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  #1  
Old 09-04-2010, 10:00 PM
Anyone else getting tired of excessive "self awareness" in todays cinema?

I've had this feeling for a while now meta-cinema the past few years but it wasn't until i came across a great article about it on slashfilm that articulates it quite well. There is a trend lately where high profile movies are not as much a medium to communicate ideas, stories and art as much as it is to simply reflect on the medium itself.

There has been a growing influx recently. The Expendables, Piranha 3D, Machete, etc.. All of which are kind of satirically "forgiven" for flaws, shortcomings and paper thin characters because they are self described "throw backs".

Now, as the article mentions, there are some excellent films highly influenced by the medium itself, going back to Raiders of the Lost Ark, and i'm certainly not against the idea of a level of self awareness in films... I think Tarantino (for the most part), builds from the history film genre has offered him. Even films like I'm Not There benefit from a knowledge of Godard, Fellinni, etc., or Boogie Nights, which uses the "rise and fall" montage storytelling we've seen before in Goodfellas, etc to it's advantage, we believe we know the route it will take, but it enforces our knowledge of these conventions and plays against it and with it in a kind of rhythm that is both entirely original and a study of what has come before.

Though i have to admit, coming out of The Expendables and Machete, both of which are fun, fine movies in their own right. I think both excess in winking at the camera. I want to get lost in their world, i want to believe it, however much of a farce it is. I couldn't help but long for the conviction RR had in his early Mariachi movies that is lacking in Machete.
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  #2  
Old 09-04-2010, 10:06 PM
Personally, I'm tired of shitty movies (deliberate or not) altogether.
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  #3  
Old 09-04-2010, 10:16 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by hoojib127 View Post
Personally, I'm tired of shitty movies (deliberate or not) altogether.
Same. And this whole 3D thing is just making things much worse.

Last edited by God of War; 09-04-2010 at 10:18 PM..
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  #4  
Old 09-04-2010, 10:21 PM
Sick of 3D? Fuck yes.

Sick of self-awareness? Well, theres only been a couple and they come out very far apart (release date wise) so, no.
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  #5  
Old 09-04-2010, 10:21 PM
Great article

I will say that I don't understand how The Mist is a self aware film. It wasn't paying homage to monster movies or anything as it was just an adaptation of a Stephen King story. Cloverfield was a film that was a homage to old monster movies. The rest of the recent films listed are definately self aware. And I enjoyed at least 80% of those films I've seen. So, I hope this trend continues.

Last edited by Frank the Tank; 09-04-2010 at 10:24 PM..
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  #6  
Old 09-04-2010, 10:23 PM
Tarantino has been winking at the cinema genre since forever ... people still like him.

There's still a lot of good original movies but they are buried under corporate mass advertising and box office numbers.
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  #7  
Old 09-04-2010, 10:24 PM
I've read both Zombie's post and that article, yet I still don't fully grasp the whole 'self awareness' thing.

If I were to say as an example "The Dark Knight". Is that a self aware film?

Sorry, I don't get it.
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  #8  
Old 09-04-2010, 10:54 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by God of War View Post
I've read both Zombie's post and that article, yet I still don't fully grasp the whole 'self awareness' thing.

If I were to say as an example "The Dark Knight". Is that a self aware film?

Sorry, I don't get it.
GoW, I wouldn't really consider The Dark Knight to be a self-aware movie. I think a good example of a self-aware movie would be Scream. In that movie they were constantly referencing other horror movies, and discussing common slasher movie cliches that ultimately played out in the actual movie itself. That is what they mean by self-aware.
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  #9  
Old 09-04-2010, 10:56 PM
Ah, Gotchya. Thanks for the help, Davey. Damn. You learn something new every day it seems.
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  #10  
Old 09-04-2010, 11:14 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank the Tank View Post
Great article

I will say that I don't understand how The Mist is a self aware film. It wasn't paying homage to monster movies or anything as it was just an adaptation of a Stephen King story. Cloverfield was a film that was a homage to old monster movies. The rest of the recent films listed are definately self aware. And I enjoyed at least 80% of those films I've seen. So, I hope this trend continues.
I have to agree with you on The Mist. I don't think it really falls with this group (nor do i agree with all of the films in that article).

God of War, sorry it is a bit of a convoluted group of films, but the kind of self awareness i mean generally includes any film that winks at the audience in one way or another- having it be excessive cameo's, genre set pieces that don't require reason or explanation, a great deal of homages that boarder on satire, etc. Generally anything that enforces the audiences awareness that they are watching a movie, and that the characters almost know it is just a movie.

I have to admit i like a great deal of films that do this, and I think it is essential for filmmakers to acknowledge and work in convention... I just think sometimes it becomes a get-out-of jail free card to work around genuine development or story interest.
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  #11  
Old 09-04-2010, 11:30 PM
^^No problem, GoW. Another example would be the Austin Powers movies when they had celebs like Tom Cruise and John Travolta appearing in cameos as characters from the movie. The "Date Movie" flicks would also apply cause they are pretty much 80 minutes of film references/homages.

Quote:
Originally Posted by APzombie View Post
There has been a growing influx recently. The Expendables, Piranha 3D, Machete, etc.. All of which are kind of satirically "forgiven" for flaws, shortcomings and paper thin characters because they are self described "throw backs".
Maybe audiences are responding strongly to some of these throw backs because they missed that older style of film making. Is nostalgia a key factor here? I wonder how a movie like The Expendables is being received compared to people who grew up watching Rambo flicks and younger audiences who aren't familiar with Sly's body of work.

I kind of agree with hoojib127, I have just been fed up with crappy remakes and sequels for a while now. At least with something like Piranha 3D there is the promise of tongue-in-cheek entertainment that delivers the gore and T&A unlike all of the watered down PG-13 horror (remakes) we've been inundated with.

Quote:
Originally Posted by APzombie View Post
I just think sometimes it becomes a get-out-of jail free card to work around genuine development or story interest.
I do agree that this would be a bad thing and could lead to lazy storytelling.
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  #12  
Old 09-05-2010, 05:36 AM
I don't think that these "self-aware" movies are getting a free pass or anything. Movies like Date Movie and Vampires Suck, while profitable, have been blasted by critics and are never blockbusters. And those are intentionally "self-aware," like the Austin Powers movies . . . they're spoofs.

And like the article said, I doubt most audiences realize that movies are showing homages to other filmmakers and/or their movies. I think that's one of the reasons Tarantino is so popular. His homages to other films are mixed in with his own personal style that it works.

A lot of Spielberg's, Lucas's, Coppolla's, and Scorcese's filmmaking methods, uses, techniques, styles are taken from Akira Kurosawa's ways of making movies. Yet, most audiences don't realize it because they're not familiar with his work.

Last edited by bigred760; 09-05-2010 at 05:39 AM..
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  #13  
Old 09-05-2010, 09:04 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank the Tank View Post
Great article

I will say that I don't understand how The Mist is a self aware film. It wasn't paying homage to monster movies or anything as it was just an adaptation of a Stephen King story. Cloverfield was a film that was a homage to old monster movies. The rest of the recent films listed are definately self aware. And I enjoyed at least 80% of those films I've seen. So, I hope this trend continues.
The Mist feels like a homage to The Blob and The Birds to me. I mean, a black and white version is offered for the film. I do believe it's intended to be a homage to The Blob at the very least.
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  #14  
Old 09-06-2010, 03:10 AM
Yes.

One of the biggest problems to emerge is that so many of these "self aware" movies utilize the tired conventions of the movies they're ostensibly commenting on not to engage in satire or even effective homage, but to use them in precisely the same way as the original. They can lazily present a situation, character, or plot device without the required setup for it to make any sense or work within their take, simply because we recognize it as a convention from something they're referencing.

The failure or success of these movies rests on the ability of the creator to bring a fresh approach to the material. It's what separates the French New Wave from the Wave of Spoof Movies. The filmmaker can either pull a Tarantino (when he's good) and make dramatic use of cinematic/pop culture shorthand or a Family Guy (last several years) where it's nothing more than "oh, they made a reference to something I recognize. I like references." The recent trend seems to favor the latter.

Nice find with the article, AP.

Last edited by QUENTIN; 09-06-2010 at 03:27 AM..
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  #15  
Old 09-06-2010, 03:26 AM
Am I tired of the self-aware technique? Nah.

Am I tired of terrible flicks using self-awareness to excuse their faults? Absolutely.

As with every movie, it all boils down to execution. As a recent example, Machete was familiar with the traits of those exploitation films that came before it and, armed with this knowledge, created a simultaneous dissection and celebration of the genre (although obviously more inclined towards busting heads and having a blast).

The problem I had with Piranha 3D and Rob Zombie's recent work is that their self-awareness seems to end at saying, "Hey, all these horror cliches sure are old, eh?" Hell, Superbeasto was pretty much Zombie just saying that he's seen a lot of horror flicks, and the first half of Piranha was dedicated to setting up just about every one of the archtypes we've come to expect from movies like it. Then what does it do? Just kills 'em. That's it.

"Hey, y'know that obnoxious guy you know is gonna die from the first time he comes onscreen? He's gonna die now!"

"So...that's it?"

"Yeah, we're so campy, you guys!"

This, combined with the cruddy 3D effects (and the fact that listening to two-thirds of the cast scream for the last half of the movie got fucking annoying, fucking FAST), made Piranha the terrible experience is was for me.

Self-awareness can work and work often, provided the movie in question know what the hell to do with it.
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  #16  
Old 09-06-2010, 03:33 PM
It is, in fact, possible to pay too much homage, and that's really what's at the core of this whole thing. Movies like The Expendables and Piranha 3D are essentially made by people who find the IDEA of making a movie like that to be fun, even though they have nothing of their own to contribute to the genre. It's not just these so-called "throwback" movies though. Even the films of Kevin Smith, some of which I even like, are clearly made by somebody who is what can only be described as a fanboy. To be fair, Smith has at least displayed a bit more originality in films like Chasing Amy and Dogma than most other filmmakers who are guilty of this, but it worries me that many new and aspiring directors have the mentality that goes "I love movies, and I love talking about and referencing movies, so I think it'd be fun to make movies similar to the ones I like."

Tarantino arguably started this whole trend, but there are still relevant themes and semi-original ideas in his movies, at least in his first three features. But then a whole generation of filmmakers came out that were inspired by Tarantino and wanted to make movies like Tarantino, when he himself was largely paying homage to other movies in the first place. So now, unfortunately, there are young people who want to get involved with making movies who think that the only thing they need to be a good filmmaker is to have an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema and be able to apply your favorite ideas and techniques into your own "creation." That's just not the way it works; in fact, I think there are actually very few truly great directors who are also self-professed movie geeks/fanboys. Scorsese is one, but a lot of the absolute best directors, from Kurosawa to Welles to Kubrick to Bergman, while assuredly avid followers of film, were hardly the type to obsessively watch film after film as a living and incorporate what they've learned into their own films. The best directors draw on life experiences and real, actual ideas from real life when deciding how to make their films, and more importantly, why to make films.

Simply stated, if you only make films because you like films, it's pretty unlikely you'll ever make a truly worthwhile or memorable movie. If all of the ideas and themes in your films come from other films, then there's not much reason for them to be made other than to celebrate your own narcissistic love for and knowledge of cinema. Disagree with me if you want, but if your movies are inspired by nothing other than other movies, then you really have nothing to say, and I won't waste my time going to your movies.
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  #17  
Old 09-06-2010, 03:42 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tkeyjw View Post
Tarantino arguably started this whole trend, but there are still relevant themes and semi-original ideas in his movies, at least in his first three features.
I thought it was Jean Luc-Godard. (shrug)

You make good points though, I especially like your final paragraph.
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  #18  
Old 09-06-2010, 04:07 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveyJoeG View Post
I thought it was Jean Luc-Godard. (shrug)
Well, of course the French New Wave was generally marked by some degree of self-awareness, but I only meant in terms of who has influenced the current generation of filmmakers who are guilty of this. Godard was a big influence on Tarantino, so unless we're talking about in an indirect way, I don't think you'll find very many young, aspiring directors who would sooner cite Godard than Tarantino as being a prime influence on their direction.
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  #19  
Old 09-06-2010, 04:22 PM
I wouldn't say that I'm tired of "self-awareness" in movies due to the fact it makes it sound like all self-aware movies are, in fact, equal. The "Reference" movies ala DATE MOVIE and VAMPIRES SUCK simply make references and expect us to laugh because we recognize it, much like Family Guy has done in recent seasons. But if you look at what Edgar Wright did with both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (Maybe with Scott Pilgrim?), he created two brilliant films well aware of the conventions of their respective genres. With both, they're not only great comedies, they are great zombie and cop movies respectively.

Personally, some of the best movies I've seen all year have been self-aware to an extent: Hot Tub Time Machine, The Expendables, Piranha 3D, and Machete. And its more about the fact that they all delivered exactly what they promised and what I had, in turn, wanted from them.
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  #20  
Old 09-06-2010, 07:20 PM
Ok. I think I understand this now. Thanks again, peepz.

So, would I be correct in saying that "Copout" is a self aware film?



I only just watched this last night, and I think it may fall into that category.

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  #21  
Old 09-06-2010, 08:15 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by God of War View Post
Ok. I think I understand this now. Thanks again, peepz.

So, would I be correct in saying that "Copout" is a self aware film?



I only just watched this last night, and I think it may fall into that category.


No dude, it's a movie that thinks it's funny but it's not.
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  #22  
Old 09-06-2010, 08:22 PM
Oh ok. My bad. Thanks, dude.
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  #23  
Old 09-06-2010, 09:33 PM

i think you are right with Cop Out God of War. It's a throwback to buddy cop movies (ala Hot Fuzz). Kevin Smith kept on mentioning it being a throwback to buddy cop movies when it was being criticized, stuff like "i made it for my dad who loved buddy cop movies" and such. So you are right on the money for it being self aware and] it being an example of how the self-aware mantra can be used as a get out of jail free card for a movie that lacks coherency, character, genuine laughs and structure
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  #24  
Old 09-07-2010, 07:06 PM
I'm not tired of excessive 'self awareness' as much as I am tired of movies that are just plain bad or movies where fiction doesn't exist at all. You know, where an idiot does something straight out of a shitty movie that everyone should know is a bad idea.
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  #25  
Old 09-07-2010, 10:58 PM
I'm intrigued.

Personally I wouldn't worry about this. Not many filmmakers do this, and as of recent it seems only a handful of them are.

For what it's worth though, as long as it doesn't blanket the film industry, I like it, and also admire it. Film being 'self-aware' can sometimes lead to a much more interestingly visual and dynamic movie, and also-help market it.

Looking at films like 'The Expendables', 'Machete', 'Death Proof', are all great examples of this. Looking at Expendables, when was the last time we saw a movie in that format? You remember-the 80s. It's the type of question that has to be answered, "If we want to make an action movie with the feel of a rememberable, enjoyable, all out action 80s feel; then well just do it."
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  #26  
Old 09-07-2010, 11:34 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by God of War View Post
Same. And this whole 3D thing is just making things much worse.
I find that 3D is being used far too often being used to cover up for the shitiness of the film. I mean without the visuals movies like Avatar would be written off as another generic blockbuster with a weak story and flat characters.
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  #27  
Old 09-11-2010, 06:58 AM
Great article! Thanks so much for posting that. I'd never really thought about self-reflexivity as a contemporary trend, but it's so true. The SlashFilm writer also puts forth some strong points on why we're seeing so much of this lately. Namely, our media saturation.

In general, I agree with most people here. Self-reflexivity can be fun. Sometimes it's blatantly obvious, like with Hot Fuzz. However I prefer guys like Tarantino, who use it subtly, and probably more effectively, by borrowing successful tropes and techniques and reworking them to fit a specific project.

Specifically, the scene in Pulp Fiction, when Butch is driving in the cab, comes to mind. It's supposed to look like a 1940s pulp flick, with the clearly fake background. I think here Tarantino is trying to invoke our idea of the pulp genre, just as the scenario, dialogue, etc. do.

Furthermore, you all are definitely right, winking your eye () as you exploit another tired cliche is lazy filmmaking. However I must admit, it can feel good to be in on the joke.

In terms of the French New Wave, I can totally see why comparisons are being made there. However, although New Wavers often incorporated a lot about movies in their films, I think they are even more-so about real life. Not always with Godard -- with whom I must admit I'm not super familiar, especially his later stuff. However, my personal favorite, Truffaut, made many personal, truthful films. Same thing goes for a flick like Cleo 5-7. From my experience of the New Wave, the films were very often about life -- or at the very least, existence -- and contained ideas about movies. I'm not sure you could say the same about the Expendables or Scream -- nothing against those films, mind you.

One final thing, and this just occurred to me, if we are living in a world polluted by media, is self-reflexive cinema so divorced from our day-to-day lives? Perhaps, it's truthful and reflective of our modern condition. As long as filmmakers can find innovative ways to draw upon our past media experience, than I'm not against the idea. I do still think there are a lot of great films being made that aren't examples of "meta-cinema."
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  #28  
Old 09-11-2010, 08:07 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by APzombie View Post
i think you are right with Cop Out God of War. It's a throwback to buddy cop movies (ala Hot Fuzz). Kevin Smith kept on mentioning it being a throwback to buddy cop movies when it was being criticized, stuff like "i made it for my dad who loved buddy cop movies" and such. So you are right on the money for it being self aware and] it being an example of how the self-aware mantra can be used as a get out of jail free card for a movie that lacks coherency, character, genuine laughs and structure
Thanks, dude. Yeah, there was alot of mentioning of other movies, expecially during that oen main interrogation. Hence, that's why I posted that gif. lol
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  #29  
Old 09-11-2010, 08:10 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by darknite125 View Post
I find that 3D is being used far too often being used to cover up for the shitiness of the film. I mean without the visuals movies like Avatar would be written off as another generic blockbuster with a weak story and flat characters.
Agreed. And as an example, let's see how many shitty shots there are in Saw 7 (3D), just to take advantage of the whole 3D thing? Pathetic.
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  #30  
Old 09-12-2010, 12:57 PM
This is a great article. Funny how many of those movies identified as too self-aware are some of my favorites from the last decade.

I think this trend comes in part from a kind of need of pretension--giving movies a sheen of winking knowingness gives it an air of intellectualism.

Tarantino is a great example of this. Which is why I maintain that Reservoir Dogs is still his best film--yes, it's a movie that borders on being a remake itself, but it never over-asserts as an homage itself like his latter films do (Jackie Brown and Basterds in particular).

Deadpool will be the comic movie equivalent of this self-aware trend--because how can you not have a self-aware Deadpool not just breaking the fourth wall between the onscreen players and the audience, but driving a mack truck through it?

I'm rambling and generalizing, but maybe the mainstream isn't as shallow and devoid of art as we thought? The general moviegoing audience just doesn't recognize these tropes, even though they may understand them unconsciously better than they think.
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