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More Art-related Ramblings…

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I realise that my blog posts seem to vary immensely from the downright serious to the random and mundane. I mean, I went from rambling about the Ten Commandments to cute rabbits and spring flowers. And now I’m going to revert to some serious-ish rambling again. I like the word “rambling.” It totally implies that I’m just going to go on and on as long as I like and that my thoughts will most probably not be in the correct logical order. 8D

I find myself questioning my capacity to deal with all this academic subject matter more often than I like. Usually the thoughts go something like this: “What was I thinking? I don’t even much like most of the films recommended. Does that mean I really have no taste and no sense of films? I have a really difficult time keeping up with even casual conversations amongst my classmates about films because I haven’t seen the large majority of the films that they’ve seen. Why is it that the stuff I like most of them disdain and the stuff I dislike are the ones praised to the skies?”

(Regarding the fact that I’m no match for my classmates in terms of movies viewed, I usually try to comfort myself and compensate by watching the East Asian movies instead. Somehow I deal with the Japanese, Chinese and Korean films much better than I do the European ones – although I can’t say I love them all either. hahah)

And I’ve found that I like Mona Lisa Smile more and more these days. I think I can include it in my list of favourite films already. It’s like a feminine version of Dead Poets’ Society but is maybe a slightly less impressive film. Still, I like it. After all, I can relate to girls better than boys. And it talks about art. =)

I like this one particular scene where Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts), the teacher, is trying to open her students’ minds to different types of art.

A photograph of Katherine Watson’s mother is projected onto the screen.

Katherine: This is my mom. Is it art?
Student 1: It’s a snapshot.
Katherine: If I told you Ansel Adams had taken it would that make a difference?

Silence.

Student 2: Art isn’t art until someone says it is.
Katherine: It’s art!
Student 2: The right people.
Katherine: Who are they?

Exactly. Who are “the right people”? Does anyone really really have the right to call a piece of art or a film “good” or “bad”? Do I have to be bothered about whether this critic thinks that movie is good or whether that professor or author says this movie is bad? Do I have to care what everyone else thinks? Well, to some extent I have to care because I’m finding it a real pain to argue any point of view in academic writing, but let’s put that aside for now. hahah!

In fact, sometimes I think that for all the complaining about some films being “mainstream”, once you get into the higher echelons of film lovers (or any sort of art lover, for that matter), the “mainstream” suddenly becomes not mainstream. Because the majority in those circles dislike those. So the commercial and the arthouse kind of switch places. They don’t change genres or anything. They just change status.

But just because the critics, the writers, the “true” film lovers say something is good/bad, does it make it so? There may be a general set of universal standards by which you judge a work of art, but at the same time, people always like to say that art is subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So really, is it at all sensible to label any sort of art as good or bad? If I showed you a child’s drawing, what would you say? Unless you were the child’s parent, you might say something neutral like, “Oh, that’s cute.” But if I told you that hey, this was a drawing done by Michaelangelo when he was a kid, your reaction could be entirely different.

Coming back to the film thing, what makes a good film? Is it a film that makes you think about the universe (or at least question the director’s mind when he made it) or is it a film that makes you laugh, cry, and care about the characters? If critics call a film good but the film made me disgusted or depressed, is it still good? If a film was panned in reviews, but it made me feel happy, is it then still considered bad? Maybe I just think this way because I’m female and therefore way more emotional and find it really hard to detach my emotions from other stuff. Yet for me, art (and films and music and other artistic things) is so tied into the emotion that if I was to remove my feelings from the equation, then it’s just… exactly what it is. It becomes just a pretty picture (or at least a technically-accomplished one).

I vaguely remember saying this before, but anyway I’ll repeat it: can you really enjoy art/film/music if you detach the emotion from it? You may be able to judge it more fairly from a technical standpoint, but what else do you get from it then? What’s the point of art without the feelings or sensations or appeal?

I think it’s clear to most people who know me that I like the arts to be happy or at least hopeful. It’s probably because I’m usually of a pessimistic turn of mind. I don’t need more encouragement to think about depressing or negative things. lol. Of course, it does explain my penchant for things like Disney films and the Hollywood musicals of the 1950s and happy J-pop songs…

2 Comments

  1. I judge a movie good or bad as to how much it has moved me or made me think. Or how much it makes me want to watch it again.

    So an utterly depressing and dark movie may still be good. Just as a happy one may be.

  2. So an utterly depressing and dark movie may still be good. Just as a happy one may be.
    It may indeed!
    I just don’t like it when people dismiss happy movies just because they’re… well, happy. Or corny. Or light-hearted. Whatever. There’s this prevalence of high praise for the dark movies because they make people think (supposedly), which is fine on the one hand, but for me, if it makes me think but I don’t want to watch it again……… well. Heh.

    So I suppose my point is that maybe no one really has the right to call a movie good or bad except by their own chosen standards. I think. 8D

Got anything to add or say? :D