In praise of Greta Gerwig

This post is mainly designed to draw together/point outwards to the various things I’ve written, on this blog and elsewhere, about Greta Gerwig.

When the Oscar nominations came out earlier this week, I was pretty annoyed that Gerwig didn’t receive a nomination in the ‘Direction’ category for Little Women, so I returned to the cinema for a second viewing of the film, then came home and wrote a piece about it. That piece ended up being published, after editing, on The Conversation.

The other three pieces collected below are all about Frances Ha, which Gerwig starred in and co-wrote with Noah Baumbach (who also directed). I’ve included both Frances Ha and Lady Bird on my modules in the past, and I hope to someday write about Lady Bird. (I’m also very fond of Maggie’s Plan.)

I love that moment at the end of Frances Ha (on this blog)

Big cities, early adulthood, friends, cinema, and Frances Ha (on this blog)

Passing Time in Frances Ha (in Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism)

Little Women: Greta Gerwig’s direction creates big emotions and deserved an Oscar (in The Conversation)

 

It’s been a long while since I listened to it, but I found Marc Maron’s ‘WTF’ interview with Gerwig really rewarding. It came back to me when I was watching Little Women at the moment where Amy hands Laurie two of her sketches of him. When he asks where one of them was done, and she replies ‘on the beach’, I’m almost certain that the sound of waves is brought in on the soundtrack, just for a moment, below the music. I think ‘oceanic’ is a good metaphor for how emotion functions in Gerwig’s work. Individual moments are enriched by their connection with other moments and memories. This is one of the main things I was going after in my piece in The Conversation, but what space didn’t allow me to articulate is the way that Little Women‘s structure approximates how emotion and memory work in our lives. One of my friends put this very eloquently, pointing out that we often don’t experience moments in isolation: they’re filtered through other moments where we were in the same place, or doing a similar thing or perhaps they even give us the feeling of embodying our parents when we were their age. These thoughts on film, time and experience me think that a Gerwig-Linklater collaboration would be a beautiful thing!

Is there such a thing as the ‘mass reception’ of an artwork?

I’ve just cut the first few pages out of a notebook, to re-purpose it. One of those pages is a couple of sentences of musings/the start of an argument about an issue I’ve often thought about. They start to explain why I always resist making an objective/subjective distinction in talking about art, and why engagement with art has to, I think, operate at the level/scale it does. Here is what I wrote (partly being transcribed here so I can throw the piece of paper away):

In order for its meaning to be released/realised, for it to become the kind of thing it is designed to be, an artwork has to react with a human brain. In a sense, then, there is no such thing as ‘mass reaction/reception’, only an agglomeration of individual responses. The individual experience is an ineliminable part of the way artworks come to have meaning.

Is it irrational to feel personally attached to the people who make the art one loves?

This post is a response to a blog post and a vlog post by my friend Matthew, over on his new blog, Pateman’s Ponderings. Those posts were prompted by the various reactions to Kai Cole’s publication of her account of her ex-husband Joss Whedon’s infidelity. I have no interest in contributing to that debate specifically, but as someone with Romantic and even auteurist leanings, I did want to respond briefly to some of the theoretical foundations upon which Matthew rests his response/metaresponse.

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Planning and what freedom feels like

It seems useful to temper what follows with an initial note of humility, irony, and defeat. I have a to-do list, and writing this blog post is the most overdue item on it (it was originally meant to be done by the 28th of January – of this year, at least!). Anyway…

It is difficult, as one moves deeper into the demands of work and parenthood, to avoid running together in one’s mind two things: i) a sense of freedom; ii) long stretches of unstructured time, free from the demands of others. ii) certainly creates i), but it is important to remember that it is not the only way of creating it. Failing to recognise this can lead to a bitter nostalgia trap: you look back longingly to a time of youthful freedom and spontaneity, never to be regained.

Planning is the opposite of spontaneity, but it is not the opposite of freedom. I keep trying to remind myself of this. Writing this blog post is a way of trying to articulate it. In the interests of brevity and vividness, I’ll just offer two examples, one home-related, one work-related.

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Up in the Air (Reitman, 2009)

I am periodically re-publishing the posts that I want to preserve from the previous incarnation of this blog, just in case I ever lose control of that site or it vanishes. What follows was originally published on 22 January 2010 on betweensympathyanddetachment.blogspot.co.uk.

This blog contains spoilers.

Although the protagonist of Up in the Air is a man who flies across America firing people for a living, it is not a movie about losing your job or being unemployed. And although the plot is set in motion by his lifestyle (though probably not his livelihood) being threatened by a new, young recruit who puts forward a case for firing people by videophone, it is not really a movie about new technologies and their alienating effects either. One of the most fascinating things about Up in the Air, in fact, is all of the potential films one can see in it that it refuses to become.

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