Of Silos And Vin Diesel Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2015-03-27 10:00:00-04:00 No comments

Why Is The Idea Of FURIOUS 7 Winning Best Picture So Funny? | Badass Digest

... if you’re making a big pop movie you’re not going to be engaged with in any real way; there’s an early sense of dismissiveness to how critics approach the work. What’s interesting is that it’s going in an exactly opposite way in the world of music; if you wrote an essay decrying Beyonce you had best be ready to defend yourself not just from fans but from music critics, but writing the 10,000th “Hollywood is making too many superhero movies” piece is a rite of film criticism passage.

I agree with Devin's core point: the more of a sense of history we have about the permeable membrane between "art" and "pop", the more suspicious we should be of our own willingness to segregate things merely based on their lineage, and the sillier it is to dismiss out-of-hand any claim of greatness for something because it comes from the wrong side of the aisle. (Silence of the Lambs, best picture, 1991; case rested.)

As for the too-many-superheroes thing, this is a line of argument I'm preparing to retire entirely myself. Not because I don't think there's a problem there — it's not the problem you think it is, more on that in a moment — but because all of the answers I have heard proposed for that problem do not take into account its real nature.

The real problem, as I see it — and this is a break from my own previous points of view on the subject — is that most of the people who lament what the movies and the popular arts in general have become were doing so from the point of view of a relatively aberrant period in its history. For a little while, we got really lucky in terms of how broadly the movies reached people, but that was mostly because there was so little genuine competition. Then came TV; then came video games; then came the Internet.

Now, cultural experiences are siloed by default, and the biggest reason for that is simply because there is so damn much culture to deal with. Without silos, most people (who are not trained to be cultural critics and generally have no desire to be one, and I don't blame them for that) have to resort to silos as a way to just navigate what's out there. 

This is why gamers and film geeks and book snobs and anime fans all have such giant, impermeable walls of experience separating them: the sheer size of any one of those landscapes by itself means you have to spend years on end just learning the territory. Combine that with the fact that nothing ever really goes away anymore, and you have a recipe for insularity as a survival tactic. Instead of being exhilarating, it's intimidating and exhausting, and it only contributes all the more to the feeling I get among casual audiences that keeping up with this stuff is becoming too much like having another, unpaid job.

Back to people snickering at Vin Diesel for suggesting Furious 7 could be Best Picture material.

Perhaps the reason some people find this funny is because they have a hard time admitting that every now and then, you do get something that vaults over the walls of the silo. The Oscar-winning movies are over here, and the crummy tentpole blockbusters are over there, and never the twain shall meet because if they ever did I'd have to rethink my worldview, shock and horror.

I'm not suggesting Furious 7 is such a crossover miracle. 'Twould be nice if it was, but we have to wait and find out. I'm only saying that when such a thing does happen, we make it very easy to pretend that it's not, because of all of the above.

It's all rather inane, given how at least one tremendously successful franchise of recent years (The Hunger Games) is living proof that a film can be both popular and well-made and thought-provoking without compromising any end of that deal.

Maybe this, then, is the real danger of having things so stratified and subdivided. When something comes along that does not only cross over but break on through to the other side, we miss the moment. We assume it's someone else who likes that stuff, and we lose out on one of the few chances we have to appreciate a piece of shared culture from our moment in time.

Tags: culture entertainment movies