Friday, February 3, 2012

Nowadays, anybody can be a critic

This morning, I came across an interesting article at the reason magazine blog [the lack of capitalization is the way the magazine calls itself] more or less on the auteur theory that film critics seem to love, and how today's technology has allowed those of us who don't agree with that theory to have our own say. The first point that the author, Tim Cavanaugh, brings up is an article written elsewhere on the firing of the film critic for The Village Voice. From that article's author, Tom Carson:

Whether or not he'd care for the title, Hoberman, along with The Nation's Stuart Klawans, is the most honorably anti-yahoo movie critic in the country.

Carson's "anti-yahoo" comment encapsulates a lot of what I think about movie criticism. That is, I don't pay all that much attention to what the "critics" for whom it's a day job for which they get paid by the old-style media have to say about movies. I think I've mentioned someplace that every time I see an old comment by Pauline Kael on a movie, I find that she had quite a different opinion than I did on the movie she's discussing. But above and beyond that, the "anti-yahoo" line says something about how the critics think they're superior, and how dare those regular people not have the tastes they do.

Another of my favorite non-movie bloggers is David Thompson, who blogs about things that interest him aesthetically (have fun with his "Friday Ephemera" link posts) among other posts. However, Thompson also posts his own commentary about the state of the arts today, which is usually to say about the people who would call themselves the "arts community", and how what they consider art tends not to be that which the rest of us consider art. That, and how the "arts community" wants us to pay for their "art". Here's Thompson's most recent post on that theme.

The two have something in common, which is that you have people who want to impose their own tastes on everybody else, and that they're often stridently political about it. I think I've commented more than once on the auteur theory (note that my understanding of it isn't quite the same as Tim Cavanugh's) and how it seems to imply that the non-corporate -- or more accurately the anti-corporate -- is somehow automatically virtuous and better. It's a point I made fairly when I blogged on Greed back in September, 2010. Also, the genesis for the auteur theory seems to come from French critics, and since they're not Hollywood, they're not of the horrid Hollywood, American "suits" culture -- another automatic plus for them. That's partly where notable child rapist Roman Polanski comes in.

One of the commenters to the reason post I mentioned at the beginning (I apologize for any obscenity you'll encounter from the reason readers; we're a rather saucy bunch) says something to the effect that we shouldn't refer to critics as failed movie makers, but instead understand that almost anybody can be a critic. All it really takes is a passion for the subject you're writing about, and an ability to communicate well. That might be the best comment of them all. With the advent of blogs, any idiot such as I can write about the things which make us passionate. Granted, some people may be better writers than others (and I'm probably in that latter group!), but if you're looking for opinions, you can find them all over the place, and don't need to go to your newspaper's film critic for them. Worse, many of us may not share the opinions of the newspaper film critic.

That having been said, I have to admit that I sometimes feel a sense of, "How could the average person like this stuff?" I know that I much prefer a good story to loads of CGI and explosions, and don't particularly get the current trend towards 3D as though it makes the pictures better. If it didn't do that in the 1950s, why should it have that effect today? But that's also why I try to limit my posting to older movies, and even when I don't like a film a lot of other people do, I understand that there are going to be people who do like that genre (women's pictures) or actor (Judy Garland).

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