Sunday, May 25, 2008

Help! We've been attacked!


An article recently surfaced which caught my friend's attention and he asked me to comment on it. The article is

Here's my response:
I think this guy has 8 or 9 articles that he merged into one and makes a lot of generalizations which don't generally hold true. You have to read it, however, like a big textbook and agree with some and disagree with some. If the guy wanted to make sense, he should have stated that his article was targeting a specific type of blogger rather than everyone except for himself. For example, I loved Bobby and Darjeerling Limited and promoted the hell out of them, which are two movies he likes.
I also think Premiere was a great magazine (which is ironic because the author hates it) and I mourn its death as much as the next guy. I actually don’t particularly want to be a “blogger” and really want to be in the print media anyway. This started out as a way to promote my stuff so that I might get hired in the print media, and I would gladly seize doing this at once, if it meant that someone in the print media who I am a fan of, could keep their job.
I think it's very sloppy to imply that Ebert has never contributed much. Yes, Ebert the TV critic just does thumbs up or thumbs down, but in writing he has great insights and he is constantly stressing to his readers in his Q and A not to pay too much attention to stars. I agree that a lot of criticism boils down to "Is the film good or bad" but that's mostly in the world of print media, anyway, because print media caters to what the everyday Joe wants to know which is "should I see this movie?” But the internet sites have the advantage along with more in-depth journals and academic literature of analysis.
He might be right that historical context is missing from the great majority of film criticism. I think that's one of the most important things you gain from studying movies is understanding history (and not film history but actual history) better. There are courses in most film curriculums that focus on movies and society, however.

Here is his list of ten things which film bloggers and other critics make the mistake of doing:
1)“The Three Amigos” Iñárritu, Cuarón and del Toro are Mexico’s greatest filmmakers while Julian Hernandez is ignored.

Yeah, sorry never heard of Hernandez. Just like every member of the public I can’t know of every person who’s ever picked up a movie camera and made a film. I’m not making a conscious decision to denounce him. If you want to promote Hernandez, fine, great. Point taken. You might also have a point that as amateurs we don’t have access to someone like Hernandez, but that’s hardly a new discovery.

2) Gus Van Sant is the new Visconti when he’s really the new Fagin, a jailbait artful dodger

Gus Van Sant isn’t that much of an auteur, I personally don’t care for him, but more to the point, he’s not the central point of a lot of discussions. In terms of a couple of his films I know of, Finding Forrester was primarily a Sean Connery vehicle and Good Will Hunting’s autuers, at least in the eyes of the public, were writer-actors Damon and Affleck who initiated the project. So to me, you might call me in agreement with you. I don’t really know who Visconti and Fagin are, sorry.

3) Documentaries ought to be partisan rather than reportorial or observational.

I think that people tend to place partisan labels on a documentary that the documentarians don’t see themselves. I also feel that Armond White shows his blog himself, person is biased against the “liberal elite” or whatever. When he writes. “but it is the shame of middle-class and middlebrow conformity that critics follow each other when praising movies that disrespect religion, rail about the current administration or feed into a sense of nihilism that only people privileged with condos and professional tenure can afford,” he clearly can’t avoid his own partisan biases either, which I think is worse when he’s trying to suppress other people’s right to voice their own opinions.

Nevertheless, I think the view of most critics is that documentaries come in all shapes in sizes: A documentary can be partisan or non-partisan, so long as it doesn’t try to pass itself as the wrong category. The current beating the HBO film “Recount” is taking, is an illustration of that point, since it’s far less observational than it claims. I think Michael Moore, which I imagine White is referring to since a discussion about documentaries can’t possibly exclude the most influential and commercially successful one of the decade, is fairly handled by critics. Most critics advise their audiences to take Moore with a grain of salt, knowing he has a clear partisan bent.

4) Chicago, Moulin Rouge and Dreamgirls equal the great MGM musicals.

Well, I am somewhat of an expert on musicals so I can answer this. First off, there’s hardly any agreement on whether Chicago or Moulan Rouge is the true second coming of the musical. There’s plenty of people who hate Chicago and like Moulan Rouge and plenty who feel the opposite. Dreamgirls is generally considered as a respectable follow-up by Condon to Chicago, treated adequately by the awards season: A proverbial “6th nominee” that feel just short of making the final five. I don’t think much of the literature on Chicago and Moulan Rouge as the revival of the musical is saying that Chicago and Moulan Rouge equal the high point of MGM but they revived the musical and made it marketable again as evidenced by the fact that after 2002, the genre was able to be marketable and Broadway adaptations (Rent, Producers, Dreamgirls), remakes (Hairspray) and all sorts of experimental films (Across the Universe and Sweeny Todd) were able to make it to theaters. If you look at the AFI list of top 25 musicals recently released, Chicago and Moulan Rouge were on their but towards the bottom, behind the great MGM musicals.

5) Paul Verhoeven’s social satire Showgirls was camp while Cronenberg’s campy melodramas are profound.

I don’t know about anyone else but I don’t think Cronenberg’s melodramas are profound. He does a good job at creating tension and makes a good thriller (are you referring to History of Violence and Eastern Promises?) but I don’t know by what criteria you call them campy. Showgirls was rated X and I was like 11 when it came out, so I didn’t see it unfortunately. Should I catch it on DVD or so, so I can enter into the conversation?

6) Brokeback Mountain was a breakthrough while all other gay-themed movies were ignored.
No, anyone who follows the Oscars is aware that Transamerica and Capote were honored well-enough. This might have been a complaint perhaps a decade ago when Ian McKellan from Gods and Monsters lost to Hillary Swank.

7) Todd Haynes’ academic dullness is anything but.
Again, I don’t think people are analyzing Todd Haynes in an auteur sense. I think people saw merit in Far From Heaven and I’m Not There (although I’m Not There had fairly mixed reactions).

8) Dogma was a legitimate film movement.
I think you mean “Dogme 95” but nonetheless, I think there’s a great deal of filmmakers who find Von Trier’s films insulting and nonsensical, and surely the general public feels antagonized by him even more. Whether it’s a legitimate film movement is not really for us to judge. That’s like judging whether you have a legitimate article. It’s an article you wrote, but does it say good or bad things, well that’s the debate. I think Dogme 95 creates more constraints on the filmmaking than its worth (he had to break some of his own rules to make Dogville), but at the same time, I think some of his ideas have some merit and some don’t. I also think it’s clearly worth studying the movement’s context in history just as you say.

9) Only non-pop Asian cinema from J-horror to Hou Hsiao Hsien counts, while Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou and Stephen Chow are rejected. 10) Mumblecore matters.
Don’t know much about Asian cinema, so I won’t respond. Don’t know what mumblecore is.

No comments: