Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Critical Commentary #2

The New York Times weighs in on vanishing film critics syndrome--they're going the way of bats and bees in print publications, with Newsweek's venerable David Ansen the latest out the door. The article confirms that this is not a good thing; it also affirms that producers view critics, best-case scenario, as a useful adjunct to the marketing department, getting the word out on their Oscar worthies. (Worst case, an irritant, I assume.) On the other hand, Ansen is leaving on his accord, in part because the weekly churn of nonsense bores his 63-year-old self (yep, my two-decades-younger self nods). The notion is raised that serious film criticism has migrated to the web, which is sort-of true, except that it's too diffuse to be of much use in raising awareness.

And an awful lot of it smacks of film school grads looking to make their bones with their peers by raising the roof or lowering the boom on the New Big Thing--I've seen this "mumblecore" the kids are talking about, and I doubt anyone over age 30 won't do much more than mumble about it. (If the Young Turks are angling for paying jobs at legit publications, it's clear that dream is over.) The web is very tribal, and protective of its favorites. A certain broadmindedness, a key to good critical thinking, is suspect out here, where a thumbs up/thumbs down mentality has been internalized and spit out under cover of academe-ish writing. I enjoy reading what the camps have to say but resist joining in; like Groucho Marx, I'm suspicious of any club that would have me as a member.

One thing's for sure: J. Hoberman has a job for life at The Village Voice. The publisher seems terrified that if they throw him over for another second-rate stringer irritated cinephiles will delete their bookmarks in outrage--I don't know anyone who dirties their fingers with the print edition anymore--and that'll be that for the long-beleaguered, and sadly corporatized, alternative to nothing paper.

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