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What We Talk About When We Talk About Film

March 18, 2015 by Alison Bailes divider image
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In reviewing films these days, it is almost impossible to focus solely on what is on screen rather than the hubbub brewing around them. Is “Boyhood” a magnificent, intimate epic about growing up or is it a glorified home movie patched together with a clever soundtrack? Is “American Sniper” a gripping portrayal of a boots-on-the-ground […]

In reviewing films these days, it is almost impossible to focus solely on what is on screen rather than the hubbub brewing around them. Is “Boyhood” a magnificent, intimate epic about growing up or is it a glorified home movie patched together with a clever soundtrack? Is “American Sniper” a gripping portrayal of a boots-on-the-ground soldier doing what he is trained to do or is it a xenophobic, simplistic portrait of rah–rah American patriotism with a blood-thirsty maniac at its center? It is becoming increasingly difficult to separate one’s viewing experience from the myriad op-ed and water-cooler dissections of the politics and maneuverings behind the machinery of filmmaking.

And never more so than at this time of year, when film studios and marketing agencies spend millions of dollars to sway the court of public opinion in favor of their product with an eye to taking home a coveted Academy Award. Viewing “The Imitation Game”, a thrilling, old-fashioned piece of cinema, we now have to consider what to think about the petition that has landed on the doorstep of Prime Minister David Cameron to pardon 49,000 men convicted of Gross Indecency by the British Government in the 1950s. The protagonist of the film, Alan Turing was indeed pardoned, mainly because it became known that he was instrumental in cracking the Germans’ Enigma code machine during the Second World War. What about the others? Surely they deserve the same treatment. And if a film can effect social or political change, then we should applaud. But is this sidebar what we should judge the film on? A film should be judged on its merits as effective cinema…superb acting, clear scripting, tight directing…rather than merely its political message or good intentions. If it can do both, then all the better. Continue reading here


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