I’ve been writing the same, tired “Year in Review” article for a few years now. With the exception of one particularly creative dive into Boethius, admittedly a deep track reference if there ever was one, these write ups have been unremarkable and, I confess, lazy.
I’ve been doing this blog for almost seven years now. I don’t think our pop culture discourse has ever been noisier. It also, has never been less creative.
I read the same article about the same movie probably four or five times, every time. The assessment of film has become of an inescapable groupthink, which more often than not settles on analysis that is an inch deep and a mile wide. This problem isn’t unique to film, it’s in writing about television, sports, politics, basically all of journalism. We’re drawn to the hot take, the short article, the snarky humor, the bland repetitive analysis.
So what does this have to do with the state of popular culture in 2018? After all, 2018 was the year that brought us the best superhero movie (Black Panther), the best series finale of a television show (The Americans), Spike Lee’s return to form (Blackkklansman), and Steven Spielberg’s return to blockbusters (Ready Player One). The year’s biggest movie, globally, was the culmination of a massive series of films the likes of which we haven’t seen before (Avengers: Infinity War). These are real achievements, but something about them feels hollow. That isn’t right.
Film is about images. Roger Ebert understood this and repeated it often. What is lacking from the conversation is how those images make us feel. What they mean. In the moment, and more importantly, in the next moment.
Everything isn’t meant to be compared to everything else before it. With so many legacy movies, series, and filmmakers out there, we’ve been obsessed with just that – legacy. Legacy before the ink of history is even dry. This constant comparison makes art disposable. The art isn’t appreciated for what it is, but for how it measures up to other art. This, in case I’m not being clear, is a bad thing.
You could write about Blackkklansman and compare it to Lee’s earlier work, or you can talk about how Lee uses the film as a sledgehammer to shake the audience out of complacency. You could knock Spielberg as overly nostalgic, or you could point out how he uses nostalgia as a tool to reveal the humanity of an artificial world in Ready Player One. Black Panther is many things to many people, but instead of writing about what everyone is talking about, you can look deeper and see how and why Ryan Coogler’s best shot is when Killmonger walks into the throne-room. Ignore the noise – what does art mean to YOU? That is what I’m to endeavor to answer in the future.
That brings me to what’s changing on this page going forward:
1) I’m not writing traditional reviews anymore. See a movie or show, or don’t. I’m going to be writing about my impressions beyond simply answering whether art is good or bad.
2) Historical context needs time to develop. A new rule: a film or series needs to be at least five years old to have its influence discussed, ten to be understood, thirty to be fully appreciated.
3) I’m changing up the format a bit and working on a few other changes. It’s time.
4) I’ll still do Game of Thrones and maybe other Power Rankings, but I’ll be more thoughtful about a character or group’s story in the broader context.
5) I’m going to write about more random topics. I like to do that.
Thanks for sticking with this experiment that I started in 2012. I’ll do my best to continue making it worthwhile.
December 21, 2018