I concur, Mr. Emerson. Please elaborate.

In responding to a post on closing shots by David Bordwell, Scanners mastermind Jim Emerson opened a recent post with one of the most beautiful assertions I’ve seen made by a major critic:

They don’t teach cinematic grammar in elementary schools, though they ought to.

The downside is that the rest of his post has nothing to do with this assertion; the upside is that it’s a dynamite post about the cinematic language of opening shots, one of Emerson’s particular interests.  I just wanted to make sure I noted Emerson’s support, in theory, of mandatory cineliteracy education, since he’s a professional, and one of the sharpest around at that.  I would very much like to see him marshal his thoughts on how cineliteracy can be achieved and, ideally, what shape it should take. ☕

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About tardishobbit

Reads. Writes. Watches movies. Occasionally stirs from chair. Holds an advanced degree in heuristic indolence. View all posts by tardishobbit

6 responses to “I concur, Mr. Emerson. Please elaborate.

  • Dan

    I’m surprised that opening shot project doesn’t have Touch of Evil, The Player, or Snake Eyes among the contributions…

  • David

    I scanned Emerson’s post when he put it up, as I sometimes do (only a fraction of his posts interest me, but he has spotlighted some good ideas and articles by other people). For the sake of discussion, and because it’s fairly recent in my mind, I think that the ending of the first Rocky film is perfect. It’s just after the fight ends, emotions are higher than ever, Rocky and Adrian embrace and kiss and finally say “I love you!” (and they’ve earned it by waiting!) while the crowd goes wild, and then freeze, credits. Perfect, sublime. Audience goes out on a high.

    But to your point, I’m not sure if film studies should be in grammar school, but certainly in colleges it should be given more attention and respect. Perhaps even a basic cineliteracy course might be good. I’m still a fan of books over movies as a healthier storytelling form (even bad books force you to think a little bit, but bad movies suck out your brains), but just think: if the entire moviegoing public understood the basics of what makes a good movie versus a bad one, and had respect for good craft, and did not patronize horrible craft…think how many more good movies we’d get each year? And the downside, there are already too many good movies for me to watch; they just take a little tracking down.

    • mjschneider

      There’s a lot in your response to unpack, and you touch on issues that will crop up again and again. I covered a bit of that in my first big cineliteracy post, but the whole literature/film dichotomy is something that should be addressed, and the plain fact that cineliteracy probably won’t lead to an increase in quality filmmaking is another big thing. I don’t want to be lame about this and say “Wait for it, trust me,” but since they are significant issues, I think they deserve to be addressed in depth. I may prioritize addressing the points you raise specifically in posts in the very near future. I do appreciate that feedback, and I promise that it will get the attention it deserves!

      Re: Rocky, I liked the ending. I actually saw the movie for the first time only a few months ago. Somehow, I managed to see parts 2 and 3 some years before, but I never got around to the original. I wouldn’t say that it lived up to the hype for me (largely because I know a lot of people who cite it as among their very top favorites of all time, so living up to that amount of hype is pretty well impossible), but I liked the film, and I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t really what I expected. I guess I expected more of a standard underdog sports drama, but the emphasis was more on the drama of expectations and building up of one’s own spirit. I liked that. Considering what an iconic film it is, I was very glad that the film itself is very modest.

  • David

    No worries, I was just offering a few thoughts on the topic. I look forward to your future posts, and once I have some time will go back to more of your previous ones to read and maybe comment.

    Same here, I hadn’t seen it until a few months ago. I expected it to be a good underdog story, and was also surprised by the more tender, slower-paced character drama that it was. Its modesty, as you rightly note, is part of what makes it good. For me it exceeded the hype greatly because the hype, to me, had suggested just a really good version of the typical adrenaline-fueled inspirational sports stories where winning the end game is the most important thing. I’d have been happy with that, but the movie was just so much more mature than that. Rocky himself was startlingly mature and perceptive, and his romance with Adrian is one of the sweetest I’ve seen in any movie. Anyway, that’s a lot to write about a side point to this post, so I’ll leave it at that. I won’t be reviewing it since it’s not sci-fi or fantasy, but I appreciate the chance to puzzle out to another person why I liked it. Thanks!

    • mjschneider

      I’m very happy to be your Rocky sounding-board. :)

      Stallone is an intriguing figure to me. It impresses me that a guy who is virtually synonymous with dumbbell 80s action schock should be one of the most enduring filmmakers of his generation. The guy has been around since the 70s, and he’s still out there doing his thing (for better or worse). Not only that, but legitimate critics are still debating the relative merits of his body of work. Considering the fact that, apart from Rocky, most of his stuff has been initially met with a sniffy dismissal, that’s pretty solid. None of his contemporaries — save perhaps Bruce Willis — have maintained the kind of longevity and relevance to mainstream entertainment that Stallone has. I’m not a huge fan in particular (though I have really dug several of his films), but he’s earned a measure of admiration.

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