Saturday, February 4, 2012

Literary Merit Analysis

Definition:  Literary Merit is the classification of literature which falls into the canon of works that are universally praised and discussed by critical circles, and that have established themselves as possessing a substantial amount of aesthetic and artistic value. Most works of literary merit have their literary elements borrowed by the works that follow them and are considered to have promoted the evolution of literature as an art form.

The Criteria for Literary Merit
-Does the work present a multi-faceted thematic tone which mirrors the human condition?
-Does the work require an abundant amount of mental application for an individual to identify the themes expressed in the piece, and can individuals with differing ideologies form their own subjective interpretation of the thematic concepts within the text?
-Does the reader benefit on an intellectual, emotional, or spiritual level by reading or returning to the selected work, the reader having had their ideology changed by the text?
-Does the work capture a perfect balance of literary techniques, in which the prose, setting, plot, and literary devices chosen by the author perfectly complement each other and enhance the quality of the work as a whole?
-Does the piece of literature build upon the previously established canon and spark an evolution of form, or contrary to this does it establish a new and significant technique that will further be built upon by later artists?

Now when one assesses the previously mentioned criteria of what constitutes literary merit, one must take into account that these standards must be approached as being of equal importance, and although a form of literature such as poetry may not fit all of such criteria, for the purpose of this analysis I am constituting that for a fictional work to fit into the canon it must demonstrate all of the principles previously established.
The example I have chosen as a notably established work with literary merit, which perfectly fits my criteria, is Nabokov’s Pale Fire. The novel wonderfully demonstrates how a novel can push forward the evolution of literature while building upon the previously established canon. The novel establishes a prose form which features the narrator of the story writing directly to the reader, unveiling the plot through a series of lengthy critiques and anecdotes related to the author of the poem for which the book is named, whom is another character in the story. Despite the obvious borrowing of passages and metaphors from Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens and Hamlet, Nabokov’s true genius in the novel comes from how he takes the experimental prose established by authors such as James Joyce (Ulysses) and Marcel Proust (In Search of Lost Time) and adapts it to his own needs, mutating their prose into his own identifiable voice and translating the structure onto the page in a way that has never been seen before. From Nabokov’s literary techniques used in Pale Fire in regard to prose, one can witness the further evolution and “borrowing” of his technique by author’s such as Samuel Delany (Dhalgren) and Mark Danielewski (House of Leaves).
Moving away from the discussion of how Pale Fire modernized and adapted technique, when one reads Nabokov’s novel they will experience a literary achievement that perfectly blends all literary elements and builds complex themes that will reveal themselves to the reader through repeated analysis. Nabokov alludes to a great number of other literary works as a means of expressing his themes, and as I have expanded my knowledge of literature I have further discovered much more concealed within the piece (for example, as I read The Brothers Karamazov I have realized that many lines within Pale Fire reference that work, which has opened up more analysis as to the nature of man’s belief in Providence, which was established in both works, and is only now revealed to me that I have expanded my understanding of literature).
In regards to my principle that an author must find a literary balance, Nabokov perfectly illustrates this by incorporating the setting, prose, plot, and themes into the writings of the character himself within the novel, which establishes equilibrium between the literary devices and the character’s ego; this providing a connection that the reader shares with the protagonist and further exemplifies the reader’s ability to comprehend the ideas explored within the novel.
I’ve personally read the novel three times, each time coming away with newly discovered themes that reflect my state of mind at the time. The first time I read Pale Fire I wasn’t prepared for what the novel held, and came away with a deep sense of sympathy towards the experience of the protagonist, but on my most recent reading I went in knowing the plot twists and came away feeling the novel to be not a study of human suffering and bitterness, but a celebration of how art will live on for eternity despite the death of the author; which is a theme which perfectly constitutes why Pale Fire possesses literary merit.

To juxtapose my exploration of literary merit established by Pale Fire with an ephemeral work which does not fall into the established canon, I present the novel, The Long Walk, by Stephen King. Before beginning my remarks as to why I selected this novel, I first want to open by saying that I personally love this novel and believe that it constitutes the best achievement in King’s career, but in contrast to my beliefs about the novel I believe that it is best to demonstrate my criteria of literary merit against a book that I find to be very enjoyable.
            Beginning my cavalcade of scrutiny, I find that King’s novel struggles to find a clear footing in its usage of prose. The novel offers nothing that hasn’t been seen before and follows the same formulaic writing structure which is witnessed in most of King’s literature. The book displays itself in a very simple form that immediately shoots itself into the action, which can be done well by an author, such as Hemingway, whom possessed an unfamiliar prose style that stripped language of all its pulp. King feels the need to constantly push the plot forward without offering the reader time to focus on the characters or the language he uses, which is often straightforward and containing none of the solace associated with challenging literature.
Further, King only feels the need to express a singular theme of man’s capacity to suffer degradation and torment in order to fulfill his temptation of seeking a great truth, which is the original sin of human existence as expressed within the Bible with the story of Adam and Eve, however as King uses this theme he fails to capture his own voice in the matter and comes to the same conclusions that all previous explorations of this theme have concluded upon. I find the book to be enjoyable every time I read it, but I have not been able to penetrate King’s thematic surface within the text and have failed to find further thematic examinations below the novel’s shallow surface.
Being an observer of The Long Walk from the audience that wishes to enjoy a thrilling and enjoyable story, I would express that King’s novel is a good book and I find a personal advantage for having read such a novel. In contrast to whom I am as a fan of horror literature however, and presenting myself with the veneer of an AP English student, I can passionately deduce that the literary merit of King’s work is nonexistent and thus does not constitute for this novel to be included in the literary canon. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top Five Movies of 2010

I'm feeling really lazy, so I'll quickly write up my top five of 2010. There was a very lackluster summer of movies, but thank god we have so much to look forward to in 2011.

5. The Illusionist
One of the best animated films I have seen in years. Sylvian Chomet took a script by Jacques Tati and gave it so much life in this incredible animated feature. Its very difficult to captivate an audiences' interests with a silent film, let alone a silent animated film, which shows great talent from Sylvian Chomet and his animation department, which gave great life to all of the characters in this spectacular film about a stage magician struggling to adapt to changing times. This should hit bluray some point in 2011 and I highly recommend renting or buying it.

4. The Social Network
Not just "The Facebook Movie" as everyone likes to call it, but is in a fact a very well directed and acted film about greed, friendship, and betrayal. Finally David Fincher hits it big with awards and fame, and this movie has basically won every award its been nominated for. Nothing more can be said about this than what's already been said by everyone else.

3. Enter the Void
Gaspar Noe's first film since Irreversible, captivating and hard to watch at times just like that one. Greatest opening credits sequence of all time, no kidding (watch it here Can't wait to see what's next for Gaspar Noe, you can catch this one on bluray come January 25th.

2. Red, White, and Blue
This movie has absolutely disappeared since I first saw it at the Calgary Film Festival. Simon Rumley follows up his uppercut of a film Living and the Dead with this one about revenge. Compared to the calculated revenge films of Chan-wook Park, this film is gritty, dirty, and cringe inducing. Its a very slow build from the start, but the climax is a brutal tapestry of thrilling suspense. Last I heard this movie is coming out on bluray in October, but I haven't heard anything new in a long time.

1. Black Swan
I've loved Darren Aronofsky since I saw Pi on TV when I was ten years old. Black Swan is the closest to perfection I've seen Aronofsky come so far in his career. I greatly enjoyed The Wrestler, but this left me feeling entirely fulfilled, as I believe this film is more complete. The body horror in this film is amazing, and the psychological aspects never become too over the top. Natalie Portman is one of my favorite actresses and she definitely deserves the attention she's been getting for this role. I can't give much away about this film, but everyone needs to see it while its still in theaters, as Aronofsky's sound design and Clint Mansell's score deserve to be heard in a theater-quality environment. Black Swan was definitely the best movie I saw this year, and walking out of the theater the first time it had blown my mind, and it definitely holds up to a second viewing. Ch-ch-check it out.

Honorable Mentions:

The remake of I Spit on Your Grave was pretty awesome, but maybe that's just because I got to meet the cast. Its actually a really intense thriller and one of the more shocking movies I've seen in recent years, lots of rape and the most creative revenge schemes I've ever seen.

True Grit was a really awesome western from the Coen Brothers. Jeff Bridges definitely worked as a suitable replacement for John Wayne. Very gorgeous cinematography and a thrilling musical score.

Inception was an awesome thriller from Christopher Nolan, and its great to see an original idea making as much money as it did.

Tron: Legacy was a really cool looking movie from a first time director, so credit to Joseph Kosinski for that. Daft Punk's soundtrack made this movie for me.

How To Train Your Dragon was better than Toy Story 3, but both were very good films with stunning animation.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Edgar Wright adapting a crazy graphic novel about videogames was one of the coolest theater experiences I had. I saw it so many times that I don't think I could watch it again for another year.

Kick Ass
My favorite comic book adaptation up to this point. Nic Cage was awesome and Chloe Moretz will definitely be in a lot more awesome films. Mathew Vaughn is promising as a director and I'm anticipating what he will do next. The music was incredible and set to the violence it blew my mind.

Ryan Reynolds carried this movie and I loved every thrilling second of it.

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Inspired me to do some art of my own, my favorite documentary of the year.

Piranha 3D
I had so much fun with this movie when it came out on bluray, I just wish I caught in in theaters.

Jackass 3D
So funny and so much fun. Can't wait for the next one.

Winter's Bone
Very interesting suspenseful movie. I'm anticipating Jennifer Lawrence in future films.

Best Bluray's of the Year
Cronos by Criterion
Night of the Hunter by Criterion
The BBS Box Set by Criterion
House by Criterion
Metropolis Restored by Kino
Exit Through the Gift Shop by Mongrel Media

Monday, October 11, 2010

Star Vehicle Review (2010)

I attended the world premiere screening of the newest film from exploitation master Ryan Nicholson (Hanger, Gutterballs) entitled Star Vehicle. The movie follows movie-star driver Don Cardini (Dan Ellis) as he works on the set of a movie starring is favorite screamqueen Riversa Red (Sindy Feraguna). From the get-go we see Cardini as an obsessive fan with an incredible knowledge of horror movies and especially of his favorite actress Riversa Red. The movie plays the way you'd expect from a cheesy slasher flick, with Cardini attempting to hunt down the supposed stalker that Riversa Red has been dealing with, but the movie throws some fun curveballs that keeps the audience involved with the film and interested. Ellis gives a very fun and wacky performance as the lovable and psychotic Cardini, and he delivered plenty of incredible one-liners and puns that had everyone in the theater laughing their asses off. The rest of the cast plays there roles to the appropriate amount of camp that comes with a low-budget film like this, but overall I found that it greatly enhanced the film and made for some great comedy.

The movie because an incredible piece of meta-fiction when you have the cast of the film playing actors making an homage to campy horror films when the film itself is an homage to campy horror films. The movie's great in this way when you consider the stupendous scenes created by the in-movie director, with the actors delivering laughable performances and trying to make a serious film out of ridiculous situations; such as a hand nailed to a tree and the lead actor saying, "This must be a sign we aren't wanted in these woods". The movie succeeds at being a great homage to the ultra low-budget films of Tim Ritter or Troma, with some wacky special effects and a clear level of comedy. The special effects are entirely practical and to see a movie without ridiculous CG blood is a sign of relief. Its great to see a director like Ryan Nicholson working with his low budget and producing some really fun effects,including a delightful scene in which an insane would-be-rapist gets his pecker ripped off. Its moments like this that the audience goes into an uproar of repulsion and laughter, mixed emotions making a terrific combination of enjoyment.

Star Vehicle is a great film and I'm definitely happy that I'm one of the first twenty people to see it in the entire world. Ryan Nicholson is a great guy and an awesome director and I definitely recommend trying out some of his other work like Hanger if you can stomach it. This was definitely a great film and you should definitely check it out if you get the chance.

Nudity: 6/10
Gore/Violence: 6/10
Passion: 10/10
Enjoyment: 10/10
Overall Quality: 8/10

Thursday, June 10, 2010

So Totally Ballin' Athlete has been online for a long time now and everyone better watch it because its funny and incredibly distasteful. From the minor success of this video we've decided to create a series based around this character, beginning with a new cut of the original film that will contain all original material and no copyrighted songs. Wish us luck on the show and we'll start it coming this summer at the earliest!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Totally Ballin' Athlete and Blog Update

The blog is currently in hiatus due to the fact that I'm tired of writing for now. I'm sure I'll get around to finally posting my Top 10 Animated Films of the Decade list at some point. Right now I've been working on my own film projects, mainly Totally Ballin' Athlete!

The film is about a kickass athlete that plays a mean game of basketball and can send a baseball flying thousands of meters across town. However everything is not all peaceful and ballin', as TBA's archnemesis, the Totally Under appreciated Referee has sworn revenge against him for unknown reasons, sending an elite force to deal with the Totally Ballin' Athlete. The film comes out May 10th at 6:30pm, and for now you can watch exclusive content on my Youtube Channel-

Thanks to everyone for all the support and lets try to get Totally Ballin' Athlete to reach 100,000 views!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Post-Oscar Announcement

I did a great job predicting the Oscars this year and was very happy with most of the results. Most of my predictions were correct and I'm very pleased with myself for making such good positions. However, there were a few winners that I don't believe deserved to win. The largest upset in my opinion is that The Hurt Locker won best screenplay, when it definitely should have gone to Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino's script was fantastic and according to Kathryn Bigelow a lot of The Hurt Locker was improvised, so I doubt the quality of the script.Tarantino defineity should have won this award, which greatly upset me at the Oscars.

Conglaturations to Kathryn Bigelow for winning Best Picture, and Imma let her finish, but Quentin Tarantino made one of the best movies of all time. Hurt Locker was a good movie that could be watched once and be enjoyed, but I've seen Inglourious Basterds at least fifteen times and I still enjoy it. Hurt Locker doesn't stand to repeated viewings because after the audience knows where the bombs are it isn't suspenseful. Basterds was the better film, but I'm still releived that Cameron didn't win! So good job Kathryn Bigelow, I hope you continue to have a great carreer.

Now I'm going into super-bitch mode, mostly due to Twilight. Conglaturations to Stephanie Meyer for creating the worst books ever written. She's attained a following of girls around the world that only read crap, but I still respect her. But just because Twilight is so gaddamn popular right now doesn't mean that I want to see it everywhere in the entertainment industry! To get to the point, during the Oscars there was a ceremony to respect the Horror Genre, my favorite type of movies, and they had it presented by a faggot Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart. Kristen Stewart was fine being up there, as she was in a horror movie at a point in her career, but what else was Lautner in? Sharkboy and Lavagirl! The video to celebrate the Horror Genre was pretty lame, but once I saw a piece of shit Twilight clip in it I went into serious nerd rage! THAT MOVIE ISN'T TERRIFYING! ITS NOT A HORROR MOVIE! ITS GODDAMN TWILIGHT, ONCE AGAIN INVADING MY LIFE!

To conclude this review I just want to say one final thing. When Kathryn Bigelow went to receive her Award for The Hurt Locker they showed the other nomination's reactions. Tarantino had a smile on his face and applauded enthusiastically, as he probably assumed he would get snubbed on another Oscar; the other directors were also excited and applauded Bigelow on her win. The camera cuts to James Cameron and we see him with a scowl on his face and shaking his head. Bad sportsmanship on his part and I have lost lots of respect for him. First he ruined cinema with Avatar, now he's acting like a childish prick. Good job Mr. Cameron.

Rating: 5/10 (Very average--Hosts weren't that great either--very little star power from presenters--Taylor Lautner)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Avatar (2009) Review


I finally decided to do a review of the highest grossing film of all time. To set the record straight I do not like this film. I was incredibly excited for it, but when I discovered that it was only PG and was being marketed as a 'family friendly' movie, any hopes for the film having a strong plot disappeared. James Cameron already made a lot of amazing R films, so I was okay with him allowing his style to appeal to a broader audience. Sigourney Weaver was in it and that excited me as well, which made up for the lack of an R rating. The trailer finally appeared and I must have shit my pants with excitement, the special effects were superb. If Avatar was going to deliver on one thing it would be the special effects, which made up for any small errors the film may have. I went twice in Imax for the full experience, but then I saw the movie on a regular theater screen. I was disappointed. So here is a list of five things that Avatar did horribly wrong.

5. The characters are stock and unlikeable.
Every character in this film is an old movie cliche, whether it was the evil war general or the fighter pilot with a conscious, the characters in the film felt bland and stock. They acted in the most predictable ways and after they're introduced the audience already knows their point in the film. Even Sigourney Weaver is unlikeable, which isn't how I assume Cameron wanted us to think of her, but she still acts like a prick and appears as being pointless within the film. She doesn't do anything but bitch about the corporation and only sticks around as a main character so she can die as a way to make the audience get all emotional. Sam Worthington plays a total idiot and everything he does in the film pisses me off, mostly because no average person would act that way. The  worst character in the movie is Neytiri, as she is only their to play the love interest. She is uninteresting and uncharacterized, she begins the movie talking with an accent that disappears five minutes later, and worst of all she falls in love with Jake for no apparent reason other than provide a love interest. These characters were incredibly bad and it only gets worse form here.

4. The dialog is lame and poorly written.
James Cameron wrote some really bad-ass lines, but none of the can compare to "That is one big tree!" or "You are not in Kansas anymore!". Everything the bad guy Quaritch said was so cliche, and the stupidity only begins there. Jake talks like an idiot throughout the entire film and is always acting like a smart-ass. I cringe ever time a character in this film speaks, especially Jake and the Na'vi. The lines are incredibly cliche and at one point the fighter pilot says, "I didn't sign up for this shit." How many times have we heard that one before? The answer is lots and I noticed a lot of lines from other films that clearly didn't have any thought put into them. The dialog was bad and I didn't like it at all.

3. Subtle left-wing propaganda. 
The entire film bashes the United States government and makes a direct relation to cleaner energy and oil. I understand that this makes the film relevant, but it just preached 'green' views and made large corporations look evil. I don't think corporation are evil, as without them the entire world would live in poverty and I wouldn't have an iPod or Xbox, nor a job. I understand the Iraq war references and the line "We will fight terror with terror!" always makes me laugh uncontrollably because of the stupidity of the scene. The Na'vi did not terrorize the humans, however in real life terrorists did kill thousands of people when they bombed the World Trade Center. I don't appreciate these allusions to the Iraq war and respecting the environment because I'm constantly being bombarded by propaganda about the evils of the Bush administration and oil companies. This isn't that bad and I'm sure in ten years I'll actually enjoy this aspect, but for now I feel that its been overdone and brings down the film.

2. It copied the plot of other films.
Dances with WolvesStarship Troopers. Gully. Pocahantas. Avatar resembles all of these films with similar plots. Its an old cliche that a white man befriends the indigenous population and sides with them, but this movie blatantly ripped these off. The movie's evil military-esque corporation resembles the military of Starship Troopers with similar motivation to destroy the natives and the marines are being killed off by the planet's hostile wildlife in both films. I watched Fern Gully after hearing about its resemblance to Avatar, which was actually one of my favorite films when I was young. I was shocked to see the films not only featuring similar plots, but actual shots were stolen directly from the movie and placed into Avatar. A certain scene shows the main character of Fern Gully trying to stop a massive bulldozer headed towards some trees; a scene which Avatar perfectly recreates. I'm fine with a movie using a classic plot as the basis for their story, but Avatar clearly just took scenes from these other films to fill space in the plot.

1. It didn't look good on a regular screen.
When watching this on a regular theater screen without 3D and without Imax, I couldn't stand the visuals. The Na'vi look incredibly lifeless and grotesque, especially when many are displayed on the screen at once. It actually looked no better than a current generation video game. The lighting was the worse aspect of this, especially at scenes set during the night. It doesn't look good and I won't be buying this film on bluray, as it will look like shit. The visuals were what redeemed the movie for me, but without them it revealed how bad and lame this movie really is.

The good things about this movie were that the action was fun to watch and it was very rewarding to watch the soldiers get killed in a variety of horrible ways. The film could have had a strong ending if it had ended after the destruction of Home Tree, after which Jake says "I guess I just have to wake up." Sam Worthington, despite his horrible role in this film, is actually a good action star and I look forward to seeing him in The Clash of the Titans remake. In Imax the movie looks stunning. I enjoyed watching the movie the first time, despite its predictability.

The one thing that saddens me the most about this movie is that it will forever change the way movies are made. This means that directors and producers are going to focus more on the visual effects than getting good performances out of the actors, which takes all of the skill out of acting. Visual effects allow for the manipulation of anything in the scenes, so filmmakers will no longer have to focus on getting the lighting or camerawork perfect, as they can now just change it in post production. This is not filmmaking, this is animation; which is not the direction I want film to take. Avatar is going to change everything, and its going to be up to independent filmmakers to save the art form with low budget miniatures and organic effects (like the makers of Moon). It will all go downhill from here.

Rating: 3/10