Review of a nerd reviewing "Velvet Buzzsaw"
Netflix premiered feature “Velvet Buzzsaw” on January 31, much to critical…criticism. Some early reviewers opted to conduct a Q&A-style interview, others took a closer look at Director Dan Gilroy, and several commented specifically on the art or actors. All-encompassing film reviews have been stagnant. In fact, TechCrunch’s February review labeled the film downright “dull.”
One review, however, takes the lead for worst film review with “Velvet Buzzsaw Is the Worst Ghost Movie Ever” by Renaldo Matadeen on CBR – Comic Book Resources. Leave it to the former chemical engineer to distill a critique of the art world – with a taste of surrealism and comedy – into nothing more than a failed ghost story.
This speaks to the larger issue among critics: an interest in the overarching mode of communication, whether an interest in audio engineering, theater production, film and so on, does not qualify the writer to speak about its content.
Matadeen, according to his profile on CBR’s website, is a self-proclaimed nerd who writes “about comics, cartoons, video games, television, movies and basically, all things nerdy.” Media in and of itself is not “nerdy.” According to Dictionary.com, a “nerdy” person is “an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit.” While a “computer nerd” is an oft-used term, there is a vast difference between understanding the technology that comprises a mode of communication and the mode itself.
For example, Instagram is a software application created by people with a range of skills; those who are inclined towards coding and computer languages sit side-by-side with creatives. An Instagram user, however, may be a fifteen-year-old girl who takes selfies with her friends at the mall. Movies are not nerdy – movies are an escape for the everyman and woman. A nerd reviewing a film for its content is like that teenage girl critiquing the algorithms of Instagram’s “Discover” section. She may understand it, but has no experience or authority to speak on the subject.
In his review, Matadeen comes across a bit like an angry teenager ranting about a comedy he confusedly believes is a horror film. No wonder he’s pissed.
To be clear, “Velvet Buzzsaw” is not a horror film. It’s a satire that comments on the art world and its absurdity. The film asks the viewer “What could be more absurd than the world of art as a commodity?” Answer: when the art comes to life. The film is about the capitalistic consumption of art, and the uprising of art to consume capitalists.
The film is satiric in that art can’t come to life – can it? If we can treat paint on a canvas like a gold – another laughable capitalistic creation – why can’t we also claim a painting can come to life? And that’s the point: the film comments on the absurdity of the art world by giving the viewer a laughable (in a dark comedy sort of way) look at an absurd “what if” art can come to life and kill an art critic.
Looking at these “reviews,” that might be just what the world needs.