' ' Cinema Romantico: Laying Our Cards on the Table

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Laying Our Cards on the Table

Cinema Romantico strives for intellectual honesty. Every review, or nearly every review, unless otherwise indicated, which will be addressed momentarily, on this blog is penned from a critical distance. I acknowledge, or hope to, the movie being reviewed on its terms, and then work through that movie to try and determine if it succeeds on those terms and if it breaks through to find some deeper truth and, if so, why. I am trying, in other words, to live in the image of that recent New York Times Magazine piece by Wesley Morris – Should Art Be a Battleground for Social Justice? – lamenting how so often these days critics start from an ideological point and work backwards rather than vice-versa. His piece mirrored a different piece written almost a whole year earlier by Michael Pattison at his site idFilm, who, throwing all kinds of agreeable shade, said, “Tired of form, we wanted meaning. The medium was no longer the message. ‘In fact, just give us the message.’” Cinema Romantico wants to extrapolate the message from the medium, see.


Cinema Romantico seeks emotional honesty. A man goes to a movie, as they say, and he must admit he is that man. Biases, emotional or otherwise, are present in each of us. I try, however, to generally leave those biases outside the theater, or, perhaps more accurately, turn them off later when writing the movie’s analysis. And yet, my biases can occasionally override critical detachment and still seep in, if not gush right on through. If so, I recognize the infiltration of those biases and either 1.) Eliminate them or 2.) Acknowledge them and provide my analysis through their prism. I firmly believe the latter should not be ruled out of order so long as the critic is being honest with her/his self. And even if I have tried to siphon much of the emotionalism out of my reviews over the years, when it is time to review with my feelings, first, foremost, and maybe nothing else, I will.


Ah, but Cinema Romantico contains multitudes, and sometimes our emotional honesty erupts into hyper-emotional honesty. You might say “hyper-emotional honesty? That’s just hyperbole.” But hyperbole is an exaggerated statement not meant to be taken literally, and while my hyper-emotional honesty is generally an exaggeration it is also absolutely meant to be taken literally. If, for instance, I say that Lady Gaga can breathe fire, a la a mythical dragon, I mean this figuratively, of course, obviously, but also literally, just not literally-literally, which is not metaphorically, understand, but a kind of mystical actuality. And I mean this literally, so to speak, because I am, full disclosure, a Little Monster. Now, that does not mean I am impossibly partial where Her Gaganess is concerned. I can tell you “Joanne”, much to my chagrin, was just eh. I gave a so-so review to “Gaga: Five Foot Two.” I was intellectually honest in my analysis of her turn in “A Star Is Born.” But.

While it is entirely possible – nay, probable – that Ms. Gaga’s “A Star Is Born” performance will not, at year’s end, be both the pragmatic “best” and my favorite, it will simultaneously and absolutely be both the pragmatic “best” and my favorite. Indeed, even if the Academy Awards are, as of today, precisely four long, long months away, the Best Actress Oscar race here at Cinema Romantico is, 100%, over. If someone else ultimately deserves the Oscar more, I will say so, while also saying that this speculative other person does not deserve the Oscar more at all. Both things, as the pundits make clear over and over and over these days, can be true.

Got it? Good. Go Gaga.

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