- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 22, 2010

Art and artist

“A similar reaction seems to loom whenever a creator or actor does something really beyond the pale, like Roman Polanski. The online debate on Polanski since his 2009 arrest in Switzerland has been lengthy and furious and emotional, and boils down to two sides: ‘But he raped a child!’ and ‘But he made ‘Chinatown’!’

“Few people are debating that both events occurred, but no two people seem to agree on whether and how they’re relevant to each other. Should we feel guilty for enjoying ‘Chinatown,’ given that it was made by a man who raped a child? More troublingly, should we interpret the film’s key forced sexual relationship between an older man and a traumatized, underaged girl in the light of Polanski’s own later actions and his unfortunate subsequent ‘Everyone wants to [have sex with] young girls’ statement? Even if we aren’t supposed to, can we stop ourselves? Does Polanski’s crime make the movie any less a masterpiece?”

- Tasha Robinson, writing on “The Big Questions: Should artists’ lives or opinions affect how people perceive their art?” on July 21 at the AV Club

Art and interpretation

“Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ has got people wrestling with interpretation, which is terrific … up to a point.

“It may seem improbable, or even hypocritical, for a film critic to be waving the yellow caution flag when it comes to overthinking a movie. Certainly it’s more often the case that the American moviegoing public is in little danger of thinking, period, let alone worrying about whether they’re doing too much of it. As movie-oriented websites have begun a cottage industry out of postulating which parts of ‘Inception’ are in fact a dream, and discussion boards have overflowed with theories and countertheories, it should be a delight to see people spending time on close analysis of a work. Maybe - just maybe - there’s hope for the world if we’re willing to make time for contemplation of a work of art.

“At the same time, I wonder if folks are so caught up in the ‘what actually happened’ that they lose track of the ‘why does it matter.’ … Is it possible that a moviegoer’s understanding of what Nolan is trying to convey depends on understanding exactly where we’re seeing reality, and where we’re seeing a dream? Certainly. I’m just not convinced that’s the case, nor am I convinced that the dissections of ‘Inception’s narrative are meant for any purpose other than their own ends: I want to ‘get’ it, so I can ‘get’ it.”

- Scott Renshaw, writing on “Inception: Think, Don’t Overthink,” on July 20 at the Salt Lake City Weekly

Art and repetition

“Tim Jones, one of the bloggers at JimmyAkin.org, notes that there are several striking parallels between ‘Toy Story 3’ and ‘The Brave Little Toaster,’ a children’s story that was first published in 1980 and then became an animated film in 1987.

“The most interesting thing about Jones’ observation is that Pixar chief John Lasseter, who personally directed the first two ‘Toy Story’s (1995-1999), actually pitched a computer-animated version of ‘The Brave Little Toaster’ to the powers-that-be at Disney when he was an animator there in the early 1980s - and he was promptly fired for his efforts. …

“Of course, as Jim Hill noted a few years ago, if Lasseter hadn’t been fired, he might have missed his chance to join Pixar in its early days, and he might not have gotten around to revolutionizing the industry so thoroughly that Disney ended up buying Pixar outright and putting Lasseter in charge of its animation division. (Add to this the Oscar that Lasseter won for 1988’s ‘Tin Toy,’ and the nominations he got for a few other computer-animated films, and his story brings to mind a great line from Francis Ford Coppola to the effect that ‘the things you’re fired for when young are often the same things you’re given awards for later in life.’)”

- Peter Chattaway, writing on “The Brave Little Toy-ster?” on July 13 at his Film Chat blog