0991: "Phantom Menace"

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hexalm
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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby hexalm » Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:59 am UTC

alun009 wrote:
There is nothing wrong with being shallow, childish and/or unintellectual. Look at the ancient Greek tragedy, they were making characters out of cardboard – and it was awesome!


Quite right. But as long as you don't elevate the artifact as worthy of something that is both enjoyable and replete with interesting and complex subtexts. Star Wars has been elevated to near-holy status for no good reason.

Says you, obviously.

What about capturing imagination? You seem to attribute everything people like about Star Wars to nostalgia, but as a kid it wasn't just the films I loved, but the jumping off point the SW universe gave us.

It's kind of like how watching Monty Python movies isn't as entertaining as quoting them. It's something beyond the films themselves that is enjoyable.

So it didn't speak to you--fine. But in general, trying to make any kind of objective statement about entertainment value will inevitably give you an incomplete picture.

If someone likes something, I would counter that there *is* a reason--just one you're not accounting for in whatever criteria you use to make judgments or determine the merits and value of a film.


...just sayin'.


cronic5 wrote:Star Wars sucks. Every single movie was incredibly boring, and offered absolutely no entertainment whatsoever.


I like how you stated that as if it were an absolute rather than just your reaction ;)

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SirMustapha
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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby SirMustapha » Wed Dec 21, 2011 11:15 am UTC

hexalm wrote:I like how you stated that as if it were an absolute rather than just your reaction ;)


Ah, come on, I think we are all essentially adults here, right? I think the concept of "opinion" should already be sufficiently strong and present in everyone's mind so people wouldn't have to hammer it home every time around. Don't be an "IMHO Nazi".

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby alun009 » Wed Dec 21, 2011 2:26 pm UTC

Personally I believe art can be objectively good or bad. People's opinions vary, but they can sometimes be wrong. I am willing to bite the obvious bullet and admit that some things I like are bad.

But Star Wars... it's bad art. If you disagree, you are wrong. In the same way as if you contend that Sydney is the capital of Australia. No real harm is done, you are welcome to continue with your happy illusion, but factually you are wrong.

This may sound unusual to some, and you may think I'm just trolling, but I'm not. Well, maybe a little, but I still believe it. For example, if someone says that the Blue Danube Waltz is rubbish, then they are wrong. It's fabulous. If they say they don't like it, then they are not wrong, that's just their opinion, to which they are entitled.
I hate the Beatles, but I acknowledge there they were, at least part of the time they made music, brilliant.

Star Wars just happens to be one of those things that is objectively terrible, but subjectively well-loved. Sometimes the majority are just wrong.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby eran_rathan » Wed Dec 21, 2011 3:02 pm UTC

alun009 wrote:Personally I believe art can be objectively good or bad. People's opinions vary, but they can sometimes be wrong. I am willing to bite the obvious bullet and admit that some things I like are bad.

But Star Wars... it's bad art. If you disagree, you are wrong. In the same way as if you contend that Sydney is the capital of Australia. No real harm is done, you are welcome to continue with your happy illusion, but factually you are wrong.

This may sound unusual to some, and you may think I'm just trolling, but I'm not. Well, maybe a little, but I still believe it. For example, if someone says that the Blue Danube Waltz is rubbish, then they are wrong. It's fabulous. If they say they don't like it, then they are not wrong, that's just their opinion, to which they are entitled.
I hate the Beatles, but I acknowledge there they were, at least part of the time they made music, brilliant.

Star Wars just happens to be one of those things that is objectively terrible, but subjectively well-loved. Sometimes the majority are just wrong.


I disagree - for the music alone Star Wars is good art (for which I give complete credit to John Williams).

I mean, a good portion of it is crap, but some of the technical innovations were pretty impressive, for the time they were made.
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SirMustapha
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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby SirMustapha » Wed Dec 21, 2011 3:05 pm UTC

alun009 wrote:Personally I believe art can be objectively good or bad. People's opinions vary, but they can sometimes be wrong.


That is, to say the least, a pretty unpopular point of view. Trouble arrives when "unpopular" is mixed with "invalid" -- many people who argue that art is entirely subjective would argue that your point of view is objectively wrong. Which is completely incoherent, of course, but that's life.

I would generalise your opinion a little and say that not everything in art is subjective. Some of it is, yes, but saying that "everything in art is subjective" is an extremist view, and extremism is virtually always stupid. Some things, and I say many things, in art are objective. What I believe is that everything in art must be somehow justified. When Ionesco wrote The Bald Soprano, featuring completely ridiculous and improbable situations taken in stride, that was the point: to illustrate how human relations can be superficial and disconnected, and he did it in an entertaining way; but when, say, a fanfiction writer creates completely stilted, unnatural, unconvinving dialogue between characters, there's no justification other than that he is a bad writer who can't convey human communication in written form.

What some people are willing to do is ignore the lack of justification and fill in with their own, stilted justifications for the work's flaws, for whatever reasons there may be. But that's not because "everything is subjective": it's because of a willful blindness, like when you eat in McDonald's in spite of the unhealthiness just because it's so yummy. You ignore the flaws, and one thing is to acknowledge that (like you just did when you said "some things I like are bad": you KNOW you're doing it, but you do it because you can and you want to), but another is to deny that and attribute it to "subjectivity" (like when xkcd fans discredit the criticism by saying "it's because you're not in the target audience!").

To put it in trollish terms: if art was entirely subjective, then you'd be unable to count the number of commas in a novel, because hey! that is subjective too!

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby DragonHawk » Wed Dec 21, 2011 4:37 pm UTC

alun009 wrote:But Star Wars... it's bad art. If you disagree, you are wrong.

Please explain to me how art can be "good" or "bad".
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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby SirMustapha » Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:52 pm UTC

Please explain to me how food can be "hot" or "cold".

pierreb
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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby pierreb » Wed Dec 21, 2011 7:52 pm UTC

Please explain to me how your wife can be "hot" and "fat".

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby alun009 » Wed Dec 21, 2011 8:41 pm UTC

Please note, that I said art can be be objectively good or bad, not that is always is so. There is nothing extreme about what I said, even if it is an unusual viewpoint.
And as later poster have satirically illustrated, one mustn't confuse the difficulty of identifying on what grounds something is good or bad from the possibility that there is something objective about it.

I fully take the point about Star Wars' music; I like it a lot, even if the rest of the film is irredeemable in my eyes.

Lastly, I don't agree that extremism is nearly always stupid. Now that is something that is subjective: one man's extremism is another's common sense. In times past, and still today in some regions, my atheism would be regarded as far out. In the country I live in, people "don't do god", so it's is completely normal.

Believing in objectivity in art, at least in the weak sense I gave, is entirely sensible. I may be wrong, but extremist? I rebut that.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby brenok » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:08 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:Please explain to me how food can be "hot" or "cold".


Maybe it's cold until 20ºC ... or maybe 19.5ºC, or 291,4K...

10ºC would be too hot for ice cream, but cold to anything else.

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SirMustapha
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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby SirMustapha » Thu Dec 22, 2011 12:45 am UTC

brenok wrote:10ºC would be too hot for ice cream, but cold to anything else.


Ah, but why 10ºC is "too hot" for ice cream? Surely that is completely subjective, isn't it?

See, that is pretty much what I'm talking about. Some people may think ice cream is perfect at 0ºC, others at -5ºC. Serve it at 100ºC and nobody will want it.

Not everything is subjective.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby yurell » Thu Dec 22, 2011 1:09 am UTC

SirMustapha wrote:Ah, but why 10ºC is "too hot" for ice cream? Surely that is completely subjective, isn't it?


Ermmm, no, because ice cream can objectively not exist at that temperature.
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SirMustapha
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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby SirMustapha » Thu Dec 22, 2011 1:41 am UTC

yurell wrote:
SirMustapha wrote:Ah, but why 10ºC is "too hot" for ice cream? Surely that is completely subjective, isn't it?


Ermmm, no, because ice cream can objectively not exist at that temperature.


Why? Because it spontaneously combusts and turns into smoke, or because it simply melts? Certainly whether molten ice cream still qualifies as "ice cream" is entirely subjective, right?

I think it's just easier to concede that some things are objective, after all, in food as well as in art.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby rodneyAnonymous » Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:35 am UTC

VectorZero wrote:Jango Fett was the original of whom all the clones are copies. Boba was the first clone. Still, he was characterised as an individual rather than a cookie cutter clone; guess he was more of a twin than a clone really.

What is the difference between a twin and a clone?

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Dec 22, 2011 10:36 pm UTC

What makes something art is its being presented or viewed with the purpose of evoking a particular reaction in the audience. Art can thus be judged to be "good" or "bad" in one sense (the same sense in which a sharp knife is a good one and a dull knife is a bad one) by its success at invoking the intended reaction. But of course, as the artist and each member of the audience may differ in the reactions they intend the art to evoke, in that sense whether art is good or bad is entirely subjective.

But then we can raise the question of whether there are reactions which is it objectively good or bad to evoke. If so, then art can be judged good or bad by its success at evoking what it is good to evoke and not what it is bad to evoke.

I think we can probably broadly agree that inspiring someone to murder is probably not a good thing. Nor is inspiring someone to believe that the world is flat. On the other hand, imparting a feeling of compassion for others and a desire to go do charitable deeds is probably something we can agree is good. As is inspiring an understanding of the true workings of the cosmos in all its grandeur and complexity.

On a more sophisticated level, we can probably agree that inspiring someone to stop and consider whether their actions are bad like murder or good like charity is also a generally good thing. As is inspiring someone to wonder whether the universe really works the way they think or have been told it does, or if it might work some way.

So I think that art can be judged as objectively good if it inspires correct perceptions and desires, if it imparts truths or good values; or if it raises interesting questions about what is true, or what is good, and makes people consider the possibilities. And likewise bad if it does the opposite.
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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby SirMustapha » Thu Dec 22, 2011 11:25 pm UTC

I don't think judging art according to the reactions it causes is fair, though -- because, in that case, you're judging the viewers as much as the piece of art itself. For example, I think that indifference is possibly the most "universally bad" reaction a piece of art may cause; but is the "indifference" of a reasonably well read person towards Twilight the same as the "indifference" of a 14-year-old who never heard anything outside of Justin Bieber towards Steve Reich's Drumming?

Most qualities to be considered lie within the work of art itself, though the context also counts (it would be unfair to judge the merits of ancient Greek tragedies in modern times, or to say that a Brazilian 70's protest song is irrelevant because the military dictatorship is over). But the public reaction can be severely misleading, and in such cases, time is the best judge.

Reaction is merely a consequence, a result of many aspects. A building is not bad because it collapsed: it collapsed because it was bad. Reactions may help you understand the merits of a work of art, but they do not define it. If you go into some Pink Floyd discussion board and look at a "best album" poll, chances are about 99% that Dark Side of the Moon is the most voted album; that does not mean that Dark Side of the Moon IS Pink Floyd's best record, but it's a pretty good indication that it may be, indeed, better than the others.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Dec 23, 2011 5:54 am UTC

SirMustapha wrote:I don't think judging art according to the reactions it causes is fair, though -- because, in that case, you're judging the viewers as much as the piece of art itself.

Isn't that the nature of subjectivity, though? In this subjective sense of good and bad, a work of art is "good" if it succeeds at evoking the intended response. If I put a piece of outrageous street art out with the aim of shocking and disgusting passers-by, and passers-by are shocked and disgusted, then I and any cohort I may have in such a project would consider that "good art". It was effective art -- it got across the message we wanted, it successfully conveyed what we wanted it to convey. To the people walking down the street, on the other hand, it may be horrible art, because they don't want to be shocked or disgusted but just came out here for a nice stroll and are unhappy to have had this reaction evoked in them.

For example, I think that indifference is possibly the most "universally bad" reaction a piece of art may cause;

Indifference is certainly a universal threshold for "failed to be good art", because in not evoking any reaction is cannot possible succeed at evoking whatever reaction was intended, either by artist or audience. But I think you can definitely go much worse than indifferent in any venture. I understand that you make music yes? If, against all odds, everyone had the same reaction to your music, so you couldn't chalk some responses up to differences in taste, which reaction would you prefer: "it's horrible and I'd rather listen to teeth scraping on a rusty chalkboard all day", or "meh, it's not bad"? (I am, perhaps incorrectly as I haven't listened to it, presuming that you intend your music to evoke pleasant feelings, or at least some sort of sympathetic catharsis, and not to intentionally cause active displeasure for your listeners).

Of course, if you do get different reactions, then you can sometimes chalk that up to differences in taste, and in that case yes, making an assessment of the art based on the audience reaction requires also making an assessment of the audience, which we get to next...

but is the "indifference" of a reasonably well read person towards Twilight the same as the "indifference" of a 14-year-old who never heard anything outside of Justin Bieber towards Steve Reich's Drumming?

Comedy is a form of art, I think this is comparable to someone not laughing at a joke because the don't get it, versus someone not laughing at a joke because it's just a bad joke -- a subject you of all people on this forum are very familiar with. If I tell someone "the numbers that can be counted are not the real numbers" and they don't laugh because they are unfamiliar with set theory or Taoism, or if I say "the Buddha walks into a pizza parlor and asks if they can make him one with everything" and they don't laugh because they're unfamiliar with Buddhism or common pizza lingo, then that is not a fault of the joke, that's a failure of the audience to understand the joke.

Although, as a large part of art is presentation, telling such a joke to an audience who is unlikely to get it can be considered a failure on the part of the artist as well, and as such, in that context, it is a bad joke. Similarly, the qualities of more sophisticated examples of many art forms require a sufficient literacy in that art form in order or the audience to have the context in which that art is good art, and lacking that context can be considered a failure on the part of the audience.

Reaction is merely a consequence, a result of many aspects. A building is not bad because it collapsed: it collapsed because it was bad.

But when we get to defining "what makes a building good?", then "doesn't collapse" should be up there among the defining qualities. A building is an instance of the broader class of free-standing structures, and the virtue of a free-standing structure per se is to not collapse; free-standing structures are good precisely to the extent that they stand freely rather than collapse. And a building, depending on its type, is good precisely to the extend that it performs whatever function that type of building is intended to perform, which functions pretty much universally require the building not to collapse. Just as a blade, whose intended function is to cut things, is good (in this sense) precisely to the extent that it is sharp.

Do you agree at least that the function of art is to evoke some kind of feeling? That that's why people make art, to express a feeling of some kind; and that's why people consume art, to experience a feeling of some kind? If so, how is the virtue of art (in the subjective sense we're discussing so far) not in its success at evoking the feeling the artist wanted to express or the audience wanted to experience?
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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby alun009 » Fri Dec 23, 2011 9:09 am UTC

There is a fatal flaw in the whole art as an agent of emotional response approach. You are trying to pin down art in terms of its effect. As SirMustapha points out, reactions are dependent on factors entirely outside of the art and the artist. One cannot ever know how everyone will react to some putative art. Sometimes, you can be entirely wrong about how the majority of people will react. Furthermore, time changes responses. The opprobrium aimed towards Oscar Wilde is almost vanished, and his work no longer seems deviant. This is without his work changing in any way, it is we who have changed.

The problem turns on the treatment of art as a tool. A comparison was made with knives and buildings. These are tools, and the discussion of their efficacy or otherwise reminds us that they are at least partially agents for specific action. Clearly a knife is mostly for cutting. A building is mostly for creating a space shielded from some of the elements of weather. They can succeed or fail in many ways other than being unæsthetic. Of course, they can also, in part, fail because they are ugly. But an ugly blade, an ugly building, may still be a good blade, a good building. I cannot fathom any reason for extending this approach to art. Art is not for cutting, for creating shielded space. Art is for... well, there's no satisfactory way to finish this sentence.

Lastly, I regret to turn this conversation to tragedy, but I couldn't help be reminded of 9/11. All this talk of knives and art and collapsing buildings reminded me that prominent person (I forget his name, and I don't care to search-engine it), claimed that 9/11 was, in some way, art. By Pfhorrest's reckoning, this argument has mileage. It was certainly part of the aim to evoke emotional responses in all sorts. Few are indifferent. It even reminded many of us some valid moral lessons; that killing innocents is an inexcusable horror. Can you dare to say that 9/11 was art? Perhaps you can, but if not you need to find a way to define art that somehow excludes it.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby alun009 » Fri Dec 23, 2011 9:37 am UTC

I'm going to attempt something that I privately promised I wouldn't do here: a partial definition of art. This is going to be hard, and I'd rather keep it short and incomplete that to bore the life out of you.

Art appears to me inseparable from morality. It inherits all of moral philosophy's problems and ambiguities. I believe that Kant was one of the greatest moral philosophers - imperfect but great.
One of Kant's doctrines was, roughly, that one should not treat a person as means to and end, but rather as a thing in itself. You must respect a person to the same extent you respect yourself.

Good art (hereafter 'Art', as opposed to 'art') is something analogous to a new person. People talk of giving birth to Art. Ok, it's just an expression, but I think Art consists in some artifact (or performance) that can, through it's complexity or æsthetic (as opposed to beauty), be elevated to the level of personhood. art does not qualify as being Art automatically like people qualify as being people. Art self-justifies, whereas art relies on its effects to be regarded as worthwhile.

I don't think I can narrow it down any further... it's very hard. I'm noticing a few ideas pop up. I feel that somehow my attempt at definition prompts me to exclude architecture from being Art. And tools. Again, I think of Oscar Wilde; "All art is quite useless." But I don't know.

And that is why I shouldn't have broken my promise to not try to define Art. This is how my post ends: not with a bang but with a whimper.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Dec 23, 2011 10:10 pm UTC

alun009 wrote:There is a fatal flaw in the whole art as an agent of emotional response approach. You are trying to pin down art in terms of its effect. As SirMustapha points out, reactions are dependent on factors entirely outside of the art and the artist. One cannot ever know how everyone will react to some putative art. Sometimes, you can be entirely wrong about how the majority of people will react. Furthermore, time changes responses. The opprobrium aimed towards Oscar Wilde is almost vanished, and his work no longer seems deviant. This is without his work changing in any way, it is we who have changed.

And a given knife may not cut every substance, and a given building may not protect against every kind of weather. In the subjective sense of "good" as "fit for a particular purpose" that we apply to tools and such, whether or not something is "good" depends on the purpose, on the object, and on the context. Hence why "the numbers which can be counted are not the real numbers" is a bad joke... to tell pre-schoolers. The object is the aforementioned sentence; its purpose is to elicit laughter. In some context, that object will serve that purpose and be a "good" object of that kind: a good joke. In other contexts, like with anyone who doesn't understand set theory or Taoism, it is a bad joke; just as a building which may be a very good building to build in northern Europe (durable stone construction capable of standing up to strong winds and supporting heavy snows) may be a very bad building in southern California (likely to crack under lateral stresses and then crush you to death in the next earthquake). And depending on what you're trying to cut, serrations may be a good or a bad feature in a knife. Etc.

Lastly, I regret to turn this conversation to tragedy, but I couldn't help be reminded of 9/11. All this talk of knives and art and collapsing buildings reminded me that prominent person (I forget his name, and I don't care to search-engine it), claimed that 9/11 was, in some way, art. By Pfhorrest's reckoning, this argument has mileage. It was certainly part of the aim to evoke emotional responses in all sorts. Few are indifferent. It even reminded many of us some valid moral lessons; that killing innocents is an inexcusable horror. Can you dare to say that 9/11 was art? Perhaps you can, but if not you need to find a way to define art that somehow excludes it.


I could see the terrorists themselves terming 9/11 "art", as they intended it to evoke a reaction, namely terror. To everyone else though, it would not be art, as I don't think anyone else approaches the event with the intent of experiencing an emotional reaction to it. We certainly suffer emotional reactions to it, but we did not come to witness the event going "ooh, I want to feel terror today", the way someone might go to a horror movie to be scared. To the terrorists, if they thought of it in terms of art, it would probably be considered "good" art in this subjective sense, as it seems to have had its intended effect of evoking terror. But in an objective sense, it would be "bad" art in that evoking terror is not a good end, so being effective toward that end is not a good thing.

However, this does make me think that there is perhaps an additional element needed for my definition of art, as something does seem odd about calling a real-life event "art". It's like, it seems a tree standing on a hilltop on a meadow cannot be art. Just standing in a particular place that gives an aesthetically pleasing view of that tree cannot be art either. But, a painting of that tree from that vantage point could be art. So could a photograph. So could the design of a house built on that spot to frame that view in a picture window, or the staging of a play with that vantage as its backdrop. And the placement of the tree itself could even be art, if the tree were artificially planted there - landscaping is an art. But art needs that aspect of intention in it somewhere: either putting things into the frame, or putting the frame around something, but it's the frame that defines its contents as being art. The contents standing by themselves, beautiful though they may be, can't count as art without being in some way presented.

Likewise, it seems wrong to say that an actual event in history, good or bad, is itself art. If the events of 9/11 were told in a fictional story, that could be art. If they were retold in a factual documentary, that could even be art. If they were, somehow, performed as though on a stage (either a recreation, or even the actual original event), that could be art. But just the raw event by itself seems to lack the framing, the staging, the intentional presentation to be "art".
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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby alun009 » Fri Dec 23, 2011 11:12 pm UTC

If your definition of art relies on a conscious act of framing, then it is inescapable that there is subjectivity in art. The tree growing naturally atop a hill is not art, the tree planted there for æsthetic purposes is... the only difference is a deliberate act. Ignoring difficult questions about religion, we can assume that either a person did it or it happened randomly, and on that factual question, the artness turns. We may not know which one is true, but that doesn't kill objectivity. Unless you hold a view that a fact unknown by any is not a fact.

I'm not entirely comfortable with the art-as-something-framed definition. It seems merely to shift the question onto what constitutes the act of framing. Live television coverage of a real event: Art or no? Doesn't seem too different to photography which I strongly believe is a valid medium for Art.

Basically, like many other more or less knowledgeable, talented and time-rich than me, the question still baffles me. However, I am still very clear Star Wars is a pile which steams.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Dec 24, 2011 4:07 am UTC

alun009 wrote:If your definition of art relies on a conscious act of framing, then it is inescapable that there is subjectivity in art.

I'm saying the definition of something being art depends on it being intentionally presented, but not that the intention necessarily defines the quality of it, once it is art. There is certainly a subjective sense by which art can be said to be good to the extent that it fulfills the artist's or audience's intention for it; this is the utilitarian sense in which I'm comparing it to knives and buildings and such. But I'm saying that in addition to saying that it is good in the sense of effective at conveying its message, there is another aspect in how correct that message is; and that the objective sense of the goodness of art is the product of those two aspects: how effective is it at conveying a correct message?

Intention is also what differentiates random sounds or marks from language, but that doesn't make the content of language entirely subjective, e.g. that doesn't keep a sentence from being objectively true or false. It just makes that sentence mean whatever it does; once it has that meaning, that can be objectively judged.

I'm not entirely comfortable with the art-as-something-framed definition. It seems merely to shift the question onto what constitutes the act of framing. Live television coverage of a real event: Art or no? Doesn't seem too different to photography which I strongly believe is a valid medium for Art.

Live television coverage of a real event is definitely art. They are deciding where to point the cameras, when to cut to and from the footage, when and where and how to add their commentary to it, and that the event is newsworthy at all; even if they just happened to find a feed from a webcam that happened to be capturing some event, deciding to broadcast that feed would create art. The event itself still isn't art, but the coverage of it is.

A random rock is not art, but that same rock placed on a pedestal in a gallery captioned "Peter" is. Sitting on a bench for four minutes and thirty-three seconds is not art, but doing so in front of a piano on stage during a concert is. Note however that being art does not make it good art. In the cases of the edge-pushing examples, however, the intended message is usually a question about the nature of art, so their effectiveness in raising that question may make them good in the subjective sense; and that, combined with the value of that question itself, may make them good in an objective sense.
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SirMustapha
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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby SirMustapha » Sat Dec 24, 2011 1:06 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Do you agree at least that the function of art is to evoke some kind of feeling? That that's why people make art, to express a feeling of some kind; and that's why people consume art, to experience a feeling of some kind? If so, how is the virtue of art (in the subjective sense we're discussing so far) not in its success at evoking the feeling the artist wanted to express or the audience wanted to experience?


Feeling is a consequence of art -- of making it and experiencing it, but I don't think that is the objective why people make or experience art. In fact, I think the primary reason why people look for art is entertainment. In its very essence, art is there to entertain, and hopefully achieve something more noble in addition.

What I mean to say is, a work of art doesn't always have an "intended" emotional response, and in some circle, it rarely does. It's a personal opinion of mine that the works that do not have an "intended" response are generally the most interesting ones. But even in that case, the work of art has some justification, some inner logic. It has, in some way, to explain its own existence. Art should try not to be redundant or pointless, otherwise it's likely to be met with indifference.

Thing is, art is a kind of language, a kind of communication -- a very vague and potentially ambiguous form of communication, but it does serve to communicate something, anything. In our natural language, there are "right" and "wrong" ways of, for example, saying "I love you" -- not because of formal rules or conventions, but merely as a consequence of us humans being the way we are. It's similar with art. Let's think about webcomics: if a comic proposes to be surreal, then at first there will be no problem with characters talking in strange non-sequiturs (think The Bald Soprano), but the surrealism has to have some point, it should, for example, challenge something we take for granted, and not every random bullshit the author thinks up is inherently worth publishing just because it is "surreal" -- otherwise, every surrealistic work would be equally popular, right? On the other hand, if a comic intends to be somehow relatable, stilted dialogue and odd phrase constructions just won't work, they'll break the identification with the characters and the suspension of disbelief, and the effect is ruined. This happens often with xkcd: there are exchanges that should look like a real, mundane situation, but the dialogue is atrociously written. That is not a matter of style, it's just Bad Writing, it goes against the original proposition. A person may want to look past that, or simply accept it, and that is not "subjectivity" -- it's a willing choice.

But again: that is not a rule set in stone by some snobbish critic, but a proposition made by the work of art itself. Not art exists without some kind of inner logic, some justification -- otherwise, it's probably going to fall into utter irrelevance, complete pointlessness. The result of that is simple: making art requires effort and technique. It's not just 100% "talent", "inspiration" or "feeling". An artist that does not sharpen his skills and work on his technique is a Bad Artist, plain and simple. Nobody said making art should be easy.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby cburke » Sat Dec 24, 2011 5:29 pm UTC

dp2 wrote:The only reason people like [Boba Fett] is they marketed the mail-order-only toy before the movie even came out.

I suspect another reason Boba Fett got cult status (even before the prequels) is that he was like the secret handshake of Star Wars fandom. If you knew who Boba Fett was, you were a legit fan.[/quote]

True fans knew Boba Fett for the Star Wars Christmas Special. And the toys. (Actually, I don't remember if he was used in the Marvel Comics book at the time.)

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby dedwrekka » Sat Dec 24, 2011 8:28 pm UTC

[Grammar Nazi]
SirMustapha wrote:
hexalm wrote:I like how you stated that as if it were an absolute rather than just your reaction ;)


Ah, come on, I think we are all essentially adults here, right? I think the concept of "opinion" should already be sufficiently strong and present in everyone's mind so people wouldn't have to hammer it home every time around. Don't be an "IMHO Nazi".

Reading through this topic, there's plenty of subjective opinions being presented as objective truths, and sweeping statements like "such and such is just wrong" hardly leaves room for open discussion.

alun009 wrote:Personally I believe art can be objectively good or bad. People's opinions vary, but they can sometimes be wrong. I am willing to bite the obvious bullet and admit that some things I like are bad.


Then it's subjectively "good" or "bad" not objectively so. If you can like something that is objectively bad, meaning that it is universally "bad", then it's not very objective. An objective truth contains no falsehood and an objective "bad" can contain no "good" for you to "like".

Of course the entire thing is silly anyways since "good" and "bad" are subjective concepts anyways, I just felt like further deconstructing the argument.
[IMHO]Though I will say that Uwe Boll movies are, most likely, one of the few objectively bad spawns of "art"[/IMHO]
[/Grammar Nazi]

If some people like it, then it is not wholly bad, nor is it wholly good. If you don't like Star Wars, then that doesn't mean that it's objectively bad and everyone else is dead wrong. It means you have a difference of opinion on a subjective matter, and you should move on. Honestly, the discussion of "is Star Wars good" has no merit. Some people will like it, some people will dislike it. It's not a matter which needs to be objectively one way or the other.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby bigjeff5 » Sat Dec 24, 2011 11:46 pm UTC

I honestly think a lot of people fail to view the original Star Wars trilogy in context.

Yes, today it is dated, the story is old hat, the special effects are not so spectacular compared to other movies, all of that is true.

What people who didn't grow up in the 70's* often fail to recognize is the state of movies, particularly sci-fi movies, at the time when A New Hope was released. They were, generally speaking, terrible. The ones that were good tended to be fantastic (The Godfather comes to mind, among others), but most were garbage. Then Star Wars came along and changed the way action films were done. Many of the standard editing techniques used today to heighten suspense and action were pioneered by Lucas and crew. In fact, the AMPAS (aka "The Academy") had to invent new awards for some of the work done on the film, it was that ground breaking. It was not the be-all end-all, certainly, but it was an amazing achievement.

Much of the reason it is still loved is, of course, nostalgia. But honestly, there are very few movies that have aged as well as Star Wars, and I can't think of any that relied as heavily on special effects yet still remain watchable today.

In my opinion, you have to be some kind of serious narcissist to make the statement that one of the most beloved series of all time is objectively bad. I give the benefit of the doubt, though, and prefer to think it's simply a misunderstanding of what "objectively" means**.

*I just missed that boat, actually, being born in the 80's, but my dad loved Star Wars and I grew up with it. Not the same, but I think close enough to understand the gist of things.

**As has already been pointed out, "good" and "bad" are both inherently subjective. Therefore there can never be such a thing as "objectively bad", it is a contradiction.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sun Dec 25, 2011 8:55 am UTC

SirMustapha wrote:Feeling is a consequence of art -- of making it and experiencing it, but I don't think that is the objective why people make or experience art. In fact, I think the primary reason why people look for art is entertainment. In its very essence, art is there to entertain, and hopefully achieve something more noble in addition.

What is entertainment if not certain kinds of feeling? Something can entertain by amusing, by intriguing, by thrilling, by shocking, by awing, etc... but amusement, intrigue, thrill, shock, awe, are all feelings.

What I mean to say is, a work of art doesn't always have an "intended" emotional response, and in some circle, it rarely does. It's a personal opinion of mine that the works that do not have an "intended" response are generally the most interesting ones.

Just for clarity I want to re-emphasize the part of my position where the intention of art does not have to be to make a statement; it can equally be to ask a question. I mention this because what you say here sounds very much like something I would say, that the most interesting art is the kind that does not push answers at you anviliciously but rather raises interesting questions without necessarily answering them, leaving room for "interpretation", i.e. to debate the answers to the unanswered questions raised.

Thing is, art is a kind of language, a kind of communication -- a very vague and potentially ambiguous form of communication, but it does serve to communicate something, anything. In our natural language, there are "right" and "wrong" ways of, for example, saying "I love you" -- not because of formal rules or conventions, but merely as a consequence of us humans being the way we are. It's similar with art.

I actually agree very strongly that art is like language, or a form of language, or communication. The division I make is between formal language, as in logic or math, which serves to communicate thoughts; and art, which serves to communicate feelings. Both thoughts and feelings can be either factual or normative, i.e. descriptive or prescriptive, in their natures: we can think that something is the case, and have a conscious belief; we can think that something ought to be the case, and have a willful intention; we can feel that something is the case, and have an intuitive perception; and we can feel that something ought to be the case, and have an emotional desire.

Both formal language and art can both make statements and ask questions about both factual and normative matters; they can both say that something is, ask whether something is, say that something ought to be, or ask whether something ought to be. What differentiates thoughts from feelings, and thus formal language from art, is that thoughts are reflexive, opinions about opinions, and thus judgemental, and thus rigorous and, for lack of a better word, "official" (we have examined our opinions and decided to keep them) whereas feelings are direct and unmediated and thus vague and imprecise and incidental (we just happen to have them, but may not agree with them once we think about it). Thoughts both originate from and cash out in terms of feelings, but there are occasions where it is more fit to communicate on one level or the other, and so formal language and art both have their respective places, but they have a lot of overlap too. I suppose you could phrase my position on "good art" in terms of the analogy to language: art and language are both objectively "good" if the statements they make are true, or the questions they ask are important, and if they make those statements or ask those questions effectively.

Let's think about webcomics: if a comic proposes to be surreal, then at first there will be no problem with characters talking in strange non-sequiturs (think The Bald Soprano), but the surrealism has to have some point, it should, for example, challenge something we take for granted, and not every random bullshit the author thinks up is inherently worth publishing just because it is "surreal" -- otherwise, every surrealistic work would be equally popular, right? On the other hand, if a comic intends to be somehow relatable, stilted dialogue and odd phrase constructions just won't work, they'll break the identification with the characters and the suspension of disbelief, and the effect is ruined. This happens often with xkcd: there are exchanges that should look like a real, mundane situation, but the dialogue is atrociously written. That is not a matter of style, it's just Bad Writing, it goes against the original proposition. A person may want to look past that, or simply accept it, and that is not "subjectivity" -- it's a willing choice.

But again: that is not a rule set in stone by some snobbish critic, but a proposition made by the work of art itself. Not art exists without some kind of inner logic, some justification -- otherwise, it's probably going to fall into utter irrelevance, complete pointlessness. The result of that is simple: making art requires effort and technique. It's not just 100% "talent", "inspiration" or "feeling". An artist that does not sharpen his skills and work on his technique is a Bad Artist, plain and simple. Nobody said making art should be easy.

All of this falls under the effectiveness criteria of my definition. If you're trying to portray something surreal to some end, but it's not clear to what end, then your audience may just go "huh, that's... weird", and you have not effectively conveyed anything. If you are trying to portray something relatable toward whatever end, but bad dialogue spoils the relatability, then you have failed toward that end. Both of these are failure of the art to be effective toward any end; the art fails because it conveys nothing, it does nothing, it falls flat. It can fail similarly if the statements it makes or the questions it asks are just bland, obvious, or unimportant. If it says "the sky is blue", and the audience goes "yeah, so?", you've not conveyed much of anything. If it asks, "But what color is the sky, really?" and the audience goes "uh... blue, duh", you've not raised any question of interest. In all these cases, the art is bad because it is effectively empty, or close enough to it.

But there are other cases we can conceive of of art being quite effective and yet still being bad. Imagine, for example, a movie which depicts Charles Manson as the hero, not by showing him in some unseen sympathetic light and revealing to us his hidden motives and making us question whether he was really so crazy or maybe just misguided or a victim of circumstance himself-- no. This just shows him as crazy, exactly as we all picture him already, shows him (or his girls rather) murdering people, and portrays that as awesome and something to be celebrated. Say it does this with great flair and Hollywood style, makes him out to be a clever charismatic genius and his girls some Charlie's Angels-esque action stars. Imagine this message, that Charles Manson is an awesome hero, is conveyed with flawless skill, the way the similar message about your favorite action hero is conveyed.

Would we not still say that there is something horribly wrong with the message itself? Wouldn't that make such art, to use your terminology, not very entertaining? I know I at least am not entertained when I watch a movie and the bad guys win and that's depicted as perfectly fine. I am entertained when the bad guys win and that's depicted as tragic. And I'm entertained when the good guys win and that's depicted as awesome. I'm even more entertained when it's not clear who really won or who should have won, because interesting questions have longer-lasting value than simple statements. All of this contingent on the effectiveness of the movie at smoothly conveying this of course, e.g. through its dialogue and musical score and cinematography, etc; but then, still differing in outcome independent of those qualities as well.

dedwrekka wrote:Of course the entire thing is silly anyways since "good" and "bad" are subjective concepts anyways

bigjeff5 wrote:As has already been pointed out, "good" and "bad" are both inherently subjective. Therefore there can never be such a thing as "objectively bad", it is a contradiction.

I like how you stated that as if it were an absolute rather than just your opinions. ;)
(Or as we'd say on wikipedia, {{npov}}. Seriously, I'd love to debate this point, but the debate on philosophy of art is enough for now).
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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby alun009 » Mon Dec 26, 2011 12:20 am UTC

Of course the entire thing is silly anyways since "good" and "bad" are subjective concepts anyways, I just felt like further deconstructing the argument.
[IMHO]Though I will say that Uwe Boll movies are, most likely, one of the few objectively bad spawns of "art"[/IMHO]
[/Grammar Nazi]

If some people like it, then it is not wholly bad, nor is it wholly good. If you don't like Star Wars, then that doesn't mean that it's objectively bad and everyone else is dead wrong. It means you have a difference of opinion on a subjective matter, and you should move on. Honestly, the discussion of "is Star Wars good" has no merit. Some people will like it, some people will dislike it. It's not a matter which needs to be objectively one way or the other.


Good and bad are subjective concepts are they? That's news to me. You sound confident, but I don't see any reason to agree with you.

And I'm not saying Star Wars is wholly bad. I've stated that the music is very good. Overall, I hate it, and that is my subjective opinion. But we were not longer talking about subjective opinions. The conversation moved, on... perhaps you should check if you read it all. All I am claiming is that there is an objective measure of what is good or bad. Far from saying it's up to me, I actually said that I do like things that I also think are unartistic. And I hate some things that are artistic. And in the case of Star Wars, I hate it and it is also unartistic. These are two separate things.

It's fine if you think that all art is subjective, but it is not fine that you think it is self-evidently so. You have as much need as I do to back it up. I've tried to explain a little about what I think goes into art (did you read that too?). Subjectivists often seem to think that everyone just knows that they are right and there is no need to back it up. I'm merely challenging that, not your right to like Star Wars.

There is an objective quality to art. That is all. I've tried to back it up a little, and I might be wrong. But tell me you disagree, and that it's a pointless discussion is hardly going to change my mind. And conflating two things that I have explicitly separated smacks of sloppy reading. Wading into a discussion to tell someone that the discussion is pointless is infuriating to say the least. Why have I even replied to you? What a waste of time.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby Various Varieties » Mon Dec 26, 2011 3:26 am UTC

bigjeff5 wrote:What people who didn't grow up in the 70's* often fail to recognize is the state of movies, particularly sci-fi movies, at the time when A New Hope was released. They were, generally speaking, terrible. The ones that were good tended to be fantastic (The Godfather comes to mind, among others), but most were garbage.

The '70s seems to be commonly regarded as the most interesting decade for Hollywood filmmaking. Critics seem to be fond of it because it was a period in which the most critically-acclaimed films most often matched up with those that achieved the highest box office. So although sci-fi movies in that decade may well have been "generally terrible", other genres were booming, so it seems a bit out of place to cite a drama like The Godfather* as one of the exceptions.

Then Star Wars came along and changed the way action films were done.

Jaws and Close Encounters were also pretty important in representing a big change in blockbuster/action filmmaking (and marketing). As far as I know, just prior to those Spielberg and Lucas blockbusters, disaster flicks had previously been the most prominent form of big-budget action movie in the '70s.





* Brief off-topic comment on The Godfather:
Spoiler:
I think I seem to be one of the very few people alive who has widely diverging opinions of the first two Godfather films. Although I can appreciate why Part I is critically acclaimed as an important coming together of popular pulp entertainment and high cinematic art, I've never been able to get much enjoyment from it. There are things I like about it (the underlit cinematography, the tension-building in the restaurant murder scene), but for some inexplicable reason I'm simply not engaged by the tale of Michael Corleone's fall, despite the fact that other gangster stories have managed to make me sympathise with equally unsavoury protagonists. It doesn't help that the film was so hyped up before I saw it: every time I rewatch it I can't help but approach it with a mindset of, "Right, so you're the Greatest Film Ever Made, are you? PROVE IT!", and I admit that as a result I tend to overstate my dislike of it because I resent the fact I don't get it the way I feel I should.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed Part II - I was genuinely able to let myself be entertained, rather than constantly straining to understand what I was missing. Much of that change in opinion was linked to the replacement of Mumblin' Marlon with a near-silent Robert De Niro: I found the scenes depicting Young Vito's rise to power so interesting that I was always disappointed whenever it cut back to Michael Corleone's storyline in the 1950s.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby SirMustapha » Mon Dec 26, 2011 2:59 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Thoughts both originate from and cash out in terms of feelings, but there are occasions where it is more fit to communicate on one level or the other, and so formal language and art both have their respective places, but they have a lot of overlap too. I suppose you could phrase my position on "good art" in terms of the analogy to language: art and language are both objectively "good" if the statements they make are true, or the questions they ask are important, and if they make those statements or ask those questions effectively.


I don't really get the distinctions you're trying to make, mostly because I don't think the "art = feeling" equation makes much sense, really. There are no limitations to what you can express through art; what there is, is an added freedom, a lack of limitation. I don't think art is made of "feelings", but of an intense, complex intermingling of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions, and all things inherently human.

Pfhorrest wrote:All of this falls under the effectiveness criteria of my definition. If you're trying to portray something surreal to some end, but it's not clear to what end, then your audience may just go "huh, that's... weird", and you have not effectively conveyed anything. If you are trying to portray something relatable toward whatever end, but bad dialogue spoils the relatability, then you have failed toward that end. Both of these are failure of the art to be effective toward any end; the art fails because it conveys nothing, it does nothing, it falls flat. It can fail similarly if the statements it makes or the questions it asks are just bland, obvious, or unimportant. If it says "the sky is blue", and the audience goes "yeah, so?", you've not conveyed much of anything. If it asks, "But what color is the sky, really?" and the audience goes "uh... blue, duh", you've not raised any question of interest. In all these cases, the art is bad because it is effectively empty, or close enough to it.


Then we are basically agreeing that there is, or there might be, an objective criterium against which art can be analysed, if I didn't misunderstand you. That's essentially what I defend: that objectivity exists in art, that some things are true or false in art, and that subjectivity plays a limited role in it. I think relegating all of art to subjectivity alone is just an easy way out for people to avoid criticism and rational analysis -- it's "the invisible dragon in the garage".

Pfhorrest wrote:But there are other cases we can conceive of of art being quite effective and yet still being bad. Imagine, for example, a movie which depicts Charles Manson as the hero, not by showing him in some unseen sympathetic light and revealing to us his hidden motives and making us question whether he was really so crazy or maybe just misguided or a victim of circumstance himself-- no. This just shows him as crazy, exactly as we all picture him already, shows him (or his girls rather) murdering people, and portrays that as awesome and something to be celebrated. Say it does this with great flair and Hollywood style, makes him out to be a clever charismatic genius and his girls some Charlie's Angels-esque action stars. Imagine this message, that Charles Manson is an awesome hero, is conveyed with flawless skill, the way the similar message about your favorite action hero is conveyed.


Sorry for Godwin's Law, but we don't need to go that far to have a tangible example: look at Triumph of the Will. You can read dozens and dozens of reviews written by film enthusiasts and critics saying that the film, in spite of being shameless, unrelenting Nazi propaganda, is a masterpiece of filmmaking. And it is. But you have to see that there's a limit between the criticism of art itself, and the criticism of its place, its role and its consequences in society. A piece of art can be stunningly effective and consistent, and yet convey a horrible message of hate and prejudice. That's because art works in many different levels, but just as it is possible to judge art as a solid and monolithic thing, it's possible to separate and isolate the layers. Both approaches are useful and necessary: just as it is stupid to deny that Triumph of the Will is a fantastic work of filmmaking, it is foolish to deny that it is a stinky and abhorrent piece of propaganda.

Pfhorrest wrote:Would we not still say that there is something horribly wrong with the message itself? Wouldn't that make such art, to use your terminology, not very entertaining?


Yes, it definitely would! But that's subjectivity kicking in: it's your personality and your outlook of the world interferring in the analysis of the work. And, well, that happens all the time, and there's nothing to condemn about that. It's just that we are looking at the same matter from two very different, yet absolutely valid angles: you are thinking of the work's effectiveness at delivering something, and I am thinking of the work's consistency and respect to its own rules. And I understand very well the position you are coming from: I have a long-standing allergy towards the rampant jingoism and imperialism in many Hollywood action films, and it prevents me from making a personal bond to the film. Still, I can look at it at another way and see if it's well done or not. I try to be as aware as possible of the frontiers between my "objective" analysis and my "subjective" enjoyment, and to me, that is crucial -- otherwise, disaster ensues.

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Re: 0991: "Phantom Menace"

Postby Kaiman » Tue Jan 10, 2012 9:27 pm UTC

They're in line waiting for the 3D re-release of The Phantom Menace...except that they're the only ones there, because everyone hates Phantom Menace.


Win.

agelessdrifter wrote:All three prequels were objectively terrible films. redlettermedia's review of the prequels on youtube is highly worth the watch, whether you liked the movies or not. I'd link them, but I dunno what the policy is on that, since I don't have that many posts. They're easy enough to find, though.


The first one was objectively awful. The second was objectively passable but still bad. The third one was a decent movie, although it still had it's flaws - but the original Star Wars had tons of flaws and shitty dialogue and crappy plot contrivances and such too - which Empire (almost completely) and Jedi (mostly) avoided.


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