Sunday, July 10, 2005


After witnessing the carnage that is The Fantastic Four this afternoon, I came to this shocking realization: I have ceased to be a discerning art connoisseur. I simply can't tell a good film from a poor one anymore.

I've enjoyed the summer blockbusters so far this year; Batman Begins, Fantastic Four, Star Wars III, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, etc. This very fact is what bothers me. It bothers me fantastically.

What, though, makes art? How are movies, and their static brethren, photos, be judged aesthetically?

There are three types of movies: art films, entertainment films, and bad films. Each large category has subcategories, named, for the most part, thusly:
-Pretentious films
-Accidentally philosophical films
-purposefully philosophical films
-Historical, documentary, or otherwise educational films
-Comic book, action, adventure, thriller, suspense, and horror films
-Romantic comedies
-Movies you forget a week after seeing
-Films so awful they are funny
-Films that you have to see to be hip and in the know, yet are of poor quality

The difference between, say, Spiderman and Coffee and Cigarettes is that where one is a flashy trip into another dimension, the other is an understated introspection into our own dimension. What makes a film art, what makes it more than simple, mindless entertainment, is the manner by which a director can purposefully depict a larger philosophical question or value judgment about the world as they see it. Movies have artistic merit when they are the abstract recreation of the world, according to the creator's values.

Fantastic Four, Batman, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith had nothing to say about the world, they reflected no real values, and there was no abstract recreation portrayed, thus, they cannot be called artistic films. This doesn't necessarily mean, though, that they were bad. In fact, it seems obvious why most people prefer The War of the Worlds to Pi; why drink wine when a soda will do? Art is hard to understand; it takes effort and thought and creative reasoning, it takes rationality and an ability to discover an artists original motives. X-Men, on the other hand, simply requires that we sit still for a couple hours and take in the sights. Summer movies are the aesthetic equivalents to romance novels in literature; sure, it might be better to read The Republic, but isn't Captain Montegue's Love Affair a nice break sometimes?

How do we judge this brain candy, then? The normal rules for aesthetic judgment can't apply, as these types of movies don't really merit it. Instead, the only things to judge are technical things, like special effects and camera work, as well as professional things, like acting and script writing. Given these criteria, Fantastic Four, wasn't fantastic at all, but not too bad. The acting was passable, the special effects were good, and the story (if it can even be said that there was one) certainly took me out of reality for a moment. Batman Begins was much better, as the acting was top notch and the story was far more developed, although the camera work was incoherent and distracting.

Summer is all about brain candy. Enjoy it.


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