The YouTube aesthetics of Leviathan and Room 237 [Criticwire] / by Alec Kubas-Meyer


In which I bite my tongue and spend 1,300 words not hating Leviathan.

The original draft of this story was 2,000 words. It was also not very good. Back in 2012, I was given the awesome opportunity to take part in the inaugural New York Film Festival Critics Academy, put on by Indiewire and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It was a fascinating experience to be sure, and I learned a lot about a lot of things. The most important thing I learned, though, was just how great it is to have an editor. Seriously. It's awesome.

As part of the Critics Academy, members had to write seven stories for multiple outlets: three for the Criticwire blog on Indiewire, three for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and then one elsewhere. (Unfortunately, two of my articles were never posted to filmlinc. I was told the following year by a member of the second CA that the one that was posted was used as an example of what they should be doing. So that was cool.) This was the first one I wrote for Criticwire, and definitely the most interesting of the three. But although I think it's an interesting topic, the thing that really made it for me was the experience of being edited. Matt Singer, formerly of Criticwire and currently of The Dissolve, responded to the first draft and told me to cut it by 500 words and better integrate the two films into the thesis (it was a little bit of intro, first film, second film, conclusion). I was obviously somewhat annoyed, because that's what happens when you're told that fully 25% of what you've written is unnecessary, but having to edit yourself so heavily is a great thing. It teaches you to figure out where you're too verbose and how to cull your language to best get across your point.

In short, it teaches you to do everything that I don't do on this blog. Funny, that.

But the biggest change he made was to the tone, and I can understand why: I hate Leviathan. It's one of the worst films I've seen in my entire life, and the love that so many of my peers and colleagues have with it continues to baffle and depress me. It's awful. Awful awful awful.

Wherein I recommend playing in traffic over watching Leviathan.

But if you read that article on Criticwire, you would never know that the intensity of my hatred for that film has become a running joke among my non-critic friends (fortunately, a couple of my critic friends generally agree with me, but with a bit less passion). You can tell that I wasn't particularly impressed by it, but the depths of my feelings were checked at the door. It's not a review, but that doesn't mean I didn't get in a few jabs at the film's fundamental failings. I'll probably talk more at length about Leviathan in some future article, because that movie is truly a horrible, awful thing that should be wiped from existence. Or maybe I'll spare myself the agony. We'll see.

(I also talked about Room 237, which is basically just a feature-length YouTube doc that got a theatrical release.)

Wherein I fail to say anything interesting about Room 237.