300 - Movie of the Decade - ...unfortunately

Leeder
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Postby Leeder » Tue Mar 17, 2009 11:07 am

But aren't there those, notably including Leni Riefenstahl herself, who would have us treat Triumph of the Will as apolitical, a pure object of entertainment and aesthetic contemplation?

Actually, you've hit on the reason why I stopped posting here regularly long ago (no offense to anyone, because lurking is still one of my favourite hobbies!). The question of how entertaining or artistic a film is, evaluating it in such subjective terms of quality, is no longer interesting to me. "How good is this?" strikes me as a banal question, when so many others are possible.

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Postby criddic3 » Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:40 am

My point was, how many people are going to be in-tuned to its political ideology? Can't people just watch a movie for it's visuals? The film did receive some good reviews from such critics a James Berardinelli and Peter Travers. The main complaint about the film seemed to be that it emphasized style over historical fact, but many critics conceded that it was adapted virtually panel-for-panel from a popular graphic-comic book.

I didn't mind the one-dimensional characters and the heavy-handed nature of its plotting, because it was entertaining and exciting. It doesn't make me a blood-lusting idiot. I didn't see any comparisons in the few reviews I read that agreed with Sabin's. It's a big, loud, visually energetic film and makes no apologies for that. Nothing wrong with that. I mean, the way you guys talk, the film should be viewed like Triumph of the Will or something. Talk about overblown theories! Excuse me a moment while I march down the street on my way to take over the world.
"If you can't stand the nut on the left and you can't stand the nut on the right, go for the Johnson,” Jonathan S. Bush (10/21/2016)

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Postby Zahveed » Sun Mar 15, 2009 2:02 pm

Leeder wrote:
Sabin wrote:
Frankly, no one is going to care about what it's political motivations may or may not be, if any truly exists. People liked it because it was "cool" to watch.

Because this is an overtly political film and dangerously so, I find the latter statement both problematic and unfortunately predictable.

The most shortsighted word in Criddic's post is "motivations." As if political or ideological content only exists if somebody self-consciously plugs it in. Does anyone, even Criddic, actually believe this?

If it's cool to watch, you are still subjected to its ideological points and even more so since it catches your attention with its visuals. I believe that's ultimately the danger, keeping your mind fat and happy with eye candy when you should be eating a full meal.
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Postby Leeder » Sun Mar 15, 2009 8:44 am

Sabin wrote:
Frankly, no one is going to care about what it's political motivations may or may not be, if any truly exists. People liked it because it was "cool" to watch.

Because this is an overtly political film and dangerously so, I find the latter statement both problematic and unfortunately predictable.

The most shortsighted word in Criddic's post is "motivations." As if political or ideological content only exists if somebody self-consciously plugs it in. Does anyone, even Criddic, actually believe this?

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Postby Sabin » Sun Mar 15, 2009 8:12 am

Frankly, no one is going to care about what it's political motivations may or may not be, if any truly exists. People liked it because it was "cool" to watch.

Because this is an overtly political film and dangerously so, I find the latter statement both problematic and unfortunately predictable.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby criddic3 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 4:21 am

I view 300 as an expert example of style. It is visually arresting and moves along with a lot of visceral energy. That is plenty to recommend it as entertainment. Frankly, no one is going to care about what it's political motivations may or may not be, if any truly exists. People liked it because it was "cool" to watch. While Sin City had more interesting individual characters, both are essentially visual feasts. And that is something worth praising on occassion.
"If you can't stand the nut on the left and you can't stand the nut on the right, go for the Johnson,” Jonathan S. Bush (10/21/2016)

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Postby Leeder » Sat Mar 14, 2009 11:26 pm

PS: My students didn't agree with me.

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Postby Leeder » Sat Mar 14, 2009 11:18 pm

Zizek is a contrarian at heart and I think he's off base here, but he does do one thing that other commentators neglect: treat form and content together. What strikes me most about 300 the immense phoniness of its aesthetic, which wears its falsity more openly than most CGI do. All of these super-pumped up white bodies do not seem even to belong to the heads on them! Old school semio-Marxists scholars might be tempted to say that that the film works to graphically materialize the ideology rifts and paradoxes with which the capitalist system is riddled.

That being said, I recently invoked Zizek's argument about 300 with my students (those in my TA class) while we were talking about hyper-masculinity, having just watched The Terminator. I spoke about how the genders tend to meet at the poles.. it's remarkable how much body building competitions, such as those we see in Pumping Iron, resemble beauty pagaents, where these men are turned into pure aesthetic objects to be admired and measured. 300 seems to me to be the ultimate development of this American strain of hypermasculinity, but it's now seemed to have passed into a phase of being so excessive that it undoes itself (as the "hyper" always will). From my perspective, I don't know what one can do with 300 except for laugh at it -- or should that be "with it"?

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Postby Zahveed » Fri Mar 13, 2009 9:21 pm

Interestingly enough, this conversation reminds me of the Pink Floyd song "Us and Them".
"It's the least most of us can do, but less of us will do more."

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Postby Sabin » Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:17 pm

Interesting points but 300 feels incredibly provincial to me, and it is this feeling of US versus THEM, with US being incredibly white and THEM being incredibly not, with THEM being godless and US being godful (no doubt a point of contention, but those who wage the war have a very godful mindset), I think 300 can only be read as agitprop and justification for that matter: Saddam Hussein has been seducing us with lies; over there, they stand for the eradication of all we hold dear; they will attack us again and again until they are dealt with.

I don't think that 300 is necessarily America but rather it taps into a very generic and problematic US versus THEM, and there is no doubting for a moment that this film perfectly captures the mindset of every man and woman in the Bush administration, and beyond Zach Snyder's intent, THAT is why it is dangerous. Because it is simple and wrathful.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Leeder » Fri Mar 13, 2009 6:03 pm

Have you read the Giant of Ljubljana on this?
http://www.lacan.com/zizhollywood.htm.

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Postby Zahveed » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:34 pm

I guess your gerbil (gerbil, right?) avatar makes it so.
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Postby Sabin » Fri Mar 13, 2009 1:48 pm

What I say, not what I do! My message, not the fact that I'm adorable!
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Zahveed » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:18 pm

I enjoy reading your stuff, Sabin.
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Postby Sabin » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:58 am

This is a troubling film, a very, very deeply troubling film. I think why Taxi Driver persists is because it has become something of a work of satire even as it evolves as it goes along to paranoid revenge fantasy. I cite Taxi Driver because it also drowns the viewer in a wellspring of imbalanced ugly. At all times though, we are made aware that we are to know Travis Bickel for his flaws and for what he represents. I hold Taxi Driver up as the model of the anti-300. Zach Snyder again demonstrates himself as the anti-intellectual filmmaker of our time. There are amendments to Frank Miller’s graphic novel to set it apart and contemporize it for modern viewers and said choices made reveal it as even more a retrograde work of neo-conservatism, almost unparalleled. I pity the Republican who hoists this film up as paradigm. It’s basically a dumbed-down version of Braveheart if such a thing is even possible.

Frank Miller is a paranoid fascist who sees the world as something to be grabbed by the balls and controlled, and his graphic novel hoists the Spartans victory up as paradigm of this mentality…but also included homoerotic undertones in the household. It’s not just that Zach Snyder doesn’t seek to subvert, it’s that he is polluting Miller’s original vision (just as he did with Moore’s Watchmen) with the compromises needed to get the movie made, period. There is always going to be compromises in filmmaking, even with “visionaries” like Zach Snyder. Yet here, his compromises consist of transferring alternative sexuality (as well as alternate race and creed in any form) into some vague Other that must be destroyed in order for your sacred heterosexual union is to be preserved to live another day. To call a spade a spade in 300 is to unleash a barrage of intolerant epithets unto the world unfit for elbowroom outside the multiplex let alone in it. The bond between man and woman is put to the test by faggots and niggers and dirty Muslims who would see it sullied forever. I have no idea what Zach Snyder intended on making but 300 taps into a rather frightening baboon-like androcentric skull-fuckery of the “Love It or Leave It” variety. It would be one thing if 300 said something about how to be a man outside of killing faggots and niggers but it doesn’t. Clint Eastwood among others has made a brilliant career out of dissecting the nature of machismo. 300 has not such issues on its mind but rather simply how to package Frank Miller’s graphic novel. The way to do this is to dry hump sepia harder than Gladiator until it becomes a Nickelback music video.

Snyder’s modis operandi is to remix panel to celluloid (or whatever bastard form in which 300 exists) with only passing concern for what is “cool” to look at. If ever there has been a career extolling the dangers of “cool”, it is Zach Snyder’s. Has there been an American filmmaker with such careless disregard for theme and narrative? Whereas he found a way to somehow turn the most subversive and brilliant work of comic book fiction into something relatively obvious and brainless (Watchmen), he also wrestles 300 into a culturally irresponsible work of chest-beating masturbation. Say what you will about the incoherence of Michael Bay’s cinema but he operates on a level of controlled incoherence. There is an unconscious pervasiveness of evil to Snyder’s remixes. Not simply his xenophobic 300, but in his unintended revelation that (like Gus Van Sant’s Pyscho a decade before) direction translation, Xerox, copy, and marginal adjustment can produce something utterly myopic in its ruin.

This is not the simpering of a bleeding heart liberal, mind you. What does 300 have to say about anything outside of vacuous Greek Choir? What you see is what you get. Detractors of Fight Club point out that Fincher inadequately refutes the cult mentality, which I vehemently disagree with. To love 300 is to pray for punching bag to dick-slap. This is fine and good in little doses but 300 is boring. How much ramping, faux horizons, monotonous performance can you take before you want to try to move the mouse across the movie screen if only to see if the film will dissipate into desktop. I saw a preview for 300 at a Comic Book Convention in August of 2006 and was blown away by the teaser trailer I saw, as was everyone in the audience. I couldn’t believe an entire movie would consist of the images I had seen. It was played twice more and then months, several trailers, and months of hyping and subsequent parody ensued and quite frankly I was already bored of the goddamned thing. Now after the equal parts sensational and disappointing release of Watchmen, I return to 300 unsure which film I dislike more. Beyond being a comic book fan and watching him contort his source author’s initial intent, I’m inclined to say that there probably is no more dangerous American filmmaker alive than Zach Snyder.

300 is “cool” to look at, I’ll say that. So are lots of films though, perhaps not in the same way as 300 but they do not peddle blind hate. And that is what 300 is: a film of blind hate in every form. The sanctity of heterosexual union persecuted by amoral deviation of sex, color, and belief. Indeed, both Watchmen and 300 suck but in different ways. I would never watch Watchmen again, but 300 is a different beast altogether. Following the credits, it is the same moment of cinema again and again until the credits roll. It is Sizzle Reel Cinema. It is the total absence of organic image on screen. I have no problem with digital expansion but I am afraid of movies like 300 that replace cohesive narrative for the lifeless monotony of the “cool” image. Pulp Fiction defined the 1990’s as the preeminent imitator and imitated film, a remix of genre to produce something that felt new and allowed for indulgences in filmmaking we had not really seen before. I say this for good and for bad. Pulp Fiction ushered in an age of Fight Club, Being John Malkovich, Out of Sight, Grosse Point Blank, and Fargo. What does 300 usher in? Ignorance. Through ignorance it carries a wave of intolerance unfortunately timely, but more than anything else it carries an ignorance of consequence and depth in lieu of “cool” image lapped up like dog water. Craftsmen like Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro still care about what is real amidst the unreal, but it isn’t even about makeup, stunts, or landscapes, but about the very nature of tactile: what you can feel, what you can’t feel, when you’re being groped, and when you’re too drunk on “cool” to notice the difference.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver


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