ACF#8: Movies, Poetry, America, and Marvel

 

Hello, Ricochet! It is my pleasure to share my first public lecture on American cinema and society. I’ll start with thanks to my friends Tom Harmon and Matt Peterson, professors at John Paul the Great Catholic University–and, of course, to the university. And to the kids who did the audio-video work with precious little help from me. They’re too young I think for me to buy them a beer, but if they play their cards right… I’ll soon publish the written lecture, which is somewhat different, just in case not everyone wants to watch…

This is full of Tocqueville, as well as of his American students. You’ll hear a lot of things you might not like to hear, but it may be permissible in a loyal friend to criticize. And while it’s perfectly alright to plagiarize the ancients, it is not so with our contemporaries, so I’ll mention two men I talked to, read, and listened to for criticism in the run up to these 50-odd minutes of fame. One, my friend James Poulos, also a Ricochet contributor.

The other, the man who did most to mentor me in publishing, the late Peter Lawler. Many of our common friends have joined and will join me on the podcast. We’re trying to bring back something of the PostModern Conservative enterprise Peter so well led that he made us proud to be the smallest, least influential conservative faction! I believe Peter would have urged me on in preaching the gospel of middlebrow, and his help would have meant a lot to me, as well as the chance to do my podcast with him. He was both kind and ironic and his irony was part of his kindness.

Here’s the audio on soundcloud:

There are 60 comments.

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  1. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Good god almighty man, learn what to do with your hands.

    Or get a lectern to stand at.

    • #1
  2. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    You are dead on about some children’s films.

    The Croods should have lasted 15 min with the daughter cave person defying her father going outside the cave and getting ripped apart by raptors with the scraps being destroyed in the lava.

    The fact that she wasn’t tells me that the place of manhood in america is nothing more than a lifetime of toil on behalf of ingrates terminated by an early death.

    • #2
  3. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Guruforhire (View Comment):
    You are dead on about some children’s films.

    The Croods should have lasted 15 min with the daughter cave person defying her father going outside the cave and getting ripped apart by raptors with the scraps being destroyed in the lava.

    The fact that she wasn’t tells me that the place of manhood in america is nothing more than a lifetime of toil on behalf of ingrates terminated by an early death.

    At least at the movies-

    • #3
  4. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    I noticed this was on the university’s website.  Do you have an ACF youtube channel?  You should.

    • #4
  5. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    I noticed this was on the university’s website. Do you have an ACF youtube channel? You should.

    It’s upcoming. Mostly, I still use soundcloud, because people download the audio or stream it. Most of the podcasts aren’t & won’t be video. But they’ll be available on youtube as well soon.

    • #5
  6. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Of course, the podcast will be on iTunes soon, as well.

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    ” … everyone who disagrees with them is corrupt, malevolent, or morally incompetent.”

    You left out “stupid.” Never leave out stupidity.

    • #7
  8. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    Of course, the podcast will be on iTunes soon, as well.

    Maybe it can get put on the Ricochet Superfeed . . .

    • #8
  9. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Titus, I am looking forward to watching/listening, & I’ve sent a link to the video to elder daughter to watch and enjoy as well (she’s a lifeguard at the Lake this summer so I don’t see her all the time).

    Also I want to apologize for using your name years ago as a tag with all lower case letters instead of caps to start so that now that particular tag will always have all lower case letters. Sorry.

    • #9
  10. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Percival (View Comment):

    ” … everyone who disagrees with them is corrupt, malevolent, or morally incompetent.”

    You left out “stupid.” Never leave out stupidity.

    I made the exact same comment to my screen.

    • #10
  11. Jim Beck Inactive
    Jim Beck
    @JimBeck

    Afternoon Titus,

    You have a super voice,  I might add more humor, or fill out the things that amuse you, I think the audience would like to know what tickles you.

    • #11
  12. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    Titus, I am looking forward to watching/listening, & I’ve sent a link to the video to elder daughter to watch and enjoy as well (she’s a lifeguard at the Lake this summer so I don’t see her all the time).

    Also I want to apologize for using your name years ago as a tag with all lower case letters instead of caps to start so that now that particular tag will always have all lower case letters. Sorry.

    I’ve never forgot that lovely gesture! I’m glad the tag is there as it was, to remind me! I use it rarely–better to say, sparingly–but I don’t capitalize it either!

    • #12
  13. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Also, MT! Thanks for sending it out. One day, I’ll send it to boy, too!

    • #13
  14. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Jim Beck (View Comment):
    Afternoon Titus,

    You have a super voice, I might add more humor, or fill out the things that amuse you, I think the audience would like to know what tickles you.

    Jim! I’m not famous enough to talk about myself. Not entirely a bad thing…

     

    • #14
  15. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    One technical criticism: the sound is a little on the quiet side, thus making it hard to organize my paper/art/school supply cabinet while I listen. But I’m hooked from the get-go — “Cinema, properly understood is the self understanding of a society…” Yay fun!

    • #15
  16. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    Also, MT! Thanks for sending it out. One day, I’ll send it to boy, too!

    He just walked in, and likes very much the name of the university you were speaking at.

    • #16
  17. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Exactly!

    Hey, boy!

    • #17
  18. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Has the transcript been published yet?

    • #18
  19. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    No. Nobody requested it, come to think of it. I can publish it on Ricochet, should people like that.

    • #19
  20. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    No. Nobody requested it, come to think of it. I can publish it on Ricochet, should people like that.

    While I don’t want to put anyone to trouble, if it is already done, I would like to see it because it may be easier to discuss in written form.  It’s a lot to take in.

    P.S. Sorry for being late to the party.

     

    • #20
  21. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Not at all. I just didn’t think people were interested in reading. I’m flattered you take an interest-

    • #21
  22. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    Not at all. I just didn’t think people were interested in reading. I’m flattered you take an interest-

    I am very interested in movies.  If it were 15 years ago, I would have written about movies rather than music.

    • #22
  23. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Quinn the Eskimo (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    Not at all. I just didn’t think people were interested in reading. I’m flattered you take an interest-

    I am very interested in movies. If it were 15 years ago, I would have written about movies rather than music.

    I submitted it–we’ll see whether they publish it in the next day or so… It’s a really long lecture. Those poor students had everything & the kitchen sink thrown at them!

    • #23
  24. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    I submitted it–we’ll see whether they publish it in the next day or so… It’s a really long lecture. Those poor students had everything & the kitchen sink thrown at them!

    Post a link if they publish it.  Let me know if they don’t intend to publish it.  If they don’t, I’ll try to comment on the audio, but commenting on 5-10 minute intervals seems like it would be inelegant and disjointed.

    • #24
  25. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    I don’t think they’re publishing it. I’ll write to exjon-

    • #25
  26. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    I’ll probably chime in with a number of questions.  But not all at once.  I wanted to start by asking about the aristocratic nature of cinema with its emphasis on the extraordinary.  Is there something about cinema that you think is different in kind from the Western dramatic tradition which from the beginning has been about gods and kings and heroes and prophets?  (It could well be part of the Eastern traditions as well.  I don’t know feel confident enough to make that assumption.)

    • #26
  27. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Cinema does come in to & from a tradition of storytelling that emphasizes the extraordinary. But it came in at a time when that tradition, who’s newest form was the novel, was already undergoing strange changes–protagonists were no longer great, or the great. Great attention was paid to them, but it was not clear why–the heroes of the modern novel become less interesting for political reasons & more interesting for other reasons–they seem somehow to bring out a social crisis or to allow for a rare revelation of the human predicament in the context of modern liberalism, democracy, &c.

    With D.W.Griffith–who is hated for his Birth of a nation movie, but who just as well could be thought of as the man who made Intolerance–cinema already looks like a transformation of the means of drama to achieve the ends of the novel.

    In parallel, cinema developed as a new poetic form. German expressionism woke people up to this other possibility of cinema–an exploration of painting–of dreams, of the psyche put on display independent of a plot, or almost. Eisenstein also worked in that vein. As do most acknowledged masters, because this is the most poetic & least novelistic possibility of cinema, hence seems more independent.

    What the ‘novel adaptation’ & the ‘poetic’ modes of cinema had in common was wonder. A new way to excite the imagination was available & it would speak to the new world. This quickly did come to mean story-telling about the most extraordinary beings, but never exclusively. The most important aristocratic inheritance is ultimately individualism. The hardest thing for stories to justify is insistence on a protagonist. What makes a man so important as to deserve all this attention? Somehow, humanity inheres or resides in individuals, maybe some, maybe all. Trying to find out what that means is the business of storytelling & it has aristocratic implications. (The democratic thing to do might be to let chance pick protagonists; or to have stories about the cosmic or social forces that move people rather than the human attempt to withstand them &, instead, to move oneself…)

    So cinema inherited from the novel & from drama great doubts & attempts to revolutionize or abandon forms & techniques. It owes to D.W. Griffith the form of a narrative movie which has come to be known as a Hollywood movie–this gave movies their own version of the essential equation of storytelling: Character + circumstances = destiny.

    But when once the way story-telling coheres was established, all sorts of varieties were sought & found, as well as all sorts of forms of story-telling that flout coherence & insist on some one element of storytelling & rearrange the whole. (I’ll give a few examples of modes of what we call art movies: There are movies dominated by a mood–there, mood plays the part that providence rather than circumstances would play in life. There are movies dominated by the time-&-causality logic of story-telling, of temporal sequence–there, you have to try to apply the logic of ‘what follows after follows from’, but without much evidence that temporal sequence is the same as logical unfolding.

    • #27
  28. John Stater Inactive
    John Stater
    @JohnStater

    Good stuff – you gave me much to think about.

    • #28
  29. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Glad to hear it! Enjoy!

    • #29
  30. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Hey, @quinntheeskimo, here’s the first of the lecture: more each following day. @exjon not only agreed to publish this lecture of mine, but has already done the work to break it into parts to run as a series! That’s double gratitude I owe him!

    I’ll of course be around to participate in whatever discussion ensues!

    • #30

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