If you’re an internet-saavy movie-geek, there’s probably a good chance you known who Jeffrey Wells is. If not, read on:
Wells is a web-based film columnist of some note, responsible for a column called “Hollywood Elsewhere:”
The “hook” is mostly that Wells is a sort of traveling-minstrel-as-critic, seemingly leaping from festival to festival to screening to screening all over the Western world, peppering his cinematic musings with travelogue notes and photos of hotel rooms, etc. It’s good stuff, even though I seldom agree with Well’s take on the medium, it always makes my weekly reading.
Certainly not a bad film writer by any means, but when Wells gets ink it’s usually for what he’s not than what he is, i.e. a web-based film writer defiantly not occupying the movie geek strata with the likes of AICN, CHUD or yours truly. Wells takes particular sport in antagonizing movie geeks and geeks in general, whom he appears to see as a kind of unworthy “lower life-form” making in-roads into the film world that previously “belonged” to old-school film snobs like himself. At least that’s my take 🙂
There’s a pattern at play here, or at least there seems to be from my perspective: Wells appears to be of the opinion, (shared by, I believe, a certain majority of so-called “serious” film scholars,) that the films and genres that generally form the foundations of “movie geek culture,” (horror, scifi, fantasy, etc. and especially those based on graphic novels,) are on-their-face unworthy of serious merit as films and are “harming” the medium by their very existance. During the period that his site was running as a subset of Kevin Smith’s “moviepoopshoot.com,” Wells most famous “contentious” moments with movie geeks involved his three-years-running state of disbelief and resentment that anyone was taking the LOTR trilogy seriously.
Now, I like Wells. He was even gracious enough to print a letter of mine once massively disagreeing with him right on the main site. Stand-up guy.
But his knee-jerk loathing of film geeks, and the air of snobbery that seems to informing it, it’s an annoying trait that undermines his otherwise solid work every single time it comes up. Case in point:
Wells posted a lengthy column last week about his looking forward to the upcoming “Sin City” movie, despite it’s comic origins. Good peice, mostly involving an anonymous positive review sent in from another source. In the “blog” portion of his site that always occupies the center of the weekly column, Wells today posts a brief that he’s seen the film and adores the black and white photography, but we’re going to have to wait for the full peice apparently. So far, so good…
But then his “thing” about geeks comes up out of left field. Apparently, while he liked at least something about the film, he’s still defiantly dead-set that a line must be drawn between “real” films and a “lower” geek-genre piece like this. From Wells:
“But take no notice of anyone (Rodriguez included) calling this a film noir flick. There is real film noir — crime movies made with a downbeat fatalistic attitude, and grounded in a reasonable facsimile of human truth — and there is simplified noir lite for chumps.”
Now… there’s certainly some hay to be made off the GROTESQUE overuse of the term “film noir” these days. And I’m sure a long and interesting piece could be written to remind people that the term is really kind of broadly-applied, as it didn’t even exist until a few decades AFTER the films it describes had largely run out their original cycle.
(BTW, film noir: Generally describes crime-related films made roughly from the 30s to the late-40s in the United States prominently involving characters and situations of murky, difficultly-defined morality. Term covers a wide variety of genres, was coined by French film scholars roughly in the early 60s to describe the “cycle” of such films as occuring at their particular period of U.S. film history.)– Me.
Anyhow, thats not really what Mr. Wells is talking about here. His REAL issue (unless I’m waaaaaay misunderstanding him here) is that, in his view, the various “out-there” elements of “Sin City” owing to it’s graphic novel origins make it unworthy of mention with “real” (read: traditional) Film Noir. And in case there was any doubt:
“This is noir as re-imagined by Frank Miller and digested by comic-book geeks in their 30s who live in their lonely heads and haven’t gotten laid very much or gotten to know women at all.”
Ugh. Y’know, he didn’t even get the stereotype completely right. Hey, Jeff, you forget to reference “living in their mother’s basement,” man. At least use proper psuedo-bigotry 🙂
But seriously, Jeff, why the hate? What did we ever do to you? You’ve got some issues with “Sin City,” great! Write the review, explain what the issues are. Why the need to just go take a cheap shot at a whole massive (and ever-expanding) segment of film fandom? What is it about Geek Culture that you so resent?
Whats going on here, really, is more evidence of a changing-of-the-gaurds in terms of the driving force of film-fandom: The age of the Film Buffs is being, by leaps and bounds, overtaken by the Movie Geeks. And with every epic about Elves that wins best picture and every comic book that becomes a blockbuster megahit and every serious actor who declares they just can’t wait to slip into a cape, swing an ornate sword or fly on Woo-Ping’s wires, the Age of Geek Cinema becomes more and more real. And a lot of folks, apparently including Mr. Wells, just aren’t happy about it.
Oh, well 🙂