For the June issue of Sight & Sound magazine I watched astronauts get eaten in Life, a film happily symptomatic of the age. “There are no margins or centres now, just a digital bacchanal of in jokes, scuttlebutt and lore churning a tense and self-conscious pop culture.” — says me, pointing in the direction of both Erik Davis and Kim O’Connor and stealing their lunch money.
We nerd out on culture that we experience as data to play with. The in jokes, scuttlebutt, mash ups, and lore obsession of geekery allow us to snuggle up to the uncanny possibilities of magic, superpowers, and cosmic evil without ever losing the cover story that makes these pleasures possible for modern folks: that our entertainments are “just fictions,” diversions with no ontological or real psychological upshot, just moves in a game.
– Erik Davis in Techgnosis (2015 edition Afterword)
People never feel more self-satisfied than when they recognise what one thing takes from something else. Abhay Khosla described this phenomenon in an essay about Michael Fiffe’s COPRA: “Categorise. Classify. Regiment. Bag. Bored. Bleh.” I like the idea that there’s some critical space where you can attend to a work that is not just a take — that criticism is capable, perhaps, of transcending whatever it’s about.
– Kim O’Connor‘s essay How We Take, in Zainab Akhtar’s compilation zine Critical Chips (2016)
Categorise, classify, bored, bleh. What are the chances of a film criticism that can transcend whatever it’s about, if it remains content to be a traditional conservative academic humanities discipline, and while audio-visual culture mutates away from everything that made that approach viable? You could equally ask why film criticism ever wanted to be a traditional conservative humanities discipline in the first place, but then we’re back to David Bordwell again.