May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
June 3, 2011
Over at the NYTimes, A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis defend the slow and boring.
MOVIES may be the only art form whose core audience is widely believed to be actively hostile to ambition, difficulty or anything that seems to demand too much work on their part. In other words, there is, at every level of the culture — among studio executives, entertainment reporters, fans and quite a few critics — a lingering bias against the notion that movies should aspire to the highest levels of artistic accomplishment.
Some of this anti-art bias reflects the glorious fact that film has always been a popular art form, a great democratic amusement accessible to everyone and proud of its lack of aristocratic pedigree. But lately, I think, protests against the deep-dish and the highbrow — to use old-fashioned populist epithets of a kind you used to hear a lot in movies themselves — mask another agenda, which is a defense of the corporate status quo. For some reason it needs to be asserted, over and over again, that the primary purpose of movies is to provide entertainment, that the reason everyone goes to the movies is to have fun. Any suggestion to the contrary, and any film that dares, however modestly, to depart from the orthodoxies of escapist ideology, is met with dismissal and ridicule.
Even though, in the bottom-line, real-world scheme of things, the commercial prospects of a movie like “Meek’s Cutoff” are marginal — and even though the distributors of foreign-language films can only dream of such marginality — it is still somehow necessary, every so often, to drag “art movies” into the dock as examples of snobbery, pretense or a suspect form of aesthetic nutritionalism. Vegetables! Yuck! And the supposedly more sophisticated arenas of cultural discourse are hardly immune.
Alissa Wilkinson teaches at the King’s College in New York City and edits Comment. She and her husband Tom like the brunch at Dizzy’s in Brooklyn best.