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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Another well written review of Hannah Takes the Stairs, from ShortEnd Magazine

In this latest conversation that we are having right now at several places on the web re: internet based film criticism & review (here, at Anthony Kaufman's blog, also at The Chutry Experiment, UPDATE: also at Doc It Out and All These Wonderful Things) one of the ideas that has arisen is that it might help an audience member experience a movie better if he or she knew what the intentions of the director are/where the director is coming from or what they might be attempting to do or say with a film. This review of Hannah Takes the Stairs at ShortEnd Magazine takes the time to think about some of those things, and to look beyond the surface of the movie a little. When dealing with art (specially film art/entertainment) it is easy to say that the movie made no sense or it sucked or the filmmaker failed and move on, but I think the audience is better served by deeper contemplation & analysis of the work by reviewers. Regular audience members (people who are not critics or reviewers) can get more out of an art/indie movie if they spend some time with it & think about it - and for that task, good/well written movie reviews & criticism is a valuable tool. I definitely appreciate reviewers & critics who, among other things, try to see a movie on the filmmaker's terms as a part of their review. Even if the intentions of the filmmaker are hard to figure out, reading a reviewer grapple with the issue is helpful to me as an audience member - gives me ideas to consider when I approach the work/the movie myself. An independent film is many things - including art, and well written & well thought out reviews can create a bridge that helps the audience approach and try to understand and even enjoy the work.

I wonder if the popularity of art/independent/foreign films at a given period of time is directly related to how seriously the reviewers & critics at that time period take the medium/the works/the art form. Although it is not the job of the critic or reviewer to do so, well written movie reviews can add value to a movie, in the eyes of the audience. Or, if reviewers take a movie seriously and spend some time thinking about the many things that are going on in and around a movie - actual content as well as related ideas, even if the bottom line is that the movie failed to greatly entertain or convincingly make an argument for something- the audience might also allow themselves to pay more attention to the movie and think about it more, watch it closely, and in turn they might enjoy the experience more. I think the reviewer or critic can, through their writing, invite and make it OK for a non-expert/ordinary audience member to confidently deal with a movie as a work of art. One positive element of the internet is that since space is cheaper than at newspapers, the net reviewers can write at length about a movie, which will allow him or her to examine many aspects of the movie and ideas related to the movie.

Bigger budgeted or well established foreign and art and indie/indiewood films do seem to receive more thought and attention from most reviewers. In ShortEnd Hannah review case, it is nice to see a very low budget, no star real indie movie receive the same kind of thoughtful treatment.

- Sujewa

6 comments:

Short End said...

I really appreciate this, and truth be told, there's still quite a lot more to be discovered in the layers of Hannah Takes the Stairs. It's a film that lends itself to in-depth analysis, and the more it's thoughtfully written about, the better off the filmgoing community will be. It's also quite a hard film to grasp, and that's what makes it most interesting for me. Every review I've read--including SM's--has only hit on a nuance, but holistically, I know at least that I've fallen short. The end all tag might be more, more, more, and let therein the most thorough analysis inform us in the excess. Thanks for stopping by to read.

SM Editor Noralil Ryan Fores

The Sujewa said...

Hey Noralil,

Nice to see you here. Keep up the good work at SM, will be checking it out more.

- Sujewa

Anonymous said...

I thought the Shortends Magazine review didn't probe deeply enough into the messages/meaning of "Hannah." In short, it's just another "suck up" review, trying to make Swanberg out to be much greater (and intellectually deeper) than he really is - Cynthia's review is much more on the nose, in my humble opinion (and I know you don't want to hear that Sejewa). As stated in Anthony Kaufman's column, the internet cloggers are a mixed bag...SM doesn't seem to be a real film review site (like filmthreat or microcinemascene), so Fores' "review" is really meangingless.
John

The Sujewa said...

Hey John,

Re: "I thought the Shortends Magazine review didn't probe deeply enough into the messages/meaning of "Hannah.""

OK

"In short, it's just another "suck up" review, trying to make Swanberg out to be much greater (and intellectually deeper) than he really is"

Interesting opinion. I do not know if a standard of greatness for Swanberg has been established. At least non that I know of.

"- Cynthia's review is much more on the nose,"

On the nose of what? Rockwell's "review" is not a movie review in any recognizable sense, it is an essay about her theories regarding one aspect of the movie - its/its maker's relationship to women, as far as I can tell.

"in my humble opinion (and I know you don't want to hear that Sejewa). As stated in Anthony Kaufman's column, the internet cloggers are a mixed bag...SM doesn't seem to be a real film review site (like filmthreat or microcinemascene), so Fores' "review" is really meangingless."

The SM review is a well written review. I wonder if you noticed that it is not a positive review of the movie; or, it basically says that the acting is good but the reviewer had problems with other aspects of the movie. certainly not one that offers a glowing recommendation for the film (and thus its maker). But, the bottom line of the reviewer's opinion aside, the review does provide plenty of info. for a potential audience member for dealing with the film - which is something good reviews should do, in my opinion.

- Sujewa

Short End said...

Hey John:

Your assessment that the SM review "didn't probe deeply enough into the messages/meaning of "Hannah."" I think is right on the money. As I already stated, I don't believe I have the adequate tools to understand everything that Joe was accomplishing. In that you're correct. But, your statement about it being meaningless seems reductive in the extreme. It seems to me that you're looking for a black and white about the film, and in such, I believe you lose a lot in terms of comprehending the narrative.

As Sujewa said, it's not a glowing review, but Swanberg's work ought to be taken seriously. It's not at all to "suck up" but rather to discuss his work in terms of artistic merit.

As for SM's status as a review site, then you also hit the nail on the head. We're a film journalism site. We talk to filmmakers. That's most what we like to do, just talk and understand. So, if you're a filmmaker, tell us what's up. I'd love to hear what you're up to, and I love your criticisms. It will only make the magazine better.

And, Sujewa, thank you again for giving us this space for discussion.

Noralil

The Sujewa said...

Hey ShortEnd,

Re: "And, Sujewa, thank you again for giving us this space for discussion."

No problem at all, this whole thing is educational & sometimes entertaining.

- Sujewa

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