It seems like another lifetime, but back in my budding pre-professional cinephile days I’d delve tirelessly from one film book into another, absorbing as much as I could from favorite works like Manny Farber’s Negative Space, Gilberto Perez’ The Material Ghost, Jonathan Rosenbaum’s Placing Movies, Pauline Kael’s For Keeps, and Philip Lopate’s American Film Critics (probably the best English language overview of the art and history of film criticism). As life got busier and the internet came into its own, I’d seek more insights from the sudden blooming of quality film blogs like those of Girish or Dave Kehr – it was a big selling point that, unlike with a book, one could engage directly with the author. This trend towards accessibility and instant gratification brought about by Web 2.0 reached a kind of threshold with Twitter. Following many of my favorite film critics and cinephile friends starting in 2009, I felt like I had entered something like a grand virtual cocktail party, a non-stop conversation fueled by dozens of personalities dealt in pithy doses.
But it didn’t take much time for the cracks in the forum’s walls to show: the 140 word character ceiling didn’t allow for the most measured, well-considered statements, and fostered a bevy of half-baked, pseudo-profound aphorisms and dead end shouting matches sparked by in-the-moment misunderstandings. On more than one occasion I’ve been tempted to withdraw completely, wondering what value I’ve really gotten from pinging around in this echo chamber. Which is why I admire Masha Tupitsyn’s LACONIA: 1,200 Tweets on Film (Zero Books), which as far as I know is the first book of film criticism composed entirely on Twitter.
Not the novelty stunt some might suspect it of being, the book shows Tupitsyn engaging in earnest with the platform, seeing how far and deep she can take the quality of movie writing in 140 characters or less (at times breaking that limit with reflections spanning several tweets). One pointed absence in her project is the absence of @ exchanges with others (though she does “retweet” the words of directors and critics that she encounters in movies and books). Pointedly, Tupitsyn’s project is utterly solitary, even while conducted in a public sphere. It seeks to renegotiate the boundaries of public and private that social media has left in utter disarray.
There are plenty of nuggets to be found among this virtual micro-film journal spanning from April 2009 to June 2010; I’ve posted a dozen of my own favorites below. It’s not only a chronicle of film viewings but of film culture itself, which Tupitsyn tears into for its promulgation of utter superficiality – pretty damn ironic given the medium she’s using for her message. At times Tupitsyn’s tweets succumb to that dubious strain of cocked-brow terseness endemic to Twitter, though how straight those tweets are to be taken within the context of this knowingly self-reflexive volume is open for interpretation. LACONIA is as much a documentary snapshot of the symptoms of our lives and times as it is a genuine effort to elevate them to a plane of true reflection.
Herewith, some choice dispatches from LACONIA:
321-322. “As John Cusack comes out with 2012, it’s also the 20th anniversary of his masterpiece Say Anything. To celebrate, a Say Anything mob invades NYC today, as thousands of Lloyd Doblers line the streets with boom boxes.”
11:57-58 AM Nov 13 2009
735-737. “I think it’s deeply troubling that Haiti, James Cameron, and Lady Gaga, who were all featured on Oprah today, share, according to Oprah and her producers, the same cultural relevance. And it’s in really bad taste, if not unethical, to brag about how much money Avatar’s made right after you do a segment on Haiti needing money.”
4:02-4:05 PM Jan 15 2010
1. Found a VHS copy of Kramer v. Kramer in the laundry room last night and watched it. The 1st half is progressive. The 2nd is reactionary.
1:38 PM April 26th 2009
121. While watching The China Syndrome, I stumbled upon a realization: Michael Douglas didn’t always act like a pig onscreen. That took time.
10:34 PM Aug 7th
377. “When it comes to celebrity, YouTube is interesting because you can literally watch actors being transformed (bastardized) by fame over time.”
8:55 PM Nov 27th 2009
810. “This culture doesn’t know how to read eyes. It always values color over content.”
6:32 PM Jan 29 2010
163. “The only place where a break up still matters, where people are allowed to be upset about their breakups, is the movies.”
10:10 AM Sep 14th
260. “In Hollywood movies, people give up their favorite houses because it’s easy to get them back. Easy to get everything back.”
9:31 PM Oct 19th
And yes, even Fandor title tie-ins!
17-18. In The Castle, Michael Haneke constantly truncates scenes. There is more and more black screen; more and more we don’t see; less and less confined to the screen; more and more offscreen. More and more we don’t know.
7:21 -7:22 PM May 24th 2009
21. “If you want to look at the spectators you have to look into the camera.” Agnes Varda, The Beaches of Agnes
10:50 AM May 27th
148. I think Hal Hartley’s early films are a kind of American, English-language translation of the French New Wave.
12:07 AM Aug 22nd
255. “If you meet your double, you should kill him.” Alfred Hitchcock
9:16 PM Oct 16
Read an interview with Tupitsyn on Bookslut. And of course, follow her on Twitter. And while you’re at it, you can follow us too.
Kevin B. Lee is the Editor of Keyframe on Fandor. Follow him on Twitter.