The Time Has Come to Make a Choice, Mr. Anderson: “The Matrix” and Romantic Realism

The Matrix is replete with allusions to classic philosophical ideas.  The plot references Plato’s Cave and the world of forms, Descartes’ First Meditation and the evil demon, and Hilary Putnam’s “brain in a vat” scenario – all ruminations on the nature of reality and the possibility that we only perceive an illusion.  The film also considers the tension between free will and determinism, mostly conveying its stance on this fundamental philosophical issue not through long-winded discussion, but through an essential tenet of Romanticism:  the plot hinges on the genuine choices made by its characters.

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Clarice Starling, Meet Dr. Hannibal Lecter – a Scene Analysis

One of the most enthralling sequences in The Silence of the Lambs is the first meeting between Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and it is a masterclass in visual storytelling.  This piece will analyze this entire sequence shot-by-shot,  explaining the cinematic techniques that director Jonathan Demme and cinematographer Tak Fujimoto use to tell this crucial portion of their story.  We’ll be looking at different aspects of each shot including:  composition, point of view, camera movement, pacing, and more.  We’ll see how in a mere six minutes and three seconds, these 60 shots convey characterization, plot, and even crucial thematic ideas that would develop through the course of the film.

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“John Wick: Chapter 2” Honors the Original and Extends Its Aesthetic to New Heights

The sequel to the wildly surprising gun-fu action flick John Wick picks up right where the original left off, both in terms of plot and aesthetic.  The signature stylistic elements of the original are all here:  extensive worldbuilding, lengthy camera shots, and heavily-choreographed fight scenes more reliant on stunt work than on CGI.  The sequel extends these elements, but also has some unique ideas as well.  The locations where John Wick fights are far more varied in the sequel, and which not only makes the background more colorful and interesting, but indicates John Wick’s own personal struggle in the film.  John Wick: Chapter 2 is a thoroughly successful continuation of the series, remaining true to the magic of the original, and expanding upon it in intelligent ways.

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Horror by the Numbers

“The quality of any creative endeavor tends to approach the level of taste of whoever is in charge.”
-John Gruber

Ask fans of horror films how they feel about the current state of the genre, and you’re almost guaranteed to get a bunch of different answers. One group will point to the recent string of powerful Indie horror movies that have been released and conclude that it has never been a better time to get scared at the movie theatre, especially with the recent release of The VVitch. Another group may point to the existence of middling Hollywood horror with generic names like The Boy or The Forest and say that there is little of value out there from the big studios. You may even get some incredibly frustrated people who are fed up with manipulative garbage leaning on jump-scares and thin concepts (Ouija, anyone?). So, what the hell is happening out there? This fragmentation is the result of particular market forces which have dictated that films in the horror genre do not need to be of good quality to be wildly successful. As a result, the impetus towards quality comes from the aesthetic pride of the creators. Lacking that, studios are completely comfortable with churning out garbage for financial gain. Continue reading “Horror by the Numbers”

The Basics of Romantic Realism

The first aesthetics post on this blog sought to broadly define the philosophical field of aesthetics, tasked with the study of art and its role in human life. In it, I mentioned that there are many different viewpoints and theories in this field, and that I would be approaching the questions of aesthetics from the perspective of a particular school: Romantic Realism. So, with our foundational knowledge of aesthetics taken care of, we are now prepared to delve into this particular school of thought, which will be the focus of this piece.

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The Basics of Film Aesthetics

In the mission statement of this blog, I indicated that I would be approaching the field of film criticism from the perspective of a particular school of aesthetics – Romantic Realism. But, in order to establish what is meant by “Romantic Realism”, to explain its principles and apply its methods of analysis, there is a little background work that must be done first. There is a hierarchy to any field in philosophy, and we can’t begin with Romantic Realism without first discussing aesthetics as a whole, particularly in the context of film. This is the purpose of my first post on aesthetics – to define precisely what is meant by “film aesthetics”, and to provide a foundation on which we can build more complex ideas.
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