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Zack Page-Wood

Zack Page-Wood is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a degree in visual art as well as Grand Valley State University with certification in art education. He is both an educator and a freelance artist. He worked on the documentary film Swarm & Destroy, contributing to animations, title sequences, and creating the films promotional materials. He has been with WIDR since 2002 and acts as producer for Audio Bijou.


So what makes you qualified to review movies?

Well, my background is in the visual arts, and in many ways the two fields are related. Film of course combines virtually all of the arts but primarily it's visual- film was visual before it had any audio or even any narrative. There are a number of different ways in which a viewer interacts with film as an artistic medium than say painting or sculpture, but there are more parallels between them than there are differences. Both rely heavily on composition, color, contrast, balance, pattern, repetition.. all the important elements of the visual arts. Many great filmmakers have gotten their starts as visual artists and some artists, including Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali have even contributed to films.

Beyond that I've been reviewing movies since I did the "Cinema Critiques" column in my high school paper and I've taken a few film studies courses.

What is your favorite movie?
It's hard to say because I generally have a favorite for each genre or style, because otherwise it's kind of like comparing apples and oranges. If I have to pick one it's usually a toss up between The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Both hold a great deal of nostalgia for me, which I'm sure amplifies their status, but regardless both are great movies on so many levels. They have great characters, great stories, great action sequences, and are visual wonders. They're both movies that can be appreciated both as deep, multi textural pieces of cinematic art and also as pure popcorn entertainment.
Who is your favorite filmmaker?

Again, another one that's hard to answer completely. I can say that when I look forward to a film I look to the director or screenwriter more than the actors. There's a great misconception that actors make the movie, but rarely do many of them realize that once they have one hit under their belts that their name on the marquis constitutes a brand and that the brand identity comes with a set of expectations on the part of the consumer. That's why so many stars' careers either fizzle or are widely uneven. They do what they want rather than what makes sense as a brand extension. Directors are more likely to originate a project, or at the very least have a greater stake in its development and final execution.

Some of my favorite directors include David Fincher, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott... there are a number of others, but basically I like guys who can make popcorn entertainment into an art form.

How would you describe your approach to reviewing a movie?

Any movie, whether you've seen marketing for it or not, comes with a set of expectations. A big part of whether the movie will be good or not is whether or not it fulfills those expectations. Have they sold me what I though I was buying?

Beyond that I look to whether a film has successfully created its own reality that is an interesting and cohesive place to visit for two hours. That can be through character or setting or special effects or dialogue, but every film has its own degree of its own other reality with its own rules. Are those rules fun to play with or are they confusing or frustrating? Some might call this the morality- the good guys, the bad guys, etc. If these rules are too simple then it's boring or stupid. Sometimes the rules don't make sense.

Good films have a solid but complex set of rules for their own universe. This contributes to their narrative, their characters, their dialogue, and their visuals and auditory experience as well.

What do you love about movies?

I love the way film creates its own reality. Its our way of taking the chaos of the world and refashioning it into a way that we can make sense of in a way that's more real than it is in any other medium.

Film is this great social equalizer- mass entertainment that anyone has access to regardless of their station in life. They're also meant to be experienced as a communal experience. DVD seems to be taking over, but I love the aspect of a couple hundred people all watching the same thing, and if you put it nationally millions of people watching it together. That communal experience has become more and more rare

I also love the nostalgia of it. Movies define an era and simply by watching one we can be transported to a different era.

For that matter I also love how movies are both permanent and ephemeral. They're the same every time you watch them but you're different. Your expectations, your mood, your maturity, your mind set all change from viewing to viewing, allowing you to experience the same thing differently each time.

What do you hate about movies?

I hate how movie stars have become a cottage industry of tabloid journalism and how so many big movies have become nothing more than product.

I also hate how there is a widening gap between so called art house movies and so called blockbuster movies. Art house movies are made on the cheap and are supposedly significant and then open only in NY and LA to the intellectual elite and then on the other end of the spectrum blockbusters are made for obscene amounts of money, open worldwide, and are supposedly made only to sell toys and cereal. Great movies are somewhere in the middle between those two extremes, but that middle ground seems to be more and more rare. And I hate the dreck that shows up at the extremes.

I also hate when roles are recast for sequels and when people who remake movies, adapt books, or make a comic book movie either don't like or have a fundamental misunderstanding of the established property.