Writing for Metaphilm

1. Context

Cinema is for us the highest medium of electronic culture, the medium to which and from which all other media derive their inspiration. This is why TV actors always want to make it into film. It’s why film actors always say, “What I’d really like to do is direct.” And it’s why novelists always say, “I think I have a natural gift for writing visually,” despite their readers who see the adaptation and always say, “The book was much better.”

In any movie, there is at the same time something profound going on and something missing. Cinema is always an idealization from someone’s point of view. It is as close to a dream state as you can come in your waking life. Cinema is always about something being presented at the same time something is being hidden.

Metaphilm is about filling that void, bridging that gap, and enjoying the late-night conversation about—you know—what the movie “really” means.

And sometimes we just get fed up with what everyone else thinks, and we think you might too, so we come up with our own counter-intuitive interpretations just for the hell of it. Sometimes playing devil’s advocate is at least half as fun as rooting for the other guy.

We started our site off by separating ourselves from the herd: there are thousands of “movie review” sites online. We continue to believe that we are not one of them. Our original tagline said, “We don’t review films. We interpret them.” Our new tagline incorporates that sentiment and also broadens our mission because, at the end of the day, there’s nothing inherently wrong with reviewing a film—so long as the review is a re-view, and helps people see through cinema (with whichever emphasis you choose to parse the phrase).

It strikes us as odd—and we wonder why the industry itself isn’t insulted—that the world’s most expensive art form (save for some architecture) gets “covered” by mass media critics who take their notebooks into the theater, see the film once, write a 100–300 word review for their next-day deadline, and call themselves professionals. We grade undergraduate book reports by higher standards than that. That’s like taking one look at a building and giving your assessment of its structural integrity without ever walking through it. (Though if your building happens to be a façade on a Hollywood set, maybe film reviews are doing the job the industry pays them to do: don’t look too closely, don’t walk inside and look around; don’t ask questions about structural integrity.)

We get accused of “earnestness” from time to time, because, after all, it’s just a movie. But if more people go to movies than read books, than vote, than go to church, than do anything else of cultural, political, and metaphysical significance, then we think it’s time movies were given the serious and yes, even earnest attention that they deserve.

2. Text

If most folks experience cinema as “just a movie,” then we want you to help them experience it as so much more—and so much less. If you like our approach, consider writing for us. If we like your stuff, we’ll publish it.

You do not need to spell out whether you’re being serious or silly. If you interpret a film, our readers will repay you by interpreting your interpretation. This is why the site allows for as much commentary, dialogue, and interaction as possible without going ridiculously heavy on bandwidth. If you write for Metaphilm, prepare to be argued with by your readers. They generally maintain a sense of decorum, but their secret suspicion of what the film really means may be just as strongly felt as yours.

Write something pithy for the phlog. Write something long for the main section.

In addition to film interpretations, we now invite you to submit “re-views” as well, meaning that the film (or films) in question has been seen at least twice by the re-viewer.

Write something you’re passionate about. Or write something that needs writing. Or—since we’ve got more ideas than time to write them—try taking on one of our ideas. The blog on the right has ideas for you.

Many films can carry more than one interpretation. If you have an idea about a film we’ve already covered, by all means run it by us.

We are not looking to confirm a particular viewpoint, ideology, or philosophical stance. Primarily we are interested in effects. We wish your writing to produce one or both of the following effects on the reader: A) to wish they could “see” movies the way you do and B) to wish to be able to go out with you after seeing the film you’ve just written about and share a beer.

What this means is that we want intelligent humility on our site. We want writing that says, “Don’t you think?” more than it says, “Look at me.”

On the other hand, any essay that amazes us, for whatever reason, is also fair game. Sooner break any of our above guidelines than produce a formulaic piece of predictability. Please.

3. Technique

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) your submissions as attachments in MS Word or RTF formats or in the body of an e-mail. And save us all some hassles:

Writers’ Blog

Articles we’re hoping you’ll write.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

True Grit and the Future

Would someone please write a piece documenting how True Grit is the latest film to convincingly demonstrate that the fate of humanity lies in the hands of 14-year old homeschooled girls?

idea ::: from publisher ::: Link
Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lady Gaga Channels Hitchcock

Anyone want to write the definitive review of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” as an interpretation of Hitchcock films?  It’s all in the lyrics: “I want your psycho, your vertigo stick, want you in my rear window, baby you’re sick.”  Say Hitchcock a few too many times and… nah, never mind.  Cancel that request.

idea ::: from publisher ::: Link
Monday, March 26, 2007

The Ring Structure of Film Interpretation

“The ring form thus seems to presume repetition and re-interpretation to be understood; it almost takes on the aspect of ritual. It also seems to presume a community that will share in accumulated understanding. Is this perhaps what makes the ring form so alien to contemporary life? Right now, disorder seems much more realistic.”

Metaphilm writers and readers may especially benefit from reading this New York Times (subscription required, apologies) meditation, with implications for the structure of most movies and, in our opinion, in creating a worthwhile interpretation of the same. 

idea ::: from publisher ::: Link
Monday, March 19, 2007

Blood Diamond

Someone please write an interpretation of Blood Diamond as a sequel to Sweet Home Alabama. Seriously.

request ::: from publisher ::: Link
Monday, June 19, 2006

Devil’s Rejects

A reader has asked that somebody write some philosophy of Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects. Go to it!

request ::: from editor ::: Link
Thursday, May 04, 2006

V for Vendetta

A reader has asked for any interpretations of V for Vendetta. Send ‘em in or post a link in the comments.

request ::: from editor ::: Link
Thursday, January 05, 2006

Academics Misinterpreting Hollywood

When will an academic ever see anything other than “the other” in King Kong movies?  Not this week.  You can almost hear the voice of the bespectacled fourth grader: “Look mommy, I found a racist.  Can I keep him?” 

Anyone out there willing to rise to the challenge of offering a real interpretation?  Someone want to show us how the 1973 King Kong was the most eerily accurate prophecy of 9/11 ever filmed?  Someone else want to point out that Jackson’s new King Kong recapitulates the 1933 original to reveal Hollywood entertainment itself as the dominant threat to the long-term sustenance of industrial civilization?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

from publisher ::: Link
Thursday, June 30, 2005

Call for Papers: Fight Club and Philosophy

Is fighting for life something “that men do”? Is meaninglessness the ultimate malady of consumer culture? Is personal and property destruction a means to salvation? Is anarchy a prerequisite for social economic equilibrium? Are women not what men are fighting for/over in the competitive struggle? Is Brad Pitt Nietzsche’s ubermensch? If the first rule of Fight Club is: You Do Not Talk About Fight Club, then the first rule of this collection is, if this is your first time analyzing pop culture and philosophy: You Have To Write.

Fight Club and Philosophy explores the literary and cinematic world of Fight Club as created by Chuck Palahniuk and its filmed adaptation by David Fincher. It aims to investigate the philosophical themes and underpinnings of these works, as well as to use the novel and film as vehicles for exploring and explicating traditional philosophical ideas. Some of the themes that contributors may wish to consider include (but are not limited to): existentialism, gender roles throughout history and literature, Marxism and political economic theory, the philosophic meaning and uses of the doppelganger character, the father as symbol of God, the meaning of life, the necessity of struggle to achieve identity, the film as “neo-noir,” feminist and gay perspectives on the Fight Club phenomenon, and religious antecedents to the men’s group movements of the late 20th century.

We are looking for academically provocative and intellectually engaging material that is first and foremost written by people who care about the reader’s attention span, who can hold an audience to the deadweight of the printed page in an electronically accelerated culture. Please send abstracts and/or completed papers to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), along with previous publication history. Ph.D.’s not mandatory for consideration.

Titles and abstracts of 300-500 words due by July 15, 2005. Full papers due by December 1, 2005. Please forward this announcement to any groups, listservs, or individuals you know who may be interested.

request ::: from publisher ::: Link
Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Need We Mention This?

Writers, if you want online glory, it goes without saying (doesn’t it?) that getting someone to mention your story, or better yet, link to your story, favorably, on any mass site like Fark, Boing-Boing, Slash/Dot, MetaFilter, Plastic, or other mega-hit generator, is pretty much like gold in your pocket, and will make you something of an overnight star.  Look, for instance, at the traffic that Todd Seavey generated by getting Reason magazine to link to his latest piece, and then from there getting someone on Boing Boing to mention it.  Perception has never been reality, but from a publisher’s (which is to say, print OR online) point of view, it doesn’t hurt to have 25,000 hits to your one piece while the pieces above and below it have less than a thousand…

idea ::: from publisher ::: Link
Thursday, March 03, 2005


From Adaptation to Mean Girls, and several films in between, please articulate and explain the phenomenon of the sudden-death by automotive drive-by as the new visual shocker moment in recent cinema.

idea ::: from editor ::: Link
Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Call for Submissions

Metaphilm is in the active process of pitching a book proposal, and our agent has suggested we attempt to seek roughly 50% new, unpublished material in Metaphilm’s signature “smart, audacious” style, accessible to a wide variety of readers by virtue of writing style and film selection.

This is where you come in. If you have loved Metaphilm for our famous Fight Club as a Retelling of Calvin and Hobbes, Star Wars as Freudian Parable of Sexual Dysfunction, A.I. as the story of a piece of steak, Legally Blonde as the film that begs moviegoers to start interpreting film, or The Shining as one man’s failed struggle to support his family on one income, then you’ll know what we’re looking for.

Choose a film that has not been covered but that is widely known (even by those who haven’t seen it, such as Jaws, The Godfather, It’s a Wonderful Life, etc.—films so well-known that you don’t have to see them to know them), and then interpret it according to your favorite secret pet theory that only you believe, but with the kind of evidence that will engage your readers, entertain them, and persuade at least some of them to believe you by the end. Silly or serious, sacred or profane, we’re looking for that mix of outrageousness and plausibility that just might make your reader think. Having your reader laughing out loud or having their hair standing up on the back of their neck at the end is always a good sign that you’ve achieved something.

Send all submissions by March 1, 2005 to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) As always, read our disclaimer which essentially says this: we can’t pay you anything, but we can make you famous, loved, and appreciated for your genius online and now, in print.

This call for submissions is specifically not for academic treatises, condensed dissertations, or jargon-filled pieces with footnotes that outweigh the body text. There is a time and place (even on Metaphilm) for those pieces, but this book is more for the average moviegoer crowd, and thus accessibility and entertainment value will be the two highest criterion by which your piece is judged. And as always, any piece not suitable for book publication will be considered for the online version. We thank you for your continued support of Metaphilm, and your willingness to help the world see through cinema the way you do.

request ::: from editor ::: Link
Friday, May 21, 2004

Ed Gein-ophobia

Someone please write a piece called “Gein-ophobia” on the influence of Ed Gein on Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Silence of the Lambs, which will also finally answer the question of why all of America’s cannibals seem to hail from Wisconsin (where they seem to keep the milk and the meat separate, as in old Jewish law). There is apparently an independent film called Ed Gein shot a few years back.

request ::: from editor ::: Link
Monday, March 08, 2004

Dumb and Dumber

A reader has requested that somebody find socioeconomic or metaphorical value in Dumb and Dumber. There’s a challenge for the creative among you.

request ::: from editor ::: Link
Sunday, February 15, 2004

If X did not exist it would be necessary for us to invent X . . .

Somebody please look at White Wilderness, the old Disney propaganda documentary on lemmings (which is credited for creating the myth that lemmings are suicidal). Obviously it was an idea just awaiting a metaphor to become an unstoppable meme. Connect it to worldwide usage of Microsoft Windows. Make amusing references to the Department of Homeland Security standardizing on Windows.

idea ::: from editor ::: Link
Thursday, February 05, 2004

Hollywood Animal Gone Wild

If you want to go meta on interpreting any of Joe Eszterhas’s films from the late 80’s or early 90’s, then start here. You’ll never watch Jagged Edge or Basic Instinct in quite the same way again.

idea ::: from publisher ::: Link
Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Shawshank Redemption

In “Shawshank Redeemed,” Andre Mouchard of the Orange County Register (19 Jan 2004, free registration required) notes the move of The Shawshank Redemption from flop to cult favorite. Give us your take on its staying power. What about other cult faves like Office Space?

request ::: from editor ::: Link
Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Death of Story

Feature story: Pirates of the Caribbean, Country Bears, and Haunted Mansion as proof of the move from Disney’s “death of the story” (from Roland Barthes “the author is dead”) when Disneyland was founded, to “the story is dead” now that all recycling and tweaking of existing copyright material has been exhausted. In theme park rides, there is by definition no character development, no plot to speak of, and a narrative arc that simply takes you from oh my to gee whiz, or scary/scarier/scariest.

idea ::: from publisher ::: Link
Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Rage, Rage

Write a pheature on The Hulk, 28 Days Later, and Anger Management addressing why “rage” has become the norm for “guy films” in the last little while.

idea ::: from publisher ::: Link
Monday, January 12, 2004

Bruce Almighty

Bruce Almighty as a sequel to The Truman Show

idea ::: from publisher ::: Link


Paycheck as a movie about Direct Deposit and the nightmare of electronic banking. Draw parallels to the business decisions that allow Ben Affleck to continue working in the industry.

idea ::: from publisher ::: Link