A note: my new critical obsession ("point of interest" is more accurate) has to do with thematic complexity. The basic thesis is as follows: the difference between sophisticated culture and popular culture is the difference between an aesthetic work which has themes and one which has none. The tip-off in critical discourse is the phrase 'raises issues': The Dark Knight raises issues of free will, order versus chaos, the price we'll pay for security, etc, and therefore is, or can be, art. Transformers does not, and so isn't. It hardly matters for contemporary audiences and critics whether, or how, these themes are developed: that they 'get you thinking' is sufficient.

Patient Zero is The Matrix, a movie that raises issues about free will and determinism in its first 30 minutes, and then spends three films drawing rapidly diminishing returns from those origins. The poster child is Christopher Nolan, who makes films about things but without any point or development. (The contrast is with someone like Ingmar Bergman, for whom the themes are earnestly explored and developed at great length--no one ever has a line of dialogue that encapsulates the meaning of the film--and someone like Jean-Pierre Melville, where the inability to access the interior mental states of the characters--and so make definitive judgments about the meaning of what happens--is the entire point of the film. The redemption at the end of Wild Strawberries is earned because we've seen the struggle to reach it; the frustration at the end of Jean Morin, Priest is also earned, because all that is most important has been left unsaid.)

This is an idea I've been sitting on for some time (since Phoebe brought it up in re: Frasier and Two and a Half Men, which I now see was quite a while ago), but it's recently begun to creep into my reading and viewing habits, so it'll make it onto the blog now, too.

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