April 13, 2008
Critics, 4/13.With the Moving Image Institute in Film Criticism and Feature Writing rolling on through Tuesday and so many entries going up here lately related to critics and criticism in general, I thought a catch-all entry might be in order again. Kevin Lee has a full report on the first day of the MII seminar, and I noted Karina Longworth's earlier. For Doug Cummings, yesterday's highlight "was meeting Andrew Sarris (who turns 80 this year) and Molly Haskell, two highly influential but shockingly modest and enthusiastic critics who proved to be a joy to interact with during our session as well as dinner afterward.... 'I'm truly the sum of all the conversations I've had about the movies,' he told us. Sarris does teach at Columbia today, and he was quick to graciously assert that 'kids today write much better about film then I did when I first started.'" Updated through 4/18. Online listening tip. At the House Next Door, John Lichman and Vadim Rizov host an informal roundtable on a wide variety of related topics. Good listening. Recently noted: Michael Atkinson and Gary Dretzka. Recent related entries: "Roger & We," "Help DK Holm" and "French's 30 years." Updates, 4/14: "Underlining virtually all of our discussions this weekend is the need to find or create an audience, a topic that goes far beyond commercial profits and into cultural transformation," writes Doug Cummings from the MII. "I believe one of the central purposes of criticism is to convince or convert, to educate and inspire. When critics decide their writing should be determined by others (implicitly or explicitly), they cease to matter." Kevin Lee finds the bloggers' panel (Eugene Hernandez, Michael Koresky, Matt Zoller Seitz and ST VanAirsdale) to be "the most free-wheeling discussion during the Institute.... When the elephant-in-the-room question was raised about what distinguishes a paid critic from an unpaid critic, the discussion sidestepped into a somewhat related binary between professional vs. amateur criticism, leaving me to conclude that with paid film writing gigs shriveling away, both distinctions are moot." Also, notes on talks by visiting filmmakers Kelly Reichardt, Tom Kalin and Ellen Kuras. Also, as you may have seen, there's an "American Cinema Anniversary Blog-a-Thon" going on. Updates, 4/15: "To take the ongoing critical downsizing as proof there is a shrinking audience for film criticism is to indulge in a classic piece of false logic," writes Screen's Lee Marshall. "I would argue that more people are reading more film reviews than ever before." Via Movie City News. Looker notes that AO Scott is a family sort of guy. Update, 4/16: "The Haskell/Sarris Hour (actually, several hours - the discussion continued over dinner, including wine for many of us and a vodka tonic for Sarris) was, for me, both the most purely pleasurable session of the Institute, and the portion of the program that gave me the strongest dose of film cultural-historical education," writes Karina Longworth. "It all came down through Andrew and Molly's candid storytelling. MOMI's David Schwartz more than once credited Sarris for having mastered the lecture-as-stand up comedy, but in our small group, with Haskell at his side snarkily finishing sentences, it felt more like lecture-as-autobiography. With jokes." Updates, 4/17: For the Los Angeles Times, Liz Brown reviews Richard Schickel's Film on Paper: The Inner Life of Movies: "Some writing does not benefit from being plucked from its original context. Gathered together, these essays form not so much a body of criticism or history as a series of finger exercises in dismissal." Once again, Karina Longworth: "[N]early every guest speaker made some mention of making trade offs, of covering for noble failures with less-noble successes." And she's sparked a string of comments about comments. Ray Pride sees that Pauline Kael was again all over the place this week. Via the House Next Door, Jen Yamato talks with Nathan Lee for Rotten Tomatoes. Updates, 4/18: "I'm longing for the day when bloggers and critics can get together in a room without pulling the hierarchical bullshit (and that includes paid bloggers looking down at those who do it for free) and flippant generalizations, and actually discuss how we're going to move forward and keep the art of genuine film criticism alive, because the threat is coming just as much from the corporate overlords as it is from those sullying the blogosphere," writes Filmbrain. "Plus, when you get right down to it, we're the only ones reading each other's work." And he points to a comment he's posted at Shooting Down Pictures. "As a peekaboo glimpse of a certain kind of critical mindset, Scott's remark surprises me only in his willingness to let it slip publicly - for all the supposed blurring of boundaries between print critic and net commentator, author and audience, in my experience many print journalists still view blogs much as Margot did Tom and Barbara's pigs in The Good Life," writes the Guardian's Danny Leigh. "And yet, for whatever it might be worth, having spent a considerable chunk of the last year poring over film blogs both for my own pleasure and this column, I can say one thing with some conviction: while some among them may display a worrying interest in the minutiae of The Dark Knight, the gulf between the best blogs and the bulk of print film journalism is vast. For honesty, insight and nuance, not forgetting passion, breadth of cultural reference and welcome self-awareness, the newer voices often leave their supposed print role models looking like an irrelevance." With MII over, Doug Cummings offers "some lingering images and quotes." Glenn Kenny chimes in - most entertainingly, of course - on the gigglefest the blogs have been enjoying set off by Tom O'Neil's... critique?... of Sunrise.
Posted by dwhudson at April 13, 2008 7:08 AM