The tensor of Bukowski or in search of tricky ways to say that a work of art is a shit

Often watching a movie series or reading a book we intuitively realize that we like or dislike it, but it's hard to say why. The assessment system described below helps to understand this in a more reasonable way (I hope so), so we would be able to tell, is it worth to continue to watch or read that book or movie or it's better to drop it. Let's examine this in more details, and try to apply the system, for example, for the "Star Wars", to see why they're a shit and why this shit is so glorious.

Note: the name of Bukowski was chosen only because it's consonant with Minkovski, but he probably have had a quite similar point of view on this account.

At first it's necessary to say, that the system described below is applicable only to "semantic" or "literary" works of art, such as books, movies or video games, where the gist and action prevail over the form. Experts and critics on the art trends based on the static or dynamic form, such as music or photography, probably operate with similar assessment systems, but with different sets of parameters which are more relevant to the form of a work of art.

In a nutshell, to apply the system to a work of art, the only thing we need to do is to rate the work by the following set of parameters. Then the system will do the rest automatically.

The System

The Fundamental Value

Using a set of the fundamental value parameters we can determine a meta-genre of the work being assessed and even say, will it replenish shelves of selected classics or will be thrown into a trash bin by the future generations. The parameters describe a measure of presence of the corresponding aspect in a work and vary in the range [0..1].

The set of the fundamental value parameters includes:
  • singularity - a measure of the novelty of a work. Is it completely new or tries to imitate or reproduce some other work?
  • essence - the essence is something that author of a work intended to tell us between the lines. Often it's expressed through protagonist's actions and moves, so it's may be very tricky to analyze. But author might to have fun of us, and leave only visibility of sense, so the work is actually senseless in some of the aspects. As you know, inability to detect this and stop baseless analysis is called something like "Profound Meaning Seach Syndrome", but actually it's a debatable question in the case of most of non trivial works of art.
  • quality - simply the quality of a work which implies a degree of perfection of the plot or actors' play or even CG detail.
Now we can examine the extreme cases when the parameters in a set have a minimal or maximal value, for example, in terms of movie meta-genres:

For the real-word assessment we need something like a continual frame of reference to place the assessed work in, so we can determine a nature of the work (it rarely is something clearly defined). The parameter values serve as coordinates of a work in this frame.

As you probably already might have noticed, the Star Wars is a epochal blockbuster in this frame of reference, because they're definitely unique, perfectly staged, but implement a standard Hollywood plot on victorious fight for freedom of an oppressed minority, i.e. have no any meaningful or original sense.
It's worth to notice, that works which are not contain any sense are entirely entertainment shit works.

The Entertainment Value

Using a set of the entertainment value parameters we can determine, have we enjoyed by a work and why if not. The parameters describe a measure of your attitude to the corresponding aspect of a work and vary in the range [-1..1] (i.e. "-1" means a state of complete hate, "0" is a neutral attitude and "1" means entire enjoyment).

The set of the entertainment value parameters includes:
Most enjoyable from a typical male point of viewMost enjoyable from a typical female point of view
  • action - defines the dynamics of the narrative.
  • realism - does the narrative have major internal contradictions? If not, it's a realistic work, so even a SF work may be realistic.
  • drama - the internals of the narrative - decisions of will, motivations etc.
  • emotions - such things as romance, comedy or melodrama but this also may be more common things such as hate or depression.
  • imaginarism - focus on a protagonist's inner world, fantasy or narrative contradictions as an artistic device.
  • performance - the exterior of the narrative, such as beauty or quality of play.

The segregation on male or female type of parameters is entirely conventional, a movie freak will probably take in account all of them and even many more, but this division reflects the general trends. Each subset of the parameters defines direction of the corresponding vector in a tendency frame originated at the coordinates of a work in the fundamental frame of reference.
Because it's very hard to precisely define extreme characteristics and degrees of enjoyment with this large set of parameters, we will use less precise but more credible set of extreme cases:
  • entertainment masterpiece by a vector - when all components of a vector tend to be positive.
  • absolute entertainment masterpiece - when all components of all the vectors are high positive values.
  • shit by a vector - when one or more components of a vector are zero or negative (an entertainment work should entertain).
  • complete crap by a vector - when all components of a vector are zero or negative.

The key point is, if some component of a vector have negative value, you probably will  experience a feeling of controversy by this vector, and this may be a first sign of that you're consuming a shit (but, as mentioned earlier, the controversy may be an artistic device in non trivial works).

Now, with all this knowledge, you may relatively easily decide if you want to continue to watch a long, sometimes boring, movie series, if you understand why do you want to watch it, and what do you want to find - some sense, entertainment or both.

As of Star Wars - they're definitely an absolute entertainment masterpiece, because all the entertainment parameters have objectively high value, and thus why they're so successful.


Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. Could you elaborate on some of the entertainment value parameters, such as Action, Imaginarism, and Performance?

g/christensen said...

Hi, the terms here are defined through their oppositions, and I think the easiest way to explain them in detail is through examples.

For example, the narrative focused on action and performance:

Completely abstract imaginative narrative:

There are some books on critical theory and more interesting things in it such as the analysis of unsaid and unwritten, what author can principally say and what one can't and so on.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the helpful reply. Thinking of them in terms of oppositions really helps put things in perspective. I didn’t catch that initially. I also now get what you mean by ‘action’ and ‘imaginarism’

Great example with ‘Hero’. It’s a beautiful film. I feel ‘The Banquet,’ also with Zhang Ziyi, is very similar to that.

That second one reminds me of works like Salo, Martyrs, or anything by Lars Von Trier. Very disturbing, but that’s probably the point. I also feel the works of Murakami would fall into the same category, for their surreal, abstract quality.

Do you happen to remember any of the titles of those books that you mentioned?

If possible, I would also be greatly interested to hear your thoughts, if you have any to share, on some of my fav works which I feel have a heavy amount of subtext such as Mushishi, Texhnolyze, Pan's Labyrinth, Lawrence of Arabia, or anything by Gene Wolfe or Inio Asano.

Also, please continue writing. Your ability to balance an empathetic with an analytic approach in your various analyses make them a joy to read.

I have yet to encounter writing on pop culture that delves so deep into the mechanics behind how these works of art are constructed, and trying to understand things from the position of the creator, that most people often overlook.

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