think to themselves: “i’ve seen a lot of movies/been to film school so my opinion is elite and best informed”; “my interpretation is enlightened and correct”; “i discuss movies with other people who like movies so i must understand them”. and hey, it’s all true, you do understand movies best, your opinion is well informed, and your interpretation is correct…but only in your own mind, unfortunately for you and your ego)
    a couple things:
    just who is ‘the average avatar viewer’? do tell. mind you, there’s a shitload of them. in your mind they’re all the same? and a bit thick to boot?
    assuming people who don’t go to a lot of movies are stupid and can’t understand the finer points of storytelling…is stupid
    assuming you know what masses of people whom you don’t know “place importance on” when viewing a film, and that it must be different from what you place importance on, is nonsense
    (and fwiw, i disagree with your take that “because by empirically verifying the religion of the Navi, Cameron ruined the strength of the allegory”, and i’ve seen a fair few flicks in my day, unlike the rest of the bumpkins who fell off the turnip truck on their way to see avatar)

  22. a_loco says:

    “i’ve seen a lot of movies/been to film school so my opinion is elite and best informed”
    Certainly not the best informed, but if an actual education in the matter doesn’t make me more informed than the average person, then what’s the point? There’s this idea amongst some people that when it comes to things that are subjective (film/fiction/etc.) that no one is allowed to have a more knowledgeable opinion than anyone else. Sorry, I, and most of the people on this comment board, do. Just because a lot of normal intelligent people think The Da Vinci Code is a good book, doesn’t make it true for people who actually have a passion for prose.
    “my interpretation is enlightened and correct”
    Correct? Not correct, I pointed out that opinions are subjective and that mine, along with every other person who is passionate about film, differs from the average person. Enlightened? Not in the Buddhist revelatory sense of the word, but I do know more about movies than most people, and that’s not just a condescending perspective, that’s a fact.
    Judging by the box office, the average Avatar viewer is close to, but not quite, the average human being, and while I might find the average person’s opinion on a movie interesting, I will rarely find it insightful.
    And I don’t what the masses place importance on and never claimed to, but it’s pretty obvious most of them aren’t passionate about cinema in the way I am or most of the people on this board are.
    And the truth is leahnz, I doubt you take the opinion of someone seriously if you know he or she sees 4 movies a year and doesn’t know who any given important director is. I doubt anybody on this board does, that’s why a lot of us are here. So if you’re not fishing for an apology, try not insulting me.
    Also, your final parenthetical point looks like it could be the starting point for an intelligent discussion. Maybe you could expand on it and we could have a worthwhile conversation on the matter?

  23. Foamy Squirrel says:

    The irony is that the opinion of the average person decides the success or failure of the movie – so condescending to them smacks of hubris. It’s a lesson that Michael Bay learned years ago, and he’s been laughing his way to the bank ever since.

  24. EthanG says:

    Again I agree it’s a fool’s errand comparing films of totally different eras when it comes to tickets, just like comparing ANY film’s international numbers before the model for international releasing changed a few years ago is silly.
    Not so with films released within a decade of each other domesticall. It’s not hard at all so let’s stop pretending it is.
    Through week 7 “Avatar” still trails TDK by around 8 million tickets domestically head-to-head, which equates to over $60 million bucks. Is it really relevant to anything? No, but it’s an interesting point. Likewise it trails “Shrek 2” by around the same amount through week 7.
    Again it’s irrelevant to 20th Century Fox. Is 60 million worth of regularly priced tickets between two films released a year aparty worthy of an asterisk? For now, yes. By the end of its run, if “Avatar” shaves off all or nearly all of TDK’s lead, no.

  25. a_loco says:

    I don’t doubt you, Squirrel, that’s why I said that I find the average person’s opinion interesting, but not insightful in regards to the movie itself. Bay’s movies are just more evidence of that.

  26. pinocchio81 says:

    David Poland wrote: “You might also want to read this Time Magazine piece from 1940. While Mojo is estimating tickets sold at 23

  27. David Poland says:

    If that’s the case, Pinocchio… and you aren’t living up to your nickname… Avatar will pass those 202 million admissions by the same standard in a week or two.
    That is, opposed to having one-third the admissions.
    Or is that leaving off international, which is equally dubious for Mojo’s GWTW numbers.

  28. pinocchio81 says:

    I don’t understand what you mean. For Avatar they just take the actual gross and divide it with the current average ticket price ($7.46). Right now 594 mio. gross, estimated ticket sales 79.6 mio. 594/7.46 = 79.6.
    In the case of GWTW or Ben-Hur or whatsoever they just try to find an admission number (in this case all from ER). If they don’t have any, they calculate with the gross — and that can be fatal of course because of the sometimes not so average ticket prices for roadshows and so on.

  29. leahnz says:

    goodness a_loco, that’s just more of the same BS. if i’d wanted to discuss your take on the navi religion, i would have addressed the subject. i responded because i found your post outrageously self-aggrandising, and actually quite offensive, not to me personally but just the contempt in which you hold ‘the average person’.
    i can’t be bothered responding to all of it, but for this:
    “And the truth is leahnz, I doubt you take the opinion of someone seriously if you know he or she sees 4 movies a year and doesn’t know who any given important director is. I doubt anybody on this board does, that’s why a lot of us are here. So if you’re not fishing for an apology, try not insulting me.”
    wait, so it’s okay for you to post a self-important, pretentious diatribe in which you essentially insult great swaths of people and call them morons compared to your incredibly insightful self, but i’m ‘insulting’ you for calling you on it? please
    first of all, just because some people don’t get to the cinema more than 4 times a year, MOST people are watching movies at home either on TV, cable, rentals, on demand, whathaveyou. movies at home are HUGE business. who is watching only 4 movies a year, people without electricity in the ozarks?
    movies just may be the most widely accessible and appreciated art-form in modern culture. people watch movies for different reasons that don’t necessarily reflect their level of insight and intelligence. just because someone doesn’t know who a particular director/artist is has NOTHING to do with an individuals ability to fully appreciate a story/painting.
    i personally know several men and women who only manage to get to the cinema every few months due to work and gaggles of kids to raise and such, but they watch movies at home and they are intelligent, insightful citizens. no, they don’t know one director from another apart from the big names everybody recognises, but when we manage to catch a flick together or discuss something we’ve seen, i most certainly value their opinions and insights as every bit as valid as my own.
    because for a start i don’t consider myself the great and powerful oz, the arbiter of taste and knowledge, but also because while they may not know which directors are ‘important’ as you so pretentiously put it, they know which stories work for them and why, which performances move them and why, which films they love and why.
    so please, stop making ridiculous generalisations about ‘the average person’ who may not watch as many films as you, because for one, there is no such thing as ‘the average person’; and for two, assuming people who don’t watch as many movies as you are intrinsically lacking in insight is patently absurd.
    and michael bay movies make bank because they appeal mainly to boys who want to watch silly shit go boom, not because all the people who watch bay movies are stupid and lacking in insight. they get a kick out it, and kicks sell. i’m not defending bay, i loathe him, but generalising even about bay fans as lacking in insight or intelligence is silly.
    there most certainly are stupid people out there who don’t watch many movies and the ones they may like are silly, in addition to lots of smart people who find all types of movies entertaining, even silly ones. assuming you know who is who is hubris, plain and simple.

  30. palmtree says:

    “I actually criticized the movie becauseby empirically verifying the religion of the Navi, Cameron ruined the strength of the allegory, but I’m pretty sure the common man doesn’t give a shit.”
    Yeah, that may be true. But the allegory that was more interesting for me in Avatar was the one of how the geeky academic Na’vi student couldn’t break into the clan he was so desperately trying to seek attention from while the know-nothing marine brat with a heart could.

  31. Sam says:

    leahnz: It gets kind of old that half of your posts are angry defenses. In this case, your defense takes the form of changing what your opponent said and then discrediting THAT instead of the actual issue. Sheesh, if you’d just let people say what they say now and again, you wouldn’t have to defend yourself so often.
    1. When a_loco said “sees 4 movies a year,” I interpreted that to mean “sees 4 movies a year” not “sees 4 movies in the theater per year and a crapton more at home.” I know, call me crazy.
    2. a_loco wasn’t talking about people one personally knows and respects. Obviously if you have individual friends you already have reason to respect, then of course you’re going to listen to what they say. Not the point! If we’re talking about some faceless person on the Internet, a_loco has every right to ignore the critical opinion of someone who sees only four movies a year (in any venue!) and doesn’t know the names of the people who made the greatest films in history. Moreover, he’d be a fool not to. So would you.
    It’s annoying, because movies are almost the only field where people get indignant if the layman isn’t accorded equal authority as the educated.
    If we were talking about science or archeology or history or even one of the other arts like painting or sculpture, this wouldn’t even be a controversy. I mean, seriously. If you spend your whole life studying sculpture, as both a scholar and enthusiast, are you SERIOUSLY going to care what the hell somebody who looks at the Venus de Milo and says, “Yeah, this isn’t as good as that Eeyore in Fantasyland. Who made this thing, anyway?”
    If you do care — as in, actually believe that considering that opinion augments your understanding of sculpture — you’re a moron.
    Okay, now you can start writing your next eight-paragraph diatribe, this one all about how rude and stupid *I* am.

  32. palmtree says:

    “It’s annoying, because movies are almost the only field where people get indignant if the layman isn’t accorded equal authority as the educated.”
    Pop music, commercial TV, video games, basically any art that is consumed on a mass scale and has popular cultural relevance has this phenomenon…and it’s a good one to have. It means most people still care enough about that art to even want to get indignant, meaning that they may be ignorant but they’re not necessarily unwilling to try stuff out or to think about it.

  33. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Congratulations go to this thread for providing not one but two examples of the fallacy of appealing to inappropriate authority.
    The fallacy can be summed up as:
    Authority != Relevance
    Or, to elaborate, the only thing that dismissing an opinion because it’s “uninformed” proves is that you have your head up your ass.

  34. The Big Perm says:

    I doubt there’s very few people who only watch four movies a year in any possible venue, so I guess we can listen to everyone’s opinion.

  35. a_loco says:

    “assuming people who don’t watch as many movies as you are intrinsically lacking in insight is patently absurd. ”
    Actually, assuming people have an intrinsic understanding of any artform is patently absurd.
    When I say “average person”, I don’t mean it in any objective sense of the word “average”, I mean it in relation to film lovers/movie geeks/cineastes/etc.
    I NEVER said that these people were stupid, but if someone is not passionate about film, and is not knowledgeable about film, then I don’t really feel the need to take their opinion seriously.
    People do not have an inherent understanding of art. Education and experience allow people to understand art, just like every other fucking thing in life. If you’re suggesting I equate the opinion of any guy of the street with that of David Bordwell, it’s you who is being absurd, not I.

  36. leahnz says:

    sam, so i can now write a diatribe like yours and loco’s multi-paragraph diatribe(s)? or are only mine ‘diatribes’ and yours and his multi-paragraphed tirades merely ‘comments’?
    hypocrisy is rich
    studying art – and largely being told what to think – is all well and good, but it is NOT essential for insight and understanding of artistic form
    how about this: CREATING art is the only true way to understand it. no? all the ‘i studied at film skool’ whiners don’t much care for that idea, of being the ‘layperson’ whose opinion is ignorant? well fine, i guess there are different levels of connectedness with art/film and it mostly depends on a natural proclivity and appreciation for the medium, not ‘study’ or even ‘creating’; some people have it and others don’t, but snobs invariably think their way is the only way
    “I mean, seriously. If you spend your whole life studying sculpture, as both a scholar and enthusiast, are you SERIOUSLY going to care what the hell somebody who looks at the Venus de Milo and says, “Yeah, this isn’t as good as that Eeyore in Fantasyland. Who made this thing, anyway?””
    of course there are people like this, but ASSUMING that because a person who isn’t experienced with sculpture would react in this way or in an ignorant manner invalidating their opinion – which is what a_loco basically proposed re: film – is spurious.
    using this same example, you could just as easily find a person without any ‘expertise’ in sculpture and ask them for an opinion on the venus. they could easily have a natural appreciation for form, and while they probably couldn’t articulate their views as eloquently or using the proper terminology like an expert or a critic, they can still see the lines and texture and proportions, appraise the form and they way it makes them feel, and give you insight as to what that is, and that opinion is just as valid as any ‘expert’. and that is MY point in all this.
    and just this pricelessness (esp. on a blog):
    “if you’d just let people say what they say now and again, you wouldn’t have to defend yourself so often”
    que? would you care to explain how i don’t “let people say what they say now and again”? people are saying what they say all over this blog practically 24/7. or do you really mean, if someone comments and i have an opinion or disagree, i should just keep my ‘mouth’ shut, is that it? here’s a tip if you don’t they way i post: DON’T READ IT (if i knew how to spell the sound of a raspberry, i’d do it right here)
    “If you’re suggesting I equate the opinion of any guy of the street with that of David Bordwell, it’s you who is being absurd, not I”
    i didn’t suggest that and it’s you being absurd, i merely suggested that you are a pretentious elitist. but what if that guy on the street could articulate his opinions eloquently and succinctly, even tho he’s not at all a film buff, is his insight then ignorant and not worthy of consideration?

  37. Foamy Squirrel says:

    “If you’re suggesting I equate the opinion of any guy of the street with that of David Bordwell”
    Sigh. That’s not how it works.
    Education and experience increase the probability that an opinion is more correct or more valid, but it’s part of an informal argument through inductive logic. That is – it’s not meant to be used in isolation to prove an argument, only as corroboration to support an argument. If you to ask someone to choose which opinion they prefer between any guy off the street and David Bordwell, most people would choose David Bordwell (even people who don’t know who he is, if only because you named him and didn’t name the other guy). However, if you put forward that the opinion is correct because David Bordwell expressed it, that’s an appeal to inappropriate authority. The corollary is that if you dismiss an opinion because of the person who expressed it, that’s also an appeal to inappropriate authority.
    The Emperor’s New Clothes isn’t just a fable – history is littered with pretty damn knowledgeable people who were completely and utterly wrong, sometimes in the face of obvious evidence. Aristotle incorrectly believed that there were four elements and that the common housefly had only four legs. Richard Owens, who constructed some of the first dinosaur skeletons, frequently mixed up the bones and even put them together backwards despite having many examples to draw from in the London Natural History Museum of which he was the director. Neils Bohr, who along with Ernest Rutherford described the common visualisation of the atom as a central nucleus surrounded by orbiting electrons, interrupted a seminar by Richard Feynman to loudly denounce quantum theory (guess who came out ahead on that one). In 1955, Variety predicted that rock and roll would be “gone by June”. And the British Museum proudly had on display an artifact labeled as an ancient Roman coin until a young schoolgirl pointed out that it was actually a corroded coke bottle lid.
    “Education and experience allow people to understand art, just like every other fucking thing in life.”
    A proposition which has been proven false. Even if you discount statistical outliers such as mathematical savants such as Kim Peek (the basis for Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man), musical prodigies like Mozart, and synethesiacs such as Rimsky-Korsakov (who literally “see” music as colors), research by Oliver Sacks has shown that art appreciation is so fundamental to the human brain that it can be the only faculty still functioning in the case of severe Alzheimers sufferers who can’t even work out how to feed themselves.
    In short, education and experience allow you to put art in context, but understanding is a basic human capacity.
    What makes the suggestion that the opinion of the “average person” should not be taken seriously all the more absurd is that the business nature of films means that they are intended by default for mass consumption. If you wish to support an art which is intended only for a select few, I suggest you choose one that doesn’t cost tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions to produce. If you intend for anyone to pay money to allow that art to continue, then you had better damn well pay attention to their opinions. If you don’t care for Michael Bay as an example to follow, then why not emulate Shakespeare instead – he was a populist par excellence.
    Given the number of film financiers who wont be seeing their money back from Sundance, I’d suggest that the last thing the industry needs right now is self-important douchebags who think that the only opinion of merit is one backed by a BFA.

  38. leahnz says:

    wow, we must have written our multi-paragraphs at same time, weird

  39. leahnz says:

    now that i’ve had a chance to read it through tired, blurry eyes, well said foamy. you got your thinking cap on there

  40. Foamy Squirrel says:

    I wish you’d told me – while I do like the opportunity to demonstrate my skills as a longwinded blowhard, if I’d known you’d already addressed it appropriately I could have stayed in bed.
    If nothing else, at least it proves we’re not the same person (a charge that seems to crop up on the interwebs all too often).

  41. Sam says:

    leahnz:
    “sam, so i can now write a diatribe like yours and loco’s multi-paragraph diatribe(s)? or are only mine ‘diatribes’ and yours and his multi-paragraphed tirades merely ‘comments’?”
    No, I admit I also wrote a diatribe. It’s just that I never get the sense from you that you care to do anything *else*. a_loco posted an opinion that is worth debating but hardly worth ripping him a new one over. But you only seem to know how to do the latter. Which is too bad, because I think you have a lot of great things to say. I just find it unpleasant to listen to you a lot of the time, because you always sound so angry.
    This post, by the way, is not intended as a diatribe. I’m trying to be honest, but please don’t read anger into what I’m saying now.
    Anyway, this, for example, is a great discussion point that invites further constructive conversation in a way that calling someone a snob doesn’t:
    “studying art – and largely being told what to think – is all well and good, but it is NOT essential for insight and understanding of artistic form . . . how about this: CREATING art is the only true way to understand it. no? all the ‘i studied at film skool’ whiners don’t much care for that idea…”
    I agree with this 100%. I might not phrase the line about creating art being the ONLY way so inflexibly, but the point is sound: creating art leads to understanding in a way that study cannot. Furthermore, book learning MAY lead to understanding but, as we both have seen, often does not.
    But it’s worth pointing out that the kind of study I’m talking about — and which I think a_loco was talking about, although of course I could be wrong on that — is not classroom learning but the study of an enthusiast. If someone is genuinely enthusiastic about film enough to study it on his or her own time, not as a means to a degree and not by some stuffed shirt’s curriculum but for its own sake, it practically has to be real, honest, genuine learning. It’s probably also going to involve creation of art as well, as part of the process, although not necessarily. Obviously you and a_loco fit into this category, and I would put myself there as well. We all have a lot to learn about film, but I would trust any one of the three of us for a useful opinion long before I’d trust the casual movie-goer. Because even an *intelligent* casual movie-goer is going to see the art of film with an untrained eye.
    I don’t think this attitude is the least bit snobby or pretentious but quite practical. We live in an age of information overload. You have to pick and choose what you pay attention to. The only question is how you make those decisions.
    “”if you’d just let people say what they say now and again, you wouldn’t have to defend yourself so often” que? would you care to explain how i don’t “let people say what they say now and again”?”
    Simply that your initial rebuttal to a_loco’s statements involved twisting what he said into something he didn’t say, and then refuting that instead of what he actually did say. Such as taking “sees 4 movies a year” to “sees 4 movies a year in the theater and more at home.” You did this with me as well:
    “or do you really mean, if someone comments and i have an opinion or disagree, i should just keep my ‘mouth’ shut, is that it?”
    I most emphatically do not mean this. In fact if you did actually shut up on my say so (not that you would), I would feel quite terrible and apologize for causing a misunderstanding.
    “here’s a tip if you don’t they way i post: DON’T READ IT”
    Honestly, usually I don’t. The tone of your posts is so consistently over-aggressive that I’ve become accustomed to skipping most of your posts. I obviously read your contributions here, in part because I was interested in what a_loco was saying, but I’d really rather not skip your posts at all. Because, like I say, I think you’re intelligent and informed and have an interesting and unique perspective that’s worth hearing. I just can’t take the constant aggression. And when I saw it directed at an issue that is both innocuous and practical, I spoke up about it.

  42. a_loco says:

    There seems to be a lot of straw men standing around here, I’ll try to remove them before I get hay fever #lamejoke
    “michael bay movies make bank because they appeal mainly to boys who want to watch silly shit go boom, not because all the people who watch bay movies are stupid and lacking in insight. they get a kick out it, and kicks sell.”
    Oh really? So all the people who go out to enjoy a Michael Bay movie know that it’s shit, they just wish to subject themselves to it out of some perverse enjoyment of shit? No. People who enjoy Transformers actually do think it’s a good movie; you’re putting words into their mouths.
    “studying art – and largely being told what to think – is all well and good, but it is NOT essential for insight and understanding of artistic form”
    Then what’s the point of it? Why would it be all well and good when you seem to be stating its uselessness? And if you think education is all about being told what to think, you’re wrong. If you’re passionate about a subject, you’ll engage with it and not just memorize it.
    “how about this: CREATING art is the only true way to understand it. no? all the ‘i studied at film skool’ whiners don’t much care for that idea, of being the ‘layperson’ whose opinion is ignorant?”
    Well fine. I’ve made a few short films. Does that make me more knowledgeable on the subject than Bordwell? I doubt it, although creating art is a good way to learn about it, it’s not the only way, which is why there are University courses on it, internet forums on it, books on it, etc.
    “using this same example, you could just as easily find a person without any ‘expertise’ in sculpture and ask them for an opinion on the venus. they could easily have a natural appreciation for form, and while they probably couldn’t articulate their views as eloquently or using the proper terminology like an expert or a critic, they can still see the lines and texture and proportions, appraise the form and they way it makes them feel, and give you insight as to what that is, and that opinion is just as valid as any ‘expert’.”
    Art making you feel a certain way is not the same as understanding it and appreciating its complexity. Ask a layperson why the Mona Lisa is so great. They won’t know. And I’m honest enough with myself to say that I don’t know (although I’ve heard some theories) because it’s not my passion.
    “Education and experience increase the probability that an opinion is more correct or more valid”
    No shit! That’s exactly what I’ve been saying!
    “if you put forward that the opinion is correct because David Bordwell expressed it, that’s an appeal to inappropriate authority. The corollary is that if you dismiss an opinion because of the person who expressed it, that’s also an appeal to inappropriate authority.”
    You seem to be confusing empirical facts with subjective opinions. I never said the average person was “wrong”, I said that they rarely have much insight into film that I couldn’t gather myself.
    “Aristotle incorrectly believed that there were four elements and that the common housefly had only four legs.”
    Oh no! A guy from 2.5 thousand years ago was wrong about empirical facts! That really has no impact on a debate about a current artform which is completely subjective.
    “art appreciation is so fundamental to the human brain that it can be the only faculty still functioning in the case of severe Alzheimers sufferers who can’t even work out how to feed themselves.”
    Appreciation is different from understanding. Most people can appreciate a story, not everyone can understand the subtleties and complexities of it.
    “What makes the suggestion that the opinion of the “average person” should not be taken seriously all the more absurd is that the business nature of films means that they are intended by default for mass consumption.”
    Oh shit! So there IS a difference between the “average person” and the film lover. Wasn’t I just being labelled as “condescending” for saying just that? Anyhow, I wasn’t talking about the business of film, which should very much take into account the opinion of the majority, I was talking about the art of film.
    “If you don’t care for Michael Bay as an example to follow, then why not emulate Shakespeare instead – he was a populist par excellence.”
    Maybe, but Ben Johnson was more popular at the time, Chaplin was more popular than Keaton, etc. If an artist appeals to the public, they can do it in a way that engages lovers of art and they can do it in a way that doesn’t.
    And can we please get over the idea that I believe myself to be above “the average person”. In most aspects of life, I am very average, and my opinion is irrelevant, and I can admit that, but not in film.

  43. palmtree says:

    http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041101/FILMFESTIVALS/41031001
    “I have seen the movie [Citizen Kane] perhaps 100 times, and analyzed it shot-by-shot in at least 30 sessions at festivals and in class, and I thought it contained no more surprises for me. The beauty of the shot-by-shot approach is that the theater is filled with other eyes watching the screen.”
    -Roger Ebert

  44. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    “In most aspects of life, I am very average, and my opinion is irrelevant”
    Amen brother. Amen.

  45. a_loco says:

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to point out palmtree, but I very much doubt anyone who isn’t passionate about film would go to a shot-for-shot discussion of Citizen Kane.

  46. palmtree says:

    So everyone who attends a classical music concert is by definition passionate about classical music? And besides, that’s actually not my point…
    Even Roger Ebert can afford to be humble about his amazing knowledge of film…maybe you can be too and realize most people in the world have the ability to observe detail, engage ideas, and be thoughtful regardless of their pedigree.

  47. a_loco says:

    Going to a shot by shot lecture of Citizen Kane is the same as going to a classical music concert? Not really.
    How many people not passionate about classical music would go to a note-by-note deconstruction of Tchaikovsky?
    And this is the same Roger Ebert that regularly criticizes lay audiences for liking, among other things, Transformers and Saw.
    Yes, most people can observe detail, engage ideas, and be thoughtful, but that doesn’t mean they regularly employ it when they’re watching movies, and if they do, they lack the background to take it to bigger concepts and ideas.
    Go ahead, ask some of your non-film loving friends what their favourite movies are and see if you respect those choices. Because when I ask mine, I hear Remember the Titans, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, American History X and a bunch of other movies that might be good, but only elicit this response because they’re purpose is to manipulate people who don’t know any better.

  48. leahnz says:

    good grief
    a_loco: you don’t ‘understand’ movies any better than anyone else.
    there is no ‘understanding’ art, there is only observation and interpretation.
    this is where the study of art can be valuable, because it provides context into the INTERPRETATION of various mediums and art forms, which is quite often interesting and thought-provoking but by no means essential for thoughtful interpretation, because interpretation of art is ultimately individual.
    thru study one can gain a keener understanding of objective concepts such as technique, style, form, symbolism, etc etc., but even the keenest observer only ‘understands’ a work of art in so far as he/she understands an INTERPRETATION of that work based on either their own observation/experience, or what they have been told is the accepted interpretation (quite often opinion passed off as fact).
    only the artist knows the intent of his/her work, if indeed there is one. if you are able to listen to the actual artist re: the intent of the piece, then a degree of understanding may be achieved; in any other case, everything is down to interpretation, whether it be the mona lisa – the interpretation of which has been argued down thru the ages – to ‘yo mama’s last supper’.
    confusing interpretation for understanding is folly. only the artist is privy to intent, and in the case of film, many, many film-makers are quite open about the fact that the meaning/intent of their work is ambiguous, sometimes even to themselves.
    even in the case of clear intent by the film-maker, many are happy for differing or dissenting interpretations because it means they have crafted elements that prompt the viewer’s own imagination/intellect to engage.
    kubrick and lynch, for example, have been quite candid in this regard, and i’ve seen guillermo del toro speak to this very subject re: the interpretation of ‘pan’s labyrinth’ fairly recently, in which ambiguity intentionally lends itself to vastly different interpretations based on the mindset of the individual viewer, and not one of them is wrong because every interpretation is correct in the mind of the interpreter.
    (in the study of film and literature, for example, being told what to think and how something should be interpreted is rife; much of this is a big con-job, with the interpretation/theory of a particular observer or group afforded ‘expert’ status and thus an interpretation is passed off as fact when it is merely opinion dressed up as such)

  49. a_loco says:

    Let’s take this back to the beginning:
    “I actually criticized the movie becauseby empirically verifying the religion of the Navi, Cameron ruined the strength of the allegory, but I’m pretty sure the common man doesn’t give a shit.” (that’s me)
    For now, let’s ignore the whole empirical verifiction of religion thing, because not too many picked up on that. Instead, let’s focus on the Western forces and their encounter with “the other” which is rife with problems, which a lot of people have picked up on.
    Using an allegory to suggest that we should try to save the environmet? Cool. A little heavy-handed, but cool. Using an allegory they ascribes to Rousseau’s kind of racist noble savage theory? Suggesting that the indigenous tribes are better off sleeping under a tree and not getting educated? Suggesting that they need a white man to lead them in protecting their way of life? Not cool.
    But does the common man (or woman) give a shit? I doubt it.
    But of course, this is all an interpretation by academics that don’t know any better than anyone else, despite the fact that they’ve studied film for years while most people put on a movie to entertain themselves when they’re bored.
    Good work on dismissing the role of every film ctitic and scholar, leahnz, and informing me that their work is a “con job”. I’m sure they’d be delighted to hear that. And if you honestly think that’s the case, there really isn’t any arguing with you, because you’re misinformed and it doesn’t seem like anything is gonna convince you otherwise.
    Believe it or not, when students go to class in film, we talk about “objective concepts such as technique, style, form, symbolism, etc etc” and how they work (which is something that most people don’t know) among other things. What we don’t do is sit around and memorize the professor’s interpretation of a film verbatim, which, indeed, would be a waste of time.

  50. Foamy Squirrel says:

    At the risk of extending the argument that you’re looking to put to the side (which it probably should be), I’m still not sure you’re getting our objection. We’re not saying “academics… don’t know any better than anyone else”, we’re saying that basing your rejection or acceptance of an opinion based on the person who delivered it is pure hubris (and a demonstrated logical fallacy). If your actual position is different to this, you’ve done an awfully good job of masking it with your condescending tone about how you should “dismiss” the “common man”.
    Leah’s reference to a “con job” is a reference to how common this is – it’s not merely limited to film and literature studies. If you’re going to commend her for “dismissing the role of every film critic and scholar” then I shall have to commend you for misunderstanding the meaning of the word “rife”. Any serious film critic or scholar knows that there are bunko artists out there teaching the “one true way” of interpreting art (often times those bunko artists are classified as “everyone who isn’t me”).
    If you wish to go back to your original comments, I should also point out that the empirical verification of religion was addressed over thirty years ago.

  51. a_loco says:

    “we’re saying that basing your rejection or acceptance of an opinion based on the person who delivered it is pure hubris (and a demonstrated logical fallacy).”
    It’s an epistemological fallacy to claim that one can logically verify an opinion. Opinions have no external, objective truth value. There is no way to determine if an opinion is correct outside of a subjective perspective.
    We can, however, experientally infer a conclusion regarding the validity of a person’s opinions, and my experience informs me that people who are passionate and knowledgeable about film have more informed and relevant opinions regarding film.
    True, some normal people might insights into film which I might find interesting. I might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
    But there’s a shitload of bathwater.
    Understanding art isn’t the same as understanding an interpretation of it or thinking that one interpretation is correct. Very few (if any) academic critiques of film attempt to interpret the artist’s intent, and if leah thinks that they do, then she is misunderstanding the role of both film school and academic film criticism. And if you’re gonna bring your theory of bunko artists into the equation, then leah seems to believe that film schools are rife with retards that force their one true interpretation upon students. This is simply not true.

  52. Foamy Squirrel says:

    This is getting boring.
    To take your position to the logical (absurd) extreme, I give you the following exchange:
    a_loco: What do you think the best movie of the 90s was?
    A drugged up Ebert: Phwoar! Showgirls… that Elizabeth Berkley…
    Random bystander: Er… you don’t possibly think it might be something along the lines of Silence of the Lambs or Pulp Fiction?
    a_loco: How dare you utter your opinion in my presence, you have not attended a single film criticism class.
    Random bystander: But Ebert’s obviously…
    a_loco: Silence! The great Ebert has spoken! I will accept his opinion by a process which I have declared is not logical and not fallacious. By the way, if you too want to follow my excellent method of interpreting film I will agree to give private classes for a small fee.
    You don’t have to spend all your time asking random people their opinion, it’s fair and reasonable to direct your efforts to those who are most likely to give a valid response. However, it’s unfair and unreasonable to reject a response on the basis of the person regardless of what the response actually is.

  53. a_loco says:

    So your last straw is to claim that I accept any opinion that comes from somebody with credentials?
    Accepting an opinion is different from finding insight from it. Quit building straw men.
    And if someone did offer a lucid and knowledgeable defense of Showgirls, I would definitely listen to it.

  54. David Poland says:

    “Good” is a relative concept… even to the individual.
    Do audiences think Transformers 2 is “good?” Well, good for what they want. Do they think it is the same as Citizen Kane… or even Raiders of the Lost Ark? Unlikely. But you don’t have to have a movie on your top ten list to like it.
    I loved Black Dynamite and Where The Wild Things Are And The White Ribbon and Police, Adjective and others… how could it be that I would define them all under the same simplistic idea as “good.”
    8 Legged Freaks is GREAT. But it’s not good.
    Bigger picture, “the great unwashed” is the great unwashed. But they are also allowed their tastes, however educated or not. How people feel and how people think are neither mutually exclusive or inherently redundant.
    Avatar is a genre picture, first and last. There is some great filmmaking. And there are some big ideas. But that doesn’t mean that many people won’t see the “white man” thing or the group wave of prayer and just get off of that train. That is their right and, by the way, not an intellectual choice. But you can’t argue that a failure to care about those things in the same way makes the opinions of those who don’t agree WRONG.
    Keep in mind… The Hurt Locker was seen in theaters by fewer than 2 million people because Summit didn’t believe that “normal” action filmgoers would pay to see it… so they didn’t sell it to them at all.

  55. palmtree says:

    It comes down to this…having knowledge and passion is totally exclusive from being pompous about it.
    So the “common man” doesn’t care that the allegory features a white man saving Na’vi? Is that seriously what you think only film lovers would be able to understand or think about? Talk about straw men…
    Would people attend a note by note deconstruction of classical music? If they wanted to impress their date or feel cultured they might. If it was hosted by a celebrity they might. If it was a piece of music that was hailed as the most important piece of music ever written they might. This is boring, and you’ve still missed the point…you don’t have to be passionate about anything to be in a room and experience something.

  56. Foamy Squirrel says:

    I will summarize your posts thusly:
    – You should only accept the opinion of an educated person as their education is a requirement to understand art.
    “People do not have an inherent understanding of art. Education and experience allow people to understand art”
    – Except when you shouldn’t.
    “So your last straw is to claim that I accept any opinion that comes from somebody with credentials?”
    – You should also dismiss the opinion of an uneducated person.
    “If years of… (doing stuff)… doesn’t allow me to dismiss the opinions of people who go to a movie theatre 4 times a year, then we might as well pay attention to every 20-something male douchebag”
    – Except when you shouldn’t.
    “if someone did offer a lucid and knowledgeable defense of Showgirls, I would definitely listen to it.”
    – And you may or may not find insight from any opinion you accept.
    “Accepting an opinion is different from finding insight from it.”
    You will forgive me if I don’t find this position entirely persuasive. And if it’s not your position (as you accuse me of building straw men, a charge that could equally apply to some of your posts) then I repeat that you’ve done a very good job of masking what your true position is.

  57. RudyV says:

    From yahoo.com’s coverage of the Oscar nominations:
    “When the nominations for the Academy Awards were announced this morning in Beverly Hills, it quickly became clear that this year it’s a battle between the critical favorite “The Hurt Locker” and “Avatar,” the highest-grossing movie in the history of human civilization.”
    Umm, yeah. And some people still wonder why folks are pushing for a ranking based on tickets sold, if not by inflation-adjusted figures.

  58. leahnz says:

    “some normal people might insights into film which I might find interesting”
    some ‘normal’ people? man, you are a monumental piece of work, a_loco
    “For now, let’s ignore the whole empirical verifiction of religion thing, because not too many picked up on that. Instead, let’s focus on the Western forces and their encounter with “the other” which is rife with problems, which a lot of people have picked up on.
    Using an allegory to suggest that we should try to save the environmet? Cool. A little heavy-handed, but cool. Using an allegory they ascribes to Rousseau’s kind of racist noble savage theory? Suggesting that the indigenous tribes are better off sleeping under a tree and not getting educated? Suggesting that they need a white man to lead them in protecting their way of life? Not cool.”
    but this is merely YOUR INTERPRETATION, doolally!
    because others may also interpret it this way DOES NOT MEAN IT’S CORRECT; many others don’t. so they’re wrong? no, they just have a different interpretation than you.
    if you can’t see that there are different ways to interpret the same concepts in the context of a film and that it’s not dependent on ‘film education’, you are truly deluded. the fact you still don’t realise that your OPINION is not correct just because you’ve studied films in class, but merely YOUR INTERPRETATION, speaks volumes.
    nobody UNDERSTANDS art in a definitive way. from the loftiest academics to the schoolgirl on the street, one INTERPRETS it according to their own sensibilities and experience, and no one interpretation is ‘correct’.
    (but the fact you think you ‘understand’ film and other ‘normal’ people don’t is hardly surprising given the alarming degree to which you are full of yourself)
    film criticism: INTERPRETATION, ARTICULATION of OPINION
    film study: INTERPRETATION, ARTICULATION of OPINION
    yes, one learns to identify such concepts as technique, style, form, symbolism, etc in film studies… SO WHAT?
    being able to identify such concepts does not mean you have any more inherent or superior an ability to experience and extract meaning from these elements in film. style and form are intrinsic to art, accessible to each and every person to experience and interpret as they will, not just film school students. because you study these concepts in a classroom you think that makes your interpretation more VALID than someone who doesn’t? nonsense.
    while you might better able to ARTICULATE your interpretation due to having the tools and context afforded by study, this does NOT mean you have any greater inherent understanding. same goes for academics and critics; it’s all the skillful articulation of INTERPRETATION/OPINION.
    yes, there are people who wouldn’t recognise style or symbolism if it bit them on the ass, but all the film study in the world is unlikely to really help people without any intrinsic artistic proclivity; conversely, ASSUMING that most ‘normal’ people who haven’t done film studies or watch 100 films a year can’t recognise style and symbolism (even if they don’t know how to articulate this) and interpret meaning from these concepts that have been used in art since year dot – that they’re opinion is ignorant and not worthy of consideration – is bollocks.
    (and i don’t misunderstand – nor am i misinformed – about a single thing, a_loco, but you keep telling yourself that to prop up that ego)
    so to recap for the self-aggrandising:
    one only ‘understands’ film in so far as one understands their own – or others – INTERPRETATION of film. no one interpretation is correct, just like like no one flavour of ice cream is the best. studying film is great and worthwhile, but it doesn’t mean you UNDERSTAND, it means you are likely better able to define and articulate the terms of your INTERPRETATION more readily.
    yawn
    (oh, and ‘the common man watches 4 films a year’: more bollocks)

  59. leahnz says:

    ‘their opinion’ rather than ‘they’re’, duh. writing fast with choppy editing to boot

  60. RudyV says:

    And from Andrew Grant at salon.com:
    “What passes for screenwriting these days is worrisome by any measure. “Avatar,” the most successful film of all time (and a glorious spectacle), has some of the worst dialogue in recent memory.”
    I’m sure the makers of “Blair Witch” would like to argue about the definition of “successful”, especially if “Avatar” really did cost $500 mil.

  61. a_loco says:

    Foamy, there’s really not much contradictory about what I’ve said, even if you can pull quotes from about 10 long responses making it look like there is.
    “some ‘normal’ people? man, you are a monumental piece of work, a_loco”
    Wow, you really get stuck in the terminology, don’t you? “people with little passion or knowledge of cinema” is a little long to keep typing over and over again.
    “but this is merely YOUR INTERPRETATION, doolally! ”
    It doesn’t matter, the film begs these questions, and most people don’t realize it. Even if you don’t think the film does these things (like Poland, for example), someone who is knowledgeable about film will realize these questions need to be addressed.
    “the fact you still don’t realise that your OPINION is not correct just because you’ve studied films in class, but merely YOUR INTERPRETATION, speaks volumes.”
    Actually, I’ve stated numerous times that no opinion is correct.
    “nobody UNDERSTANDS art in a definitive way.”
    Never said that they did, but there are different degrees of understanding, which even Foamy SEEMS to admit to (“Education and experience increase the probability that an opinion is more correct or more valid”). If you ever went to film school, you might be surprised at how little focus is based on interpretation, especially interpretation of the author’s intent, which is almost never broached.
    “(oh, and ‘the common man watches 4 films a year’: more bollocks)”
    True, this was meant to be a hyperbole, although Sam didn’t take it that way. But the same thing (bullocks) could be said for your statements that most people watch a “crapton” of movies (not compared to you and I) or that most people offer intelligent responses to films (IMDb reviews beg to differ).
    For my money, the manner in which you dismiss the insights of people who dedicate their life to cinema is far more condescending than anything I’ve said about “people with little passion or knowledge of cinema”, most of whom have interests and passions in which my opinion is utterly dismissible (e.g. sports, cars, birds, etc.)
    Go ahead and ask five “people with little passion or knowledge of cinema” what their favourite movies are and why, then compare their answers to those of people who are passionate and knowledgeable about film. The movies are going to be different, the reasons are going to be different, ability to articulate aside, which means that the form of film is not “accessible to each and every person to experience and interpret as they will”. Accessibility depends upon education and experience
    Seriously, haven’t you seen enough art films to realize that a lot of them are not accessible to mainstream audiences? How many “people with little passion or knowledge of cinema” would bring up valid points about Antichrist? I’ll tell you right now that most of them would despise the movie and not want to talk about it.

  62. a_loco says:

    I must say, though. I’m really enjoying this little debate.

  63. RudyV says:

    Though “Watchmen” was the only movie I went to see last year, I do not at all see myself as a “common man”.

Quote Unquotesee all »

“But okay, I promise you now that if I ever retire again, I’m going to ensure that I can’t walk it back. I’ll post a series of the most disgusting, offensive, outrageous statements you can ever imagine. That way it will be impossible for me to ever be employed again. No one is going to take my calls. No one is going to want to be seen with me. Oh, it will be scorched earth. I will have torched everything. I’m going to flame out in the most legendary fashion.”
~ Steven Soderbergh

I feel strongly connected to young cinephile culture. The thing about filmmaking—and cinephilia—is that you can’t keep hanging out with your own age group as you get older. They drop off, move somewhere. You can’t put together a crew of sixty-somethings. It’s the same for cinephilia: my original set of cinephile friends are watching DVDs at home or delving into 1958 episodes of ‘Gunsmoke,’ something like that. The people who are out there tend to be young, and I happen to be doing the same thing still, so it’s natural that I move in their circles.

In terms of the filmmaking, there was a gear shift: my first movies focused on people around my age, and I followed them for three films. Until The Unspeakable Act, I was using the same actors, not because of an affinity for people at a specific age, but because of my affinity for the actors. I like to work with actors a second time, especially if I don’t feel confident casting a new film. But The Unspeakable Act was a different script, and I had to cast all new people. Even for the older roles, I couldn’t get the people I’d worked with before. But when it was over, the same thing happened: I wanted to work with Tallie again in the worst way, and I started the process all over again.

I think Rohmer did something similar around the time of Perceval and Catherine de HeilbronnHe developed new groups of people that he liked to work with. These gear shifts are natural. Even if you want to follow certain actors to the end of their life (which I kind of do) the variety of ideas that you generate makes it necessary to change. And once you’ve made the change, you’ve got all these new people around.”
~ Dan Sallitt