There's been a very interesting discussion over at Glenn Kenny's blog for the past week. It's centered on the work of Joe Swanberg, but really uses that work to explore larger arguments about aesthetics, realism, reception and other issues central to what we in this business of academic show might call "cinema studies."
I have not seen Swanberg's films, so I can't weigh in one way or another on their merits, but I wanted to pull this quote from the comments section of one post, because it nicely examines a key question that I encounter a lot in class discussion: why the fascination with 'realism' in the first place?:
My feeling has always been that real is in the eye of the beholder. I often feel much critical analysis gets bogged down in different people arguing whether a movie captures truth. As an editor, I am constantly aware that anything I watch is manipulated to get a certain reaction even if it doesn't seem like it was. I always feel movies are the reflection of mostly the director's (but also writers, actors, editors, cinematographers) sensibilities. Whether that actually reflects one perceives to be realistic is what each individual brings to it.