Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Meanwhile, back in the cineplex . . .

Ok, Blowing Whistles is moving into the homestretch, which means everything is no fun right now and I'm exhausted, so I'm not going to try to blog about anything I have to actually think about; no theatre, art, music or dance - which leaves movies! My friend Art Hennessey posted a link to a discussion of film (including the Globe's Wesley Morris) over at that font of Ivy-League-sophomore contrarianism, slate.com, so I thought I would check it out.

Well, what I found only confirms what I've long felt - that film reviewing has totally succumbed to hyper-articulate infantility. Reading this stuff, I swear, is like watching toddlers play with their poop - only the poop is a kind of rarefied contemplation of the self disguised as criticism. Here are just a few samples:

Ringleader (and slate critic) Dana Stevens:

"Thanks so much for making this discussion sparkle and snap . . . I still find [The Diving Bell and the Butterfly] astonishing, visually daring, and devoid of sentimentality—and I say that as a viewer with a lifelong animus toward the humanist gimp-porn genre . . . [Bug] was one of those movies that's too small and too odd to make anyone's 10-best list but one that quite literally bored its way into the viewer's brain . . . I wish us all a year of buglike immersion at the movies."

Meanwhile critic Nathan Lee seems to be on some kind of critical, if not actually crystal, meth:

"In addition to that fab-nasty horror trio out of Toronto and the entire IFC First Take slate to come, I'm as pumped as anyone for the Blair Witch Godzilla Project hinted at in the trailers for Cloverfield. I'm currently writing a rave review of the beautiful and beguiling Opera Jawa. There's a stunner in the pipeline from underrated actor-director Jacques Nolot. Strand Releasing will open Before I Forget, his bold, acerbic look at the ties that bind several generations of gay hustlers and their johns, sometime this year . . Make your brain bigger right now by ordering a copy of Physical Evidence, his recently published collection of criticism, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, obviously; Season 5 of The Wire, of course; I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry 2: Make Up To Break Up. Everything opening at Film Forum, especially Chop Shop, a knockout New York story from the wildly talented Ramin Bahrani . . ."

In another corner of the room, as it were, Wesley Morris is getting in touch with cinema in a different way:

"Southland Tales . . . struck me as a wildly imaginative, intermittently brilliant journey up its creator's own ass. (Not unlike—and here I'm really going to get in trouble—David Lynch's freaky, seductive, infuriating self-released odyssey Inland Empire. Lynch just happens to have a more compelling ass.) . . . I'm Not There is all conceit . . . The movie has experimental balls, but I couldn't get the zipper down to really feel them the way other people seemed to be able to."

Ooo, tee hee, naughty, naughty . . . but the conversation is actually at its most hilarious when Scott Foundas gets on his soapbox:

"Famously, the great American film critic Manny Farber found the role of "evaluation" in film reviewing—good/bad, up/down, four stars/no stars—practically worthless, and there's one particular adage of his that I've quoted so many times I should probably just have it tattooed on my forehead:

The last thing I want to know is whether you like it or not; the problems of writing are after that.

Now, I know from reading the comments in the Fray here, and those that regularly get sent to our letters box at the L.A. Weekly, that there are a lot of moviegoers who would beg to differ with Mr. Farber's immortal words. They may think a film review should be a kind of consumer guide: Is this movie suitable for my children? Will it make me laugh/cry/feel warm and fuzzy inside? Or they may simply want to read a review that affirms their own opinion of a particular movie, that says they're "right" for having felt the way they felt about it."

Really - is Foundas possibly trying to assert that the giggling vapidity we've been reading is somehow superior to a consumer guide? He's got to be kidding. Gentle readers, if I ever begin to write as badly as the blithering, post-adolescent eunuchs at slate, please - just shoot me.

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