>Film Critics of Tomorrow, Yesteryear and Today: Two Competitions

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(If you’d like to help with Boone’s next venture, click here).

Film Studies For Free begins its rather atypical post with the following questions: does FSFF have any film fanatical/cinephile, teenage readers? Or, do any of its venerable, film-academic readers have any film fanatical/cinephile, teenage relatives? If so (and if they are UK based), please read/get them to read about the “Film Critic of Tomorrow” competition – all details given at the foot of this post. Do please fondly remember this potentially life-changing blog-post if any of you or yours win…

Secondly, FSFF would like to help whip up some timely interest in the work one of the more talented, cinema-inspired, video essayists working today, New-York based Steven Boone, in order to help him make some more films. So, it proudly presents its first ever competition (and there’s no age restriction, unlike the Film Critic of Tomorrow comp, as set out at the foot of this post)!

Here are the rules: write a piece of film criticism, in 200-400 words, about Boone’s video “Notes for a David Lynch adaptation of [Michael Jackon’s autobiography] Moonwalk embedded above. Submit your entry by email to this address by next Thursday, July 1st (deadline extended), 17.00 hours GMT.

The most interesting entries received (and hopefully there will be some…) will be published in a future FSFF post. And the author of the most insightful and well-crafted will be mailed the more pristine copy (of the two in FSFF‘s possession) of Scott Balcerzak and Jason Sperb’s important and fascinating 2009 collection of essays Cinephilia in the Age of Digital Reproduction: Film, Pleasure and Digital Culture, Vol. 1. . Let the competition commence! (And thank you for your kind indulgence).

Finally, today’s FSFF post exists to exhort you, were such exhortation really necessary, to read David Bordwell’s latest brilliant blogpost: “Glancing backward, mostly at critics“.

You may not believe it, but magical things will happen if you do. Indeed, it was while she was doing just that, that FSFF‘s author noticed for the first time an item in Bordwell and Kristin Thompson‘s wonderful list of freely accessible research items (in the upper left hand column of the site): a link to a PDF file of the introductory chapter to Bordwell’s magnificent opus The Way Hollywood Sees It: Story and Style in Modern Movies [Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006]). If you haven’t read this before, you must. And now you easily can!

    Here’s looking at you kids……
    VIRGIN MEDIA and JAMES KING LAUNCH SEARCH FOR THE FILM CRITIC OF TOMORROW

    Virgin Media has joined forces with broadcaster, James King [a Film and Television Studies graduate from the University of Warwick’s brilliant degree programme], in searching the country for aspiring young film critics, to join the judging panel for the third annual Virgin Media Shorts competition.

    As one of the industry’s finest film critics, James has already secured his place on the Virgin Media Shorts judging panel and is now looking for one lucky teenager to join him, alongside follow judges:
              Award-winning British film actress, Thandie Newton
              Film director, Duncan Jones, best known for his directorial debut Moon
              Film director, Mike Newell, director of Four Weddings and a Funeral
              Executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media, Cindy Rose
              Senior production executive at the UK Film Council, Chris Collins

    As part of the judging panel, the lucky teen will work with the expert panel to select the Grand Prize Winner from the short-listed films entered into this year’s competition. The winner will also get the Hollywood treatment, receiving an all expenses paid trip to London to attend the red carpet awards ceremony and mingle with the star-studded judging panel. Following in the footsteps of last year’s winner, 14-year old Jordan Campbell from Glasgow, who described the experience as feeling as popular as Susan Boyle!

    Speaking about the competition, James King said: “Virgin Media Shorts already offers a fantastic opportunity for British film-making talent – shining a light on new and established individuals. However, what I am most looking forward to is discovering the talent of tomorrow. The search for a young film critic to join me on the Virgin Media Shorts judging panel will open the door to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for one aspiring youngster. And, I may even pick up some tips from them too!”

    Entry is open to film fanatics aged between 13-19 years old and who think they’ve got what it takes to impress James. To enter, young film fans should visit www.virginmediashorts.co.uk/vipjudge and fill out the simple entry form. Deadline for entries is 5pm on Wednesday 30th June when all entries will be reviewed and one teenager crowned the overall winner.

    For more information about Virgin Media Shorts and to view some of this year’s entries, visit www.virginmediashorts.co.uk

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    Crossing the Wild River: R.I.P. Robin Wood (1931-2009)

    Last updated on January 23, 2010

    ‘If I were asked to choose a film that would justify the existence of Hollywood, I think it would be Rio Bravo.’ Robin Wood

    Film Studies For Free briefly emerges from an enforced absence due to illness (back properly soon, it hopes), to mark the sad passing, on December 18, of Robin Wood, one of the true giants of the difficult endeavour of film criticism and also of the discipline of film studies.

    FSFF‘s own special-favourite Wood works are the talk on ‘Responsibilities of a Gay Film Critic’, his books on Hitchcock (especially the Vertigo chapter), the book he co-authored with Michael Walker on Claude Chabrol’s films, his incredibly enlightening study of Hawk’s Rio Bravo and the other BFI book on The Wings of a Dove. Each of these was paradigm-shifting in their own ways, as was much of Wood’s other writing on cinema.

    As online tributes to this major film writer appear in the next days they will be added to the list of online and freely accessible works by or about Wood given below.

    May this hugely prolific, influential, and talented writer, film-thinker, and teacher rest in peace.

    Posthumous online tributes to Robin Wood:

    Online works by or about Robin Wood:

          Sad News

          “The first impulse of any good film critic, and [with] this I think you would agree, must be of love. To be moved enough to want to share their affection for a particular work or to relate their experience so that others may be curious. This is why criticism, teaching, and curating or programming, in an ideal sense, must all go hand in hand.”

          The Value of Style: Film Criticism in Scholarship

          “The first impulse of any good film critic, and to this I think you would agree, must be of love. To be moved enough to want to share their affection for a particular work or to relate their experience so that others may be curious. This is why criticism, teaching, and curating or programming, in an ideal sense, must all go hand in hand.”
          “The Letter I would Love To Read To You In Person” by Alexis Tioseco [to Nika Bohinc], July 15, 2008, pt 1, pt 2, pt 3

          Image from The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)

          Today, Film Studies For Free is very merrily celebrating its first birthday. It is marking this auspicious date — in style and on style — by posting one of its longest links lists yet: to online and openly accessible articles and essays on the subject of film criticism (scholarly and otherwise) that FSFF‘s author has found important and/or stimulating over the last years.

          FSFF would like its list to be even longer, though, so do please take note of the four headings below (on film style: on film criticism; on film critics; and important, self-reflexive, examples of film criticism online) and do let the blog know of links to other relevant work (especially to good examples of online film criticism), preferably in the comments section, please.

          This post was inspired, in great part, some weeks back by the peerless Girish Shambu who launched a characteristically thoughtful and important discussion, in a blog entry entitled “Building A Large Conversation“, about the divide that exists between the fields of film scholarship and film criticism. Girish wrote:

          Except for a small number of invaluable critic-scholars who work to bridge the gap, the two groups similarly shy away from citing each other. Why is this so? For critics, it would require the significant effort of familiarizing themselves with scholarly literature past and present, an effort made more difficult by the presence of a specialized scholarly vocabulary. For scholars, whose jobs already require them to do vast amounts of reading, this would mean widening their field of vision to include writing in film magazines, the Internet (including blogs), and newspapers. Added to this are the demands in both professions of watching scores of films on a steady basis.

          Like Girish, the many important commenters to his blog post, and other thoughtful respondents to it, such as HarryTuttle, FSFF readily acknowledges the difficulties in bridging these gaps.

          In his response to Girish’s post, film scholar and blogger Chris Cagle wrote eloquently and concisely about those difficulties, but in an optimistic frame, he noted that what might be needed is

          a model that’s different than pure specialization or pure dilettantism. For lack of a better name, I’d call it randomization. Each scholar specializes but looks to new ideas, methodologies, and inspiration in a limited fashion with the hope that collectively we mitigate the downside of stale intellectual mindsets. The journalist, blogger, or public intellectual could have a role in this.

          Film Studies For Free owes its very existence to the desire to help to ‘join up’ scholars and critics in the global online arena. And it very much seconds Cagle’s assertions about what is required to achieve this. Today, then, it reaffirms its own mission by helping to encourage a richer and more connected ‘scholar-critic conversation’ through the below list of ‘randomly collected’ but also ‘specialized’ links.

          On a final note, FSFF has received lots of encouragement in its first year of existence, but none warmer, more timely or more generous than that given in its early days by Girish, whose own website continues to be a huge inspiration in all sorts of ways. Thanks a million to him, and to all of you who have welcomed and supported this blog. Onwards!

          On film style:

          On film criticism:

          On film critics:

          Important, self-reflexive, examples of film criticism online:


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