People think it’s difficult to love both The Passion of Joan of Arc and Armageddon. After all, one is an explosive thrill ride about the potential end of a world, and the other is a Michael Bay film where Bruce Willis blows up an asteroid. They have nothing in common on a tonal, narrative, genre or visual level.
I can’t say for sure that Landon Palmer loves both movies but he wrote about both of them with equal respect and interest, displaying a trademark appreciation for Film (with a very intentional capital F).
For six years as an FSR columnist, Landon has challenged preconceived notions, found social meaning in seemingly trivial artifacts and shared a unique perspective on cinema that’s reached millions of readers. Yesterday was the last time Landon will write his Filmmaking Tips entry.
It’s all bittersweet because we’re devastated to see him go but excited beyond measure for him to complete his PhD in Film Studies and focus on finding a job where elbow patches on tweed suits are an occupational requirement. He’s moving on to the next step, and I’m sure he’ll be back here to check in from time to time.
Landon is a weird guy. I can say that from a place of love because he’s my friend, I love him, and he’s a weird guy. He also represents a rarity in the online cinematic conversation these days, where factions are too-easily formed and fandom is too-often defined by falsely splitting an invisible middle between art house and megaplex. It’s why the article that probably drew Landon’s line in the sand most boldly was his explanation of why Rotten Tomatoes is bad for film criticism. He wanted to push back against the binary.
On the surface, his article is an inside baseball look deep into the stringy insides of the baseball, but it’s really a rejection of boiling down movies to an up or down vote – the dreaded Ebert thumbs up without the beloved Ebert contemplation in front of it, to casually say something is good or bad and then walk away.
The allure of this tendency can be too strong these days. Distilling so many opinions down to yea or nay creates false narratives, false options and a manufactured consensus that is defended (sometimes aggressively) by people who mistake opinions for facts. It’s hard for many to understand that you can love both The Room and The Red Shoes at the same time (and for different reasons). The seeming disparity simply doesn’t compute.
Writing like Landon’s challenges the limitations of cinephilia to suggest that there are none. Think about the cliches and too-easy judgment calls for a moment: how stuffy and pretentious critics are (they aren’t), how dumb a general audience is (it isn’t), how dogs and cats living together is a sign of the apocalypse (only sometimes). Team Marvel vs Team DC. Oscar season vs Summer Blockbusters. Whatever vs Whatever.
It’s sometimes appealing to view the world as simplistic and reducible, but doing so leaves you blinded to the millions of other boxes the world only partially fits into. This narrowing of horizons is one of the main things Landon’s articles rejects. It’s not that he loves every movie, and it’s not even that he’s somehow easy to please. It’s that he loves the grand, broad idea of cinema, which offers him an open mind when the curtain opens up and allows him to feel confident about what his appreciation says about him.
It also provided him a starting gun to give us a Marxist reading of Iron Man 2, to defend “boring” movies, to revel wide-eyed and jaw-dropped at the incompetence of The Last Airbender, to think of GIFs as miniature movies and to give serious consideration to Angels With Filthy Souls (the fake gangster movie in Home Alone). Like I said, Landon’s a weird guy. His curiosity and Indiana Jones-esque compulsion to explore filmdom are both vast and vital.
If you’ve never read his work, here are ten excellent entries to get you started here at the end:
- The Postmodern Dialetics of Hot Tub Time Machine
- The Politics of Summer Movies in 2010
- Source Code vs Moon and the Structures of Everyday Life
- The Dictator Auteur: Investigating North Korea’s Hidden Movie Culture
- Kickstarter Isn’t The Problem With Kickstarter
- The Rise of Intentionally Bad Movies and Popular Cult
- Egos Assemble: The Tortured, Exaggerated Masculinity of The Avengers
- Star Wars Didn’t Change the Business of Hollywood, Empire Did
- 25 Years Later, Do The Right Thing Still Feels Unfortunately Fresh
- Slovenian Philosopher Slavoj Zizek Hosts Most Stressful Oscars Ceremony in Decades
Landon also tirelessly conversed/debated with me about all kinds of pertinent cinephile questions in a feature that eventually morphed into the 36 Dramatic Situations using 36 different films.
As you can probably tell, what I appreciate most about Landon and what he brought to FSR is that you can never assume whether he likes a movie or not. As soon as you paint him as a stuffy, Rohmer-loving academic, he’ll start jamming out on accordion while shouting his passion for David Bowie and appreciation for Nolan-esqueness. I still have no idea how sarcastic he was being when he called Armageddon a cinematic orgasm. Then again, it is (like The Passion of Joan of Arc), a Criterion Collection film. The world and its boxes, right?
Landon chose to cover Ken Russell’s The Devils as his last regular editorial because it’s a movie he loves deeply, so if you’re looking for something to watch in his honor, that’s a solid choice.
But, really, all you have to do is watch something you’d never normally watch and try to find the beauty in it.