As we wrap up the semester and look back to our experiences over the past few months, it is astounding to recognize how much my knowledge of film criticism as grown. Prior to taking this class, I of course had an appreciation for the cinema and its features. However, I realize now the narrowness of my tastes. Previously, I could be roped in to watching every single science fiction and fantasy film offered as an option. This is still certainly the case today, but my palette has been expanded to include mystery, drama, suspense, psychological thrillers, documentaries, and animation (for both children and adults). Basically, I have the desire to view any movie that makes its way into my local theater.
Perhaps a big part of this diversification of the film genres I am attracted to is due to the fact that we have specifically studied many of these categories that I would have brushed off to the side before. Instead of simply focusing on the epic battle sequences and striking visuals in science fiction films, I now examine the story, acting, character development, music, color theory, lighting, and cinematography. Any single one of these aspects can have a huge impact on my overall opinion of a film.
In looking at a few recent examples, let’s first investigate Rueben Fleischer’s comic book adaptation, Venom, starring Tom Hardy. This was a film with impressive visuals, captivating action sequences, effective acting, and an energetic score from Ludwig Göransson. On the other hand, there were some major pacing issues in the first half of the film. Multiple scenes felt directionless and completely without meaning. There were also some imbalances with the film’s approach to humor. Some instances were dark, gritty, and intimidating. Yet, in other scenes that followed, there were attempts at comedy that felt flat and out of place. If done correctly, amusement can serve its place in a film with an otherwise dark tone. However, this is a fine line to walk. Venom did not efficiently master this tightrope. Overall, the negatives of this film outweighed its positive components based on my judgements.
Now looking to the other end of the spectrum to a completely different film, Ron Howard’s historically-based drama, A Beautiful Mind, featured Russell Crowe as a paranoid-schizophrenic obsessed with his supposed work as a codebreaker during the Cold War. Garnering four Oscar wins, including Best Picture, this film was truly magnificent in every sense of the word. From Crowe’s legendary performance, to expertly arranged editing and cinematography, to the raw emotion brought to the table by the socially relevant storyline, A Beautiful Mind is deserving of every bit of praise heaped upon it in my opinion. Still, a younger version of myself would have probably had a very different response. There were no mind-blowing action scenes, or fantastical characters with superhuman abilities. This was a methodical film conveying the incredible true story of a deeply-troubled genius and his extraordinarily faithful wife. Non-stop action was not the purpose for this film’s creation. Now that I have studied the idea of a director’s intent, I can appreciate so many more works of cinematic art. My views on A Beautiful Mind are a prime example of how far my abilities to analyze films have come.
While I used to consider film as more of a distraction from everyday life, now I see that it is a craft worthy of in-depth examination. For many people, film will remain lighter, simpler, and shallower throughout their lifetime. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this reality. It all depends on how film brings joy to each particular person. Speaking for myself, I gain deep satisfaction from dissecting all of the elements of a film that make it special as a completed masterpiece.