We’re approaching the 600th episode of ROBSERVATIONS and fans are writing in with well wishes and questions about some classic TV … plus lots of letters.
Is creating an objective standard for a “good film” even possible?
First time writing in.
I sent in a few superchats laying out some thoughts on the subjectivity vs. objectivity of film debate, which I know you and your pal John Campea bring up occasionally. I wasn’t thinking and sent these in during an Elizaviews stream, and they weren’t relevant so you jumped ahead, which is totally reasonable.
Instead of trying to donate again, I figured I’d write a letter since I get to flesh out my argument. Disclaimer: I haven’t written much since college, so this might suck in terms of the argument and writing quality I don’t think this is going to 100% convince anyone one way or the other, just want to put this out there and see if anyone likes it. I think the belief in objectively good film actually creates a paradoxical situation, making it an untenable position. Meaning subjectivity is the only position that makes sense.
First, what does it mean to have objectively good film? It means there’s some impartial, unambiguous criteria we can use to declare films good or bad. John says that the lack of such criteria proves that film is subjective, and maybe it does, but I think we can discuss this without fully defining the criteria. Let’s just assume that the criteria exists, filmmakers have access to it and can follow the criteria to make a good film. In that case, would any filmmaker NOT follow this criteria?
In a world where film quality is subjective, maybe, but these are provably objective criteria of a good movie, so if a filmmaker chooses not to follow any of these items, they are choosing to make a lesser movie. I’m not a filmmaker myself, but I can’t imagine that any of them would want to do that. So my assumption is that if we can prove that objectively good film exists, directors, writers, etc. will create objectively good film. Not “strive to create”, just create it.
I believe that in this world of objectively good film… film sucks. When everyone is following the same rules and producing film with the same qualities, does that not become insanely repetitive? Would become predictable, filming styles would become mundane, audiences will always know certain things will happen… the creativity would be gone. Anyone who tries to experiment must do so within the confines of objectively good film criteria, which can’t be too loose or nebulous, otherwise it is not useful as objective criteria. Something like “the plot has to be interesting” doesn’t work, because what does that mean? Instead, the experimental filmmaker would still have specific rules that limit what they can do, assuming they still intend to create a good film. Audiences will inevitably become tired of seeing the same things over and over again.
The paradox is that good film is now also bad film, because at the end of the day, film should captivate the viewer. To say otherwise is to imply that we’d enjoy objectively good but utterly boring film, which I don’t believe can be said in good faith.
I think we can look at the gaming industry to support this reasoning. Like film, making games is a creative process in terms of story, gameplay, art direction, music… all of it. I’m not saying you have to be creative to make financially or critically successful games, but there’s a reason gaming circles focus on the latest and greatest new experiences in favor of yearly Call of Duty/Madden releases. I know those series are very popular, and they are generally well-made competent releases, but they never really get people talking because they’re so formulaic. While there are people content to buy nothing but every year’s new installment of (franchise), these aren’t exactly the arbiters of game quality. So I’m not speaking on behalf of all gamers, just the ones who would actually be qualified to judge game merit outside of their personal preferences. I think that no matter the form of art, intelligent consumers thrive on new experiences, and the introduction of objective quality criteria inherently stifles creativity.
So even if objectively good art criteria existed, could a creative choose to not follow one element? And is their art still good? If so, that means that specific criteria didn’t actually define good art. A logical contradiction. I understand the incentive behind this viewpoint – we see a movie, love it, find some morons online trashing it, and wish there was a way to literally prove them wrong. I’ve been there before, but I’ve also been on the other end, arguing that a movie sucks vs. people who think it’s great. For instance, Phantom Thread. In the end, I just accept that people aren’t going to agree on everything and move on. No offense to you or anyone who believes in the objective film quality, I just think it falls apart under enough scrutiny. Hope people enjoy this letter.
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Kudos on 600 episodes of ROBSERVATIONS
Well here we are once again with another milestone, 600 episodes of Robservations. The place where we the PGS come to escape from lockdown and the horrors of the real world …known as politics. Rob, I´ve been watching since late last summer and at 1st I found the prospect of writing in to the show to be a bit daunting …so I watched a few episodes to get a general idea of how to get the letter flowing like Aunt Flo staying at the Red Roof Inn.
So today i wanted to share somethings with you and the rest of the PGA… I mean PGS. I know you probably wonder why I always label my letters as Tom Jr Jackson , well the reason is a friend of mine who does a podcast would always shout me out as junior jackson and then it became Tom Jr Jackson and it stuck.
I love that this is your 600th episode and in this time you have launched not 1 , not 2 but 3 or 4 other shows as well. This lockdown has brought you a small universe of shows on the Burnettwork and it looks like there is no slowing down for you. You’ve created a film festival and a soon to be writing contest as well and bringing the entire PGS community closer to being more creative and we should.
I mean, what better way than for all of us to band together and do something fun while trying to make this pandemic pass by? I mean, as someone who can very easily get sick from COVID-19 because I had a kidney transplant which as of next year will be 10 years since I had it? So like you, I miss going to a cinema to see films and once things are safe I will go back but also I would like to travel at some point as well.
In over 600 episodes, you have once never mentioned Star Trek: Discovery which really surprised me.
I´ll be honest with you, I like Discovery and I will tell you I am a life long Star Trek fan too but I have one small problem with the show and that is Burnham and her weird use of ASMR , things get heated up and instead of yelling she decides to do ASMR and it feels like nails on a chalkboard.
Oh, why don’t I have a problem with it? ‘Cause I do not go into watching it with expectations and when I do that with Star Trek or anything I like. I am able to enjoy whatever I am watching without having to think about.
I am sorry Rob, but I do respect your opinions.
Well, Rob I think I have said enough for now, but congrats on 600 episodes and here is to 66 more ( wink wink) . Seriously , here is to 600 more episodes and congrats on that Tango Shaloooommmm (sorry, I hear that title and I can hear Jerry Lewis saying it and messing around with the name).
My best to you Ace, the girls, and the dogs .
-Tom Jr. J.
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Is entertainment trying too hard to be relevant today?
Hi Rob, moderators, and Post Geek Singularity,
Congratulations on making it to 600 episodes of Robservations. If you keep it up, you will reach 1000 episodes by the first quarter of 2022.
Most of today’s entertainment has become filled with so much relevance to what is happening the world right now, to the point we are being hit over the head.
I don’t know why creators are obsessed with pushing relevant issues in our faces. I have no problem with incorporating relevant issues, only if it is done in the background and never to the point it interferes with the story, because at the end of the day, all I just want is good stories and good characters.
In my opinion, the best person at incorporating relevant issues into stories, without hitting us over the head, was Rod Serling. Before he did the Twilight Zone, he was still able to incorporate relevant issues of the real world into his scripts. When he worked in Kraft Television Theatre, he wrote this very acclaimed episode called “Patterns”, about the dynamics of the business world with a power struggle between a veteran corporate boss and young executive. He did other acclaimed episodes as well, which incorporated relevant issues such as anti-Semitism, bigotry, and racism, like “Noon On Doomsday” and “A Town Has Turned To Dust”. When he did make The Twilight Zone, he did the same type of thing, with episodes such as “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” and “The Obsolete Man”, just as a few examples.
Whenever I see those Twilight Zone episodes, I always think to myself, “Why can’t modern creators just do what Rod Serling did back in the 50s and 60s, where he put stories and characters first, and had the relevant issues in the background?”. I know it’s important, but I don’t want to be hit over the head with stuff like that, I just want good stories and characters.
That is just something frustrating about most modern day creators and entertainment, where we are being hit over the head with relevant issues first, and the stories and characters second.
Thanks, live long and prosper.
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Congrats on 600 shows!
Hi Rob and to the Post Geek Singularity.
I just want to drop by a quick letter and say congratulations for the 600th episode of Robservations.
I discovered your show during the earlier days of quarantine and now it’s a staple of my day to watch the shows on The Burnettwork and watch the new IICFF 2020 films. Thank you for entertaining us on the world wide web. I really enjoyed watching your shows.
I don’t always agree with your opinions but I like listening to them. You showed that it should be okay to listen to an opinion that is not the same as yours and we should listen to a different point of view.
I also want to thank you for reading my letters on-air and I appreciate that you’re giving a platform for the PGS to share their thoughts.
Also, I recently launched my own YouTube channel because I was inspired by people like you and John Campea. I hope it will gain traction.
Anyways, thank you for reading this letter, good luck on Tango Shalom, stay safe, and once again, congratulations.
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Congrats on 600 shows and riding the “time train” back to the 80s.
My best buddy that I have yet to meet. HAPPY 600th (Thanks to THE RICHARD for his reminder).
Here I am writing you again about POP BCULTURE from my (our) youth. The seventies had begun to fade away (Less lime green furniture in the BUTCHER HOUSEHOLD) I would just take this opportunity to reminisce about the early eighties and the wonderful it was being young in that decade. Now that I think about it, the 80s all seemed to be a “great big beautiful tomorrow.” Everything including my own sexuality were big bright flashy 80’s. Btw speaking as someone who remembers the 80s… WW84, was so UN-80s. Buit please indulge me, good sir Rob, for a look at some early eighties memories. EONs ago, of course …But, I still have some (few) Brain cells left that can …” Remember it for you Wholesale”
Circa 1982, we had Reagan, Madonna’s first album and SCI FI was BLOOMING EXPONENTIALLY. My Gosh, I had a scrapbook that I would put ads in (Film ads in the Newspaper (SHOCK!)The Sunday LA Times was always chock full of Tabloid sIZED ads for the upcoming genre films. It was like getting a mini-poster every week. (Bless you LA Times) AHHHH so many GREAT FILMs. Some of many: ET, Raiders, Conan, Blade runner, Dark Crystal….Do you notice a pattern…YES POP Culture that would live on until today. OH, and Horror…CREEPSHOW ( I want my cake you BITCH). Luckily by this time I was able and willing to sneak into R RATED R, I felt so Naughty doing that. But, with so many GREAT films playing simultaneously, sneaking into movies could turn into an all-day event.
My parents, until they passed, blame ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW as my introduction to SLEAZE and Sexual innuendo. Being a confused boy of 15…I like the sleaze and Sexual innuendo. Quite a bit ACTUALLY. This may sound strange, But, RHPS became (my group of GEEKY friends) a rite of passage.
OK, RMB, we know that your LEAST favorite film of all time was The Rocky horror sequel …. Shock Treatment. Like many film soundtracks…I got a hold of The Shock Treatment album before I saw the film) and I fairly much ENJOYED the songs. Lullaby…..Thank God Im a man…. shock treatment and BITCHEN IN THE KITCHJEN. My friends and I LOVED the songs (quirky and weird, like WE ALL WERE) To Challenge you Rob and your hatred OF that FILM….
IT WORKED FOR MY 15 ½ Age mentality. It was “ toe-tapping” fun. Then we finally saw it. I was of the mindset of ….” HUH?” when I saw it. I didn’t like it either, but over the last 35 years It has kinda grown on me. ( Just like weeds….which I started smoking were more WORDS…Less pictures….No Internet ….EEEK whats a young gay boy to do. I just kept usinmg my world books. That was GOSPEL.
Thanks again ROB , for keeping this DOWN TIME interesting with all your GOODIES. I have dubbed you : THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF WORLD BOOKS (graphic to come soon) lol. Happy 600th and Please share a VERY IMPOTRANT bit of info with me.
“What is your skin care regiment” your skin sometimes looks like “smooth alabaster” ….( You are a year older than ME.)
Kisses to Elizabeth and you from San Francisco
In GEEKUS DECORUM,
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More thoughts on what makes a movie “good” and whether that’s even a good use of time.
It’s been quite a while since I last wrote to you, but I thought I would check back in and contribute to the conversation surrounding one of your favorite subjects, the objectivity of great story-telling and movie-making.
Frankly, I think even you miss the mark when defending how some movies are better than others. I would take a much more platonic approach instead of an empirical one analyzing what makes stories great, since empiricism and objectivity are different.
Rather than trying to gauge what’s going on in someone’s brain while watching something, I believe the goods of a movie lie in its component parts. Is the source material, if any, rooted in something for lack of better descriptors true or durable (examples being scripture or Shakespeare)? How attuned is the writer to the subjects of the tale? Are the writer, producer(s), and director on the same page about what the movie is trying to accomplish? Is the director able to adequately communicate with their lieutenants in the department heads and the cast, and the cast with each other?
The interplay in those dynamics is where I try and find value in something I’m watching.
I tried to keep this short and sweet since you recently stated you prefer more brief letters so you can have time for more people to contribute. I hope I made sense while doing that.
Regards from Minnesota
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