The Dictionary of Received Film Criticism

by filmenthusiast2000
July 7, 2005 6:57 AM
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In yet another of Reverse Shot's innovative, time-saving measures for aspirant film writers, we are proud to present the first installment of our Dictionary of Received Film Criticism. Rather than struggling under the weight of 100+ years of film history (much of which is difficult to easily grasp), this invaluable tool will allow writers to quickly and efficaciously locate the correct and established opinions, attitudes, and observations about any number of cinematic topics.


Bring It On: SEE Guilty Pleasure.

De Palma, Brian: A mechanical genius, but his movies have no LIFE.

Disaster: SEE Parallels (Historical): post-9/11 anxiety.

Documentary (or Documentary-Style): There's no tripod.

Eyes Wide Shut: Snigger upon its mention.

Guilty Pleasure: Anything that you like which you pretend that you don't want other people to know that you like. The real answer is always pornography.

Horror movies: The sordid affair of 3rd tier staff critics; always improved by a "dose of necessary macabre humor." Classics: Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Suspiria, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street.

Ming-Liang, Tsai: SEE Antonioni, Michelangelo and Keaton, Buster. Sad and funny chronicler of Urban Alienation.

Murray, Bill: A standard-issue comic before Rushmore; now "a deadpan genius."

Ozu, Yasujiro: A master. To be cited on the occasion of any Oriental movie in which the camera does not move for 30 seconds or more.

Paradox: Originates between two smirks, in the New York Press offices. Catch the tenor in the screening room, then form an inverse opinion. Spew vitriol accordingly. Repeat.
Ex. "there is more poetry in a single shot from one of Hype Williams' videos—which understand pop instinctually—than in all of Assayas's hipster-touted filmography"

Parallels (Historical): For added contextual heft, choose from the following: post-War cynicism, Cold War anxiety, "counter-culture" cynicism/ anxiety, post-Nixon cynicism, post-9/11 anxiety.

Pornography: Feign boredom on the subject.

Solondz, Todd: "Chillingly funny"; there have been subsequent missteps, but Happiness remains a Masterpiece.

Spirituality: In cinema, comprised of long, contemplative, unbroken takes. An "elevated" style, per David Thomson. Key words: meditative, austere, transcendent, Bressonian, immaterial.
Ex.: "the measured pacing combines with X's subtly luminous photography to create restive spaces for the inward-looking viewer; it turns the cinema into a chapel."

Tarantino, Quentin: A live-wired 21st century celluloid DJ. Or: A derivative hack; "If you thought Kill Bill was cool, you've gotta see—"

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More: Instructive


  • AdamN | July 7, 2005 10:49 AMReply

    And don't forget:

    Dalle, Beatrice: feral, gap-toothed goddess of French art-house cinema: most famous for retaining sexual magnetism despite being drenched in blood in Claire Denis' reviled Trouble Every Day. SEE: Guilty Pleasure

    Gordon Green, David: Backward-looking, fitfully articulate twenty-something tyro given to insufferable public oration about the greatness of 1970s auteur cinema, particularly the works of Terence Malick; seeks to reinstate the long, meaningful pause as an essential feature of American moviemaking.

    Slate Movie Club: annual and cacophonous online gathering of navel-gazing New York-based film critics; a haven for opponents of Lars Von Trier and advocates for Flight of the Phoenix.

    The Village: mildly inept Hollywood thriller praised extravagantly by certain Hipster Critics who cited its various intriguing Parallels (Historical) to buttress their argument, despite the clear and distressing failures of its Plot.

  • clarencecarter | July 7, 2005 8:39 AMReply

    Don't forget:

    Von Trier, Lars: Danish misogynist, who makes overlong, often boring films built around facile polemics about unimportant topics like race, class, power, etc. Makes films set in America, yet should be hardily mocked for never having been there. See also DOGME 95 Movement, Digital video.

    Gender: A subject best left to academic writers.

    Plot: That which is a film is ostensibly "about." Discussion of this "about" should form the major part of your writings. Rule of thumb: leave approximately 100 words at the end of your piece for analysis. Less if you're employing a numerical or star-based system.

    Race: A subject best left to academic writers.

    Russian Cinema: SEE Eisenstein, Tarkovsky, Spirituality

    Class: A subject best left to academic writers.

  • robbiefreeling | July 7, 2005 7:23 AMReply

    Since we're all adding to the Dictionary:

    Hipster Film Critics: Anyone under the age of 40 who writes about film, especially online, the devil's playground, and has a particular fondness for aesthetics, whether they reveal essential truths about "pop" or not. They also tend to be fans of Claire Denis, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Samuel Fuller.

    Kitchen-Sink Realism: Founded in the early Sixties in films like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and The L-Shaped Room, this filmic movement pushed the cinema into new realms of realist expression. A direct descendent of Italian neorealism.

    The Movie Brats: A group of sexually stunted young men (see also Coppola, DePalma, Scorsese, Spielberg) who wanted to change American cinema based on what they saw happening with the European New Wave movements. Their efforts to revitalize art as a form were dashed with the twin releases of Jaws and Star Wars.

    Spielberg, Steven: A technical genius, great with crowd scenes and child actors, yet with a conservative, almost fascist tendency to hallow the nuclear family unit. But Jaws is great.