Film Is Dead: A Weekly Discussion on the BFI’s Top 100
With Matt Ashworth, Tim Basaraba, and Peter Cameron
To listen to Film is Dead or contribute your thoughts, download the free Stereo app for iOS or Android and follow @ashmatty, @timbasaraba and @dacam.
Introduction by Matt Ashworth, Editor
Earlier this year, Nada Film Critic Tim Basaraba invited this super-hero-movie-skeptic to join him on a live-chat app called Stereo. We dubbed our weekly discussion OLD JOCK OLD NERD (I’m the jock, he’s the nerd), and the plan was this: discuss every DC and Marvel film in chronological order from 1976 to the present; enlist other nerds to help Tim recommend me a superhero film, and see if I gain an appreciation for the genre.
I did. No plans to watch Catwoman or Green Lantern, but I can now list films like Joker, Avengers: Infinity War, Logan, and Into the Spiderverse among my favorites. The appeal of Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy is crystal clear to me. And I’m MCU-literate enough to genuinely enjoy Loki and WandaVision
Most importantly, it reminded me of the importance of conversation. It’s something we all needed more of during quarantine, and, while chatting through an app doesn’t replace in person discourse, it was a welcome and much needed substitute.
Our discussions, which featured a small but faithful group of participants alongside the occasional newcomer, reminded me how much I love film. So, as we neared the end of our journey, we decided to take a contentious claim from a previous episode – Martin Scorcese said Marvel movies aren’t cinema – and parlay it into our next discussion. We welcomed frequent OJON participant Peter Cameron, (a.k.a. dacam), to join us.
And from that was born, FILM IS DEAD: a weekly discussion of the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound 100 Greatest Films of All-Time list. Starting at the bottom, we work our way to the top by watching one film a week and then discussing it every Friday night at 7 p.m. We share what we liked and didn’t like about the film – its cinematic swagger or artistic pretense. And we attempt to answer the question: if Marvel movies aren’t cinema, then what is cinema?
Here’s a little something our co-host, Peter, has to say about movies.
Film Is Dead. And We Killed It.
By Peter Cameron
FILM IS DEAD! But why? First off, films aren’t filmed on film anymore. Digital has destroyed the celluloid medium. Of course, some auteurs still use film stock, but the trend is towards digital. It’s cheaper; it’s easier, and it makes a lot of sense from a business perspective. Artistically, however, it’s a dead end.
Secondly, the communal act of going to the theater is in the throes of death. C-19 might’ve put the final nail in that coffin. With streaming services in nearly every home, (paid for or not), why bother traveling several miles to be annoyed by some jerk chomping on popcorn and incessantly shifting in their seat? The path of least resistance leads us all into our Platonic caves. There, the Titans of Big Tech will feed us an endless supply of content. I still have my AMC stubs card, but it might be useless in a few years.
And lastly, as technology advanced, so too did cinema – but to what end? Audiences were astonished by the Lumière brother’s train as it literally travelled towards them on screen. D.W. Griffith gave films narrative grandeur, and Eisenstein argued for editing as the true source of film’s artistic power. The camera evolved; sound quality improved, and by the time Dorothy was following the yellow brick road, film had become an incredible blend of literature, painting, acting, music, design, and philosophy. Most people don’t realize how many artistic mediums are at work in a film. And technology made it all possible. But here we are today with tools those early pioneers could never have dreamed of, and is film any better? Technology led film out of the primordial soup of invention, but I’d say technology is leading film right back down into the dirt.
So, it might not be completely dead, but it smells a little moribund to me.