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HULK SMASHES THE PUNY PARADIGMS OF FILM CRITICISM
January 26, 2012 4:40 AM   Subscribe

Loudly and with much smashing, FilmCritHulk has become a major presence in the world of online film criticism with his semiotical essays on storytelling, cinematic principles, and media theory. Starting first on his personal blog, Hulk now writes for Badass Digest [previously] (the lifestyle blog corner of the Alamo Drafthouse empire [previously, previously])

Some highlights of the FilmCritHulk oeuvre.

Filmmaking
Hulk Explain Action Scenes (part two, part three)
Acting 101

Screenwriting
Hulk vs. the Hero's Journey
The Myth of the 3-Act Structure
Screenwriting 101: a book-length essay on screenwriting (part one, part two)

Film Criticism
Hulk vs the Hulk Movies
Hulk vs. Fight Club (And The Work of David Fincher)
Hulk and The Cinema of Edgar Wright
The Ending is the Conceit: Super and the Art of Displacement

Love of Cinema and the Theatrical Experience
Why Hulk Go To Movies
Never Hate a Movie
A Note to Theater Owners / Movie-goers Concerning the Effect of Sound

Videogames
Hulk vs. The Evolution of the Modern Warfare Series (round two) [previously]
Sexism in Arkham City

If you are put off by the all-caps Hulk-smashing writing style you can use convert case, but don't expect him to change. At least not until Marvel sues him for copyright violation.
posted by kcalder (24 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
There is a great deal to digest here and I reserve the right to change my mind, of course, if I come across something I don't like - but reading the David Fincher essay, I think that he is spot on.

This is really pretty interesting. He seems to be a good critic, sensitive and perceptive.

It's also interesting because he seems to be another example of the critic-as-clown: it's a (less offensive/disgusting) version of the approach that RedLetterMedia uses in their "Plinkett" videos.

By putting on a particular mask, a clowning critic can coax us into looking at a work of art in an odd but illuminating way - whether it's teasing out the emotional resonances, but doing it in a silly voice (Hulk critic, I suppose) or hammering away at a level of detail and consistency that verges on mental illness, but doing it in a serial-killer voice that somehow makes that pedantry amusing (Plinkett).

One thing it seems to do particularly well is to communicate to a straight man that something is sexist, but do it in a much less threatening way than a straight-up explicitly feminist reading.

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth," as Oscar Wilde said.
posted by lucien_reeve at 5:11 AM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


His point about Fight Club is a good one -- not many people appreciated it as satire because Fincher wasn't really committed to making it that way. He claims you're supposed to dislike Tyler and the whole "fight club" mentality but portrays them so flatteringly that it has the opposite effect. It reminds me of an interview with Michael Douglas where he complained that no one understood that Wall Street was an ANTI-wall street movie, and he hates it when bond traders come up to him in restaurants and talk about how Gordon Gekko is their hero.

The point being, if a huge chunk of your audience gets the message of your movie exactly backwards, at some point it's your fault and not theirs.
posted by pete_22 at 5:14 AM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'll see your case-switchin' web-thingie and raise you a Firefox extension.
posted by lumensimus at 5:24 AM on January 26, 2012


I just realized that the (round two) and [previously] links after the Modern Warfare item should actually be after the Arkham City item. I'm sorry.
posted by kcalder at 5:32 AM on January 26, 2012


He was recently on a podcast, one of the Nerdist ones, where he gave some opinions on the primacy of authorial intent and what makes a thing art that I found so ill-considered and anachronistic that I had to turn it off. Podcasting can be irritating when it apes conversational forms, because it's not a conversation; the listener is passive, and it's frustrating if the people talking don't the questions they should.

But I usually like his writing and these links look great. I didn't know he was at Badass Digest now. Thanks for the post, kcalder.
posted by penduluum at 5:34 AM on January 26, 2012


In spite of the stupid all-caps-Hulk-meme-speak, I really enjoy Film Critic Hulk. His arguments would be just as salient without the Hulk persona, but I suppose it gets him some extra attention. I also suppose there's something endearing about a guy furiously typing in all-caps about how much he loves thinking about movies. The all-caps does suggest that he wrote every post spur of the moment, pure id, as if he couldn't wait to tell you how important the ending of Super is.

The "Never Hate a Movie" post is essential reading, not only because it's the key to his persona (and Tarantino's) but it's also a nice lesson in not analyzing movies based on their worth.
posted by bittermensch at 6:20 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Talking about yourself in the third person is the infallible mark of a pseud.
posted by Wolof at 6:25 AM on January 26, 2012


These are awesome. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:30 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


By putting on a particular mask, a clowning critic can coax us into looking at a work of art in an odd but illuminating way - whether it's teasing out the emotional resonances, but doing it in a silly voice (Hulk critic, I suppose) or hammering away at a level of detail and consistency that verges on mental illness, but doing it in a serial-killer voice that somehow makes that pedantry amusing (Plinkett).

This is basically the reason he says he does the Hulk bit, but the problem is that the mask doesn't actually do any work -- it's just ALL CAPS and third person and the occasional wrong word tense. (Contra Outlaw Vern, who is a fleshed-out persona with his own temperament and point of view.) So what you're left with is wading through really long essays written in CAPS, which is hard on the eyes and not much more. I agree that he is sharp and has good things to say but the gimmick started to wear me down pretty quickly.
posted by eugenen at 6:54 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The "Never Hate a Movie" post is essential reading, not only because it's the key to his persona (and Tarantino's) but it's also a nice lesson in not analyzing movies based on their worth.

I've felt this way about music for a while and am just starting to understand it as a way to approach all culture.

But sometimes I wonder, aren't some truly great artists driven by their carefully defined boundaries of what they HATE as much as by what they love?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:54 AM on January 26, 2012


Holy cow, Outlaw Vern is good. Thanks, eugenen!
posted by whuppy at 7:18 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


But sometimes I wonder, aren't some truly great artists driven by their carefully defined boundaries of what they HATE as much as by what they love?

Can you give examples? The larger point is not letting your hate blind you from gaining anything from a movie. It's so easy to leave a movie, especially one you disliked, and have your analysis start and end with "that movie was 2/10 stars" and ignore all the work and decisions hundreds of people made over the course of years. Who cares if Goodfellas is better or worse than Dances with Wolves? Isn't it more interesting, and more to the credit of everyone who put effort into both movies, to examine or compare based on their craft?

I could see an artist reacting, through his work, to a movie or book or whatever that he disliked. But I don't think that would occur with the cynical, reptile-brain "liked it/didn't like it" response Tarantino's talking about.
posted by bittermensch at 7:30 AM on January 26, 2012


Talking about yourself in the third person is the infallible mark of a pseud.

Or, you know, the Hulk. "I SMASH" just doesn't have that same ring to it, y'know?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:44 AM on January 26, 2012


As an actual fan of the Incredible Hulk (of the Bill Mantlo era), the problem I have with it is that it's pretty weak-sauce Hulk.

"AND CONCERNING THE DISJOINTED SENTENCE STRUCTURE AND GRAMMAR HULK DID YA’LL A SOLID AND ADOPTED THOSE PESKY THINGS LIKE PREPOSITIONS, APOSTROPHES, AND THE ALL-TOO CRITICAL WORD 'IS.'"

Ok, I suppose I don't want to read actual Hulk-speak for page after page unless it's intercut with photos of you having a fight with Abomination or smashing up some tanks, but either do Hulk or don't do it. That said, I do enjoy good film criticism, so I'll try to power through the all caps, but he's not doing himself any favors.
posted by whir at 8:08 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who cares if Goodfellas is better or worse than Dances with Wolves?

Oh not again.
posted by gauche at 9:41 AM on January 26, 2012


but either do Hulk or don't do it.
posted by whir at 8:08 AM on January 26 [1 favorite +] [!]


What about Savage Hulk and Joe Fixit? If a hulk-reader came up in that era that would be just as much a part of the hulk voice as the standard.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 10:49 AM on January 26, 2012


Joe Fixit: "Hmph. You're smashed already and you don't even know it."

Savage Hulk: "SRMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGSH!"

Real Hulk: "HULK NOT JUST SHOUT IN CAPS! HULK TALK LIKE THIS! AND SMASH!"
posted by straight at 11:12 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Penduluum,
One of the great things about FilmCritHulk is that he is incredibly accessible in his normal forums. He tends to read and often respond to most comments on his blogs, and is very engaged with Twitter. So while I understand your frustration with Podcast, that is not his typical (or chosen) format - and the issue of one sidedness is not really a problem normally.
posted by ohheh at 11:27 AM on January 26, 2012


S/he is also a mefite, yeah? This is a great blog and it is a shame that someone who has so many great things to say has to do it like this to get noticed. But it seems to be working, so I can't fault 'em.

But sometimes I wonder, aren't some truly great artists driven by their carefully defined boundaries of what they HATE as much as by what they love?

Of course, but consuming something and immediately stepping back and saying "I HATE/LIKE THIS" instantly reduces your view without being critical whatsoever. I was talking to some people recently and I realized I have many friends who are like this. I mean the conversation(s) I had was
"Did you see that one movie?"
"Yeah, I didn't like it."
"Really? Why?"
"I don't know. I just didn't."
Okay, hearing that blew my fucking mind. I realized at that point I was having a conversation with a 30 year old who used the same metric they used for movies when they were 5. Now I don't think you need to give a reason for liking something or not, but if you have a cultured taste then you should have reasons why. For instance, if you can't clearly discern between JCVD and JCVD's other work, then there's something that's clearly being missed. It's not that you have to like JCVD over Universal Soldier, but you should be able to discern what makes them what they are, to you or otherwise. That's what Tarantino and Film Crit Hulk are talking about.

Podcasting can be irritating when it apes conversational forms,

Don't get me started. I just asked a friend if they wanted a to do a podcast project and they told me so-and-so had already asked. Then I thought "welp, that's going to be fucked". The guy can barely hold a two way conversation because he's too busy admiring his own voice. No one wants to hear *sigh*... this is making me angry now... you wouldn't like... grrr...
posted by P.o.B. at 12:14 PM on January 26, 2012


I realized at that point I was having a conversation with a 30 year old who used the same metric they used for movies when they were 5. Now I don't think you need to give a reason for liking something or not, but if you have a cultured taste then you should have reasons why.

I have no problem with someone saying that stuff needs to reach a given level of quality before it's worth thinking about why you don't like it. You can be mature and thoughtful and still realize that some stuff is barely worth a reflexive "Yuck."
posted by straight at 1:16 PM on January 26, 2012


You can be mature and thoughtful and still realize that some stuff is barely worth a reflexive "Yuck."

Yeah, fair enough, and I don't mean to say that their opinion is worthless; they are my friends after all. Obviously to those people it holds some kind deterministic value, but it's that they have never given a thought beyond what their pathos allows them. So it's a rather amorphous feeling for them, and that doesn't make for real conversation about a movie because then it's justification on the fly. At some point you want to have a conversation whereby there is some thought put into it, or at least I do, and I'd rather not sit around and sort someone else's feelings about movie.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:14 PM on January 26, 2012


The all-caps-Hulk-speak is a Brechtian mechanism.
posted by mediated self at 8:49 PM on January 26, 2012


How did I not know about that convert case site? Mmm, probably because up until now i've never had to try and read anything written in all caps, because anyone who is going to write anything worth reading is not going to write in all caps, having some respect for my eyes and my sanity. Obviously there are enough people who can see past the pain to what he has to say, and he does seem like a smart guy, but in terms of the whole hulk thing either do it properly and don't have sentences longer than three words or give it up, goddammit. Or why not write it up as a dialogue with that dude he was always wandering around with, rick? Or even better, bruce banner, the obvious choice... bruce banner loves long sentences, and is smart, and does not speak in all caps. So, in conclusion, all I can say is ALL CAPS! AARGH! HULK HATE ALL CAPS! And so do I.
posted by los_aburridos at 8:36 AM on January 27, 2012


Hrmm. Is it bad that I found these critiques to not be "Hulk enough"? I mean, for the love of god he/she USES CONTRACTIONS. If you're going to write as the Hulk, you gotta give it your all! I found it hard to get into reading these because I kept thinking "Ok, Hulk wouldn't be writing such long sentences." Which is silly, of course, but there you have it.
posted by antifuse at 11:51 AM on February 2, 2012


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