March 20th, 2007

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11:54 pm - on comparing art...

Originally uploaded by chrismaverick.
So, in the midst of my 365 Days project (avaliable for viewing on LiveJournal at 365mav - cheap plug), I got into a discussion as to what the better movie is between Scarface and The Matrix. I am of the opinion that while I am actually a big fan of the first Matrix film but I'd argue that Scarface is the better movie. Matrix is of course very enjoyable, but at the end of the day is just a REALLY GOOD sci-fi/aciton pic. Scarface on the other hand I'd argue is a more DEFINITIVE example of an crime/action drama.

It's not about which movie you or I like better, that's a completely separate issue. Personal tastes come into view. I'd argue that there are specific quantitative aspects by which one can judge art. I always think its funny when someone mentions a singer, like say Jessica Simpson and calls her untalented. That's obviously untrue, she's quite talented (even beyond the obvious assets in front of her). She's not the MOST talented of course, but she's clearly a superior singer to say Ozzy Osborne, The fact that I may like Ozzy's music better doesn't change that. I'd say it's the same with writers or painters or movie makers and their works.


Originally uploaded by chrismaverick.
Now in this specific case I'd argue that Scarface is extremely well written and executed. Even though 24 years later, its kind of dated looking, it's still the kind of work that you could teach a class around. A screenwriting class, an acting class, a directing class or even just a film appreciation class. Matrix on the other hand is only 8 years old at this point and already doesn't stand up that way, in my view. I very much enjoy it, but I also huge fan of Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. I just wouldn't go so far as to call it high art or anything.

So that's my question for this week. How do you judge art? Is it fair to even compare two works? Can you separate whether you like a movie from whether or not its good or not? Does it even make sense to do so? What about other arts? Books? Songs? Even sports teams?

Wow, I know I've been posting less lately as my 365 project has taken up more of my time. But it really feels as though I'm not quite being angry enough either. Maybe I should work on that.

(12 comments | Leave a comment)

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[User Picture]From: viscous Date: March 21st, 2007 - 01:40 pm (Link)
I finally got around to seeing Cannibal Women not too long ago. I was pretty disappointed. A movie with a title that great... well, no, probably can't live up to it.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: March 22nd, 2007 - 03:46 am (Link)
it certainly isn't a GOOD film per se... but I really enjoy it.
[User Picture]From: akiramich Date: March 21st, 2007 - 01:42 pm (Link)

arrgh! my whole response disappeared! try again

Art like everything else, is subjective not only to your own opinion but also to the subjective experience of the person you are discussing Art with. You have to deal with someone elses repitore [yeah I had Discursive Practices with Gary Waller] when you are making your points on something. For instace I can make an argument that Johnny Cash was better than Bruce Springsteen-but there are people who will dismiss popular music outright in favour of Classical. Same with literature or drama or films [for instance I know Chariots of Fire is considered the better film than Texas Chainsaw Massace but no way do I watch Fire when I can watch SAW]. Even with something like wrestling--you and I can both discuss whether or not Misawa v Kobashi was better than Misawa v Kawada, but the majority of people would dismiss wrestling outright. Its all about how my suggestive repitoire meshes with the person Im trying to make my point to...
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: March 22nd, 2007 - 03:58 am (Link)

Re: arrgh! my whole response disappeared! try again

sure... but I think there's objective and subjective theory. I can be a huge fan of the Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior match (and in fact, I am) but I can't really argue that it matches up to Misawa vs. Kawada. I'd argue there's critiquing something on an objective technical level and the critiquing it on a subjective personal level and they're completely different things. As I mentioned above, Cannibal Women is among my favorite films of all time, but I know it isn't "good."
[User Picture]From: akiramich Date: March 22nd, 2007 - 01:26 pm (Link)

Re: arrgh! my whole response disappeared! try again

The thing with theory is that it is both objective and subjective at the same time. It deals with who you intended audience is and what point you are trying to make. Using your film example, I can make the argument that at the time Scarface came out it wasnt that big of a hit, got some minor buzz, and I can recall when I saw it at the theater [yep I saw it when it first came out. I am very old] we were giggling at Pacino's horrible accent and were dissapointed that the violence wasnt even more over the top [since that was the films selling point]. It actually wasnt until a few years later-when VCR's became more avalable, and it became an iconic film referenced by rap stars, that it became more famous. Whereas with the Matrix it was a big sleeper hit [in fact it Ecliped the hype over Phantom Menace ] and was thought of as an instant classic.

I could also make the argument that The Matrix was a complete rip off of Grant Morrison's The Invisibles and therefore is mertiless. It is all subjective--it just depens on what objective point your trying to establish.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: March 23rd, 2007 - 03:58 am (Link)

Re: arrgh! my whole response disappeared! try again

I'd argue that the commerical success of a piece while very important (hence my defense of Britney Spears and popmusic) is not an adequate measure of its viability as a work of art, merely as a cultural artifact, and I'd say that the two things are entirely different. I will grant that Matrix is a more popular movie than Scarface (or was at opening in any case) but I was judging it on terms of filmaking aspects. Writing, acting, directing, and I really feel that Scarface is "better" in those respects. Matrix on the other hand, I think is a much more accessible film (at least for its time) and I think much more successful as a cultural artifact for its time.

I'll agree with you, it all depends upon the metric you're trying to measure by... I could easily argue that Hogan is a better wrestler than Chris Benoit for similar reasons.
[User Picture]From: akiramich Date: March 23rd, 2007 - 01:15 pm (Link)

Re: arrgh! my whole response disappeared! try again

I do agree with you that when you break things down, you can judge which is better. You can talk about the aspects of the two scripts-and the writers-and judge Scarface as the better script. You can argue the same for cinematography and acting, and compare the two and say that one film is better than the other. I think its a lot harder with film to do that, since there are so many components, where its easier with a text or a piece of music, since there is only one author and you can look at how that author approaches his piece compared to how others have approached a text. Again though, its all dependent on what other art you have experienced-what you're repitoire is, you base of other knowlegde-when judging the art. If you had never seen a film before, and someone showed you Canibal Holicaust [if you got over the initial fact that you thought it was magick] you'd think its the greatest thing you ever saw, because you had no basis to compare it to other art. its all in the repitoire.

And I buy your Hogan argument easily. Thats the old Brad Regins vs Abdullah the Buthcer argument. Im going with Abby every time...
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: March 23rd, 2007 - 08:11 pm (Link)

Re: arrgh! my whole response disappeared! try again

I don't disagree with any of that.
[User Picture]From: sonbanon Date: March 21st, 2007 - 04:11 pm (Link)
That's a good question. What did you learn in school and what do you think?
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: March 22nd, 2007 - 04:01 am (Link)
kind of what I was saying to akiramich above. There are technical means in which you can critique a film and there are personal preferences. Matrix is "pretty" and excels in that technical aspect, but as a story its pretty basic and just kinda fun. The acting is nothing to write home about. So while its totally enjoyable, I'd argue its not good in the same way Scarface was.

What do you think?
[User Picture]From: retrospection_ Date: March 23rd, 2007 - 01:28 am (Link)
I saw you photos of Liz on her facebook and then I stalked you online.

You have some really great work. I really like the tarot.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: March 23rd, 2007 - 02:26 am (Link)
very impressive stalking. Does that mean you're interested in being a part of it? I'm just looking at your modeling website now. Very good work.

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