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Earth without Art is just “Eh.”

August 9, 2016

Although I’m not that much of a movie-goer—documentaries when appealing ones show up at the Rafael, space-aliens-things-blowing-up-guy-type-adventure flicks with my pal Dave M.—I must confess the very first thing (sometimes only) that I read in the Sunday paper is “Ask Mick.” That would be Mick LaSalle, the SF Chronicle movie-reviewer.

Not the reviews, mind you, though I find (not always) that Mick sees cinema through a particular lens that seems remarkably similar to the one I use myself. In the “Ask Mick” column, however, we get a small glimpse of the inner workings of his intellect, not what he has to say about this or that in a movie, but what stimulates those words. His outlook, so to speak.

Not the minutia of a given film that might drive some commentary, but a way of looking at that same minutia. So one recent Sunday (8.8.16), a reader asked whether Mick’s “criteria” for evaluating a movie, any movie, might have changed over the years.

Here’s what he had to say: “As for changing criteria, I think it would be a mistake to have criteria. To have criteria implies that you have something in mind, some kind of formula or standard against which to measure something as measureless and infinite with possibility as art. That’s not the right wat to encounter the vastness and splendor of creation. You just have to roll with it and see what happens. That leaves open more chance for expansion and discovery.”

Look closely at his words. If you go into a realm of artistic display—a gallery, say, or a play or a poetry reading or a walk into a sculpture garden—with a preconditioned idea of what it is you are going to like, or respond to, or dislike based on that idea—then you have lost something vital in the exchange. “That’s not the right way to encounter the vastness and splendor of creation.”

In all these arts, I know what I like. I know what I want to see, and how casually I may reject something that does not fit into my existing categories. It’s why I haven’t got excited about the newly expanded SF Museum of Modern Art. “You just have to roll with it and see what happens.”

My loss, that.

Because I already know, that when I go I will absolutely see something, the vibrant creative impulse of someone I’ve never heard of in a medium I have little respect for, that will blow me away, that will touch me to my core, that will expand my way of thinking in ways I could never have imagined. “That leaves open more chance for expansion and discovery.”

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