Brewis, H. (June 4, 2014). The movie lied: Tactical realism and ‘The Return of the Living
Dead.’ Smug Film. Retrieved from http://smugfilm.com/the-movie-lied-tactical-realism-and-the-return-of-the-living-dead/.
This piece of online film criticism from Harry Brewis of Smug Film outlines the overall tenets of ‘tactical realism’ as a practice, and why it is harmful as a way to engage with films, particularly genre films. Brewis also defines tactical realism in a comprehensive way, and uses the film Return of the Living Dead as an example of how tactical realism arguments miss the greater symbolic points of the film.
This work appears in a major film blog, which is fitting given the pop culture nature of the subject at hand (as tactical realism arguments typically occur in online film criticism), and serves as a comprehensive think-piece on tactical realism’s flaws. I plan to take inspiration from many of Brewis’ arguments to discuss the faults of this line of thinking in film criticism to show why it is erroneous and ignores other elements of film to get its point across.
Ebert, R. (June 6, 2012). Reviews – Prometheus. Rogerebert.com. Retrieved from
This article by noted film critic Roger Ebert is his official review of the film Prometheus, in which he praises the film for its imagination, sci-fi conceits, and universal themes which are at the heart of the film itself. The source comes from an online component of Ebert’s film writing, but the work itself was also published in the Chicago Sun-Times, a reputable newspaper, and Roger Ebert is a highly credible source for film criticism. As a result, his analysis of the film is highly considered, and focused on themes and subtext, which I will point out as I use the review in my essay. This review will be used as an example of a more nuanced and considered way of thinking about film, contrasted with the tactical realism arguments of other sources.
King, J. (2007). Mystery Science Theater 3000, Media Consciousness, and the Postmodern
Allegory of the Captive Audience. Journal of Film and Video, 37-53.
This scholarly journal article by John King evaluates the cultural impact of the cult show Mystery Science Theater 3000, and how it has led to a greater sense of media consciousness in postmodern film criticism. MST3k (as the show is abbreviated) is said to comment on the post-modern phenomenon of our media being everywhere, and the demands of culture to comment on it from a glib, snarky way.
King’s article is from a reputable film and video scholarly journal, and I plan to use it in two ways. First, this will provide appropriate support for MST3k being the inspiration for the snark, plot hole-based criticism of modern films found in tactical realism. Furthermore, I will also use it as a way to show how audiences have been trained to look at media from a distanced, ironic perspective, instead of engaging with it on its own level (which brings about the plot-hole focused placement of the filmgoer above the film).
Motion Picture Association of America (2014). 2013 Theatrical market statistics. MPAA.org.
Retrieved from http://www.mpaa.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/MPAA-Theatrical-Market-Statistics-2013_032514-v2.pdf.
This fact sheet from the MPAA (a primary source for film box office statistics and financial data) offers statistics on box office numbers for film sales in a variety of markets, including the United States and Canada. Both global and domestic box office numbers are provided in comprehensive charts, showing ticket sales and amounts of money made by each country’s film industry, as well as demographics and sampling. This particular source will be used to provide support for the box office numbers mentioned in the essay to support the assertion that film is an incredibly popular form of mass media.
Ryan, M.L. (January 2009). Cheap plot tricks, plot holes, and narrative design. Narrative 17(1):
This scholarly article from Marie-Laure Ryan explores the narrative role of plot holes and ‘cheap plot tricks,’ in film and narrative. Ryan acknowledges that plot holes exist as a means of narrative convenience – a way to get characters from one point to another without connecting the dots in a wholly comprehensive manner. She does point out the difference between plot holes (in which writers ‘ignore’ a problem) and cheap plot tricks (“hackneyed devices” which attempt to fix plot problems), which may be essential in the thinking of tactical realists. At the same time, she warns against “castigat[ing] the use of CPTs,” as they are more a tale of inefficient construction of plots rather than an indictment of a film as a whole. I plan to use this article to help define plot holes for the sake of my argument.
Sanchez, J. (June 11, 2012). What’s wrong with Prometheus (a Partial List). JulianSanchez.com.
Retrieved from http://www.juliansanchez.com/2012/06/11/whats-wrong-with-prometheus-a-partial-list/.
This blog entry by Julian Sanchez, an amateur film blogger, provides a systematic rundown of perceived logic and character flaws in Prometheus, ranging from the use of a young actor in old-age makeup rather than an actual old actor, the slight way in which the expedition is formed, and the actions of many other characters. This essay is valid from a film critic’s subjective point of view, but will also be used to point out how his arguments are somewhat dismissive and reductive. This article will particularly be used to contrast with Ebert’s review, which focuses more on the broader themes of the work than the nitpicky plot holes of Sanchez’s work, to show why Ebert’s approach is more engaging and justified.