Some early reactions to Brain on Fire (press showing) #richardarmitage








~ by Servetus on September 14, 2016.

27 Responses to “Some early reactions to Brain on Fire (press showing) #richardarmitage”

  1. That first tweet: Wow. Twitter is mean. (I’m not saying I’m not totally part of that problem sometimes, but … wow.)


  2. Yes, that first tweet.. my heart sank when I’ve read it


    • I wouldn’t worry too much about it. A tiny portion of people who saw it are tweeting about it, but most of those who saw it have to rush to see their next movie.


  3. The Lifetime-movie-bad-to-Mixed-but-encouraged responses are about what I expected. I’ll have fun tracking the responses by age and gender, just because that’s what I do.

    But that top tweet by Jason is disingenuous for ironic purposes. That piece on Chloe dropping her projects came out about 6 days ago and is about her taking a break in general.


  4. Wow, you can always count on Twitter for some ugliness.


  5. I didn’t think the book was very good. That said, what a critic or a viewer thinks is noteworthy or worthwhile is not always what a distributor thinks their audience will buy (which is really the primary question at this point). And their question is: will audiences turn out for this film, enough to make a distribution deal worthwhile?

    Liked by 1 person

    • At least Brain On Fire is on a track for distribution. With all the films waiting to reach that stage, at what point do both we, and those involved in the making say okay, it’s time to start thinking about BluRay and/or streaming so that we can get this film out to the audience, as well as start making some money on it? I’m thinking in particular of Urban, as it has been sitting for so many years now.


      • I don’t know, but I could imagine that if this didn’t find a distributor, we might see it on TV at some point. But I think if it’s a prestige project for Charlize Theron, she’s going to try very hard, and Susanah Cahalan also seems like a very driven individual.


    • I actually found the book really interesting. Having worked in an earlier phase of my career in a mental health organization, I’ve always been fascinated by the way the brain works (or doesn’t) and by how much of diagnosis is an educated guessing game. One of the critics said it should have been more Lorenzo’s Oil and less House, but I would certainly prefer a movie more like House, where the focus is on the medical mystery and the race against time. Frankly, I can’t remember how well written it was, although I do know that I found it an engaging and enjoyable read. I was excited for the movie even before I knew RA would be in it simply based on seeing the fact-based story brought to life. But I think a movie like this could go either way. It could play more like a made-for-TV movie, which would be a shame.


      • I think in this case a LOT depends on the script because while I got that the story could be easily filmable, it also could be very clichéd for that very reason. I think it’s hard to write about disease without falling into certain patterns (which the diseases have themselves, after all). So I guess we’ll wait to see what happens.


  6. Here’s another:

    Returning to the movies, I just left Brain on Fire, which is good as teaching material on mental illnesses.


  7. Bla bla bla… Critics are pretentious sensationalists. My experience with them in the fine art field is that they are to be ignored. They are surprisingly ignorant about the creative processes behind the works they critique and generally I find reading reviews is more about the reviewers than what they are reviewing. I hope I get the chance to decide for myself what I think of this film, not some pretentious egomaniac’s pseudo-objective views. Strong words I know but they really are a pain in every artists side. No one is more critical of an artist than themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • However, critics can play a role in whether films find distribution deals. So perhaps we shouldn’t ignore everything they say. For instance — if five critics all say about this film “there’s a boring spot about 30 minutes in where …. happens,” that would be a cue for the producer to consider having the film re-edited in order to take that into consideration.

      I personally find movie, literary and restaurant criticism helpful in making decisions about what to do with my money and time. No critic claims to be objective. They are not omniscient viewers, just specialized viewers who have a larger context than the average moviegoer.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree that criticism is nearly always autobiographical and that many critics don’t respect the fact that (most of the time) they can’t create what they’re critiquing. Many aren’t coming from a place of good faith with the artist, which I believe good criticism requires.

      That being said, considered criticism is pretty integral to my artistic process. Being able to receive thoughtful criticism and folding it into the creative understanding of the work is important to my process and the process I use with actors.

      The art has to be considered and talked about within the ecosystem of art, artist and audience, and often the critic’s job is to help audiences know that there’s something to be talked about. And to help them make choices about their time and money. (A good review has never failed to boost ticket sales at my shows! That’s not the be-all-end-all, but it is a factor in the economics of my artform.)

      There aren’t a lot of those considered critics anymore, though, and the social media critics are a distraction for some audiences. As an artist I tend to approach reviews with the “If I want to ignore all of the bad reviews I have to ignore all of the good ones, too. The truth is probably somewhere in between.” Peer to peer criticism tends to mean more to me these days, anyway.

      As an audience member, I’ve found several I generally trust and respect, even if I don’t always agree with them.


      • All writing is autobiographical. There’s always a someone writing, even if the author tries to hide the subject position. I’d much rather that a critic make that clear (as good critics do). It’s less work for me if I don’t have to dig for where the reviewer is coming from.

        I also think, frankly, that it’s not really crucial for a useful review that a critic be able to do what they are criticizing. It can be useful, but it’s not a sine qua non. Roger Ebert was indifferent as an artist, but a great critic, for instance. Paul Wells isn’t a cook but for my money, he sure knows how to eat and to talk about it afterward. The point for the critic is to be able to see the larger picture, and in that, s/he justifiably has a different perspective than the artist, one that is more useful to the audience member than the artist, in that the audience member usually has more in common with the critic than with the artist. Critics also play an important role in creating taste, and they can only do this because they stand outside the creative process.

        I personally think there is more good criticism now than there has been in a long time, precisely because opinion about things like books isn’t limited to ten national newspapers anymore. I read book bloggers all the time who are considered and have a useful, thoughtful perspective on the books they review. There are plenty of great critics out there if you’re looking in the right places.


        • I likely haven’t encountered goes reviewers then, especially after I started avoiding reading them after art school :)… I think you’re right, they can give a fresh non-insider perspective and act as the bridge between artist and consumer too. I was just being a grump. 😉 🙂 xx


        • I absolutely appreciate your thoughts on this! Just a few minor clarifications: I don’t believe a critic has to be able to DO what they’re critiquing, but that they RESPECT that the artist’s process is something they are likely unfamiliar with, including all of the limitations and difficulties the artist encountered along the way. Good critics come at the piece with a sense of respect for the work even if the work is a frustrating disappointment. But I’ve read plenty that seem to think that certain choices should have been obvious or that a more effective action should have been easy to achieve or self-evident. This usually betrays their lack of respect for the working process and a sense that they are superior to the artist who had the difficult task of making those choices. If the work was ineffective, fine. Name it. But don’t act like any of this is really easy to do! It is an attitude that seeps into the culture of “twitter critics” or critics who are more interested in being clever and funny at the expense of real consideration.

          And yes, I agree that all writing (and gossip and speculation) is autobiographical. I’m just speaking for artists who typically take reviews as a personal attack. The blurry line between someone’s actions and another’s personal response is difficult to navigate. So reminding them that the context of the critic is more about the audience than the artist sometimes helps. On that point, I agree wholeheartedly. . . as I do about seeking out good critics in the blogosphere. With the continued gutting of arts journalism in traditional outlets, the proliferation of a diversity of critical thought online is a boon.


          • Maybe we mean something different by respect, but I disagree that a critic needs to respect an artist’s process. They should consider the work with respect, but not the artist’s process, which is important for the artist, but for the critic is simply how they got to what the critic cares about, which is the end result. Critics aren’t giving and shouldn’t give artists a grade bump for quality or type of effort.

            A case in point would be the evaluation of Armitage’s German in Berlin Station. A critic says, “I see this and I find it convincing, or I don’t, or somewhere in between” or whatever. They evaluate what is seen (and they may be right / wrong or I may agree / disagree with the evaluation). They may or may not know what goes into producing a convincing German accent, but it’s not really relevant that they do. That’s the extent of their job. If you compare that to someone like me — a life long language learner and a former professional educator / scholar– I can talk about the difficulties in speaking in a German accent from the inside, and how it might be done or might be done better from a technical standpoint, or how the script could be adjusted to allow the actor to be more successful, but all of that is irrelevant to the matter of whether it convinces. Evaluating that on behalf of interested readers is the job.

            Critics can go beyond that, if they want, to educate — Pauline Kael is a good example; I learned a lot about how to see a movie from reading her reviews — and I would agree that if they are writing well one learns something about technique and genre (this is why this is an effective camera shot, and that is not), but that’s really not their primary task.

            IMO, frankly, some artists get too much credit for their process (this gets back to the point about “method” and how the process of preparation comes to outweigh the performance itself in the audience’s mind. I would argue this interferes in a bad way with the willful suspension of disbelief, in that when I see Daniel Day-Lewis I can never concentrate on his performance and the impression he actually creates without thinking about the inhuman ways in which he tortured himself to achieve it). And too much respect for process in the end can be a huge obstacle for artists. Peter Jackson is a case in point — for his fans, it’s all about the process, the unbelievably painstaking preparation of every detail of those films, WETA workshop, documenting the whole thing. I enjoy reading that kind of thing, but if you look at critical response to the Hobbit films, most of them say something incredibly similar — that he is way too focused on the detail level, that he can’t let go of the pieces and see the big picture, that he is too in love with his own work. And it seems that a lot of Tolkien fans agreed with that diagnosis. Critics are correct to point this out.

            In the end, the professional world isn’t a schoolroom. Different things are — and should be — at stake.


            • I think we may be coming at the same place but from different angles. I’m sometimes not very good at articulating my gut-level beliefs.

              I DO believe that a critic looking only at the effectiveness of the work itself is respecting the work and process. Leaving comment on the process alone at least says, “I’m only going to judge what is right before me.” I also believe that a critic who wants to educate and is coming from a place of genuine knowledge is also respecting the work. (Pauline Kael was influential in my late teens.)

              It is a modern critic’s flippant tendency toward cute or cutting prescriptions for the artistic process rather than sticking to the art itself that doesn’t show respect for either the art or the artist’s work. It doesn’t deal in good faith. To me, it assumes a superiority that isn’t deserved. I’ve had it happen to me and seen it happen to many. Even though I know they’re trying to be clever for their readership, it feels a little like punching down to me. But that’s when I have to set that critic aside. That’s just where I’m coming from, anyway

              Either way, I think we agree that critics play a vital role in the whole ecosystem of art and entertainment. And yes, that the critic’s first responsibility is to the readership not the artist. This discussion alone shows how complex the system can be between art, artist, and audience/critics (and fans by extension sometimes!). It really can’t be boiled down to just a good or bad binary.

              Regarding giving the process too much respect, I wholeheartedly agree with you there. I tend to believe that too much reverence calcifies creativity (in both creating the art and critiquing it) and too much self-indulgence in process prevents artists from being critical of their own work. Too much “precious” can clog up good storytelling.


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