Film Academia

Faithful readers may have noticed the biggest gap in content since the site’s inception: almost two weeks without a new review. I’ve made it a point in the past for regularly posting reviews, but for a number of reasons. Some of those reasons involve stuff I’m not going to post about on the Internet. The other stuff is related to my higher education, which I’ve wanted to write about for some time now.

For those not in the know, I’m a graduate student at Baylor University in the Communication field, focusing specifically on film. I like to call it an excuse to make contrarian arguments in the name of learning. I started back Fall 2011 and while it was a bit of a transition to make, I was able to maintain the blog, never feeling like I was being overwhelmed by the schoolwork.

During that time I wrote a piece called “Remodeling Women: Disney’s Depiction of Women in the Renaissance Era.” It sounds like standard feminist film critique, but, of course, I had to be all contrarian and argue that Disney’s Renaissance Era actually tracks an overall positive shift in the portrayal of the female protagonists. I like it as a highlights reel for an argument that I’d make if I wrote a book on the subject (which I might do in the future).

I also wrote a piece about the rhetoric of Woodrow Wilson and Federal Segregation. Did I know anything about Wilson before the class? Not really. Did I have a reason for picking him? Not that I can remember. It made some sort of strange sense at the time. I thought the article that came out of that was an intriguing bit of history, but it lacked any sort of personality or passion behind it.

Transitioning to this semester, I’m writing an article about Certified Copy, my favorite film from last year. I just finished my rough draft and tentatively have entitled it “A Rough Date, Marital Strife and the Nature of Art: Certified Copy and Abbas Kiarostami’s Rhetoric of Ambiguity.” I wish I could say it’s not as daunting and complicated as it sounds, but it probably is.

The gist of my argument is that Kiarostami uses ambiguity as a self-reflexive, persuasive tool that forces the audience to enact the argument he’s making in the film about art. And that argument in the film would be that the value of art is in the personal, subjective value the audience ascribes it. If that doesn’t make sense, I wrote a whole article about it to explain, which hopefully I’ll be able to share at some point.

About the time I started researching and working on this paper is pretty close to the time my reviews started getting sporadic and then stopping altogether. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t have the time to watch and review movies, it’s that the mental mode I got in to do those things was being consumed by this research and reflection process I immersed myself into to write the paper. When I got to the end of my quota for the day, I found myself wanting to do just about anything but watch, read, write or think about film.

And it was somewhat of a refreshing break. I found myself using that extra time to explore music. I’ve become a Progressive Rock fan as a result of not watching movies for a while. If you like progressive music, recommend me stuff. I also started doing some stuff that I’ve known I’ve needed to do for a while, like started running/walking/jogging/moving my legs back and forth while generally going in a forward direction.

Also, I’ve been reading a ton. By a ton I mean I’ve already finished 21 books this year. Put on top of that at least 100 articles and I don’t even want to think about how many thousands of pages my eyes have scanned through in the past three months. That’s the biggest thing that is taking up my time. I can easily blow through 200 pages in a day without even thinking about it. Of course, that means sometimes I get done with reading for the day and look up to see it’s way later than I thought it was.

A lot of that reading is for school, but I’ve also been reading a lot for pleasure as well. I’ve honestly not read much fiction this year, I did finally read through a collection of short stories by Tolkien, Tales from the Perilous Realm. Wonderful stuff if you, like me, enjoy a good fairy tale. I also read through Bazin’s two volumes of What is Cinema? which I highly recommend if you’re interested in ’40-‘50s cinema and/or the films of Robert Bresson.

The other big thing I should mention before wrapping this all up is that I’m going to London this July for a school program. It’s a fun/cool/proper/serious opportunity. Maybe I’ll find stoic, repressed people there who will understand me! Probably not. In any case, I probably won’t update the blog much in July, but hey, I’ll be in the land of Doctor Who! I am totally going to take a picture of every blue police box I see.

That’s my life right now. It’s not pretty, it’s not a dream (okay, so it’s totally my dream), but I happen to like it. I’d be concerned about the rambling, unfocused nature of this piece which only tangentially has to do with film, and mostly just about my life in general, but I’ve not written anything of this more down to earth and human nature before for the site. It’s pretty cool that my programming allows this. I’ll have to try it again soon before my next firmware update. Until then, stay streets ahead! That’s what you humans say, right?

© 2012 James Blake Ewing

  • Good to hear that little report! It sounds as if you’re living the dream tbh. And such a lovely balance between studying, reading, writing, film watching and excercise… I’m a tad envious. I hope you’ll enjoy your stay in Europe as well. London is truly wonderful! Don’t miss out to see the reconstructed Globe theatre. If you’re lucky they might be playing some Shakespeare while you’re there.

    • The group I’m going with is definitely going to visit the Globe. Not sure if we’re going to watch anything there, though.

  • Thanks for keeping us up to date, James. I was a little concerned at the fleeting number of reviews, but it sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of work lately and I can only find your achievements admirable. Would love to read that Certified Copy paper.

    • I’m hoping to get back in the groove of posting content again, but no promises. Have a lot to get done before the month’s end.