Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tom Block, "The Face on the Barroom Floor"

I chose to write about this article because I think that Tom Block has a sincere, realistic take on depictions of violence. He talks about the prevalence of violence in film and television, noting that despite its popularity, violence is rarely depicted in a way that affects us as it should. He points out that film directors seem to care more about the number of deaths in a film than about how much impact a single act of violence can have on an audience. A pile of corpses won’t even make us flinch if we are not shown the real ugliness that it takes to put someone in that state. Block believes that the entire point of depicting gruesome violence should be to show us how terrible and sickening that side of humanity can really be, and yet that point is usually glossed over by the highly dramatized fight scenes found in films, so that we are left with violence without any substance.

Block’s writing style is fairly straightforward and casual; he makes his point without coming off as long-winded or disinterested. Here is a phrase I found interesting: “Our contemporary filmmakers tend to care only about body counts, without ever following through on their punches or actually affecting us emotionally with their maimings and gorings, which is surely the only legitimate excuse for such bedlam to begin with. In Chinatown we never quite recover from seeing Jack Nicholson’s nostril bisected by Polanski’s switchblade before the movie is barely a quarter old, while in Die Hard and the Bruckheimer movies bodies are stacked up like cordwood, yet no one in the audience thinks of choking on their popcorn. It’s unreal.” This sort of writing is really engaging because it feels like Block is giving his sincere opinion on the subject, without dressing it up or down.

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