somehow I missed this other very interesting, yet inevitably nostalgic, discussion on criticism with J. Hoberman (The Village Voice) and A. O. Scott (NYT), that took place on January 5, 2008, in New York City, also at the Museum of Moving Image. More food for thoughts for the ongoing debate around the status of film criticism in the media and its responsibilities.
Here are some selected excerpts :
A.O. SCOTT opens with a quote from a famous Hoberman essay (I wish I could read it, if anybody knows where I can read it, please let me know) :
“That history [of cinema] will force those critics refusing the role of under-paid cheerleaders to themselves become historians, not to mention archivists, bricoleurs, spoilsports, pundits, entrepreneurs, anti-conglomerate guerilla fighters, and in general, masters of what is known in the Enchanted Palace as counter-programming.”
(J. Hoberman, The film critic of tomorrow, today, 1998)
J. HOBERMAN: there’s this thing called film culture. Not the magazine, but something that would be akin to literature, and without being unduly weighty about it, (...) that’s the entity that I feel that film critics and other interested parties serve. It’s making film culture. I think to do that, you have to be aware of what is coming at you, being propelled at you, by the studios and the market place; and also have a kind of context to counter that with and to make sense of it which is the history of film and also to a degree, the potential, the possibilities of it. So this is why I like the idea of double bills and programming films: because that automatically puts something in context.(...)
SCOTT: when you arrived on the scene, there were some very imposing figures on the critical landscape, which are also looked back on now with a lot of sort of nostalgia, and fear and trembling.(...)
HOBERMAN: I think that this was sort of the end, I would say ”the tail end, maybe the bitter end” of this mythologized period that began in the late fifties, and then petered out with the bicentennial, when so many things seemed to go wrong. So I came after that, and there were some things in the landscape that definitely were better. One, very simply, was that there were more venues (at least print venues) for people to write film criticism. And there also were in New York, more venues, I think, where movies could be shown; at least revival theaters and so on. But I also think, at that time, that there was (and I think that this is true today, although less so) that there were many things that were just not being written about.
HOBERMAN: I think that there’s a dynamic which existed from the very beginning, in which passé films were rediscovered, very often by artists or artistic types, you know, "aesthetes" and were valued. The French… reorganization of American cinema, or let’s say the rationalization of it, that the French engaged in in the fifties, and then which Andrew Sarris really brought to America in the sixties is part of an ongoing process.(...)
SCOTT: You used the phrase “academic filmmaking” before, (...) I think about… you know, [art] in the sense that you would talk about academic painting of the nineteenth century; that is, a work in a received style that is content to stay within its own parameters. I mean, where do you see that?(...)
HOBERMAN: Well, we don’t even need to talk about stuff that’s produced by the studios, because it’s a given that commercial films need formulas; and sometimes that can be great, depending on what people do with it. But you know, anything that made money once is just assumed to be able to be recycled to make money again, that’s sort of the principle of it. But a movie like (...) No Country for Old Men (2007), to me, is a very academic film that is constructed in such a way to bring the audience along, and deliver a certain amount of thrills and excitement and surprises on schedule, and has a very mechanical aspect. But I couldn’t deny that it’s an extremely well made movie, the way that French academic painting is expert.
HOBERMAN: One of the great things about movies, and one of the things that’s really fascinating and in some ways new about the motion picture medium is that, you know, movies are time capsules. Even the worst. Sometimes even the worst, best of all. (...) I also think that there’s a great precedent for this in the case of Siegfried Krakauer. I mean, a lot of his formulations in From Caligari to Hitler may seem naïve in some respects (although not in all). But for me, this was like a blinding insight, to come across this as a teenager: to say that movies really did intersect in such a basic way with the life of their times and with the whole collectivity. (...)read the whole transcript or listen to the full MP3 recording at Museum of Moving Image.