I have always liked sports. Not just in a ‘I like to watch Saints games every Sunday with my parents’ type of way either. I have always been a statistical obsessive who studies numbers from a seemingly simple game that I enjoy in order to create some analytical framework for the part of me concerned with tangibility and empirical evidence. That has always been how my brain worked, by embracing structure and things that I can count. Moneyball (dir. Bennett Miller, 2011) didn’t introduce me to a new way to look at baseball, it was how I had consumed the sport for most of my life.
All this being said, I was not prepared for how my mind would take to film. I became enamored with this art form where there was no empirical way for a viewer to describe what they are seeing. There is no Cry Quotient statistic that I could look up to tell me why The Iron Giant (dir. Brad Bird, 1999) made me inconsolable or a Laughs-per-Minute stat that makes sense of how What’s Up, Doc? (dir. Peter Bogdonovich, 1972) makes me chuckle at jokes and bits I’ve seen multiple times. Even the traditional way films are produced has little to no kernels of rationalism, with the final product going through multiple phases of creative individuals tinkering with a vision.
But it is not just pure, unadulterated emotion that can make me react in this sort of way, I experience pure emotion every single time I open my eyes. Film is different because the emotions, both good and bad, are intentionally heightened and carefully curated to give the viewer an emotional high unreplicatable by anything else I have found. You can almost always explain how something made you feel or pinpoint what specific things about a film made you feel that way, but it is very difficult to explain the journey to how you feel that way. Even more interesting to me, though, is how these highs differ amongst the viewer. My brother and I try to watch as many films as we can together. We have very similar taste in the kinds of films we connect with, but it is rare we connect in the same way or on the same level. There is no analytical way to explain what everyone sees and feels when they watch a film, and I think I have fallen in love with the form so much not only to chase that high but to also try and make sense of the emotion film brings upon us through analysis.
That’s what brings me to Shenandoah. I would like to thank Daniel Feldbusch and Holly Barnhart for hiring me and giving me the creative freedom to be able to immediately break format and ramble about how film makes me feel for an entire article. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to dive into some analysis.