“The Phenomenon of Popularity”

But there’s an extra phenomenon that arises from major releases—the phenomenon of popularity. The very fact that a movie captures the interest of millions of viewers is a mark of its makers’ creativity. Popular success is no random flick of the finger of fate, but the result of a combination of ability and acumen—which, however, isn’t the same thing as aesthetic merit. Popularity is inseparable from the consideration of movies as politics—as phenomena that transcend their aesthetics to become news in themselves. The very formality of the notion of a movie’s theatrical release has a grand political connotation, like a candidate for office throwing a hat in the ring. Just as candidates’ appeal is different from their stated platform, it’s worthwhile to consider the source of a movie’s power over a wide range of individual imaginations (often called, oxymoronically, the public imagination).

From the New Yorker, discussing the recent policy change that the NYTimes won’t review every movie with a theatrical release in New York City anymore.

He’s definitely making the connection that I’ve been discussing here – MacroCinema is not about art, it’s about popularity = politics = power. But I disagree that this change somehow opens the field to smaller works of art released online, V.O.D. as it’s called – in my opinion it’s a simple consolidation of power at the discretion of the cultural gatekeepers who work as film critics.

This is only worth getting upset about, though, if you still believe that MacroCinema and MicroCinema exist on a continuum together – which I don’t. MacroCinema is qualitatively about power and popularity, MicroCinema is about art. This doesn’t mean they are mutually exclusive – they perhaps occupy overlapping circles in a Venn Diagram, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same species at all.

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