Evaluating Art

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” -Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams) in the film Dead Poets Society (screenplay by N.H. Kleinbaum)

Can we evaluate art? Objectively? Should we even try? And what’s the criteria?

Either way, what truly matters is how it affected YOU. (Even Captain Keating would agree, I think.)

One of my favorite things in life is watching movies with my kids. And nothing’s better than showing them a movie I loved and they dig it too.

Recently, my younger son Truman and I watched Dead Poets Society (a film in my pantheon). He dug it and I could also tell it affected him. This was our car-ride conversation the next day….

Truman: “Dad. I’m giving Dead Poets 5 stars on Letterboxd.”

Me: “Wow. 5 stars. Nice…How many movies do you give 5 stars to?”

Truman: “Very few.”

Me: “What’s your criteria for 5 stars?”

Truman: “Three things…It has to be entertaining. It has to hold my attention the whole time. And it needs to change my perspective.”



Me smiling with pride and awe.

Yeah, he’s a lot smarter than me.

P.S. – “Rip it out!” This scene.

P.P.S. – “Interesting.”

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