Final Cut

It’s time for a moment of honesty. When I signed up for this class, I didn’t read the course description or even the title of it that closely. I knew it was a film class, I knew I was taking it with two of my close friends, and I knew it would count as an easy elective credit. And while I did get to take it with two of my close friends, the class ended up being about film criticism and was NOT an “easy” elective. So to say the very least – yes, my perspective on film criticism has changed because I didn’t have one three months ago. Yes, I approach film viewing differently because I am now an active viewer. Yes, there are elements I am more in tune with now – where does that light come from? How about that weird background noise? And yes, I absolutely appreciate so many more things about film that I hadn’t ever thought about before.

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#TBT to that time I passive aggressively tweeted about the paper for this class and forgot Mr. Manning follows me on Twitter.

As ignorant as this is, I never realized how much thought and evaluation is required to produce a detailed film review. I guess I had this idea, shaped a little bit by the movie reviews in the Mountain Express (Asheville’s local indie newspaper), that ALL movie reviews were written by cranky old men named Hanke with a taste for black and white, arthouse films that nobody else likes. I’ll admit I wrote him off because he wrote a scathing review of Step Brothers with Will Ferrell, and I consider that the pinnacle of comedic genius. We all have our differences, I guess. (Side note – someone named Scott now writes most of the reviews, and he is a much kinder critic than old Hanke.)

When it was all said and done, I really did enjoy the writing that I got to do in this class. It’s one thing to write an extended paper on a dry, academic topic, but it’s entirely another to write about what worked (or didn’t) within a specific film. I went through a lot of emotions on this – in particular with the film Casablanca. I first watched it in my high school film history class and fell in love. But watching it with a critical eye really changed my perspective. Once you begin to pay attention to small things, like character development, dialogue, set design, and plot particulars, even your favorite movie can fall apart – Casablanca came crashing down around me. You start to realize what makes a film dated, what makes a character relatable, and what makes a studio lot set look “real.”

Probably my favorite film to review was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, because that’s literally just a GOOD movie. I went into the review liking it, and posted it to my blog loving it. I was pleasantly surprised, because maybe I’d just been choosing bad movies, but none had held up under further inspection. Ferris was one of those rare films that was made carefully, with thought put into each and every element, and it was one of the reasons I chose to write about director John Hughes for my final paper.

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What stood out to me most from the class was how important dialogue and character development is to me. I never thought about why I liked the films that I do, but now that I’ve had to pay attention to that, I realize it’s because of good dialogue and good characters. There is nothing more annoying that a flat, undeveloped, two dimensional character that doesn’t even make you believe they exist in real time. Good characters are flawed, complex, and motivated by strange things. Good characters make me wish I existed in their world, and bad characters make me run out of the theatre.

I guess you could say that I was pleasantly surprised by this class. Movies will never be the same again, thanks to the countless Thursday nights I spent bouncing between the Time Warner Theatre, a random classroom in Tucker, and an occasional field trip to the Elliot House. I wouldn’t trade the time spent writing reviews, response posts, and even that single spaced paper for anything. Thank you, Mr. Manning, for showing me that movies aren’t just Hollywood magic – there is real work, real thought, and real passion put into these projects. Here’s to the rubrics, the word counts, and all the movies I watched this semester!

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