Wednesday, March 23, 2011


A review was sent my way of a new mumblecore horror film titled Silver Bullets . Supposedly there is a scene where Joe Swanberg, one of the chief architects of the Mumblecore aesthetic, "play[s] a character who makes shitty looking mumblecore movies that are an excuse to get women naked (which more or less sums up Swanberg’s directorial career thus far) gives a long speech about how he doesn’t like even watching movies, let alone making them, but he keeps on doing it because he doesn’t know what else to do with himself."

He keeps on doing it because he doesn’t know what else to do with himself? This scene symbolizes the intentions of any and everywhere Mumblecore filmmaker.

Such cinematic malaise is represented in every Mumblecore film. It is even apparent from the directors mouths. Their insistence on a DIY and autobiographical aesthetic has the makings of a movement, but the critics and academics who 'identified' Mublecore failed to then criticize it. This coming from the complete lack of understanding of what constitutes good cinema, that if it was present, would lead to the critical and theoretical community being more assertive. Even when something resembling a moment (60's-70's) when film-form was studied and experimented with, they wouldn't have to jump on a bandwagon because 99% of modern cinema is so deplorable.

To get more specific they fail to notice the horror of these films. The lack of skill in story telling, the boring lives these filmmakers must lead if they are autobiographical films, the continuing 21st century 'End Of History' meaningless these directors seem to override with films that are just meaningless, etc. Then the most unacceptable thing critics have done is liken this meaningless cinema to the meaning found in Cassavettes.

To surmise, these films never had the potentiality of advancing the medium of cinema. Rather they are taking composite elements of what cinema could be: the low budget capabilities, elements of 60's-70's cinema and the usage of online propagandizing. Swanberg calls these films making films "just about people," but these films are made by a minority that doesn't know what to do otherwise, as the the scene in Silver Bullets symbolizes. This added with a non-understanding of film-form, so its nothing heightened by nothing. This makes people who watch any Mumblecore cinema film ask the same question the reviewer Faraci asked "could this movie have completely ruined my love of film?"

Such is offensive when there is so much to say in our age and so much more that can be done with cinema in the modern.


  1. I agree with you. This whole "mumblecore" things makes me kind of sad, actually because I like the spirit of the movement, as you mentioned. I like they are doing things the way shooting wall wants to do things; that is outside of the studio, using new technologies, and not needing large casts or crews or budgets, but just making cinema. That I love! That is what Shooting Wall wants to do. But, honestly, the films just aren't very good. They are boring and about boring people and 99% of the filmmakers associated with the movement use "realism" and handheld cameras to cover up the fact they really have no styles nor do they know anything about cinema. This movement is even worse than Hollywood, but they are at least on the right track; they just are making bad cinema.

  2. The fact that the director has confronted these concerns in his new film is maybe something worth paying attention to. Although I couldn't agree more about there being so much to say in our age, so it's a bit frightening to frequenty be witnessing pieces of modern art provoking not a single thought. I want to remain hopeful about this generation, but seeing their art makes it tough. Same with Mumblecore - people would probably link the movement to SW in a heartbeat but I agree, it's sad that we have to say No, that's not it.

  3. I have only seen Bujalski's films, which aren't bad, his 2nd is quite good. I understand where this post is coming from, but, as usual, have reservations about the exposition. Why chide filmmakers for having boring lives? Why make comments like "This makes people who watch any Mumblecore cinema film ask the same question the reviewer Faraci asked "could this movie have completely ruined my love of film?"?" Its just an untrue statement that everyone who watches any mumblecore film thinks this. How concretely is sw "advancing" cinema is a way different then mumblecore guys? What does it even mean to advance cinema? I think it is great that sw loves cinema, but it doesn't help to confuse criticism of filmmakers with labeling them enemies of cinema. What is this vaunted, pure "cinema" under attack and in need of "advancing?" It doesn't make sense to me.

  4. I agree it isn't necessary to criticize filmmakers for having boring lives, as we all more or less have boring lives, but I think the distinction here is that the piece is criticizing these filmmakers for making films about their boring lives. Once you turn your boring life into a film, then criticism of that is fair game. Part of this approach we are taking with things like "enemies of cinema" is meant to be hyperbolic and absurd in order to get people's attention. It is fair to have doubts about this approach, but we are attempting to use this over the top quality to our advantage. I agree that Bujalski's second film is good, but his other films aren't and none of Swanberg's films are. As far as where we would like to see cinema going, those are issues we are leaving for the zine. The context for the blog is to shine a light a specific things in a more real time sense and then to deal with the theoretical questions in print.

  5. Film's main purpose is entertainment. Even the most challenging cinema is has an element of aiming to please. These films do so in the hope of inspiring and inciting the imagination of the viewer.

    Mumblecore cinema constitutes a lateral move. It was born out of circumstances that could of resulted in something revolutionary. Rather it took the Auteur formula without reanalyzing the obvious weaknesses of that arena. One of these being the micro-focus on one's "distinguishable personality" Auteur theory tends to validate. Mumblecore films seem to be only about this, to a point that they are glimpses into an attempt at re-capturing one's life. Capturing life is not cinematic because Realism is an abstraction that furthers the lateral movement of film as an art.

    Then with the co-opting of extreme low budget technologies, these filmmakers fail to keep the movement forward. Heightening their views, if you could even say they have them, with the tools their art possesses.

    Ultimately, Mumblecore was ascribed, it wasn't a organized push. So, the initial filmmakers are not the only ones to blame. The irrational critics and theorists are the real ones to attack as they emboldened Mumblecore-ist cinema. Then, anyone taking influence from Mumblecore, is really who I was writing this to.