“The moment we cry in a film is not when things are sad but when they turn out to be more beautiful than we expected them to be.”
― Alain de Botton
Art is subjective, this is true. Like any other artform, a film’s impression on us is colored by our personal preferences and perspectives. It is this subjectivity that comes into play when a film can be profoundly moving for one person while exceedingly tedious for another. We first react to a film within the context of our own experiences, opinions, and emotions.
Add to this the factor of our present milieu, which may be different from that of the artist. How we perceive the world and the artwork within it can be influenced by elements of the current society we live in, ranging from cultural norms, political views, to technological breakthroughs. All of these fluctuate over time and are often shaped by circumstance.
A film is likewise valued through the lens of principles. When determining whether a film is noteworthy or not, we exercise our judgement. Is it meaningful? Is it beautiful? Is it revolutionary? In effect, we depend on a certain set of criteria in order to assess it. The objective state of the artwork is thus seen with a more discerning eye.
What Makes A Film Extraordinary?
There are particular elements in a film that are generally taken into account as markers for potential greatness. These are appreciated by most people who view it, adding to the general consensus of its impact. Whether or not you are a film buff, critic, or academic with regards to analyzing one, these are major components which make for an exceptional film —
Since the time we developed the ability to express ourselves, telling a story has become a more nuanced way to share simple concepts and profound truths. As our lives are likewise one significant story, a film that communicates insights about our world and ourselves transcends mere entertainment. Apart from being engaging, a film’s story must also connect with its audience on a deeper level. It resonates with our human experience and makes it more compelling.
A film is shaped by its time. It is often a reflection of a particular moment in history. Some aspects of a film may not be currently relatable — such as clichéd dialogues, acting style, or dated costumes. However, it is the steadfast, foundational theme woven into the story that stays with us even as society has moved on.
When watching an exceptional film, we lose ourselves. Each cinematic device is wielded in such a way as to create a world that blurs the borders of our real one. A film’s technical style — seen through its musical score, editing, and camera work — is artfully and creatively expressed to both elevate the storytelling and to enhance the participative experience of its audience. Through its ability to suspend disbelief, our own capacity to immerse ourselves in the film’s universe is deepened.
A film is the product of an alliance. The director’s artistic vision works in collaboration with the cast’s performance and the technical elements behind the film. As the audience, we can appreciate this when the film keeps us riveted through the cohesiveness and symbiosis of its components. The film becomes exceptional because the sum of its parts represents the synergy of its creation.
Who Are They That Judge?
The Academy Awards, or the Oscars, is the oldest, most esteemed event of the American film industry. It has awarded recognition for artistic and technical excellence since its inception on May 16, 1929. From its very first panel of judges composed of private dinner guests, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has grown its honorary voting pool to approximately 10,000 strong. Members are invited, and chosen through successful nomination or on the basis of their significant contribution to motion pictures. The Academy is divided into several branches, each responsible for the different disciplines that take part in the making of a film — such as cinematography, directing, editing, sound, and visual effects.
Around 50 to 60 films are nominated each year. Eligibility for nomination follows different sets of rules depending on the film’s category. Nominees are then voted on by each branch corresponding to a particular craft. However, members of the Actors branch are allowed to vote on all 4 acting category awards — Best Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress. The winners in each category are chosen based on the highest number of votes received from a jury of their peers. It is this distinction that lends prestige to receiving the Oscar itself.
Aside from the pomp and circumstance that continues to entrance us, perhaps the Oscars evokes an inherent part of human nature connecting us to its participants. In a word, it is validation — felt by the nominees and eventual winners, and vicariously experienced by the viewing public who have found eminent meaning in the films they favor. The Oscars has evolved into a worldwide community event that is filled with mutual celebration — and as in human affairs, sometimes controversy.
What Is The Connection Between Films And Fountain Pens?
To celebrate the Oscars, let me expound on the role of fountain pens in film. Being an enthusiast, seeing a fountain pen as a prop in a film always sparks a connection — sometimes to the point that I verbalize my excitement. The pen being featured as part of the storytelling is an effective hook since it is an object that I value and employ in my daily life. When the story weaves a particular symbolism into the use of the pen, I become more engaged in the character’s world and part of their persona attains the potential to resonate with me.
Here are some examples of fountain pens featured in film (warning: might be considered as spoilers ;) ) —
Crimson Peak (2015)
Yard-o-Led Viceroy Pocket in Barley.
The fountain pen here is used as a symbol for Edith reclaiming her power, expressed through her capacity to write in her own voice.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Montblanc, Parker Duofold, Parker Vacumatic.
Although there is no such tradition in real-life Princeton, the symbolism of fellow mathematicians honoring John Nash this way through gifts of their fine writing instruments is deeply touching.
Out of Africa (1985)
Possibly a Waterman 52.
The fountain pen here is used as a token of affection for Karen. It becomes a tangible remembrance of her love affair with Denys as she uses it to chronicle a poignant part of her life.
The King’s Speech (2010)
Undetermined fountain pen.
A milestone in this film shows King George V transferring power to Edward VII through the signing of a document with a pen. Edward later abdicates to be with Wallis Simpson. George VI must then become king in his place. He overcomes his speech impediment to become a rousing symbol of national resistance.
The Wolverine (2013)
Undetermined fountain pen.
In this film the fountain pen becomes a weapon. Viper touches the nib with her serpentine tongue, loading it with venom. It is an apt choice as her enemy Shingen Yashida is an expert swordsman. Truly, the pen is mightier than the sword.
The Birds (1963)
Melanie writes a note to accompany her gift. The lovebirds' representation of blossoming love within a cage is starkly contrasted with the eventual avian violence that follows.
The Last Witch Hunter (2015)
Waterman 402 “Snail”.
Caulder presents his long-time assistant Dolan 36 with a very rare vintage fountain pen in honor of his upcoming retirement. Then he half-jokingly adds that Dolan can keep the pen if he stays. They have formed a bond of deep friendship. And of course, Dolan remains unquestioningly loyal until the end.
And because movies are the most total and encompassing art form we have, these reactions can seem the most personal and, maybe the most important, imaginable. The romance of movies is not just in those stories and those people on the screen but in the adolescent dream of meeting others who feel as you do about what you’ve seen.
— Pauline Kael
Perhaps it really does not matter if the movie was rated “good” or “bad”. The realization may come as a gut reaction or after a few moments of introspection — what counts and what stays is how meaningful a film is to you.
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Written by @lekzumali
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William A. Monroe
In Hannibal the main character Hannibal uses an S.T. Dupont Delfi fountain pen which inspired me to purchase one. And yes, it is gorgeous pen, very contemporary.
I to always notice fountain pens in movies. Can you give brand names to the ones in the photos you shared. The one in the birds looks like to me an Esterbrook.
On most recent adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?”, produced by Hugh Laurie, they used Jinhao 100 fountain pen. :)