There is a superficial idea championed by some movies that dishonesty sells. Heist films like Hell or High Water or Ocean’s Eleven suggest that a caper can handsomely reward the protagonist, if it’s properly executed. White lies can tell a person, “exactly what they need to hear” as a plot contrivance for furthering a character’s confidence, like Neo in The Matrix. And even films that deride dishonesty often do so by showcasing the extreme fall that accompanies an ill-gotten rise, even though the character doesn’t necessarily need to consider their lies to be a transgression at all; think The Wolf of Wall Street, Catch Me if You Can, or other examples of hubris-infused justice. Rare is the film that showcases the psychological destruction that a lie can wreak on a person’s life. Tim Burton’s Big Eyes is a fascinating exploration of precisely that idea.
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.