My name is Matthew Sims and I am a 25 year-old journalist from Victoria, Australia, writing about film and TV on the side.
The Anomaly of M. Night Shyamalan: Will "The Visit" Be Worth Seeing?
Explore the filmography of M. Night Shyamalan, i.e. what marked his growth in popularity as a director/film-maker and why he has fallen so far and so rapidly to become, essentially, a joke of the film industry. Analyse what makes some of his most notorious films (i.e. The Happening, The Last Airbender, After Earth) both bad, but entertaining to watch. Is there is still a place for his well-intentioned film-making in modern Hollywood or should he be dismissed as an anomaly of the 90’s which happened to be lucky twice in a row with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Will ‘The Visit" be worth seeing or will it fail both financially and critically, and potentially, mark the end of his career? Or is he invulnerable from this sort of flak?
The Elusive Attraction of "Feel-Bad" Movies: Disgust and Shock as Selling Points
Explore the world of "feel-bad" movies, or films which appear, to aim, first and foremost, to disgust, offend or shock its audience. You could focus on films like The Human Centipede franchise, especially because the third instalment is in the process of being released. Analyse how these films are marketed, how the content aims to attract (or rather repulse – and by doing so, attract) the audience? Why are people drawn to such films and why do they continue to be green-lit? Can they ever exhibit any sort of artistic significance or social weight or are they just gratituous exploitation and a waste of time? Other examples or case studies could include: A Serbian Film, the Saw franchise (especially the later ones post-Saw 2 or 3), Antichrist, Dogtooth, Funny Games, Requiem for a Dream, Salo. Or, in addition/alternatively, you could stray away from horror and focus more on films which dwell in the realms of sadness and suffering or leave your with a bad taste in your mouth or just, generally, sad. These could include: American History X, The Green Mile, The Mist, other von Trier works (haven’t personally seen the older stuff, yet, but I have heard they are depressing), Melancholia, Seven, Gone Girl, Happiness. I am sure the list could go on and on.
Would most likely focus on film, but if you could come up with case studies from other mediums, go for it.
Working Towards Understanding: A Place for Narrative Complexity in Modern Art
Mainstream art/entertainment production appears to create works which are reducible to either an easily explained concept or premise, which can usually be understood with one interaction with it. This also fits into the industrial nature of entertainment production, wherein an artist usually approaches a production company with an idea and that production company decides whether they will fund said idea. With examples of works which exemplify not being able to be summed up briefly, intentionally or otherwise, juxtaposed to those which aimed to be easily explained and understood, analyse the current landscape of art and entertainment. Is there a place for narrative complexity and the potential of a lack of understanding in modern art?
Examples could include Inherent Vice, Infinite Jest, Synecdoche, New York, Primer, Donnie Darko, Cloud Atlas, Upstream Color, Mulholland Drive, House of Leaves.
Could focus on film, literature or arts in general.
Hey man, I regret making this comment and I apologise for making such an unqualified statement. I suppose I was considering it derivative of the Coen Brothers’ films at the time, but I had a lot more problems with Season 2 than I do with Season 1, speaking retrospectively. To try to qualify the statement, I only said that it was a “bit derivative”, which is inevitable in any medium which is inspired by its predecessors or is expected to make a profit by being worth banking on. So, you could say any small thing was derivative, such as the outsider villain, the endearing and well-intentioned person who can’t catch a break. I wasn’t trying to say that it was ripping anything off or anything, but I guess it was just my cynical and overly critical mind repelling anything I had seen before. Like I said, I understand the appeal of both seasons, and I like some certain aspects, but I think I was just becoming disillusioned when the veil of what made up these stories fell, and I couldn’t look behind certain plot holes or general suspension of disbelief. Anyway, just wanted to qualify what I said, and try to affirm that I wasn’t trying to objectively discredit the show, just saying that I was subjectively indifferent. I elaborate my thoughts on Season 2 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4xNnlsoOM8
I would disagree that the story is completely fictional. Admittedly, certain parts are created for the sake of dramatic tension or character development, but I think that is done for the respect of real people. Of course, I agree that real life was not quite so dramatic or clean as the show purports it to be, I think they had to accept that they could not do a factually accurate representation of William and Virginia’s life without the television show being dull, or at least dull in respect to other television programming (i.e. Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad etc.). In other words, it makes for a great non-fiction book, but would not have translated well into televisual art. I am not arguing about fairness, just about trying to balance between what is entertaining to ordinary audiences and what is factually accurate so as to allow for more people to become aware of their story and hopefully be able to figure out what is truth and what is fiction.
Great article, Nicole. Spoilers are an interesting beast. With websites like Reddit, which encourage constant activity and engagement, it is hard to avoid them. While knowing of spoilers prior to an engagement with a text inevitably changes said engagement, I do not think it negates it. Of course, though, it is preferable to be unaware of spoilers.
Great article. It is interesting not just to think about the controversy surrounding these images and what these reflect about our understanding of what art may or may not encompass, but the effect that art has, or may not have, on its subject/s. Just because the children may have been accepting of the practice at the time does not mean that they will into the future. As well, it touches on how much rights a parent has in shaping their child. None of this is to say that the photographs or their taking are inherently bad or necessarily, harmful, but, just that it is interesting to think about the effects of art on other people, especially the malleable minds of children.
While I, personally, am, for the most part, indifferent to Robin Williams as an actor and simply see him as Robin Williams playing Robin Williams with his usual standup, silly faces and voices schtick, he has some unique roles: e.g. Good Will Hunting, Awakenings and seemingly, this. On my watchlist.
Great article. I have loved playing Fallout 3 and New Vegas and agree with most of your points and while I would recommend it to most people because of these points, the ending sort of ruined the whole experience for me and left me with a not entirely favourable perspective on the game as a whole. Still, the feeling of walking around a vault is one which I have only experienced in a couple of other games. Another game which I might recommend for isolation is Alan Wake, although it is less open for exploration.
Have always been reluctant towards foreign movies or at least movies which require reading subtitles, but have lately watched a couple of really great ones. Have been meaning to check out some Godard and more Inarritu after Birdman. Thanks for this article.
Big Star is, I think, a criminally underrated band. I have never been able to get into The Replacements, except for Hold My Life. Been meaning to listen to some Gil Scott Heron after mentions and samples in LCD Soundsystem and Kanye West, respectively. Great article.